Sunday 25 February 2018

Manchester United maintain momentum with West Ham win

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was on target again as Manchester United closed in on the top four
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was on target again as Manchester United closed in on the top four

Juan Mata and Zlatan Ibrahimovic fired Manchester United to a sixth straight Premier League victory at 10-man West Ham.

United were labouring against a Hammers side holding firm despite being a man down from the 15th minute after the controversial dismissal of Sofiane Feghouli.

But Jose Mourinho sent on Mata and Marcus Rashford at the start of the second half and the substitutes combined to break the deadlock. Ibrahimovic, who hit 50 goals in 2016, then opened his account for the new year as United ran out 2-0 winners.

However, the defeat was harsh on West Ham, who were up against it from the moment referee Mike Dean brandished his fifth red card in 15 matches this season.

The game was spoiled as a spectacle when Algeria winger Feghouli's heavy first touch forced him into a 50-50 challenge with Phil Jones on the edge of United's area. The tackle did not look malicious - although Jones certainly came off worse - but Dean stunned the London Stadium by producing a straight red.

United's run has seen them make significant inroads on the top four. Mourinho's men are now just a point behind fourth-placed Arsenal ahead of their trip to Bournemouth on Tuesday night and three points behind third-placed Manchester City.

Earlier in the day, Jermain Defoe denied Liverpool a fifth successive Premier League victory with a penalty double as Sadio Mane went from hero to villain at Sunderland.

The Senegal international, playing his final game before heading off on African Nations Cup duty, looked to have won the game 18 minutes from time after Defoe had cancelled out Daniel Sturridge's opener from the spot.

However, his handball with five minutes left on the clock handed Defoe the opportunity to score his 11th goal of the season, and he obliged nervelessly to secure a 2-2 draw at the Stadium of Light.

Manchester City overcame another Fernandinho red card to beat Burnley 2-1 with goals from Gael Clichy and substitute Sergio Aguero.

City had to play almost two thirds of a fractious encounter at the Etihad Stadium with 10 men when Fernandinho was dismissed for a third time in six games after a two-footed tackle.

But a rare strike from Clichy and a fine effort from Aguero, who surprisingly started on the bench, earned City the points even though a scrambled Ben Mee reply meant a nervy last 20 minutes.

On-loan striker Enner Valencia may have given Everton manager Ronald Koeman one less thing to think about in the January transfer window after his game-changing substitute appearance in the 3-0 victory over Southampton.

The Ecuador international came off the bench to enliven a dreary occasion, scoring the 73rd-minute opener and winning the late penalty which allowed Leighton Baines to double their lead before Romelu Lukaku gave the scoreline a flattering appearance.

That late show papered over some of the cracks which were evident in the preceding three-quarters of a game which seemed to be meandering towards a dull draw until Valencia's introduction.

In-form West Brom piled more misery on Hull as Chris Brunt and Gareth McAuley cashed in on errors before James Morrison clinched a 3-1 win for the Baggies at The Hawthorns.

Robert Snodgrass had given Hull a first-half lead but the Tigers beat themselves during a second half littered with costly defensive mistakes.

Brunt and McAuley were gifted free headers and Mike Phelan's side are without a win in nine games and remain second bottom in the Premier League, three points from the safety line.

In the lunchtime kick-off, Middlesbrough and champions Leicester contested a forgettable goalless draw at the Riverside Stadium.

Press Association

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