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Premier League Wrap: Manchester United 0 Liverpool 0: Four first-half injuries mar tense encounter

By Opta
lingard-cropped

London, February 24: Liverpool returned to the Premier League summit despite being held to a 0-0 draw by bitter rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford in a match that was marred by first-half injuries to four players.

After days of anticipation and excitement, the match swiftly descended into farce in the first period, as Ander Herrera, Juan Mata, Roberto Firmino and Jesse Lingard were all forced off injured, and the match struggled to recover from an entertainment perspective.

The medical staff were rather less busy in the second half and that allowed Liverpool to increase the pressure, generally dominating against a United effectively playing with 10 men due to Marcus Rashford struggling with a knock.

But the Reds could not take advantage, with United arguably happy to hold on to the draw which sees Ole Gunnar Solskjaer set a new record points haul for a manager in his first 10 Premier League games, taking him on to 26 points.

After losing Nemanja Matic to injury in the build-up to the match, the first 25 minutes were nightmarish for United in terms of fitness, losing Herrera and Mata, while Rashford was also in pain.

Liverpool did not remain unscathed, as they lost Firmino just past the half-hour mark having appeared to roll his ankle.

Lingard – Mata's replacement despite being deemed not fit enough to start following a hamstring injury – then seemed to aggravate that problem when attempting to round Alisson for the only real chance of a bizarre first period, forcing Solskjaer to replace him with Alexis Sanchez.

Liverpool looked to turn things up after the break, but United's defence provided an excellent platform.

A rare opportunity fell to them 20 minutes from time, as Georginio Wijnaldum headed just wide from a corner.

United briefly thought they had the lead when Joel Matip put into his own goal in the 75th minute, but Chris Smalling – who played the ball into the danger zone – was offside, and that proved to be the final chance at either end, as Liverpool dropped points for the third Premier League game in four.

What does it mean? United in a full-blown injury crisis

With three forced off and Rashford also clearly suffering, adding to the absences of Anthony Martial, Matic and Marcos Rojo, it is fair to say United are in a dire position with injuries. It is an entirely realistic that Solskjaer could be without five of his six first-choice midfield and forward options for their next games. For Liverpool, the point is enough to move them past Manchester City at the summit but it will be seen as a chance missed in the title race.

Lacazette and Mkhitaryan send Gunners fourth

Alexandre Lacazette and Henrikh Mkhitaryan were on target as Arsenal coasted past struggling Southampton 2-0 to move back into the Premier League's top four.

It took just six minutes for Lacazette to convert from Mkhitaryan's attempted shot and the latter turned home the dangerous Alex Iwobi's assist at Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Lacazette wasted a couple of golden opportunities to stretch the lead before half-time and, while Arsenal's tempo noticeably dropped after the break, Unai Emery's side were in complete control.

United's goalless draw with rivals Liverpool consequently sends Arsenal back into the Champions League places, while Southampton remain mired in relegation trouble.

Nathan Redmond failed to capitalise on lax Arsenal defending when shooting straight at Bernd Leno one-on-one and shortly afterwards the Gunners went in front.

Iwobi's left-wing cross travelled across the box, with Lucas Torreira seemingly felled by Jack Stephens in his bid to meet the ball, and Mkhitaryan's cross-cum-shot was cleverly flicked in by Lacazette.

It was 2-0 after 17 minutes as goalkeeper Angus Gunn was played into trouble by Stephens and Iwobi pounced on his hasty clearance before squaring for Mkhitaryan to side-foot home from the edge of the box.

Lacazette wastefully blasted over from six yards shortly before the break, while James Ward-Prowse fired wide on the volley for Southampton from Granit Xhaka's wayward pass early in the second half.

The chances began to dry up, although substitute Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang forced a great late save from Gunn, and the only slight concern for Emery was the sight of Iwobi struggling with a calf problem 15 minutes from the end.

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Story first published: Sunday, February 24, 2019, 21:40 [IST]
Other articles published on Feb 24, 2019
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