Manchester City’s Premier League title defence suffered a major setback as Everton snatched a 1-1 draw against the champions, while Marcus Rashford responded to his benching for missing a team meeting with the late strike that clinched Manchester United’s 1-0 win at Wolves on Saturday.
City needed a victory at the Etihad Stadium to put pressure on Arsenal ahead of the leaders’ trip to Brighton in Saturday’s late game.
But Pep Guardiola’s second placed side blew the lead given to them by Erling Haaland as Demarai Gray scored an eye-catching equaliser for struggling Everton.
City trail Arsenal by four points after failing to win for the second time in their last three league games.
Haaland had scored eight goals more than Everton’s entire squad in the first 16 Premier League matches this season.
And inevitably it was Haaland who put City ahead in the 24th minute with his 27th goal in 20 competitive appearances since his close-season move from Borussia Dortmund.
Riyad Mahrez provided the assist with a dazzling run and pin-point pass to the Norway striker, who slotted past Jordan Pickford in ruthless fashion.
Yet Everton equalised against the run of play in the 64th minute as Gray robbed City midfielder Rodri, cut in from the right flank and curled a blistering strike into the top corner, in the process buying under-fire boss Frank Lampard some much-needed breathing space.
While City laboured, their Manchester rivals survived an eventful day that started when United manager Erik ten Hag dropped Rashford because of an “internal disciplinary” issue that broke “our rules”.
The 25-year-old’s exile only lasted until half-time when he was sent on by Ten Hag in a move that proved the catalyst for United to seal their fifth successive win in all competitions.
Rashford looked determined to prove Ten Hag wrong as he rampaged through the Wolves defence to score his 11th goal in all competitions this season and his third in three appearances since the World Cup.
In a post-match television interview, the England forward said he was disappointed to be left out after missing the meeting because he over-slept.
Rashford’s ‘right answer’
But both Ten Hag and Rashford appear ready to bury the hatchet and move on.
“We draw a line under it and move on. I was a little bit late for a meeting. I overslept but it can happen,”
“Obviously it’s team rules. I made a mistake. I’m obviously disappointed not to play but I understand the decision and I’m happy we managed to win anyway. I think I’m in a good place.”Rashford said.
“It’s good after the decision. I think it happens often. Coming in he was bright, lively, he scored a goal and that is the right reaction.
“Of course (that is the end of the matter). Everyone has to match the rules. This is the right answer.”Ten Hag added.
United climbed to fourth place in the Premier League, two points above Tottenham who have a game in hand, as they bid to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Third placed Newcastle’s six-match winning run came to a halt in a 0-0 draw against Leeds at St James’ Park.
Fabian Schar and Dan Burn wasted glorious opportunities to put Newcastle ahead, but Eddie Howe’s side still go into 2023 in good shape after their unexpected surge into the top four.
Joao Palhinha’s last-gasp goal sealed Fulham’s 2-1 win against Southampton, who sit bottom of the table after a fifth successive defeat.
Andreas Pereira’s long-range strike deflected off Southampton midfielder James Ward-Prowse for a 32nd minute own goal.
Ward-Prowse equalised with a superb 55th minute free-kick, but Palhinha headed home from an 88th minute corner to win it for Fulham, whose striker Aleksandar Mitrovic saw his stoppage-time penalty saved by Gavin Bazunu.
Crystal Palace eased to a 2-0 win at Bournemouth as Patrick Vieira’s side ended their three-match goal drought thanks to Jordan Ayew and Eberechi Eze.