A display of character and resilience from Arsenal has ensured there’s plenty of life left in the Premier League title race.
The fight to finish in the Champions League qualification positions is far from over, too, after David De Gea’s latest mistake in another away loss for Manchester United.
By inflicting a rare home defeat on Newcastle, Arsenal gained redemption for one of its most painful losses under Mikel Arteta and kept the pressure firmly on Manchester City just when it looked like the defending champions might be strolling to the title.
Arsenal’s 2-0 win in a febrile atmosphere inside St. James’ Park left City with a one-point lead with three weeks left in the season. City has a game in hand but the tougher run-in, with three away matches in its final four fixtures.
“Let’s keep going and digging and digging, and see what is there,” said Arteta after a win earned by Martin Odegaard’s long-range strike in the 14th minute and an own-goal by Fabian Schar in the 71st.
In a physical game, Arsenal’s players were shoved and roughed up, while riling the home fans with streetwise tactics that might have pushed the boundaries of gamesmanship.
Anything to keep alive hopes of a first league title since 2004.
“We had to be very smart and to be ugly at times,” Odegaard said. “It’s a big step for a young team like ours to come here and do the things we did.”
Away wins are proving much harder to come by for United – and it’s keeping the battle for Champions League qualification interesting.
It’s just one victory in six road trips for Erik Ten Hag’s fragile team, which lost 1-0 at West Ham just three days after a defeat by the same score at Brighton on a 99th-minute penalty.
West Ham’s winner came much earlier, with De Gea somehow allowing a weak shot by Said Benrahma from outside the area to dribble past his outstretched arm and slowly into the net in the 27th.
No Premier League player has made more errors leading to goals this season than De Gea’s four, according to the competition’s stats supplier, Opta. De Gea also made a big mistake at Sevilla as United slumped to defeat in the Europa League quarter-finals last month.
United stayed in fourth, two points behind third-place Newcastle.
Liverpool, which is in fifth place and a point back from United, was the big winner Sunday, though has played one game more.
Before making the journey to St. James’ Park from the team hotel, Arsenal’s players were shown video clips from last season’s 2-0 loss at Newcastle that cost them a chance to finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League. They were bullied and outplayed that day, but appeared to have learned their lesson. “We had to see our faces and understand the emotions, not just the players but the staff also,” Arteta said of the video. “You don’t want to be like this any more, it is a horrible feeling. Today we had to show a different type of competitiveness, desire and then quality.” Odegaard’s goal came against the run of play. Newcastle had already struck the post through Jacob Murphy and seen a penalty overturned after a VAR check by the time the Norway playmaker slammed a low shot through the legs of Newcastle defender Sven Botman and past goalkeeper Nick Pope. Alexander Isak also hit the post with a header and Newcastle paid for its profligacy when Gabriel Martinelli’s cross was diverted into his own net by Schar. “The noise was there today,” said Newcastle manager Eddie Howe, whose team lost at home for just the second time this season.
With its Premier League survival virtually secure, West Ham can maybe afford to focus on winning a European trophy in the final weeks of the season. The win over United lifted West Ham to 37 points, seven above the bottom three with three games left – two of which are against teams lower in the standings in Leeds and Leicester. West Ham is still involved in the Europa Conference League, with a two-legged semi-final against Dutch club AZ Alkmar starting with the home game on Thursday.
Manchester United still on top
Chelsea thumped Everton 7-0 in English Women’s Super League action on Sunday, but it still wasn’t enough to make any gain on Manchester United, which blanked Tottenham 3-0. Man United, at 50 points, is still four points clear of Chelsea. Man City, which was shocked 2-1 by Liverpool, has 44 points. In other games, Brighton & Hove Albion beat West Ham 1-0 and Aston Villa beat Reading 5-0. Man United, Man City and Chelsea all have a chance of winning the Women’s Super League in a very tight title race.
Celtic wins league in Scotland for second part of treble bid
It’s two down and one to go for treble-chasing Celtic in Scottish soccer. The Glasgow club clinched the second leg of its latest bid for three domestic trophies in one season by retaining the league title Sunday with four games to spare. A 2-0 win at Hearts left Celtic with an unassailable lead over second-place Rangers, its fierce city rival, in the Scottish Premiership. Rangers, beware. Celtic now has 53 league titles in its history – only two off Rangers’ record haul of 55 – after winning a 11th championship in the past 12 years. Celtic had already won the Scottish League Cup, beating Rangers 2-1 in the final in February, and plays Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the Scottish FA Cup final on June 3 in an attempt to complete the treble – a feat the team achieved every year from 2017-20.
Real Madrid overcomes Osasuna to win Copa del Rey
SEVILLE, Spain – Rodrygo scored twice to lead Real Madrid to its first Copa del Rey title in nearly a decade after a 2-1 victory over Osasuna in the final on Saturday. Rodrygo was set up by fellow Brazil forward Vinicius Junior to give Madrid the lead just two minutes after kickoff at La Cartuja Stadium. Osasuna’s Lucas Torro equalized in the 58th, but Rodrygo put Madrid back ahead for good in the 70th. It was Madrid’s 20th Copa del Rey title and its first since 2014. With the Spanish cup in hand, Madrid will host Manchester City on Tuesday in the opening match of their Champions League semi-final.