LONDON: Tottenham were the big winners of the weekend in the Premier League while attention was distracted from the weekly soap opera by the League Cup Final.
After Leicester had struggled to beat Norwich on Saturday, Spurs hit back in style to beat Swansea 2-1 while derby rivals Arsenal, level on points at the start of play, slipped three points back after defeat at Manchester United.
Spurs remain a threatening two points behind Leicester despite going behind at White Hart Lane to an early strike from Alberto Paloschi. Swansea goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski made a remarkable string of brilliant saves to deny Spurs.
Once Nacer Chadli had deflected home a Kyle Walker shot, however, only one winner was likely. Leftback Danny Rose drove in the winner after Swansea failed to clear a corner.
Spurs have won six successive Premier League matches for the first time since December 2011 but Swansea have never won in 18 league visits to White Hart Lane comprising 16 defeats and two draws.
Gunners slip up
Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech admitted to a “setback in the title race” after the Gunners became the latest victims of new Manchester United starlet Marcus Rashford.
Last Thursday Rashford scored twice against Midtjylland in the Europa League after Anthony Martial had been injured in the warm-up. Louis Van Gaal kept the 18-year-old in his line-up and was rewarded with two goals and the assist for United’s third.
Arsenal thus fell five points behind leaders Leicester, three behind Spurs. They can reassert themelves if they beat Swansea in midweek and then Spurs in the north London derby next weekend. But not if their defence is as ragged as it was at Old Trafford where manager Arsene Wenger may have regretted preferring Gabriel to Per Mertesacker.
Certainly, if Mertesacker had been in place, Rashford might not have been allowed the ‘free’ header with which he scored United’s second goal.
That was Rashford’s second goal in three minutes. Arsenal responded through ex-United striker Danny Welbeck just before half-time on an cross from Mesut Ozil – the playmaker’s 18th assist of a profitable season.
Ozil also contributed his fifth goal of the season but Ander Herrera had already scored United’s third via a deflection off the chest of Laurent Koscielny.
Tempers flared at times, once notably when Aaron Ramey clashed with Herrera. Van Gaal, off the bench for the first time to huge ironic applause from United’s fans, contributed to the entertainment by mimicking Herrera’s fall to the ground and asking the fourth referee why Ramsey had not been sent off.
Later Van Gaal said he had been wrong to lose his temper and that he had apologised to the referee. He also praised Rashford, saying: “The experience of mine is youngsters always play well the first match. The second match is different. Marcus played well in both matches so he is a special talent.”