LONDON, Sept 24 – Raheem Sterling shone for Manchester City and Romelu Lukaku delivered for Manchester United as the Manchester clubs maintained their grip on the Premier League title race with Saturday victories. Sterling scored a brace as City crushed bottom club Crystal Palace 5-0 to go top on goal difference above United, who won 1-0 at Southampton courtesy of Lukaku’s first-half goal.
Champions Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool all kept pace with the top two, putting the pressure on Arsenal, who host West Bromwich Albion on Monday. “The first half we had problems as the ball must be moved and we didn’t move it,” said City manager Pep Guardiola.
“But the last 10-15 minutes of the half, we got it. The second half was much, much better. (Leroy) Sane’s (opening) goal was so important.” Palace have lost their first six games of the season after crashing to a heavy defeat at the Etihad Stadium in Roy Hodgson’s second league game as manager.
City went in front shortly before half-time when Leroy Sane converted after a one-two with David Silva. Sterling’s quick-fire double took the game beyond Palace, the England forward tapping in passes from Sane and Sergio Aguero in the 51st and 59th minutes.
Aguero made it 4-0, heading in Sane’s cross to close to within one goal of Eric Brook’s all-time City record of 177 goals, before Fabian Delph curled in a fine fifth. Guardiola’s side have scored 16 goals in their last three league games, having previously trounced Liverpool 5-0 and won 6-0 at Watford.
City left-back Benjamin Mendy will undergo tests on Sunday after a knee injury forced him off in the first half. United had a rather less straightforward afternoon at Southampton, but they prevailed thanks to Lukaku’s sixth goal of the campaign. The Belgium international struck in the 20th minute, scoring at the second attempt after his header from Ashley Young’s in-swinging cross was saved by Fraser Forster.
“It is not always possible to operate at high quality, but we fought hard,” United manager Jose Mourinho told Sky Sports after being sent to the stands in stoppage time for encroaching onto the pitch. “It was a hard game, but I am really happy.” United’s fans again aired a chant about Lukaku that draws on racial stereotypes about black men’s penises and the club said they had requested CCTV footage from Southampton to identify the culprits.
Chelsea remain three points off the pace in third place after Alvaro Morata scored a hat-trick in a breezy 4-0 win at Stoke City, with Pedro also on target. “Morata played a good game, a really good performance,” Chelsea manager Antonio Conte told the BBC. “Now he has to continue this way to be a great striker.”
Philippe Coutinho scored a stunning free-kick – his first goal since being refused a transfer to Barcelona – as Liverpool narrowly won 3-2 at Leicester City. Mohamed Salah and Jordan Henderson were also on target, but Shinji Okazaki and Jamie Vardy replied for Leicester and Liverpool were indebted to Simon Mignolet for saving Vardy’s 73rd-minute penalty.
Harry Kane took his tally to six goals in four games as Tottenham won 3-2 at West Ham United to chalk up a third successive away win. Kane’s first-half brace and a Christian Eriksen effort put Spurs 3-0 up before Serge Aurier was sent off and West Ham came back into the game through Javier Hernandez and Cheikhou Kouyate.
Liverpool and Spurs are level on 11 points, five points off the leading pair. Second-half substitute Oumar Niasse netted twice as Everton snapped a run of three successive defeats by coming from behind to win 2-1 at home to Bournemouth, who had gone ahead through Josh King. Richarlison’s 89th-minute strike saw Watford snatch a 2-1 win at Swansea City, who are still without a home win, while Burnley and Huddersfield Town played out a goalless draw at Turf Moor. — AFP