Manchester United 2-1 Aston Villa: Bruno Fernandes sends Red Devils level with leaders Liverpool

Bruno Fernandes' penalty sent Manchester United level on points with Liverpool at the top of the Premier League as they edged Aston Villa 2-1 at Old Trafford.

A Villa side looking to move third in the table always promised to pose a tricky test for United and so it proved in an open encounter.

The visitors appeared to be in the ascendancy after Bertrand Traore's 58th-minute effort cancelled out Anthony Martial's first-half opener.

Fernandes bent wide but United's first goal of the new year came from Martial, who rounded off a neat move with a stooping header from Aaron Wan-Bissaka's right-wing cross.

Only the tremendous reflexes of De Gea prevented Ollie Watkins from levelling the contest, the Spain international producing heroics to turn Watkins' header from Jack Grealish over the crossbar.

Anwar El Ghazi then lashed a volley narrowly wide of the near post before Villa got the goal their second-half efforts deserved, a quick free-kick ending with Grealish's low cross finding Traore at the far post to tuck home.

But parity lasted little under four minutes as Fernandes powered his penalty into the bottom-left corner after Douglas Luiz had clipped Pogba following a throw-in.

Martial stung the palms of Martinez who, after Pogba produced an errant finish from close range, tipped a marvellous Fernandes effort onto the crossbar.

Tyrone Mings let a gilt-edged chance go begging late on, ensuring United's inability to double their lead was not punished, though they will need to be more clinical if they are to narrow the eight-goal gap between themselves and Liverpool.

Spot-kicks remain key for Solskjaer's men

Liverpool's stalemate at Newcastle United handed United the opportunity to eradicate their lead at the top, but a combination of wasteful finishing and some inspired saves by Martinez meant they were again reliant on a penalty to get the job done.

The 27 Premier League penalties for United since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's first game in charge are seven more than any other team.





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