Arsenal crashed to a second successive Premier League defeat as Ollie Watkins’ early goal fired Aston Villa to a 1-0 win on Mat Ryan’s debut for the Gunners.
Manchester United were stunned in the 95th minute by the latest of Everton equalisers, while nine-man Newcastle beat Southampton 3-2.
And a referee howler from veteran whistleblower Mike Dean left fans – and even rival players – stunned as West Ham saw out a goalless draw at Fulham.
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Ryan impresses after nightmare start
Mikel Arteta’s side fell behind after just 74 seconds at Villa Park in a horror debut for Australian gloveman Mat Ryan, and were unable to muster a convincing response.
Arsenal lost at Wolves on Tuesday and have now gone three league games without a victory.
The Gunners are languishing in 10th place, nine points adrift of the top four as their faint hopes of Champions League qualification look less realistic by the day.
When Arsenal faced Villa in November, they suffered a lacklustre 3-0 defeat that sent them sliding towards the relegation zone.
Although Arsenal had managed to claw their way back up the table, eighth-placed Villa once again showed the flaws that still plague Arteta’s men.
Arsenal, badly lacking a cutting edge, have scored just once in their last three matches and retain a fatal inability to stay focused at the back.
Villa took the lead with their earliest Premier League goal since 2014, aided by some woeful defending from the Gunners.
Arsenal’s Cedric Soares gave the ball away and Bertrand Traore crossed to the unmarked Watkins, whose shot went in via a deflection off Rob Holding.
It left Australian keeper Mat Ryan absolutely helpless, as he became just the fourth keeper to concede inside two minutes in their full Premier League debut.
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Despite the horror start, there was plenty of praise for Ryan, who made some fine saves to deny Watkins in the second stanza, and finished with seven saves in total.
“Besides the start, I thought we were right in it, we were competing, we were just a little slower out of the blocks than they were and we got punished for it,” Ryan told Optus Sport.
And while he was happy to make his first appearance for the club he supported as growing up, he was evidently disappointed with the outcome. He said: “On first reflection, I think there were plenty of positives for me and I loved being out there. It still hasn’t sunk in that it’s my childhood club that I supported and I just played for them. I think as it sinks in, post game and I reflect it will be nice. But I wanted the perfect start with the result.”
Bemoaning Arsenal’s lack of killer instinct, Arteta said: “In the Premier League when you give a goal to the opponent – and we gave them another three opportunities to be fair, just giving them to them – and then you are not ruthless in the opponent’s box, you don’t win games.
“The rest, the way the team played, the energy and quality they showed, the amount of chances and situations we created, how quickly we regained the ball, how we controlled long balls, second balls, how aggressive we were in our duels – incredible. But it wasn’t enough to win the game.”
Villa, on the other hand, can dream of making the Champions League as they climbed up to eighth, five points off fourth-place with a game in hand to come.
“We have the quality to score goals in abundance and we showed that today,” said Villa coach Dean Smith. “I was most pleased with the desire to see the game out at 1-0.” The closest Mikel Arteta’s men came to a response was a stunning save from former Arsenal ‘keeper Emiliano Martinez to turn Granit Xhaka’s free-kick behind.
“In the Premier League when you give a goal to the opponent — and we gave them another three opportunities to be fair, just giving them to them — and then you are not ruthless in the opponent’s box, you don’t win games,” said a frustrated Arteta.
Everton stun United late
Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin bundled the ball home in the fifth minute of stoppage time to complete an impressive comeback draw against Manchester United.
United went up by two after a dominant first half, with Bruno Fernandes scoring a stunner from the edge of the box after Edinson Cavani headed home from a delightful Marcus Rashford cross.
But two goals in three minutes and 17 seconds after the break saw the visitors draw level.
Abdoulaye Doucoure was gifted the first after David De Gea failed to deal with a Calvert-Lewin shot on the back of a full-field, side-to-side counterattack.
Then Doucoure fired a ball from the edge of the box to James Rodriguez who drilled the ball into the bottom corner to equalise after 52 minutes. Rodriguez had struggled for much of the first half, repeatedly giving the ball away, and appeared as though he would be subbed at the start of the second stanza.
