Manchester City maintained their march towards the Premier League title by crushing Norwich, but Liverpool showed their gritty side to keep in touch with the champions.
Manchester United blew another lead in a damaging draw with Southampton, while Newcastle’s fight for survival was boosted by a valuable victory over Aston Villa.
AFP Sport looks at three things we learned from the Premier League this weekend:
City swagger as Liverpool stay in touch
Manchester City and Liverpool delivered contrasting performances to maintain the status quo in the title race.
City showcased the best of their stylish attacking play as Raheem Sterling’s hat-trick inspired a 4-0 demolition of lowly Norwich at Carrow Road.
That win, City’s 14th in their last 15 league games, briefly moved the leaders 12 points clear at the top.
But second placed Liverpool have no intention of surrendering without a fight and, 24 hours after City’s stroll, Jurgen Klopp’s men rolled up their sleeves for a grueling 1-0 victory at wet and windy Burnley.
Fittingly, Liverpool’s winner was scored by Fabinho, the Brazilian whose graft and energy in midfield is so often overshadowed by superstar team-mates Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.
Liverpool are nine points behind City with a game in hand to close the gap further.
“Only when you stood on the pitch could you feel the extent of the wind, it was ridiculous,” Klopp said.
“We asked ourselves to use it instead of suffering from it. A really difficult game, yes.”
No wonder Guardiola recently insisted the title race was far from over and predicted City would need well over 90 points to retain the trophy.
Slow-go Man Utd in reverse gear
Manchester United blew another chance to go into the top four as for the third consecutive game they threw away a 1-0 half-time lead to a draw 1-1.
This time it was Southampton who took advantage as Ralf Hasenhuttl thwarted his old mentor Ralf Rangnick, who he worked under at RB Leipzig.
It was Hasenhuttl who delivered the most withering assessment of the current state of a star-studded United squad that has failed to deliver under two different managers this season.
“It is not a big secret that, when they lose the ball, that the reverse gears are not the best from everybody,” said the Austrian.
Rangnick had recalled Cristiano Ronaldo, but the 37-year-old again looked a shadow of his former self as his worst goal drought for 12 years stretched into a sixth game.
United still find themselves outside the top four by only one point thanks to the faltering form of all the contenders for the final place in next season’s Champions League.
But they need to show far more desire when Brighton visit Old Trafford on Tuesday to stop the rot.
Newcastle scent survival
Less than two months ago, Newcastle were marooned three points from safety in the relegation zone after a 4-0 defeat against Manchester City.
Optimism about Newcastle’s survival prospects was in short supply around football-obsessed Tyneside heading into 2022.
But Eddie Howe’s side has been revitalized since that gloomy day and Sunday’s 1-0 win against Aston Villa was another step towards completing their great escape.
Three successive league wins against Villa, Everton and Leeds have lifted Newcastle out of the bottom three and they now have a four-point cushion and a game in hand over third bottom Norwich.
Fittingly, it was Kieran Trippier — one of the January signings made possible by the Saudi-led takeover of the club — who saw off Villa with a blistering free-kick.
Trippier was substituted with a foot injury in the second half, but in a sign of the sudden wave of positivity at St James’ Park, even that couldn’t dampen the spirits of Newcastle fans as they celebrated another step towards safety.