EPL: Man City Wins to Reduce Liverpool’s Lead at the Top

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  • Free scoring Man Utd earn third straight win under Solskjaer

Manchester City survived a brief scare to beat Southampton and reduce league leaders Liverpool’s advantage to seven points.

Southampton responded to David Silva’s early opener when Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg took the ball off Oleksandr Zinchenko and fired it into the top corner.

City had luck on their side when Raheem Sterling’s shot deflected off James Ward-Prowse to make it 2-1.

Sergio Aguero’s back-post header completed the scoring before half-time.

Southampton goalscorer Hojbjerg – who had only just returned from suspension – was shown a straight red card for a lunging tackle on Fernandinho with just over five minutes to go.

City had a number of decent chances as Silva, Aguero and Riyad Mahrez all went close in the first half and Aguero smacked the crossbar after the break.

Southampton threatened too and Charlie Austin was twice denied by City keeper Ederson in the first half before Hojbjerg’s equaliser.

But the Saints were ultimately undone by Pep Guardiola’s free-flowing side, who move up to second place in the table.

Liverpool went 10 points clear of City at the top of the table with a devastating 5-1 thrashing of Arsenal on Saturday, meaning the defending champions needed victory to keep pace in the title race.

City appeared to feel the pressure on Boxing Day when they squandered an early lead and allowed Leicester to win 2-1 at the King Power Stadium.

But they stood up to the challenge at St Mary’s – peppering Southampton’s goal from the off and responding to the equaliser with two quick goals on the stroke of half-time.

City’s opening goal was straight from Guardiola’s textbook: Bernardo Silva’s neat build-up down the right and cut-back into the centre was comfortably put away by an unmarked David Silva.

Sterling’s shot was then deflected by Ward-Prowse and flapped into the net by Alex McCarthy to make it 2-1 before Aguero headed in Zinchenko’s cross at the back post with ease.

It means City can cut Liverpool’s lead to four points when the two teams meet at the Etihad Stadium on 3 January.

Elsewhere, Manchester’s United’s transformed attack once again combined devastatingly to give caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer his third successive win with an impressive victory over Bournemouth.

A first half of cavalier attacking football saw United score three times, with Paul Pogba netting his second double in successive games and Marcus Rashford grabbing the other.

They are now only three points behind fifth-placed Arsenal, having trailed by eight following the morale-sapping 3-1 defeat at Liverpool earlier this month.

Pogba poked in his first after Rashford had mesmerised both Nathan Ake and Diego Rico on the right, before the French World Cup winner headed in from Ander Herrera’s precise delivery.

It was 3-0 when Anthony Martial, back in the XI after recovering from a bug, provided a wonderful cross for Rashford to slide his shot past Asmir Begovic.

Bournemouth, who had looked dangerous on set-pieces, pulled a goal back in first-half stoppage time when Ake headed in following good work by David Brooks.

Substitute Romelu Lukaku scored United’s fourth from Pogba’s pass two minutes after coming on, before defender Eric Bailly was shown a straight red card for scything down Cherries midfielder Ryan Fraser.

United have now found the net 12 times in the three matches since Solskjaer took over. This victory means the the 45-year-old has emulated Sir Matt Busby and Jose Mourinho by winning his first three league games in charge.

Solskjaer will be looking to make it a fourth at Newcastle on Wednesday, while Bournemouth remain 12th in the table.

Also yesterday, Chelsea increased the gap between themselves and fifth-placed Arsenal to five points as N’Golo Kante’s second-half strike earned them victory at Crystal Palace.

Kante scored the only goal of the game in the 51st minute when he broke forward from midfield to convert David Luiz’s through ball.

There were few clear-cut chances as the Blues dominated possession and Palace sat back hoping to catch the opposition on the counter-attack – a tactic which failed to work as Roy Hodgson’s Eagles took 85 minutes to register their first effort. That is now two successive games without a goal.

Chelsea’s Willian came close to scoring with a free-kick that struck the post, and Ross Barkley also hit the woodwork with a hooked effort.

Fourth-placed Blues now have 43 points, one behind City and two behind Spurs. Palace remain in 14th with 19 points.