But the decision to keep him on the field for an extra few minutes was rewarded by his clinical finish. Carlo Ancelotti did take off Rodriguez in the 69th minute for Gylfi Sigurdsson, but that had little to do with a goal one minute later for Scott McTominay.
Luke Shaw fizzed in a free-kick from the sideline, which McTominay flicked past a misfooted keeper Olsen to again put United into the lead.
Everton pushed forward in search of another equaliser, while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took off Mason Greenwood for defender Axel Tuanzebe in the dying minutes to preserve the lead.
But Dominic Calvert-Lewin wasn’t finished. In the 95th minute, Lucas Digne swung in a free-kick from out wide, which flicked of Keane’s head into the midriff of the English striker, who poked home past a stranded De Gea.
It was Calvert-Lewin’s 13th league goal of the season – already equalling his total fro mthe last campaign.
City now enjoy a two-point lead and two games in hand over their local rivals ahead of their trip to defending champions Liverpool on Sunday.
Everton’s late show extends their unbeaten run on the road to seven games and moves Carlo Ancelotti’s men back up to sixth, three points off the top four.
United were dealt a blow six minutes before the break when Paul Pogba hobbled off with a thigh muscle injury to be replaced by Fred.
RIDICULOUS red card as VAR strikes again
Meanwhile referee Mike Dean had another howler as Fulham and West Ham played out an uninspired goalless draw.
Deep into stoppage time, West Ham’s top scorer Tomas Soucek lined up against Alexandr Mitrovic on the edge of the box, waiting on a West Ham free kick to be launched in a desperate late bid to break the deadlock.
Soucek tried to lift his arm over Mitrovic’s head, but in the process of repositioning himself, his elbow struck a glancing blow to Mitrovic’s face.
It was clear to all and sundry that it was accidental, but VAR – after some time – asked Dean to go review the footage on the pitch-side monitor. Dean took an extremely lengthy review of the slow-motion replay that stretched into the minutes, before returning to send off Soucek.
Mitrovic himself had pleaded with Dean that the incident was not worthy of a red card.
Luckily for Dean, the decision came at almost the last kick of the game and didn’t influence the result.
“I’m actually quite embarrassed for Mike that he would have made that decision,” said West Ham boss David Moyes.
West Ham remain fifth, but did little to aid their chances of a top-four finish with a 0-0 draw at struggling Fulham.
Scott Parker’s Fulham are still without a win in 12 games, but could easily have shaded a game of few clear-cut chances when Ademola Lookman’s free-kick flew just wide.
The Cottagers are still eight points adrift of safety after Burnley came from behind to earn a 1-1 draw against Brighton.
– Bruce boosted –
At St James’ Park, Newcastle midfielder Joe Willock marked his debut with a goal to help the Magpies ease the pressure on beleaguered boss Steve Bruce.
Willock, who joined on loan from Arsenal on transfer deadline day, opened the scoring in a thrilling clash.
Miguel Almiron netted twice for Newcastle either side of Takumi Minamino’s strike in his first appearance for the Saints since the Japan midfielder joined on loan from Liverpool.
A fine James Ward-Prowse free-kick dragged the visitors back into it in their first match since losing 9-0 at Manchester United.
Southampton dominated following Jeff Hendrick’s dismissal for a second bookable offence and Fabian Schar’s premature departure through injury — which left Newcastle down to nine as they had used all their substitutes.
But Newcastle held on to claim just their second win in 14 attempts in all competitions as they moved 11 points clear of the relegation zone.
Johann Berg Gudmundsson made amends for an earlier mistake by bagging the equaliser in Burnley’s 1-1 draw against relegation rivals Brighton.
Lewis Dunk’s towering header from a corner sailed into the net, despite the presence of Gudmundsson at the back post, with the Iceland winger seeming to lose his footing in the pouring rain at the crucial moment.
However, Gudmundsson’s strike eight minutes after halftime rescued Sean Dyche’s team.
Burnley remain 17th but are nine points clear of the bottom three. Brighton are 11 ahead of third-bottom Fulham after extending their unbeaten run to six matches.