Real Madrid played their catch-up fixture against Villarreal, disappointingly dropping points, while a Premier League fixture for the ages has set up one of the great title races.

 

La Liga

Real Madrid featured in La Liga for the first time since their FIFA Club World Cup triumph, playing out a 2-2 draw with Villarreal. Santi Cazorla opened the scoring for the home side inside four minutes, but Los Blancos responded with two goals of their own through Karim Benzema and Raphaël Varane. Real were looking to close the gap on rivals Barcelona to five points, but Cazorla had other ideas, completing his brace eight minutes from time. Real sit 4th, seven points behind league leaders Barca, while Villarreal are just outside the drop zone on goal difference.

 

Premier League

Arguably the most anticipated game of the Premier League season saw Manchester City make up much-needed ground on Liverpool. City broke the deadlock just before the interval – a stunning finish from Sergio Agüero. The Reds, however, were far from defeated, as Roberto Firmino headed home at the back post to equalise. A blistering counter-attack gave Leroy Sane a chance to regain the lead for his side, which he finished emphatically. City took all three points, reducing the margin between the two sides in the process in what is shaping up to be one of the great title races.

Ole Gunnar Solskjær became the first manager since Matt Busby in 1946 to win their first four games in charge of Manchester United. The Red Devils took care of Newcastle on the road, winning 2-0. Romelu Lukaku opened the scoring from close range, before Marcus Rashford sealed the points late in the match. Alexis Sanchez registered an assist in what was his first appearance since November.

Arsenal contributed to Fulham’s miserable season – the Gunners running out 4-1 victors. Granit Xhaka and Alexandre Lacazette put the home side two goals ahead before Aboubakar Kamara gave the visitors a glimpse of hope. However, it wasn’t to be as Arsenal scored twice more through Aaron Ramsey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to stay in touch with the top four.

Tottenham responded after their shock loss to Wolves by defeating Cardiff 3-0. Spurs’ class was too much for the Welsh side, as goals to Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen and Son Heung-min helped kept their slim title hopes alive. A tough few weeks await for Tottenham as they lose Son to the 2019 AFC Asian Cup – however, he will only join up with South Korea after the group stages.

Chelsea disappointingly dropped points to relegation battlers Southampton. The 0-0 stalemate sees the Blues sit just three points above 5th placed Arsenal, setting up a thrilling race for Champions League spots in 2019.

Burnley recorded arguably their most crucial win of the season, coming from behind to beat Huddersfield 2-1. The win keeps Burnley outside of the relegation zone, while Huddersfield sit rock bottom on just 10 points and seven points from safety.

Bournemouth and Watford played out a thrilling 3-3 draw with all goals coming inside the first 40 minutes, Crystal Palace shocked Wolves 2-0 on the road, West Ham came from two down to earn a point against Brighton, while Leicester took all three in a 1-0 snatch-and-grab away to Everton.

 

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Damon Palmar
damon@footballnationradio.com