Aston Villa 1-2 Arsenal: Gunners leapfrog back to the top (video)

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Jack Wilshere’s latest highly skilled goal and an equally proficient assist before the break Monday propelled Arsenal, which leapfrogged back to the top of a tight Premier League table, overtaking Chelsea and Manchester City at the completion of Round 21.

Arsenal’s 2-1 win over Aston Villa in the Midlands reversed the early, alarming result in North London, as Paul Lambert’s young club had prevailed over Gunners on opening day at the Emirates, 3-1.

But that seemed so, so long ago as Wilshere, Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla helped the Premier League leaders stay comfortably in control through most of Monday’s match at Villa Park.

Monday’s match turned on three highly eventful minutes, just after the half-hour mark. First came a big choice from referee Neil Swarbrick; he could have potentially shown red to Gunners defender Ignacio Monreal in the 32nd minute after he got tangled up with Aston Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor, who was proving a nuisance here and there for the visitors’ back line.

Agbonlahor was some distance from goal and slightly out to the right, but still may have been in alone on goal but for Monreal’s late tackle, which was cynical or just clumsy, based surely on your point of view. Either way, Swarbrick produced the yellow, and that was only the beginning of the bad timings about to arrive in heavy doses around Villa Park.

Just two minutes later, there were Monreal and Ozil connecting efficiently along the left. Cazorla did his part by dragging defenders away with a well-timed, convincing dummy run into middle. Monreal’s ball then found an onrushing Wilshere, who needed two high-quality touches to push the ball past U.S. international Brad Guzan, just inside the far post.

Guzan was blameless once again two minutes past that as Wilshere reacted quickly on a poor moment in Villa’s midfield. After an unforced Villa turnover, Wilshere quickly found Olivier Giroud, the striker who keeps doing just enough to keep his place in Arsenal’s bigger plans. Giroud finished with pressure quickly approaching for a 2-0 lead.

Villa produced very little until Christian Benteke’s long-awaited breakthrough in the 76th minute. Villa had barely threatened Gunners’ keeper Wojciech Szczesny when a Carorla turnover in Arsenal’s end provided a needed boost around the ground. Benteke’s diving header at the far post cut the margin in half and ended the Aston Villa striker’s lengthy goalless spell, one that stretched nearly four months.

The game’s other turning point came in the 14th minute as Aston Villa defender Nathan Baker was felled when hit in the face by a hard shot. He was taken into the locker room – reports later said he was mildly concussed but otherwise OK – leaving the home team frightfully short of defenders. Baker was one of three center backs for Villa, as Lambert gambled with something different in an effort to slow first-place Arsenal, now with just one loss in its last nine Premier League matches.

LINEUPS:

Aston Villa: Guzan; Clark, Vlaar, Baker (Bacuna 21); Lowton, El Ahmadi (Weimann 73), Westwood, Delph, Luna; Benteke, Agbonlahor.

Goal: Benteke 76

Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal (Gibbs 66); Flamini, Wilshere; Gnabry (Rosicky 69; Oxlade-Chamberlain 86), Ozil, Cazorla; Giroud.

Goals: Wilshere (34), Giroud (35)

Tuanzebe injured in warm-ups, Rojo now in Manchester United XI

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Well then.

Manchester United’s announced XI has changed thanks to a presumed injury to center back Axel Tuanzebe.

Marcos Rojo will take the youngster’s place in a back three with Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof.

Liverpool and United kickoff from Old Trafford at 11:30 a.m. ET (Watch live at on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The 29-year-old Rojo has played four times this season, but just 30 minutes in the Premier League.

Phil Jones has been added to the bench.

LINEUPS

Manchester United: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Rojo, Young, Fred, McTominay, Pereira, James, Rashford. Subs: Romero, Mata, Martial, Jones, Greenwood, Garner, Williams.

Liverpool: Alisson, Robertson, Van Dijk, Matip, Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Mane, Origi, Firmino. Subs: Adrian, Lovren, Milner, Keita, Gomez, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lallana.

