By Martyn Hermann
LONDON (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – Manchester City beat Liverpool 4-1 even without goal machine Erling Haaland, but Arsenal took another step towards their first Premier League title in nearly 20 years, equaling the champions with one 4-1 win over Leeds United on Saturday.
While the title race has accelerated to the resumption of the top flight after the international break, the relegation battle is getting more intriguing week by week with Leicester City, the last team to fall into the bottom three.
In the late kick-off Chelsea dropped to the bottom half of the table after losing 2-0 at home to Aston Villa.
With Haaland, who scored 42 goals in 37 games in all competitions for City, sidelined with a groin injury, his side looked in big trouble as Mohamed Salah put Liverpool ahead at the Etihad Stadium.
But Pep Guardiola’s side responded emphatically with Julian Alvarez equalizing before the break.
Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and Jack Grealish all scored in the second half as City dismantled Juergen Klopp’s side whose top four hopes were dealt another blow as they finished the day in eighth place.
It meant City had cut Arsenal’s lead to five points before the Gunners’ kick-off, but any hopes they had of ending the weekend closer to the Londoners were dashed when their former striker Gabriel Jesus returned to report.
Jesus, making his first league start since returning from a knee injury last month, shot from a first-half penalty against Leeds for his first goal in six months.
Ben White made it 2-0 just after the break and Jesus then got his second goal of the day following an assist from Leandro Trossard.
Rasmus Kristensen’s deflected shot gave Leeds a lifeline in the 76th minute, but Granit Xhaka’s header secured three more points in Arsenal’s run to their first league title since 2004.
Arsenal’s seventh consecutive league win took them to 72 points from 29 games with City, who are yet to play the London club at home, on 64 having played one game fewer.
“What we can control is what we can do. After the international break there were some difficult situations to manage, but everyone wanted to be involved,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta told reporters.
THE RETURN OF HODGSON
Roy Hodgson’s latest return from retirement gave birth to Crystal Palace who earned their first win of 2023 by beating Leicester 2-1 at Selhurst Park.
Jean-Philippe Mateta’s late goal caused jubilation among the home fans as Palace moved into 12th place on 30 points, five points clear of third-from-bottom Leicester.
The 75-year-old Hodgson returned to charge after a 12-game winless run cost Patrick Vieira his job.
Pressure is mounting on Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers as his side have lost for the fifth time in six league games.
“We’ve been in the position before and we’ve dealt with that adverse momentum and come out of it,” Rodgers said.
“We have 10 games to finish. The next game is a huge game.”
Bournemouth recovered from the bottom three when Marcus Tavernier and Dominic Solanke scored in a 2-1 win over Fulham, who took the lead through Andreas Pereira.
Nottingham Forest and Wolverhampton Wanderers drew 1-1 at the City Ground as both teams stayed too close to the relegation zone for comfort.
Brennan Johnson gave Forest the lead, but substitute Daniel Podence equalized late on for the visitors who remain in 13th place, one place and one point above Forest.
Brighton and Hove Albion and Brentford, both aiming to qualify for Europe, drew 3-3.
The result lifted both teams above Liverpool with Brighton in sixth and Brentford in seventh.
Chelsea looked to have turned a corner under Graham Potter with consecutive Premier League wins last month, but their scoring woes returned when they went down to Villa.
Ollie Watkins and captain John McGinn scored for Villa as they moved above Chelsea in ninth.
“We have to accept it (the result) and do better,” Potter told Sky Sports. “We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We have a fantastic game on Tuesday (against Liverpool) to make up for that.”
Fifth-placed Newcastle United host third-placed Manchester United on Sunday, while West Ham United host Southampton in a bottom-two clash.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis)