English Premier League: Arsenal hint at form revival with one-goal win at Brighton thanks to Alexandre Lacazette strike

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta praised French striker Alexandre Lacazette for ignoring a back injury to come off the bench and score the winner at Brighton & Hove Albion, as the Londoners finally seemed to get the blend of youth and experience right.

Lacazette came on in the second half to change the game, teeing up teenage winger Bukayo Saka's pass with his first touch, before scoring with his second to secure a 1-0 win, that ends a difficult year on a positive note for the Gunners.

"I think this is what all the managers dream for, to bring people from the bench and win you the game like he's done tonight," Arteta told reporters.

"I think he's been in really good form in the last few weeks, he's been scoring goals, he's full of confidence. Today he had a sore back, he could not start the game. But he came on and won the game for us which is massively important," he added.

Saka, who scored in Arsenal's 3-1 Boxing Day win over Chelsea, was a constant threat as Arteta's younger players gelled with their more experienced teammates en route to victory.

"They need the right senior players amongst them to shine. I think they showed the most important quality, which is the personality to come to any ground and play with freedom and enjoy being a footballer," Arteta said.

Having secured consecutive wins for the first time since September, the Spanish coach is hoping his side can kick on in the New Year.

"We have managed through this period to maintain our team spirit and our cohesion. Sometimes that is not easy to do, because obviously the frustration that comes out with defeats usually affects the team," Arteta explained.

"Hopefully now we can go on a run of games and be more positive for that."

Leeds smoke woeful Baggies   

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 29: Raphinha of Leeds United celebrates with teammates Luke Ayling, Patrick Bamford, Jamie Shackleton, and Jack Harrison after scoring his team's fifth goal during the Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Leeds United at The Hawthorns on December 29, 2020 in West Bromwich, England. The match will be played without fans, behind closed doors as a Covid-19 precaution. (Photo by Tim Keeton - Pool/Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty

A farcical early own goal from Romaine Sawyers summed up a miserable day for West Bromwich Albion as the Premier League strugglers were thumped 5-0 by Leeds United.

Further first-half goals from Ezgjan Alioski, Jack Harrison and Rodrigo, and a brilliant strike in the second from Raphinha, gave Leeds their biggest top-flight victory since a 6-1 win at Charlton Athletic in April 2003 and confirmed the enormous task facing West Brom manager Sam Allardyce to keep his side up.

Leeds move up to 11th in the table with 23 points, while West Brom remain second-bottom on eight points from 16 games, five shy of safety.

The home side fell behind in the ninth minute as Sawyers put the ball into his own net. He was pressured 25 yards from his goal, swivelled and played a back-pass to where he expected goalkeeper Sam Johnstone to be.

But the gloveman had taken up a position to the left of his goal to give Sawyers an option for the pass, and the ball nestled into an empty net, a calamity from which the home side never recovered.

"Things can happen like that, they are unexpected, but when they do happen they (his players) have to pick themselves up and fight, be determined," Allardyce told Amazon Prime.

"I was shocked to see such a poor performance and we have to work hard to put it right.

"When we lost the ball and tried to defend, we were terrible. We have got to get that balance right in the transition. Life will get difficult if we can't get results quickly."

The match was billed as the defensive structure of Allardyce against the swagger and verve of Leeds under their manager Marcelo Bielsa, but it was proved no contest.

"We dominated the game and we made few errors, so they couldn't capitalise on anything. We attacked constantly and were efficient," Bielsa said.

"All of the goals gave me happiness. It's (also) important for us not to concede goals because we've conceded way too many (this season)." 

United climb to second with last-gasp Rashford winner

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 29:   Marcus Rashford of Manchester United celebrates scoring a goal to make the score 1-0  during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Old Trafford on December 29, 2020 in Manchester, United Kingdom. The match will be played without fans, behind closed doors as a Covid-19 precaution. (Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty

Manchester United climbed two places up to second after Marcus Rashford scored deep into stoppage time to give them a fortuitous 1-0 home win over Wolverhampton Wanderers.

The result left United on 30 points from 15 games, two behind champions and leaders Liverpool, who visit Newcastle United on Thursday (NZ time), while Wolves stayed 12th on 21 points.

Rashford gave United the win when it seemed the game was heading for a goalless stalemate, with his left-footed shot taking a deflection off Romain Saiss and beating goalkeeper Rui Patricio at the near post.

Rashford acknowledged United ground out the win after a laboured performance, although manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer deployed an adventurous formation with three forwards behind striker Edinson Cavani.

"Today was tough but we expected a tough game and managed to get over the line," Rashford told the BBC.

"It's the deciding goal. Probably not the most beautiful but we will take what we can get and move on.

"We can't look too far ahead. We are a team that is still doing a lot of work on ourselves. We have to take it one game at a time but if we can keep finding ways to win like this we will see where we are at the end of the season."

The visitors missed several chances in the first half as they stifled United with crisp one-touch passing, but the best opportunity fell to the home side when Patricio kept out a Fernandes sitter in the 34th minute.

At the other end, United keeper David De Gea parried shots by Ruben Neves and Pedro Neto while Saiss headed a Joao Moutinho free kick onto the top of the crossbar.

