City and Liverpool both win, rotation key to Welsh Grand Slam hopes

Morning Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the game with ‘The Irish Times’ sports team

Ashley Young celebrates Manchester United’s third against Crystal Palace. Photograph: Ian Walton/Reuters

Ashley Young celebrates Manchester United’s third against Crystal Palace. Photograph: Ian Walton/Reuters

It’s as you were at the top of the Premier League table, after both Liverpool and Manchester City picked up three points at home last night. Leaders Liverpool maintained their one-point advantage at the top with a 5-0 thrashing of a tame Watford side at Anfield, Sadio Mane and Virgil van Dijk both scoring twice. Pep Guardiola’s side however kept up the pressure with a 1-0 win over West Ham, thanks to a second-half Sergio Aguero penalty. Elsewhere Manchester United defied a string of injuries to beat Crystal Palace 3-1 at Selhurst Park, Romelu Lukaku back in the goals with a first-half brace. It was United’s eighth-consecutive away victory under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer - a club record. With their title challenge fading at Burnley last weekend Tottenham Hotspur are now being dragged into a battle for a place in the top four - they were beaten 2-0 by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, with Blues manager Maurizio Sarri dropping Kepa Arrizabalaga after his side’s now infamous League Cup final defeat to Man City. Meanwhile Arsenal were comfortable 5-1 winners over Bournemouth at the Emirates and Southampton moved out of the relegation zone with a 2-0 win over Fulham, who are 10 points adrift from safety.

In today’s rugby statistics column John O’Sullivan has handed top marks to Wales on his Six Nations half-term report card, and has suggested the Championship leaders have benefited from their sequence of fixtures in this year’s tournament. He writes: “Gatland made wholesale changes for the game against Italy, resting a host of frontline players, allowing him to work on a couple of fronts with one eye on the England game. . . In a World Cup year all six head coaches are juggling the twin focus of being competitive in the Six Nations and working through a long list of players who might make the 31-man squads for Japan.”

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