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EPL: Spurs, Arsenal lose as Ronaldo fires United back into fourth place race

IMAGE: Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring Manchester United’s third goal with Nemanja Matic in the Premier League match against Norwich City, at Old Trafford, Manchester, on Saturday. Photograph: Craig Brough/Reuters

Cristiano Ronaldo’s 50th club career hat-trick earned below-par Manchester United a 3-2 Premier League victory over Norwich City on Saturday amid scenes of fan protest at Old Trafford.

With Tottenham Hotspur losing 1-0 at home to Brighton & Hove Albion earlier on Saturday, the door was open for United to close on the Champions League qualification places with victory over bottom side Norwich and they just about took advantage.

 

A first-half double from veteran striker Ronaldo seemingly put the hosts on course for a comfortable win in the sunshine, with Norwich struggling to keep pace.

However, Kieran Dowell’s goal out of nowhere in first-half stoppage time got the visitors back in the contest, before Finnish forward Teemu Pukki completed the Norwich comeback to stun Old Trafford into silence seven minutes after the break.

Fans who protested against the club’s owners ahead of the match were singing “you’re not fit to wear the shirt” in the second half as their team were second best to a team seven points adrift of the Premier League safety zone.

Manchester United

IMAGE: Cristiano Ronaldo is thwarted by Norwich City’s goalkeeper Tim Krul. Photograph: Craig Brough/Reuters

United’s France midfielder Paul Pogba was booed by his own fans as he was substituted before Ronaldo stole the show once again with a sensational winner 14 minutes from time to drag United out of the mire once more.

The win, United’s first in four games in all competitions, moved them above Arsenal, who lost 1-0 at Southampton, into fifth on 54 points from 32 matches, with Spurs now just three points in front. Norwich stay bottom on 21 points.

Tottenham’s top-four hopes dented by home loss to Brighton

Tottenham Hotspur

IMAGE: Leandro Trossard celebrates scoring Brighton & Hove Albion’s first goal with Alexis Mac Allister. Photograph: Hannah Mckay/Reuters

Tottenham Hotspur blew a chance to strengthen their grip on fourth place in the Premier League as they suffered a last-gasp 1-0 home defeat by Brighton & Hove Albion.

Antonio Conte’s side produced a lacklustre display and looked set for a frustrating stalemate before Belgian Leandro Trossard made things even worse with a 90th-minute winner.

After four successive victories the pre-match mood in north London was one of optimism but Tottenham’s performance was in stark contrast to the bright spring sunshine.

Sluggish and unimaginative in possession, Tottenham’s feared attacking duo of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min were virtual spectators in a first half in which the home side managed only one attempt at the Brighton goal.

Spurs showed a little more urgency after the break with Son having a couple of shots blocked, but Brighton always carried the greater goal threat and deservedly took the points when Trossard burst into the left side of the penalty area and beat Hugo Lloris with a low shot with the outside of his right foot.

Trossard is having a big impact in the top-four race having been on target in Brighton’s 2-1 win at Arsenal last week.

Tottenham stayed in fourth place with 57 points but they are only three points ahead of local rivals Arsenal who have two games in hand and play later on Saturday at Southampton.

Brighton moved up to 10th with 40 points.

Tottenham’s performance was all the more surprising considering the goals that have flowed of late in big wins against West Ham United, Newcastle United and Aston Villa.

The surge in form had seen Spurs emerge as favourites for fourth spot and a return to the Champions League — a scenario that looked unlikely for most of the season.

But Graham Potter’s well-organised side, just as they did when beating Arsenal, showed they can frustrate opponents and offered Tottenham a painful reality check.

“A difficult game, we knew this,” Conte said. “It was a tactical game. I think a draw would have been a fair result.

“We started very slowly and in this type of game you have to move the ball more quickly. Maybe the weather… I want to find an excuse, but it was not a good game for us.”

Brighton smothered Spurs in the opening period with the hosts forced to pass the ball around harmlessly in their own half, much to the frustration of the home faithful.

The visitors went close when Enock Mwepu’s shot was deflected wide by Ben Davies.

