Manchester United makes Danny Welbeck’s early opener hold up, draws 1-1 with Shakhtar in the Ukraine

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It wasn’t exactly the ultimate sweep of brilliant relief Manchester United went looking for Wednesday in the Ukraine, but a 1-1 draw with Shakhtar Donetsk qualifies as something of an essential pressure valve considering the state of things lately for the woozy English giants.

Danny Welbeck’s early goal held up until late in the second half, as steadily mounting pressure from the Brazilian-heavy bunch from Shakhtar finally paid off through a fiercely struck equalizer.

First-year Red Devils manager David Moyes may still feel a bit besieged as his club merges back into Premier League play this week, but Manchester United stands reasonably well positioned in Champions League, tied with Shakhtar for first atop Group A, a home win and Wednesday’s road draw now in pocket.

By the end Wednesday against Shakhtar, winners of the last four Ukrainian Premier League titles and now a familiar face around Champions League, United was hanging on, scenes of chaos flashing ominously in and out of United’s penalty area.

The day had started with a bummer as Wayne Rooney was ruled out due to a previously undisclosed injury, a minor shin bruise collected apparently in Tuesday’s training, but one significant enough to keep him out of the match at the Donbass Arena. (Remember this facility from the 2012 European Championships?).

Shakhtar still doesn’t have anything close to Manchester United’s name recognition, and the club may not even be as strong as the one that bounced Chelsea from this competition in 2011, but the Donbass Arena can be a painfully tough place to gather group stage points — especially for a club like United, one trying to arrest a slide. That’s why the early goal from Welbeck (18th minute) worked so wonderfully for United, which looked quite comfortable for about 30 minutes.

Moyes’ men were Barca-esque in keeping the ball early. The Ukraine champs got on the ball for stretches here and there, but the whistles were out by half an hour from fans tired of seeing United boss the ball.

Marouane Fellaini was having a sizeable influence in the midfield when he turned with a ball along the right side of Shakhtar’s penalty area. A flubbed clearance from the home team left a tantalizing ball five yards from goal and Welbeck, with barely a touch on the ball to that point, pounced with authority to score from close range

Robin van Persie occasionally unloaded some of his skill and class with a swell touch in the build-up, but real chances were rare before the break aside from Welbeck’s opener. At the other end, Moyes’ men got the defending mostly right, keeping pressure off David “Taco” de Gea (who once “trained poorly” and “ate too many tacos,” eh?) in United’s goal.

Shakhtar turned up the pressure after that first, sluggish half hour, although United’s Nemanja Vidic-led back line remained generally solid. Brazilian attacker Taison was slicing up United’s midfield a bit, and in the 76th minute he came rampaging through to clean up the one ball Moyes men could not quite deal with.

Shakhtar continued to press from there, and there were nervous moments, but United needed only a big moment or two from de Gea over the last quarter hour to secure the valuable draw.

Klopp: Liverpool supplied “very rare” near-perfect performance

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Liverpool played a near-perfect contest in posting a stylish 4-1 win over West Ham United on Saturday at Anfield.

[ RECAP: Reds 4-1 West Ham ]

“It was intense, it was aggressive, it was angry, it was full of desire,” said manager Jurgen Klopp. “I saw everything I wish to see in a game of football and it’s not often you see that.”

The Reds went second thanks to goals from Emre Can, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mane, conceding a lone goal courtesy of a Cheikhou Kouyate turnover of Can.

The result made Liverpool’s Spanish training camp look like genius, and put to bed fears that the Reds would not build off a 5-0 dismantling of Porto in the UEFA Champions League.

The win moves Liverpool into second place before Manchester United’s Sunday tilt with Chelsea. If the Red Devils fail to beat the Blues, Liverpool will finish the match week in second.

Here’s more from Klopp, from the BBC:

“I don’t think as a manager you can expect a game like this, you can hope for it but it’s very rare you get it. We got it. It was a joy to watch.

“The boys delivered, it makes me really happy. It helps us when we have time to train and prepare but we don’t often have the time. I saw a lot of things today we did in training which makes me happy.”

Klopp’s reference of preparation time is another sign that schedule congestion has not escaped the minds of the managers, and the Reds would not have had as much time off had they not been upset by West Brom in the FA Cup.

A visit from Newcastle is next, and the Reds can focus on the league because the following visit from Porto carries such a lopsided first leg score line.

