Southampton beat Arsenal 2-0 at St. Mary’s in the English Premier League on Thursday to maintain their surprise challenge for Champions League football. Sadio Mane’s third goal in as many games from the narrowest of angles gave Southampton the lead in the 34th minute, and Dusan Tadic capitalised upon a defensive error to add another in the 56th and seal victory against one of their rivals for a top-four finish. Ronald Koeman’s side stays fourth with the victory but has a three-point cushion over Arsenal in fifth, and is only a point behind third-place Manchester United after they drew at Stoke.
Southampton could have taken the lead after only seven minutes when Graziano Pelle headed a looping ball into the area against the foot of the post. But Arsenal rallied, and brought an excellent save from Fraser Forster in the 20th. Alexis Sanchez cut the ball back across goal and into the path of midfielder Santi Cazorla, only for Forster to beat his shot away.
The miss was punished 14 minutes later when Mane brushed past Laurent Koscielny’s feeble attempt to block his path to goal, before reaching a pass ahead of Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who inexplicably rushed far out of his goal.
Pelle was poised in the centre of the penalty area, demanding possession as he faced an unguarded net, but Mane chose to lob the ball perfectly over Szczesny and into the goal from the narrowest of angles.
It was an outstanding strike, but Mane’s exertions to retain possession in the buildup came at a cost. He pulled up limping before play restarted, and seven minutes later was replaced by Harrison Reed. Arsenal laid Southampton’s goal under siege in the opening exchanges of the second half, and was denied by a second tremendous stop from Forster after 55 minutes.
Southampton’s following attack saw Victor Wanyama play in Steven Davis down the right with a searching ball over the defense. Davis controlled, whipped an angled ball across the penalty area and Mathieu Debuchy and Szczesny could only direct a scrambled clearance into the path of Tadic, who lashed in from close range to double Southampton’s lead.
Blow for United
Manchester United’s hopes of launching a New Year title challenge suffered a setback at the first opportunity when they could only draw 1-1 at mid-table Stoke City. The result stretched their unbeaten run to 10 games but three of the last four have been draws and their already slim-looking hopes of catching the top two receded further after a match where they were somewhat lucky to escape with a point.
Though United are progressing as an attacking force under Louis van Gaal, they still look vulnerable at the back and that weakness cost them a goal after two minutes. Peter Crouch got his head to a corner and Ryan Shawcross was the quickest to react to steer the ball as Stoke continued with the form that had brought them two wins out of two in the Christmas fixtures.
Mame Diouf should have made it 2-0 when he outmuscled Jonny Evans but then with just David de Gea to beat, shot wide. United levelled midway through the first half from their own corner, which Michael Carrick flicked on and Radamel Falcao turned in but they were never able to take control of the game.
In a game made open and tough for defenders by a swirling wind, Crouch hit a post for Stoke and had a strong penalty claim for handball turned down, while Robin van Persie sent an aerial volley just wide in the second half.
Two second-half goals in two minutes by David Nugent and Jeffrey Schlupp gave bottom-place Leicester a Premier League point in a 2-2 draw against Liverpool. Steven Gerrard converted two first-half penalties in the 17th and 40th minutes at Anfield as Brendan Rodgers’ team took control of the game.
After the interval, Nugent got one back for Leicester in the 58th with an impressive strike from outside the box to the bottom left corner before Schlupp equalized 100 seconds later with a well-placed low shot. After back-to-back wins, 2015 was supposed to usher in the beginning of Liverpool’s drive toward the top four but the same old defensive frailties were exposed by the struggling visitors. Liverpool, missing Mario Balotelli after an injury in training on Wednesday, ended the day further off the top four than when they started it.
Leicester will argue a point was the least it deserved after the home side was gifted the first penalty when the referee ruled the ball had hit Wes Morgan’s hand when it was actually his head.
True value: Lampard shows why City can’t do without him
By: AP & Reuters
Frank Lampard showed his value to Manchester City on Thursday by clinching a 3-2 victory over Sunderland just one day after extending his deal with the club until the end of the season. After City threw away a 2-0 lead, the 36-year-old Lampard spared City’s blushes with a milestone goal in the 73rd minute. The former Chelsea midfielder moved to fourth place on the Premier League’s all-time scoring leaderboard by netting for the 176th time in the division, heading in from Gael Clichy’s cross.
A dull contest burst into life after Yaya Toure broke the deadlock with a stunning strike after 57 minutes. Four more goals followed in the next 16 minutes as Stevan Jovetic added a second for City and Sunderland hit back through former City players Jack Rodwell and Adam Johnson. It then fell to substitute Lampard to score his seventh goal for City.
Earlier, the English champions announced Wednesday night that Lampard will carry on playing for the club throughout the Premier League season.
“Manchester City can confirm that it has extended Frank Lampard’s contract up to the end of Manchester City’s season, enabling his continued participation in both domestic and European campaigns,” the club said.
The 36-year-old former England and Chelsea midfielder was on a short-term deal which was due to expire on New Year’s Day when he would officially become a player of MLS team New York City FC, a sister club of Manchester City.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini had made no secret of his desire to keep Lampard, who has scored six goals in 17 appearances for the club, although he has only started three league games.
The most important of Lampard’s goals so far came against former club Chelsea in a 1-1 draw.
Lampard’s stay has added value with Yaya Toure set to go to the African Nations Cup, while City are also light on proven scorers with Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko both out injured.
Lampard joined City in August, ostensibly to maintain fitness ahead of the 2015 Major League Soccer season, which begins in March. Halfway through the Premier League season, which ends May 24, City are in second position, three points behind Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea.
New York fans unhappy
Lampard’s decision to stay with Manchester City has “outraged” fans of New York City FC. Lampard initially joined City on loan for six months from New York City FC after leaving Chelsea but the deal with the English club means the 36-year-old could miss the first three months of the MLS season.
“We would like to publicly denounce… Frank Lampard’s decision to extend his loan to Manchester City until the end of the Premier League season,” New York fans group the Third Rail said.
“Many fans, including our members, decided to support the team, committed to season tickets, and bought merchandise under the impression that Frank Lampard would be playing for New York City Football Club, not Manchester City.”