Manchester United frustrated as draw at Aston Villa ends winning streak

West Ham, Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur continue their pursuit of Champions League places with home victories
Manchester United's Colombian striker Radamel Falcao, right, challenges Aston Villa's Dutch defender Ron Vlaar during their English Premier League match at Villa Park in Birmingham, England, on December 20, 2014. Adrian Dennis / AFP
Manchester United's Colombian striker Radamel Falcao, right, challenges Aston Villa's Dutch defender Ron Vlaar during their English Premier League match at Villa Park in Birmingham, England, on December 20, 2014. Adrian Dennis / AFP

Manchester United’s surge back into the Uefa Champions League places hit a speed bump on Saturday as they could only draw 1-1 at Aston Villa.

Christian Benteke gave the hosts the lead after 18 minutes with a shot curled its way past an unsighted David de Gea. Radamel Falcao equalised on 53 minutes with an expertly placed header back across goal, but United could not find a winner.

Villa held on despite Gabriel Agbonlahor being sent off in the 65th minute for an innocuous-looking challenge on Ashley Young. They sit in 12th place with 20 points.

United, meanwhile, failed to take full points in the Premier League for the first time since losing 1-0 at neighbours Manchester City on November 2. They had won their previous six matches, including victories over Arsenal, Southampton and Liverpool.

Elsewhere, West Ham United kept up their pursuit of Champions League football with a 2-0 home win over last-place Leicester City. Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing struck for fourth-place West Ham, who narrowed the gap on third-place Manchester United to one point.

West Ham, unbeaten in their last five in the Premier League, needed to win to stay ahead of Southampton, who ended their run of four straight losses with a 3-0 victory over Everton at St Mary’s.

Romelu Lukaku’s own goal opened the scoring after 38 minutes, with goals by Graziano Pelle and Maya Yoshida making sure of the points. Southampton are fifth with 29 points, two back of West Ham, while Everton stayed 10th on 21 points.

Close behind Southampton in the chase for European places are Tottenham Hotspur, who held off a spirited challenge by Burnley to win 2-1 at White Hart Lane. Goals by Harry Kane and Erik Lamela earned the points, with Ashley Barnes replying for Burnley.

Tottenham are sixth on 27 points – one above rivals Arsenal, who travel to Liverpool on Sunday – while Burnley are 18th on 15 points, level with Crystal Palace but in the relegation zone on goal difference.

Charlie Austin’s hat-trick at Loftus Road completed Queens Park Rangers’ 3-2 comeback victory over West Bromwich Albion and gave the hosts some breathing room above the relegation places. Austin struck in the 24th, 48th and 86th minutes after Joleon Lescott and Silvestre Varela had given West Brom a two-goal lead.

Austin has 11 league goals this season, third-best in the Premier League. West Brom and QPR both have 17 points, with West Brom holding 14th place by virtue of better goal difference.

Pressure on Hull City manager Steve Bruce increased after his side fell 1-0 at home against Swansea City. Ki Seung-yong scored the winner after 15 minutes, giving eighth-place Swansea 25 points and keeping Hull, on 13, in 19th place.

sports@thenational.ae

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Published: December 20, 2014 04:00 AM

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