Patricio also clawed out a vicious long-range effort by Paul Pogba in the 75th minute and Wolves seemed to have done enough to earn a point after soaking up United pressure in the closing stages.

But they were undone from a seemingly innocuous move as Rashford picked up a long Fernandes pass on the right, cut inside and with little support in the penalty area, he hit a hopeful shot which wrong-footed Patricio.

Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo rued his team's lapse of concentration in the dying minutes but added they needed to put the disappointment behind them quickly amid a busy festive schedule.

"This is football and a learning process," the Portuguese said.

"It's cruel in the moment but you can't stay feeling sorry. You have to move forward. We created chances. Sometimes we should finish more."  

Burnley squeeze out win over rock bottom Sheffield United 

Ben Mee celebrates scoring for Burnley
Ben Mee celebrates scoring for Burnley Photo credit: Getty

Winless Sheffield United's dreadful Premier League season continued as the Blades fell to a 1-0 defeat to Burnley at Turf Moor.

Burnley captain Ben Mee rose to head home a Robbie Brady corner in the 32nd minute, as Sean Dyche's side secured a victory which moved them up to 16th place on 16 points, five points above the relegation zone.

Bottom placed United have just two points from their opening 16 games - the worst ever start to a top-flight season in English football.

The nearest Chris Wilder's side, who had five individuals testing positive for COVID-19, came to an equaliser was a David McGoldrick shot in the 50th minute which was saved by Nick Pope at his near post.

United forward Rhian Brewster had a header cleared off the line by Josh Brownhill before Mee's goal, while the visiting goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale had kept out an early effort from Ashley Barnes and a Chris Wood header.

The Yorkshire side enjoyed the majority of possession but struggled to break down a resilient Burnley defence, superbly marshalled by Mee.

The Clarets are now unbeaten in their last four home games and have battled the way out of the bottom three, ahead of an impending takeover of the club by American company ALK Capital, which sources have indicated should be completed before their next game.

Dyche, who said he had not been given information about the expected change in club ownership, praised his side's effort.

"Working hard without the ball has seen us through a tough game. We were playing against a Sheffield United side who I think are a good side, talk about a team that is fighting, they are fighting and put us under pressure in the second half," he said.

The only bad news for Dyche was losing left-back Charlie Taylor to an early hamstring injury.

For Wilder, whose side finished ninth last season after winning promotion to the top flight, the goal of keeping the club in the Premier League looks increasingly remote.

"It has always been a fighting test right the way through. We had a perfect storm last year, it is the complete opposite this year.

"It has always been an incredible fight all the way through, it was a fight to get out of the Championship. The year we had last year was a perfect storm for us, we took big moments and found that bit of quality.

"This time we don't find that bit of quality and it marries up with the results. It is a big arm wrestle and a big struggle for us," he said.

Saints, Hammers play out goalless draw

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 29: Ryan Fredericks of West Ham United collides with Moussa Djenepo of Southampton during the Premier League match between Southampton and West Ham United at St Mary's Stadium on December 29, 2020 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Naomi Baker/,)
Photo credit: Getty

Southampton failed to score for the third Premier League game in succession as they slogged out a 0-0 home draw with West Ham United, missing a chance to climb into the top four.

The stalemate was perhaps predictable with both sides now having drawn three of their last four games and struggling somewhat to maintain their earlier-season momentum.

Southampton dominated possession, especially in the first half, and had an early Danny Ings effort ruled out for offside. But they struggled to find cracks in a well-drilled defence.

If anything West Ham will feel as though they should have returned to the capital with a win having had the best chances in the second half with Said Benrahma close to a late winner.

Saints, who were without manager Ralph Hasenhuettl on the touchline after he went into self-isolation following a positive COVID-19 test in his household, stayed in ninth spot with 26 points, a place and three points above West Ham after 16 games.

West Ham manager David Moyes, who returned to the job a year ago with the club in a relegation scrap, described it as a "good point" after his side's first clean sheet in seven games.

"We've not played as well as we did in the first two months of the season," he said. "The first 15 or 20 (minutes) was very difficult but right at the end we had the best chance to win it.

"Little by little we are going in the right direction."

Southampton began in full flow and Ings finished superbly after getting on to a pass from Che Adams but the latter was correctly flagged marginally offside.

Ings also went close with a close-range flick and usually-lethal free-kick specialist James Ward-Prowse curled the ball over the bar from an inviting position.

Theo Walcott forced a fine save from West Ham keeper Lukasz Fabianski but it was the visitors who looked the more likely to score in the second half as Moyes made attacking substitutions with Benrahma, Jarrod Bowen and Michail Antonio all coming on.

First Tomas Soucek wasted a gilt-edged chance when a Declan Rice free-kick picked him out at the far post but his header lacked timing and Alex McCarthy made an easy stop.

Benrahma then looked poised to win it for the Hammers when he turned well in the area but his close-range shot was brilliantly saved by McCarthy.

While it was a frustrating evening for Southampton, who drew 0-0 with Fulham on Saturday, they at least avoided what would have been a sixth successive league defeat by West Ham.

"The result was good for us based on our history in games against West Ham, unfortunately, we weren't able to score," assistant manager Richard Kitzbichler said.

"We have to get back in shape now for this important first game of the New Year (against Liverpool)." 

Reuters