Manchester City maintained their march to the Premier League title by thumping Norwich, but Liverpool showed their brave side to stay in touch with the champions.
Manchester United squandered another lead in a damaging draw with Southampton, while Newcastle’s fight for survival was boosted by a valuable win over Aston Villa.
AFP Sport looks back at three things we learned from the Premier League over the weekend:
City bluster as Liverpool stay in touch
Manchester City and Liverpool delivered contrasting performances to maintain the status quo in the title race.
City showcased the best of their elegant attacking game as Raheem Sterling’s hat-trick inspired a 4-0 demolition of lowly Norwich at Carrow Road.
The win, City’s 14th in their last 15 league games, briefly moved the leaders 12 points clear at the top.
But second-placed Liverpool have no intention of surrendering without a fight and, 24 hours after City’s outing, Jurgen Klopp’s men rolled up their sleeves for a grueling 1-0 victory over wet and windy Burnley.
Fittingly, Liverpool’s winner was scored by Fabinho, the Brazilian whose midfield graft and energy is so often overshadowed by superstar team-mates Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.
Liverpool are nine points behind City with one game less to close the gap even further.
“It was only when you were standing on the pitch that you could feel the extent of the wind, it was ridiculous,” Klopp said.
“We asked ourselves to use it instead of suffering from it. A really difficult match, yes.”
No wonder Guardiola recently insisted the title race was far from over and predicted City would need over 90 points to retain the trophy.
Slow motion Man Utd in reverse
Manchester United missed another chance to break into the top four as for the third game in a row they lost a 1-0 half-time lead to draw 1-1.
This time it was Southampton who took advantage as Ralf Hasenhuttl thwarted his former mentor Ralf Rangnick, who he worked with at RB Leipzig.
It was Hasenhuttl who delivered the most depressing assessment of the current state of a star United team that has failed to deliver under two different managers this season.
“It’s no big secret that when they lose the ball, the backsteps aren’t everyone’s best,” the Austrian said.
Rangnick had recalled Cristiano Ronaldo, but the 37-year-old looked like a shadow of his former self again as his worst goalscoring drought for 12 years stretched into a sixth game.
United still find themselves outside the top four by a single point thanks to the failing form of all contenders for next season’s Champions League bottom berth.
But they need to show a lot more desire when Brighton visit Old Trafford on Tuesday to stop the rot.
Newcastle Scent Survival
Less than two months ago, Newcastle were dropped three points from safety in the relegation zone after a 4-0 loss to Manchester City.
Optimism about Newcastle’s survival prospects was rare around football-obsessed Tyneside heading into 2022.
But Eddie Howe’s side have been revitalized since that dark day and Sunday’s 1-0 win over Aston Villa was another step towards completing their great escape.
Three successive league wins over Villa, Everton and Leeds have lifted Newcastle out of the bottom three and they now have a four-point cushion and a game in hand at bottom third Norwich.
Fittingly, it was Kieran Trippier – one of the January signings made possible by the Saudi takeover of the club – who saw Villa with a searing free-kick.
Trippier was substituted with a foot injury in the second half, but in a sign of the sudden wave of positivity at St James’ Park, even that couldn’t deter Newcastle fans as they celebrated another step towards victory. security.