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Man Utd lose more ground on top four after Villa draw

...Iheanacho the hero as Leicester close gap on Liverpool

Monday, December 02, 2019

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom (AFP) — Manchester United are eight points adrift of the Premier League top four after throwing away a second-half lead to draw 2-2 with Aston Villa at Old Trafford yesteday.

Jack Grealish shot Villa into the lead with a superb solo effort midway through the first half, but United levelled before the break when Marcus Rashford's header hit the post and came off Villa goalkeeper Tom Heaton into his own net.

Victor Lindelof then headed United in front, but the lead lasted just two minutes before Tyrone Mings secured a deserved point for Dean Smith's visitors.

Villa remain just three points behind United in 15th, but edge three points clear of the relegation zone.

Grealish's excellent season continued when he shot the visitors into the lead after 11 minutes.

Anwar El Ghazi burst down the right wing before crossing through the United area for Grealish to gather the ball on the left-hand side, and take advantage of Andreas Pereira's decision to back off by curling a precise shot into the top corner of David de Gea's goal.

It was the 24-year-old's third goal of the season and, when combined with four assists, means that the seven goals in which he has been involved are the most of any English midfielder in the Premier League this season.

Villa had the ball in the United goal for a second time on the half-hour, from another excellent Grealish contribution, only for Trezeguet's effort to be ruled out for offside.

It was a near miss for United which finally prompted them into new-found urgency in their attacking play, with Juan Mata soon teeing up Rashford for an untidy shot which the England forward scuffed wide.

There was another chance for Rashford, which Heaton did well to save at point-blank while conceding the 42nd- minute corner from which he was unfortunate to be credited with an own goal.

Fred and Mata moved a short corner onto Andreas Pereira, whose hanging cross towards the far post was headed off the post by Rashford, and the ball ricocheted in via Heaton.

Grealish and Trezeguet remained a threat, with de Gea forced to tip a shot from the latter onto his bar before the interval although, in an increasingly entertaining and open contest, United finally looked as threatening as their visitors.

They even took the lead just after the hour mark when Fred swung over a cross which took an unkind deflection off the head of Douglas Luiz, moving the ball onto the far post where Lindelof sent a powerful header flying past Heaton.

If Villa's confidence was dented they did not show it, and took just two minutes to equalise when Matt Targett played an accurate cross onto the six-yard line where Mings was able to volley past the helpless de Gea.

United appealed for offside but VAR showed that Brandon Williams had clearly played the England defender on.

Meanwhile, Kelechi Iheanacho struck deep into stoppage time, as Leicester beat Everton 2-1 to close the gap on Liverpool at the top of the Premier League to eight points.

Richarlison had given the visitors a shock lead at King Power as Everton produced a performance that may do enough to save manager Marco Silva's job ahead of the Merseyside derby on Wednesday.

But the introduction of Iheanacho just after the hour mark changed the game as the Nigerian set up Jamie Vardy to equalise and then dramatically scored the winner, which was initially ruled out for offside before a VAR review overturned the decision.

A sixth-straight Premier League win sends Brendan Rodgers' men three points clear of defending champions Manchester City in second.

Silva was reportedly on the verge of losing his job earlier in the week after a run of just two wins in 10 league games that has left the Toffees hovering just above the relegation zone.

The Portuguese responded with a change of formation and his switch to a 3-5-2 worked to perfection for the opening goal.

Djibril Sidibe broke upfield from right wing back, and his cross was bulleted home by Richarlison with a diving header.

Leicester had already seen two half-hearted appeals for a penalty waived away for challenges on Ayoze Perez by the time that referee Graham Scott did point to the spot for Mason Holgate's apparent trip on Ben Chilwell.

However, a lengthy VAR review concluded no contact had been made and the Foxes were frustrated once more.

Leicester laboured in the search for an equaliser, but the introduction of Iheanacho as a substitute just after the hour mark provided the much-needed spark.

His first effort was too close to Jordan Pickford, but he got in behind the Everton defence again moments later and squared for Vardy to score his 13th goal of the season at the back post.

Vardy had been quiet for the first 68 minutes, but came alive in the final quarter.

James Maddison should have done better from his cross as his finish was straight at Pickford before Vardy rose highest in the box, but just planted his header from Youri Tielemans's cross too high.

Just as Leicester were turning the screw, Everton were inches away from retaking the lead in spectacular fashion as substitute Moise Kean nearly scored his first goal for the club with a curling effort that hit the side netting.