Tuesday, September 26, 2023

EPL: Arsenal back on top but Saka limps off early in win over Nottingham Forest

Arsenal back on top
Arsenal's Gabriel Martinelli got the first goal in his side's 4-0 win over Nottingham Forest. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON, October 31: Arsenal thrashed Nottingham Forest 5-0 at the Emirates on Sunday to return to the top of the Premier League, but the win may have come at a cost after Bukayo Saka limped off midway through the first half.
Saka’s replacement Reiss Nelson scored a brace to go with goals from Gabriel Martinelli, Thomas Partey and Martin Odegaard. But the injury to the winger will be a major concern for manager Mikel Arteta and his England counterpart Gareth Southgate three weeks ahead of the start of the World Cup in Qatar.
Arsenal move to 31 points from their 12 games, two ahead of Manchester City, while an outclassed Forest remain rooted to the bottom of the table with nine points having played a game more.
“Of course, it is a huge shame for Arsenal and the nation and we will go and check now and see how he (Saka) is,” Nelson told SkySports.
“We are just trying to do well for the gaffer and the team. We’re top now and it’s nice, hopefully we can go all the way.
“It was amazing, we had a bit of a slow start after the goal but everyone got into the game and it was great to play in.”
Saka was excellent in the opening minutes and it was his cross that was headed into the net by Martinelli for the opener, but he went down injured shortly afterwards after a challenge from Forest’s Renan Lodi. Saka tried to continue but came off after 27 minutes.
Arsenal should have been further ahead at halftime but made sure of the points within the first 15 minutes of the second period as Nelson scored twice in quick succession.
He had not appeared in the Premier League since August 2021, but took his chance to score his first from a rebound after Dean Henderson had saved his initial shot, and then three minutes later turned in Gabriel Jesus’ cross.
Partey got in on the act with a superb strike as he drilled the ball into the top corner from outside the box, before Odegaard added the gloss on the performance with a fifth.
Arsenal could have scored more as they wasted numerous opportunities in their ninth Premier League home win in a row, and while Jesus was perhaps the chief culprit, he was excellent in an otherwise lively display, providing two assists.
Arsenal’s next Premier League fixture is a trip across London to Chelsea next Sunday, while Forest host Brentford the day before.
Marcus Rashford’s 100th Manchester United goal sinks West Ham
Marcus Rashford’s 100th goal for Manchester United sealed a 1-0 win against West Ham as the England forward made his push for a World Cup place on Sunday.
Rashford has been one of United’s most improved players this season after several years in the doldrums.
But the 24-year-old is still not guaranteed a place on England’s flight to Qatar for the World Cup in November.
Rashford, who was left out of England’s most recent Nations League squad, took the chance to remind Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate of his qualities with a fine display capped by the first-half winner at Old Trafford.
With Southgate watching from the stands, Rashford’s seventh goal in all competitions this season was perfectly timed before the England manager names his World Cup squad.
After netting against Sheriff in the Europa League on Thursday, Rashford said Erik ten Hag was a “joy” to play for as he hailed the United manager’s role in his revival.
Thanks to Rashford, the 22nd player to score a century of goals for United, and a series of superb saves from david De Gea, Ten Hag’s side are up to fifth place in the Premier League.
Unbeaten in their last eight games in all competitions, United are one point behind fourth-placed Newcastle in the race to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
West Ham manager David Moyes has still to win away against United in the Premier League, losing 12 of his 16 visits to his former club.
United had to ride their luck at times, with their defence creaking as the much-maligned Harry Maguire made his first league start since August 13 in place of the injured Raphael Varane.
Rashford carried the main threat for United and he cut through the West Ham defence for a powerful drive that hit Craig Dawson and looped just over the bar.
Rashford went close again with a header from Diogo Dalot’s cross that forced West Ham keeper Lukasz Fabianski into action.
Cristiano Ronaldo was making his first league start since the goalless draw against Newcastle on October 16, having been granted a return to the team following his brief exile after refusing to come on as a substitute against Tottenham.
A wasted pass from Ronaldo brought an end to a promising attack and triggered groans of frustration from United fans, whose angst grew when Anthony Elanga volleyed wide from a good position.
But Rashford settled United’s anxiety in the 38th minute with a perfectly-timed run to the far post, where he leapt above Thilo Kehrer to meet Christian Eriksen’s superb cross with a bullet header from six yards.
Rashford remained red hot in the second half, skipping past his marker for a curler that whistled narrowly wide from the edge of the area.
Ronaldo was left shaking his head in disbelief after squandering two good chances in quick succession as he headed over and then shot wide.
If those misses were indicative of Ronaldo’s decline, the 37-year-old kept trying and his deflected shot almost crept over Fabianski.
Said Benrahma was West Ham’s dangerman and his long-range effort was well held by De Gea as the visitors enjoyed a period of sustained pressure.
In a tense finish, it was De Gea who ended as United’s saviour as the Spaniard denied Michail Antonio with a good stop, then made an even better save to keep out Kurt Zouma’s header.
Dea Gea saved his best for last when he dived to his left at full-stretch to make a brilliant save from Declan Rice’s goalbound blast. (Agencies/AFP)