European Leagues Roundup: Southampton sink Manchester United, Messi wins it for Barcelona at Malaga, PSG hit five
Manchester United crashed to their sixth defeat of the season as Southampton struck late through new winter transfer window recruit Charlie Austin to take the game 1-0. The Saints continued their mini-revival under Ronald Koeman as they posted their third league victory on the trot against a lacklustre United side that looked hopelessly devoid of ideas going forward.
Manchester City had to fight back twice as they secured a 2-2 draw away to an inspired West Ham side. Enner Valencia and Sergio Aguero both scored a brace for their teams as they shared the spoils in a spectacular tie that could have gone either way. With this result, City missed a chance to move above Arsenal into second in the League table.
Leicester City and Tottenham recorded impressive victories on the night with the former provisionally moving to the top of the Premier League table.
Barcelona reached the summit of the Liga table thanks to a winner from Lionel Messi. An off-colour Barca side held off a spirited Malaga outfit to triumph 2-1 on the night.
Paris Saint-Germain pulled off a routine victory as they romped to a 5-1 win over fourth-placed Angers in their Ligue 1 tie. Angel di Maria struck a brace and Swedish superstar Ibrahimovic also made the scoresheet as PSG extend their lead at the top of the table to a staggering 24 points.
Manchester United 0-1 Southampton
Scorers: Austin 87’
Louis van Gaal who has seen his side struggle for goals all season sprung a surprise as he set his side in a 3-5-2 formation while his counterpart Ronald Koeman showed ambition as he sent out his side playing an attacking 3-4-3 formation. Also, Adnan Januzaj was handed a place on the bench by Van Gaal for the first time since his return from a loan spell with Borussia Dortmund in place of the injured Ashley Young.
The two sides played out a cagey first half as chances were at a premium. Southampton grew into the match as time wore on but failed to convert their half-chances. It was a disappointing attacking performance from the home side once again as a chorus of boos rang out from the United faithful at the half time whistle.
However, Van Gaal’s move to bring in Juan Mata in place of Fellaini at the restart received huge cheers from the fans as they appreciated the intent of their beleaguered manager. But the move failed to inject any attacking impetus as the home side struggled to mount meaningful attacks on the Saints’ goal.
Southampton deservedly dealt a deathblow on the home side as debutant Charlie Austin won and converted a free kick to plunge the Theatre of Dreams into despair. United substitute Adnan Januzaj came close to equalising for the hosts in stoppage time with a well-struck volley but the Saints held on for their second successive league victory at Old Trafford.
This latest calamity is certain to heap further pressure on Loius van Gaal as the Old Trafford faithful made their feelings heard as a loud chorus of boos burst out post the final whistle.
In other results, Tottenham continued their relentless push for a top four(if not the title!) finish as they came up with a commanding 3-1 win away at Crystal Palace with the impressive Delle Alli scoring one of the goals of the season so far. Leicester City climbed back to the top of the League table with an impressive 3-0 win over Stoke at the King Power stadium.
West Ham United 2-2 Manchester City
Scorers: Valencia 1’, 56’ – Aguero 9’(p), 80’
West Ham had a magical start to the game as Enner Valencia opened the scoring in the first minute of the game as he struck past Joe Hart from a Kouyate assist. However, City pulled themselves up and went in search of an equaliser. They did manage to find the same but through a penalty as Carl Jenkinson brought down Aguero in the box. Aguero calmly sent Adrien the wrong way to pull City level on 9 minutes.
The game sprung into life as it was end to end football from both teams. Dmitri Payet, one of the signings of the season, bamboozled the City defence with his tricks and flicks and also extracted an excellent save from Hart with a brilliant effort from a free kick. Both sides tried their best to grab the lead but had to leave the field at the half-time whistle locked at 1-1 after a pulsating half of football.