West Brom 1-2 Huddersfield Town: Terriers climb

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  • Van la Parra gives Terriers lead
  • Mounie makes it 2-0
  • Dawson pullback not enough

Rajiv Van la Parra and Steve Mounie scored second half goals to boost Huddersfield Town four points clear of the drop zone with a 2-1 win over West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns on Saturday.

Craig Dawson scored to give the Baggies hope of a comeback, but it was deflated and West Brom is now seven points back of safety with 10 matches to play.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

West Brom saw an early chance fall to Salomon Rondon, but the Venezuelan blazed over the bar.

Huddersfield were unlucky with a chance produced by Florent Hadergjonaj, as an Alex Pritchard shot caught a teammate in the face and the Terriers couldn’t clean up the loose ball.

Matt Phillips provided a typical fine cross to James McClean near the halftime whistle, but the Irish attacker belted it high.

Town took the lead after halftime, as Van la Parra’s mishit cross was rescued by Collin Quaner and sent into the goal by the same man who bungled the cross.

And Mounie made West Brom’s short-term and long-term fate look dim by putting down a second Town marker off an assist from club record signing Pritchard.

Hold on, though.

Dawson had an answer for the hosts off a Chris Brunt cross, and it was nearly level when Jonas Lossl denied Brunt late on.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Burnley 1-1 Southampton: Gabbiadini to the rescue

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  • Burnley without a PL win in 11
  • Saints with just one win in their last 15 games
  • Gabbiadini’s first goal in 17 games

Southampton struck late to grab a 1-1 draw against Burnley at Turf Moor on Saturday.

Ashley Barnes bundled home in the second half to give Burnley the lead but Sean Dyche‘s side succumbed to a predatory finish from Manolo Gabbiadini who jumped off the bench to grab a valuable point for Saints.

With the draw Burnley move on to 37 points and back up to seventh, while Southampton move out of the bottom three and have 27 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Saints had a decent chance on the break early on as Dusan Tadic, making his 150th appearance for the club, drilled a low effort towards the far corner which Nick Pope saved superbly.

Burnley were dangerous when crosses flew into the box but Saints had another chance to go ahead but Nathan Redmond‘s shot from outside the box was saved by Pope.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

The home side improved drastically before half time as they pinned Southampton back but failed to really generate any clear-cut chances.

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In the second half the encounter continued to be a tight, tense affair as Ashley Barnes nodded wide and Southampton struggled to get going in attack.

Burnley took the lead as Barnes bundled home from close range following a cross from Aaron Lennon on the left which initially saw Alex McCarthy save well form Gudmundsson but then Southampton’s defense stood still and allowed Barnes to score.

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Substitute Josh Sims then thought he had equalized as the youngster cut in, smashed on goal but Pope tipped the ball onto the post with a magnificent save.

In the 90th minute Saints did equalize as Burnley felt that referee Bobby Madley got in their way in the middle of the pitch, but Redmond found Sims who crossed from the right and Guido Carrillo nodded the ball down to Gabbiadini to swivel and smash home. 1-1.

Liverpool 4-1 West Ham: Reds run Irons ragged

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  • Can opens scoring, 30′
  • Reds build 3-0 lead
  • Antonio scores lone Irons goal
  • Liverpool goes second

Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah all scored second half goals as Liverpool went second with a 4-1 win over visiting West Ham United on Saturday.

Emre Can gave Liverpool the lead en route to a 3-0 start, before Michail Antonio answered for West Ham.

The Reds are a point ahead of Manchester United before the Red Devils play Chelsea on Sunday. West Ham is 13th, four points clear of the drop zone.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Salah touched a Firmino pass past flat-footed James Collins, and his 15-yard shot was pushed off the far post by Adrian.

It was Marko Arnautovic chipped Loris Karius but not the cross bar as West Ham looked to answer the bell.

The breakthrough came before the half-hour mark, as Salah settled his blocked corner to help win a second. This time, it was Can heading home a back post offering to make it 1-0.

Arnautovic found even more danger before half, but Karius was there to get the job done.

Salah doubled the advantage in the 51st minute, shooting low past a flat-footed Adrian.

Can set up Liverpool’s third, playing a ball over the top for Firmino to push past a charging Begovic and slide into the goal. 3-0.

Cheikhou Kouyate picked Can’s pocket within minutes to play Antonio down the right for the Irons’ opener, but Mane settled the affair soon after the Liverpool concession.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]