Fulham burst Man Utd bubble, Villa boost top-four hopes

February 25, 2024 7:14 am

[Source: Reuters]

Fulham burst the bubble of optimism around Manchester United with a well-deserved 2-1 victory on Saturday – their first at Old Trafford in more than 20 years.

At the end of a week in which billionaire Jim Ratcliffe sealed the purchase of his 27% stake in the club and vowed to knock Manchester City off their perch,

United’s impressive recent run was ended by Alex Iwobi’s stoppage-time winner.

Article continues after advertisement

United’s first loss in six league games left them eight points behind fourth-placed Aston Villa, who bolstered their hopes of qualifying for the Champions

League with a 4-2 home victory against struggling Nottingham Forest.

Crystal Palace gave new manager Oliver Glasner a dream start with a 3-0 win over 10-man Burnley to ease their relegation fears and push their opponents closer to the drop.

Everton were denied a vital victory in their survival battle as Lewis Dunk headed a stoppage-time equaliser to salvage a 1-1 draw for 10-man Brighton and Hove Albion.

Later on Saturday, the title race resumes with champions Manchester City seeking to close the gap on leaders Liverpool to one point by beating Bournemouth.

Third-placed Arsenal were also in late action with a home clash against Newcastle United.

There was a spring in the step of United fans arriving at Old Trafford after the developments of the week but they were left frustrated as Fulham outplayed them.

The visitors threatened on numerous occasions before halftime, and Calvin Bassey eventually put them ahead in the 65th minute with his first goal for the club.

United defender Harry Maguire equalised in the 89th minute with a half-volley from inside the penalty area after the ball came back off Fulham keeper Bernd

Leno and the home team looked poised for a smash-and-grab victory.

Fulham had other ideas though, and a swift counter-attack ended with substitute Adama Traore’s pass being dispatched by Iwobi in the 97th minute.

“The team showed big character to fight back, we deserved the equaliser and went for the win — we showed big personality and character,” manager Erik Ten Hag said.

“It was that mistake. Before that, we went for the win and we should have taken our opportunities.”

Villa cruised into a 3-0 lead at home to Forest with Douglas Luiz twice on target after Ollie Watkins opened the scoring.

But defender Moussa Niakhate replied for the visitors in stoppage time at the end of the first half and Morgan Gibbs-White pulled another one back soon after the break.

Leon Bailey eased Villa’s nerves when he made it 4-2 from close range.

Everton looked set for a crucial three points as they held on to a lead given to them by Jarrad Branthwaite after 73 minutes. Brighton had midfielder Billy

Gilmour was sent off but was rewarded for some intense late pressure when Dunk headed powerfully past Jordan Pickford.

Everton stayed 17th in the table with 21 points from 26 games, one clear of third-from-bottom Luton Town, who have a game in hand. Brighton are seventh with 39 points.

Palace, for whom Chris Richards, Jordan Ayew and Jean Mateta were all on target in the second half against Burnley, moved up to 14th with 28 points.

Burnley are joint bottom with Sheffield United on 13 points and are running out of time to mount a great escape.