Ibra rises to res­cue United as Tof­fees chew up City

The Star Early Edition - - SOCCER -

MANCH­ESTER: Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic de­liv­ered his most im­por­tant goal yet for Manch­ester United as he sent Old Traf­ford wild with his 19th of the sea­son in all com­pe­ti­tions to sal­vage a 1-1 draw with their fiercest ri­vals Liver­pool last night.

James Mil­ner, so of­ten a scourge of United, si­lenced the home crowd with a 27th-minute penalty as Liver­pool seemed to be coast­ing with rel­a­tive com­fort to a cru­cial Pre­mier League win un­til the ir­re­press­ible Swede struck with an 84thminute header.

The draw put Liver­pool into third spot, along­side sec­ond­placed Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur on 45 points, but left Chelsea seven points ahead of the pack af­ter 21 games, while United, who saw the end of their nine-match win­ning streak, re­main sixth with 40 points.

It looked as if it might be a mis­er­able af­ter­noon for the world’s most ex­pen­sive player, French­man Paul Pogba, who gave away the penalty with a clumsy hand-ball, missed a golden op­por­tu­nity to score and looked lost on de­fen­sive duty.

Mour­inho brought on cap­tain Wayne Rooney as a sec­ond­half sub­sti­tute, hop­ing he would break the club’s scor­ing record, but Liver­pool, for whom Si­mon Mig­no­let made key saves, held United com­fort­ably un­til Ibrahi­movic’s de­ci­sive late in­ter­ven­tion.

Manch­ester City’s ti­tle hopes were ear­lier de­liv­ered a griev­ous blow as Ever­ton’s in­spired Romelu Lukaku and teenagers Tom Davies and Ade­mola Look­man made it an­other crush­ing af­ter­noon for Pep Guardi­ola in a 3-0 de­feat.

The Spa­niard suf­fered his big­gest-ever de­feat in league foot­ball af­ter City had en­joyed the lion’s share of pos­ses­sion and chances, but paid for sloppy de­fend­ing that led to Bel­gian pow­er­house Lukaku con­vert­ing his 12th league goal of the sea­son af­ter 34 min­utes.

Kevin Mi­ral­las struck right af­ter the break and ex­cel­lent 18-year-old academy grad­u­ate Davies dinked a brilliant first goal for his boy­hood club as City looked in­creas­ingly clue­less.

Sub­sti­tute Look­man, mak­ing his de­but at 19, then com­pleted the rout with his first touch in stop­page time, a goal that stemmed from a mis­take from Ever­ton old boy John Stones, as City suf­fered a fourth league de­feat in their last eight league matches.

Com­ing hot on the heels of their last loss in Mersey­side at Liver­pool on New Year’s Eve, City were left in fifth place, 10 points adrift of lead­ers Chelsea, as Guardi­ola cut a for­lorn fig­ure on the bench.

“The game is an ex­am­ple of many that has hap­pened this sea­son. It is foot­ball. In foot­ball you some­times don’t need to do many things to score. They ar­rive once and score a goal,” Guardi­ola told Sky Sports.

“It is not to­day, it is al­most all the sea­son, and it is tough for the play­ers to han­dle that sit­u­a­tion.

“Of course we can do bet­ter. It is aw­ful for my play­ers.”

His team had started brightly enough and had a strong shout for a penalty turned down min­utes later when Ra­heem Ster­ling claimed to have been fouled as he tried to round goal­keeper Joel Robles.

Passes from the ex­cel­lent Kevin De Bruyne set up chances for Ster­ling and David Silva as the vis­i­tors dom­i­nated pos­ses­sion, but when Davies in­ter­cepted a care­less Gael Clichy pass out of de­fence, Ever­ton struck mer­ci­lessly.

Davies’ through-ball picked out Mi­ral­las and his cut-back was met by a first-time, left­footed strike from Lukaku for the Bel­gian’s third goal in his last four matches.

Ster­ling came close with a sear­ing left-foot strike but Ever­ton pounced straight af­ter the break, Mi­ral­las crack­ing in a fine right-foot finish af­ter Yaya Toure was pick-pock­eted in mid­field and Ross Barkley of­fered a neat as­sist.

Mi­ral­las came off to huge ap­plause to be re­placed by Mor­gan Sch­nei­der­lin, mak­ing his de­but af­ter his mid­week move from Manch­ester United, and it was the sig­nal for the wheels to fall off for City.

Davies, ex­cel­lent through­out, started and fin­ished the move that saw him clip the ball ex­pertly over the ad­vanc­ing Clau­dio Bravo, even though Lukaku told the young­ster he had got the fi­nal touch.

“That (goal) is def­i­nitely mine,” Davies in­sisted af­ter­wards with a smile.

“It is un­be­liev­able, my dream to ac­tu­ally come in and do this.”

Look­man, signed from Charl­ton Ath­letic ear­lier in the month, then pro­duced an even more im­prob­a­ble fairy-tale in the 94th minute, latch­ing onto the ball af­ter a Stones er­ror to smash his finish through Bravo af­ter be­ing on the pitch for just min­utes.

Pic­ture: Reuters

LATE HERO: Manch­ester United’s Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic cel­e­brates scor­ing the equaliser at Old Traf­ford.

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