Liverpool cut Manchester City’s lead at the top of the Premier League to a single point on Sunday as Manchester United slipped to their first domestic defeat under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Arsenal.
Chelsea earlier needed a last-gasp equaliser from Eden Hazard to earn a 1-1 draw against Wolves as the race for the four Champions League qualification spots heats up.
Just four points separate third-placed Tottenham, on 61 points, and Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea in sixth, with Arsenal in fourth position and United in fifth.
A disappointing run of results has badly dented Liverpool’s bid for a first English league title since 1990 and fans’ nerves were jangling after they fell behind against struggling Burnley at Anfield on Sunday.
But Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane both scored twice as Jurgen Klopp’s team battled back to win 4-2, lifting them to 73 points, one behind Pep Guardiola’s City, who saw off Watford on Saturday.
“The message from today is that nobody gets rid of us,” said a defiant Klopp, whose team had won just two of their previous six Premier League matches. “We had the perfect mixture of fighting the opponent and playing football.
IKIMAGES/AFP / Ian KINGTON Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka (right) celebrates scoring against Manchester United
“All we have to do is make sure that we stay in this really interesting competition on top of the table. We have no problem with confidence, we’re in a good moment.”
United travelled to the Emirates Stadium brimming with confidence after their astonishing Champions League comeback against Paris Saint-Germain in midweek.
Solskjaer had won 13 and drawn two of his previous domestic 15 league and cup fixtures since succeeding the sacked Jose Mourinho in mid-December but they fell behind in the 12th minute, when Granit Xhaka’s strike from distance swerved through the air to wrong-foot United goalkeeper David de Gea.
– Champions League race –
Both teams went close thereafter, with Fred hitting a post and Romelu Lukaku guilty of wasting some gilt-edged chances but the home side doubled their lead midway through the second half when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored from the penalty spot after Fred was penalised for bringing down Alexandre Lacazette.
Arsenal’s 2-0 victory lifted Unai Emery’s side into fourth, just one point behind north London rivals Spurs and meant they leapfrogged United in the process as they target a return to the Champions League after two seasons away from Europe’s top club competition.
AFP / Glyn KIRK Chelsea’s Eden Hazard (right) celebrates scoring a late equaliser against Wolves
“We created so many more chances today than when we beat them in the FA Cup,” said Solskjaer. “Sometimes it happens, we hit the woodwork twice and had five very big chances ourselves. The referee will be disappointed when he sees it as I don’t think it is a penalty.
“We just had to go for it towards the end, but we were not really at it and it is one of those days where you have to dust yourselves down from.”
Emery said his players had given their all “against the best team at this moment”.
“We were playing very competitive for 90 minutes and I think we deserved this victory,” he said. “We can be happy today. We knew Manchester United could use different tactics but we wanted to impose our gameplan and I think we did that.”
The win was soured by an incident in which a fan ran onto the pitch and appeared to push United’s Chris Smalling after the spot-kick. It followed an incident in the earlier Championship game, when Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish was punched by a pitch invader during the match against Birmingham.
Arsenal later announced the fan had been arrested.
Earlier, Hazard came to Chelsea’s rescue in injury time, firing in from long range to grab a point against Wolves at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea enjoyed the bulk of the possession but Wolves took the lead through Raul Jimenez in the 56th minute with their first shot on goal after an incisive counter-attack and looked on track for an impressive win until Hazard struck.
City beat Watford 3-1 on Saturday thanks to Raheem Sterling’s 13-minute hat-trick but Spurs, on the fringes of the title race just two weeks ago, slumped to their third Premier League defeat in just four games against Southampton.
There were also wins on Saturday for Brighton, Cardiff, Bournemouth, Leicester and Newcastle.