Liverpool: Liverpool took a huge step towards a first Premier League title in 30 years by beating defending champions Manchester City 3-1 at Anfield, while Manchester United got the better of Brighton and Hove Albion to move into seventh place.
Two goals in the first 13 minutes from Fabinho and Mohamed Salah gave European champions Liverpool a dream start before Sadio Mane’s diving header early in the second half sealed City’s fate.
Bernardo Silva pulled a late goal back but a third defeat in eight league games leaves City down in fourth, nine points behind Liverpool, and with a mountain to climb if they are to claim a third straight league title.
City’s defensive deficiencies have been much publicised without the injured Aymeric Laporte so far this season and they crumbled as Liverpool scored with their first two attacks of the game.
But the visitors were furious with some justification at the move that led to the opening goal when a dangerous foray into the Liverpool box ended with the ball striking Trent Alexander-Arnold on the arm.
Instead of City being awarded a penalty, the hosts broke down the other end and the ball fell to Fabinho on the edge of the area.
The Brazilian is not renowned for his goalscoring, but when invited to shoot by a hesitant City backline five minutes in, he arrowed a strike beyond stand-in goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.
The visitors had their chances to get level in between Liverpool’s early blitz as Raheem Sterling headed wide Kevin De Bruyne’s in-swinging free-kick.
But it was Liverpool who were ruthless as a pinpoint cross by Andy Robertson was headed home on the bounce by Salah.
Any hope of a City comeback was eliminated six minutes into the second half when Jordan Henderson’s teasing cross was met with a diving header by Mane although Bravo could have done better to stop the ball creeping over the line.
City finally got the goal much of their approach play had threatened when Bernardo Silva swept home Angelino’s cross 12 minutes from time.
Liverpool were then camped inside their own half, but held out for what could prove to be a vital win come May.
United stroll into seventh
Manchester United’s upturn in form continued as Andreas Pereira and Marcus Rashford struck in a 3-1 victory over Brighton at Old Trafford that was even more comfortable than the scoreline suggested.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side also benefitted from a first-half own goal from Davy Propper to recover from an unproductive spell that had seen them score just four times in their last four home league games.
United moved to within a point of the top five after scoring twice in two first-half minutes and, although both came after significant deflections off Brighton defenders, it was no more than Solskjaer’s side deserved.
Fielding the youngest starting line-up of any team in the Premier League this season — 23 years, 350 days — United made an energetic opening with Rashford coming closest to a goal, with a committed run and powerful shot which Mat Ryan saved well.
But on 17 minutes a United counter-attack saw Fred find Anthony Martial. His link with Pereira, whose shot took an unkind deflection off Dale Stephens, wrong-footing Ryan on its way in.
United supporters were still celebrating that opener when they were handed double cause for celebration from a deep free-kick that Fred floated into the Brighton area.
Harry Maguire rose powerfully, causing panic for Ryan and his defence, and with Brighton slow to react, Scott McTominay forced the ball over the line, via a final touch by Davy Propper.
It was a scintillating spell of football from a side that, before Thursday’s Europa League win over Partizan Belgrade, had not scored two first-half goals at Old Trafford for nearly 10 months since Brighton’s last visit in mid-January.
Brighton were looking for their first-ever victory at Old Trafford but rarely threatened in the first half beyond a couple of set-piece deliveries.
And if Fred had been more fortunate with a 61st minute strike that Ryan fumbled onto his bar to catch at the second attempt, the afternoon could have been far more comfortable.
As it was, there was worry for United on 64 minutes when Brighton halved arrears from a Pascal Gross corner, met by Lewis Dunk who headed in from six yards despite the close attention of Maguire.
United’s response was swift and clinical, however, with the Reds restoring their two-goal cushion just two minutes later.
It came from a blistering counter-attack and a beautifully-weighted through ball from Fred which Martial took in his stride, brushing off Shane Duffy and rounding Ryan before pulling back for Rashford to convert.
Wolves get their season back on track
Ruben Neves and Raul Jimenez earned local bragging rights for Wolves with a dominant 2-1 win over Midlands rivals Aston Villa. Midfielder Neves’ first-half thunderbolt and Jimenez’s late effort lifted Nuno Espirito Santo’s side to eighth in the Premier League.
Trezeguet grabbed an injury-time consolation for Villa.
It was Wolves’ first top-flight win since their stunning success at Manchester City a month ago but they are now unbeaten in seven league matches and just one point behind the top five after inflicting a third straight Premier League defeat on Villa.
Dean Smith’s Villa, now only three points above the relegation zone, desperately missed injured skipper Jack Grealish as they fell to a limp defeat at Molineux.
The hosts found a deserved breakthrough four minutes before the break.
Tyrone Mings brought down Adama Traore on the right and Joao Moutinho squared his free-kick to Neves to crash in a low drive from 20 yards.
Wolves pushed for a second after the break and Diogo Jota’s drive was turned over by goalkeeper Orjan Nyland, on for the injured Jed Steer, after 65 minutes.
Villa tried to exert some late pressure but their hopes were ended with six minutes left when Traore broke down the right and squared for Jimenez to roll in.
Trezeguet’s close-range drive, given by goal-line technology, in injury-time gave the scoreline a flattering look for Villa.