City started the second half brightly as they came close to taking the lead through a Fabian Delph effort which hit the post via a deflection. But it was West Ham who took the lead as a quick throw in from Antonio saw Valencia outmuscle Otamendi and score past Hart for his and West Ham’s second of the night. A worried Pellegrini threw in Sterling and Iheanacho to get back in the game.
The changes made a difference as Aguero played a slick one-two with youngster Iheanacho in the box to score his second of the night on 80 minutes to bring City back in the game. The irresistible Payet was a constant threat for the City backline as he combined well with skipper Noble on numerous occasions.
Aguero had a late effort on target saved while Kouyate hit the bar with the last touch of the ball as both sides had to settle for a hard-fought and entertaining draw.
Leicester City 3-0 Stoke City
Scorers: Drinkwater 42’, Vardy 66’ Ulloa 87’
Leicester dominated Stoke throughout the match to seal a comfortable 3-0 win that helped them go top of the Premier League table, at least for one night. Playing at the King Power stadium in front of a vocal home support, Claudio Ranieri's men kept their foot on the throttle right from the beginning and ensured there was no let up in their intensity.
They got the opening goal through Danny Drinkwater, whose shot from just outside the box travelled through a crowd of players, deflected off Marc Wilson and hit the back of the net. Drinkwater's precise pass also led to the second goal, as Vardy ran onto the ball before finishing with aplomb past Butland, scoring his first goal in 8 matches in the process.
The icing on the cake was provided by Leonardo Ulloa, who finished off Mahrez's brilliant piece of skill and sealed all 3 points for the home side.
Crystal Palace 1-3 Tottenham
Scorers: Vertonghen 30’(o.g) – Kane 63’ Alli 84’ Chadli 90’
Sunderland 1-1 Bournemouth
Scorers: Van Anholt 45’ – Afobe 13’
West Brom 0-0 Aston Villa
Watford 2-1 Newcastle United
Scorers: Ighalo 46’ Cathcart 58’ – Lascelles 78’
Malaga 1-2 Barcelona
Scorers: Anor 32’ – Munir 2’, Messi 51'
Barcelona were without Neymar who has not recovered from his hamstring injury while Gerard Pique also missed the game through suspension. Also, Luis Enrique started new recruit Arda Turan in place of Ivan Rakitic.
The Catalans made a great start to the game as they opened the scoring as early as the 2nd minute with Neymar’s replacement Munir-El Haddadi struck with a simple tap in after brilliant work from Luis Suarez. However, it failed to discourage Malaga as they kept pushing the visitors. Their efforts were rewarded with an equaliser in the 32nd minute as Juampi Anor scored from a move which materialised from a misplaced pass from Mascherano.
Barcelona restored their lead early in the second half as unusually subdued Lionel Messi converted Adriano’s inviting cross with an acrobatic finish on 51 minutes. Malaga fought hard to find an equaliser but the defending champions who were never really at their best, held on to secure a victory which takes them to the summit of the La Liga standings.
Paris Saint-Germain 5-1 Angers
Scorers: Ibrahimovic 32’, Lucas 40’, Van der Wiel 54’, Di Maria 62’, 66’– Capelle 59’
Runaway Ligue 1 leaders PSG were forced into a makeshift backline against the high-flying Angers with both Thiago Silva and Marquinhos were both out injured. The Parisiens, huge favourites to win the tie against the visitors, dominated the game early on and opened the scoring through talismanic striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the 32nd minute. Lucas doubled the lead on 40 minutes to take a half time lead of 2-0.
The hosts added a third early in the second half through Dutchman Gregory van der Wiel on 54 minutes. However, the visitors pulled one back on 59 minutes through Capelle. However, former Real Madrid and Manchester United winger Angel di Maria showed his class with two quick goals in the space of four minutes, with the first of the two goals being a sumptuous volley from the edge of the box over the Angers keeper.
PSG finished the night with a 5-1 victory to extend their lead at the top of the Ligue 1 table to an unreal 24 points over second-placed AS Monaco.