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Merry Rasmus! United striker 'happiest man alive' as drought breaks with clincher, Liverpool leapfrog Arsenal into first

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26th December, 2023
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Rasmus Hojlund scored his first Premier League goal after more than 1000 blank minutes as Manchester United fought back from two down to beat Aston Villa 3-2 in a thriller at Old Trafford.

In United’s first game since Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s 25% purchase of the club, and with future director and current Ineos head of sport Sir Dave Brailsford in the directors’ box, Erik ten Hag’s side brought the roof down with a stirring comeback win.

John McGinn and Leander Dendoncker put Villa 2-0 up by halftime but two goals from 19-year-old Alejandro Garnacho levelled the scores before Hojlund’s crisp volley, after the ball sat up off McGinn, sealed United’s win.

Villa missed a chance to join league leaders Liverpool – who beat Burnley earlier to go above Arsenal – while United moved to sixth.

“It has been a while [waiting for a first league goal] but yes I am very happy,” said Hojlund. “I am the happiest man alive right now. You can see from the celebrations as well. We believed in ourselves until the very end and got the win today.

I have scored a few goals in the Champions League but of course it has been a while in the Premier League before scoring. Now I have got it and I hope I can just build on that and keep going.”

Nottingham Forest have climbed out of the relegation zone on the back of a high-class hat-trick by New Zealand captain Chris Wood.

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The former Newcastle United striker’s treble stunned his previous club to prompt much talk of ghosts of Christmas Past.

The win meant Luton stayed in the bottom three despite a 3-2 win at Sheffield United aided by two own goals. 

At the other end of the table Liverpool won 2-0 at Burnley to leapfrog Arsenal into first place. Arsenal host West Ham on Thursday.

Elsewhere Bournemouth continued their fine form with a 3-0 defeat of Fulham on the south coast. 

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26: Chris Wood of Nottingham Forest scores their sides second goal past Martin Dubravka of Newcastle United during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Nottingham Forest at St. James Park on December 26, 2023 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Chris Wood scores against Newcastle United for Nottingham Forest. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Newcastle had taken the lead at St James Park through a 23rd-minute Alexander Isak penalty.

Wood levelled in first-half injury-time, tapping in following a counter-attack, then scored two fine individual goals in seven minutes early in the second half.

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The victory snapped a seven-match winless league run and gave new manager Nuno Espirito Santo his first win at the club. Newcastle, however, remain seven points adrift of the top four Champions League qualifying places after a fourth defeat in five league games. 

Wood had scored once in 20 appearances for Newcastle at the ground. Asked if the 32-year-old could become prolific this season, Espirito Santo said: “I think so, I really believe so.

“He did it last week, today he did it again. It’s about the team helping, so it’s not only him. I’m very happy with him now.”

Sheffield United were on course for an important victory as goals from Oli McBurnie and Anel Ahmedhodzic overturned Alfie Doughty’s first-half opener for the Hatters.

But Carlton Morris came off the bench to create two own goals in four minutes with Jack Robinson and Anis Slimane both putting through their own net.

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The match was notable for being the first Premier League match to be officiated by a black referee for 15 years in Sam Allison. However, this landmark was soured by Luton’s Morris being racially abused by a Sheffield fan with the incident reported to police.

Liverpool dominated at Turf Moor taking the lead after six minutes with a rare but well-struck Darwin Nunez goal. A series of chances were spurned, wiped out by VAR, or thudded against the bar,  before, in the 90th minute, the returning Diego Jota secured their seventh successive Boxing Day victory.

At Bournemouth Alex Scott set up Justin Kluviert’s opener just before half-time.

Dominic Solanke then scored his 12th goal of the season when he converted Bournemouth’s first penalty for more than 600 days after Joao Palhinha fouled Antoine Semenyo shortly after the hour mark.

Luis Sinisterra put the icing on the cake with a third goal in stoppage time.

© AAP

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