Tariq Lamptey then delivered a dangerous cross that evaded everyone in the box while Alexis Mac Allister missed the ball from point-blank range after a corner deflected to him.

Tottenham raised the tempo in the second half but apart from a brief flurry were unable to build any momentum and they could really have no complaints at a defeat which added another twist to a battle for fourth place no one seems capable of winning.

Revived Saints deal further blow to Arsenal’s top-four hopes

Arsenal

IMAGE: Southampton’s Mohamed Elyounoussi in action with Arsenal’s Emile Smith Rowe. Photograph: Ian Walton/Reuters

Southampton ended a five-match winless run in the Premier League with a 1-0 win over Arsenal at St Mary’s Stadium, dealing further damage to the visitors’ hopes of finishing in the top four this season.

Mikel Arteta’s side have slipped to sixth place in the standings on 54 points, level with Manchester United and three behind north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur but with a game in hand over both teams.

Jan Bednarek gave Southampton a narrow lead one minute before halftime after Mohamed Elyounoussi evaded the offside trap and crossed for the defender to finish past goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale to hand Arsenal their third straight defeat.

Arsenal, without forward Alexandre Lacazette due to COVID-19, failed to take advantage of early chances and were largely limited to speculative shots from distance, and their late push for an equaliser was thwarted by goalkeeper Fraser Forster.

Forster, who denied Gabriel Martinelli after nine minutes with an acrobatic save, later clawed away substitute Emile Smith Rowe’s effort at full stretch before blocking a shot from Bukayo Saka and diving to save Granit Xhaka’s deflected strike.

Arsenal dominated with 76% of the possession and had five shots on target but threw away the opportunity to re-ignite their top-four hopes after Tottenham’s loss to Brighton & Hove Albion earlier on Saturday.

Jansson scores late as Brentford snatch victory at Watford

Pontus Jansson scores Brentford's second goal against Watford, at Vicarage Road, Watford.

IMAGE: Pontus Jansson heads home Brentford’s second goal against Watford, at Vicarage Road, Watford. Photograph: Chris Radburn/Reuters

Brentford defender Pontus Jansson scored in added time as they secured a 2-1 Premier League victory over Watford at Vicarage Road on Saturday for their third straight win that piled the pressure on their relegation-threatened hosts.

Jansson powerfully headed in the 95th-minute winner from Christian Eriksen’s free kick, shortly after Watford’s Joshua King hit the post and Imran Louza fired the rebound wide from point-blank range, to spark wild celebrations among away fans.

Brentford’s victory followed their 4-1 thumping of Chelsea and a 2-0 victory over West Ham United last weekend and meant that they had sealed three straight league victories for the first time in the top flight since September 1946.

“Crazy, crazy finish. It was the third time we’ve won in the last minute. That is a credit to the boys and their character,” Brentford manager Thomas Frank told the BBC.

“Through the game, we gave very little away. First half, we were slightly better, second half, Watford were better than us, no doubt. Then you think, ‘OK, take a point if you can’t win, don’t lose’.

“… The supporters were amazing. Being in this position is remarkable. We came up through the playoffs, lowest budget, ‘bus stop in Hounslow’ all that. But doing what we’re doing is fantastic.”

Earlier, Christian Norgaard gave his side the lead from a well-worked set piece routine in the 15th minute as he tapped in Kristoffer Ajer’s flick on from Ethan Pinnock’s long throw into the box to silence the home supporters.

Watford, who are 19th in the table, barely threatened after the opener but came to life after the restart as Emmanuel Dennis beat the offside trap and blasted one past David Raya, with the goal awarded following a lengthy Video Assistant Referee check.

Roy Hodgson’s side pushed in search of a winning goal as the game wore on but they failed to find one that would have helped them avoid a 10th straight home league defeat and given them a big boost in their bid to avoid the drop to the Championship.

Watford have 22 points from 32 games ahead of next weekend’s trip to Manchester City while Brentford are 11th with 39 points and five matches remaining, starting with their home meeting against Tottenham Hotspur.

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