Sports Desk, Jan 1 (efe-epa).- Manchester United edged Aston Villa 2-1 Friday to move up to 33 points, the same as Premier League leaders Liverpool, who remain in the top spot on goal difference.
With seven victories in their last nine games, United are in the highest position in the table on New Year’s Day since 2013 during the final season under legendary coach Alex Ferguson, which was also the last time they won the Premier League.
The Red Devils went ahead at Old Trafford with five minutes left in first-half regulation, as Anthony Martial headed-in a cross from Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
Villa, who have been impressive this season after barely staying up in 2019-2020, were much better in the second half and pulled level in the 58th minute on Bertrand Traore’s goal, assisted by captain Jack Grealish.
But United regained the advantage three minutes later, when the ever-reliable Bruno Fernandes converted from the spot.
Referee Michael Oliver awarded the penalty after Paul Pogba went down in the box amid a tangle with Douglas Luiz. Though VAR confirmed the call, Villa coach Dean Smith complained after the match.
The visitors battled on and United goalkeeper David De Gea was tested in stoppage time by Matty Cash.
Villa are in sixth place with 26 points.
“We have improved and we are getting better in the league and the season is going to be tight, so we just have to keep working and improving as a team,” Manchester United coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said to Sky Sport after the final whistle.
Smith, meanwhile, talked about the penalty.
“I thought it was a penalty at the time, but I looked at it after the game and saw he (Pogba) tripped himself. I don’t see why Michael Oliver couldn’t have looked at it. That’s what VAR is for, isn’t it?,” the Villa boss said. “There’s margins in football. I’ve seen it again, and I don’t think it’s a penalty.”
In Friday’s other match, Everton had a chance to go a point behind Liverpool with a victory against visiting West Ham United, but the London club eked out a 1-0 victory to end the Toffees’ winning streak at four.
Though they were the more rested side after the pandemic-related postponement of Monday’s scheduled match against Manchester City, the hosts lacked energy.
Despite their having 61 percent possession, Everton put only two shots on target, compared with five for the Hammers.
James Rodriguez, who was a big part of Everton’s strong start to the season, was back in the squad Friday after being out injured for weeks.
Coming on as a sub in the 64th minute, the Colombia international was unable to make an impact.
The Hammers, winless in their four previous games, managed to steal all 3 points on a goal by Tomas Soucek in the 84th minute.
Toffees keeper Jordan Pickford turned aside an initial shot from the Czech, but Aaron Cresswell sent the ball back into the box and Soucek was there to put it in the net.
Everton stay fourth in the table on 29 points. West Ham are 10th with 26.
The result marked a personal milestone for West Ham coach David Moyes, who won for the first time at Goodison Park since the end of his 2002-2013 tenure as Everton manager. EFE apa/dr