By Ryan Moran
- Manchester City beaten by their rivals in their own back yard.
- Tyne-Wear Derby ends all square as both sides are in the relegation zone.
- Alex Iwobi on target as Arsenal record first win in their last three games.
Manchester City 0-1 Manchester United
Marcus Rashford slid Manchester United back into Champions League contention as his goal separated the sides. In a derby worth more than just the three points on offer, United took the bragging rights back to Old Trafford and moved the away side within a point of their fourth placed rivals.
Panic stations may not be appropriate just yet but City have been on a downward curve since the announcement of Pep Guardiola’s summer appointment. The Citizens have won only two of seven league games since the news of The Spaniard’s arrival, against Sunderland and Aston Villa respectively. To worsen the blow for the hosts Joe Hart and Raheem Sterling picked up injuries, not ideal with eight games left and a Champions League quarter final around the corner. Not only will this be a worry for City, Roy Hodgson will be keeping a watchful eye on two of his key players for Euro 2016.
A derby defeat was made all the worse as Sergio Aguero came within inches of levelling the scores as he struck the post. It is the defensive woes that hinder City’s success without their defensive spine in the form of Vincent Kompany to take control of the back four.
Europa League misery was put to bed as a big derby win relieves pressure on under fire Louis Van Gaal. 18-year-old Rashford was his saviour, beating Martin Demichelis before sliding the ball past Hart. The striker gave the Argentine defender a torrid time all afternoon and should have been awarded a penalty as Demichelis brought Rashford down inside the box.
It isn’t the first time Demichelis has performed poorly, the FA Cup defeat to Chelsea another stand out moment to forget for the defender. On Guardiola’s arrival the defensive pack needs reshuffling and one of Manuel Pellegrini’s ex-Malaga players could be one of the first to follow him out of Manchester.
With one point separating fourth place down to sixth City will be looking over their shoulders at United and West Ham United. Their poor form could see Guardiola managing in the Europa League if the Red Devils or the Hammers can steal that final prized European place. Champions League is now a priority for Pellegrini with automatic qualification for the winners.
Newcastle United 1-1 Sunderland
Aleksandar Mitrovic salvaged a late draw in the Tyne-Wear derby on Rafael Benitez’s home debut. A draw was the worst possible result as Sunderland drop into the bottom three following Norwich’s victory over West Bromwich Albion.
Jermain Defoe volleyed Sunderland ahead and deserved their lead with Newcastle failing to gain a foothold in the game. Going behind gave the home side the kick they needed to force an equaliser against their fierce rivals. Ayoze Perez came the closest with a back post volley that was cleared off the line before Mitrovic found the net.
Newcastle have employed a manager in Benitez with Premier League experience in abundance but at the other end of the table. The English relegation battle is a new situation for the Spaniard, going from managing Cristiano Ronaldo to Steven Taylor in the space of a few months.
The Spaniard ended a run of four straight defeats with the draw, signalling a step in the right direction. What better way to do it than coming from behind to take a share of the spoils at St James’ Park.
A sloppy display was enough to earn a point as Sam Allardyce will feel hard done by that his side go into the international break in the drop zone. The ex-West Ham manager has shored up a leaky defence and one error cost the away side an extra two points. A DeAndre Yedlin foul throw led to a change in possession and Newcastle’s eventual goal.
The international break comes at an ideal time for Benitez and Newcastle to recoup and rebuild ready for the final leg in a tense relegation dog fight. The Magpies return from the international break with a trip to Carrow Road while the Black Cats host West Brom and then Leicester in their next two league games.
Everton 0-2 Arsenal
Arsenal returned to winning ways after being knocked out of the FA Cup and then the Champions League in consecutive fixtures. It was contrasting fortune for Everton as their dismal home record in the league in recent weeks. Alex Iwobi capped off an unforgettable week with his first senior league goal on his first league start having also started against Barcelona in midweek.
Consecutive defeats to Watford and Barcelona left a lot of Arsene Wenger’s side to answer for at Goodison Park on Saturday. The return of Danny Welbeck paid off as the striker opened the scoring, rounding Joel Robles to finish. Iwobi added a second on the counter attack holding off Ramiro Funes Mori in the process.
It was a poor performance by the home side as defensive errors proved costly. Welbeck was allowed time and space as Funes Mori was drawn out of position and Muhamed Besic failed to track the run of the ex-Manchester United man. The Argentine was at fault again on the second goal, surging forward and leaving Phil Jagielka one-on-one at the back as Arsenal won the ball back, breaking forward quickly. Funes Mori’s attempt to make ground on Iwobi was too little too late.
The Toffee’s dismal home record in the league continues with only two wins in their last 10 games at Goodison. After taking Chelsea apart in the FA Cup there was much anticipation, hence the prediction of 2-1 Everton victory, but the Gunners picked themselves up to turn around their fortunes.
Iwobi had an unforgettable week beginning with a start in the Champions League against Barcelona and ending with a first senior league goal on his first Premier League start. The Nigerian played a part in both goals showing great confidence at only 19 years old.
While Arsenal are distinct outsiders for the title, it remains a possibility but would require Leicester to lose on many occasions. 11 points separate the sides with Arsenal also having a game in hand on the leaders. How many more years will fans put up with the Gunners being the nearly men under Wenger? Some banners are starting to appear reflecting this opinion.
Of the other fixtures:
Crystal Palace 0-1 Leicester City
Chelsea 2-2 West Ham United
West Brom 0-1 Norwich City
Watford 1-2 Stoke City
Swansea City 1-0 Aston Villa
Southampton 3-2 Liverpool
Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 Bournemouth
The international break rolls in and for England a trip to Germany ensues on Saturday 26th March.
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