Lukaku scores 2, celebrates with Conte as Inter Milan bounces back

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If this guy was still in red, Manchester United would have a lot more hope heading into today’s visit from Liverpool.

Romelu Lukaku scored his fourth and fifth Serie A goals of the season on Sunday as Inter Milan outlasted Sassuolo 4-3 at Stadio Citta del Tricolore.

[ MORE: Pulisic Watch Sargent scores ]

Lautaro Martinez also scored twice in the win, as Inter rebounded from its loss to Juventus and reclaimed second place. Inter sits a point back of The Old Lady.

Lukaku caused a bit of buzz online when he raced over to manager Antonio Conte following his second goal for a fiery embrace (It’s Conte. Fiery is his thing).

From Football-Italia:

“Conte and I are both team players, so when I score a goal, I want to celebrate with everyone. I am focused only on working and giving my best in every match.”

Inter is home to Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday in almost a must-win given its slow start to life in the Champions League.

Lukaku, who’s also scored six goals in his last four appearances for Belgium, already has a goal in a Milan Derby and a solid strike partner in Martinez.

He ranks near the top of Inter’s performance charts on WhoScored, chipping in on the defensive end as well.

Watch Live: Manchester United v. Liverpool

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Manchester United chases a notable home win over rivals Liverpool without Paul Pogba and David De Gea, as the visitors look to match a pair of Premier League records on Sunday at Old Trafford (Watch live at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Liverpool can tie the standard for consecutive away Premier League wins (9) while also winning its 18th-straight league match.

There’s a place on the Manchester United bench for Anthony Martial, but there are three center backs in the forms of Harry Maguire, Axel Tuanzebe, and Victor Lindelof.

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah is not ready for any sort of return.

David De Gea and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have passed fit for United, while Divock Origi starts with Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane for Liverpool.

LINEUPS

Manchester United: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Tuanzebe, Young, Fred, McTominay, Pereira, James, Rashford. Subs: Romero, Mata, Martial, Rojo, Greenwood, Garner, Williams.

Liverpool: Alisson, Robertson, Van Dijk, Matip, Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Mane, Origi, Firmino. Subs: Adrian, Lovren, Milner, Keita, Gomez, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lallana.

Ederson as the league’s best? Increased action, stats make the case

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Christian Benteke rose above a pack of players, snapping a header toward the far post and, perhaps, a Crystal Palace lifeline against Manchester City.

The view from outside the 18 best tells the story of what happened next, as City goalkeeper Ederson appears from behind the fray to stop the ball from reaching its location with a remarkable save.

He had a few of those in Saturday’s win, the latest in which City’s Brazilian backstop kept a clean sheet behind cobbled together back line.

One of his makeshift center backs, Fernandinho, labeled the performance “superb,” while Pep Guardiola said the saves were “incredible.”

We’re seeing a lot more love for Ederson these days, mostly it seems because City is conceding more shots and the Brazilian has to play a bigger role.

The PL’s second place side and two-time reigning champs are one of five clubs to allow less than 10 goals this Fall, helping City stay within reasonable distance of Liverpool in a bid for a three-peat.

Brought for his skills in possession, Ederson has completed a league-high 90 percent of his passes and 65 percent of his long balls. Only three others are above 80 percent on all passes and just Kasper Schmeichel is above 50 percent on long balls.

Ederson, though, has been so much busier in dangerous spots, with his 19 saves inside the box behind only the backstops for three much weaker teams in Norwich City’s Tim Krul, Brighton’s Mat Ryan, and Newcastle’s Martin Dubravka.

[ MORE: Pulisic Watch  | Sargent scores ]

Perhaps this should then serve as a warning signal as City waits for Nicolas Otamendi to be fully fit, let alone star center back Aymeric Laporte‘s long-term return.

According to SofaScore, only the outstanding Bernd Leno and Ryan rate better than Ederson on the whole, and the incredible passing numbers take him over the top.