English Premier League table toppers Manchester City and nearest challengers Arsenal were both held to draws on Sunday, while Liverpool suffered their first defeat in seven games under new manager Jurgen Klopp.
City could only manage a goalless draw away to bottom-of-the-table Aston Villa, the Birmingham club marking new French manager Remi Garde’s first match in charge with a point that owed much to a fine display by goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
Arsenal, who kicked off later on Sunday, knew that if they beat arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the North London derby they would leapfrog City. But instead they had to make do with a 1-1 draw and are second in the table on goal difference.
City boss Manuel Pellegrini lost the services of Wilfried Bony to a hamstring injury and then watched in frustration as his team failed to make their second-half domination count in a match where Villa ended a dismal run of seven successive defeats.
City had to operate without a recognised frontman for more than an hour, although Raheem Sterling, Kevin de Bruyne and Fernando all wasted gilt-edged chances to secure victory in the closing stages at Villa Park. A delighted Garde, appointed after Villa sacked former manager Tim Sherwood, told the BBC, “It was a nice experience and a fantastic atmosphere.
“It was a tough game. Making sure we were well organised defensively was my priority,” the former Arsenal and France midfielder added. City were left ruing the missed chances, and the continued absence of Sergio Aguero.
“Of course we’re frustrated,” said Pellegrini. “We deserved to win the game. They (Villa) had one shot in the whole game.”
At the Emirates, Arsenal fell behind to a 32nd-minute goal from Spurs’ Harry Kane, who beat the Gunners’ offside trap before shooting past Petr Cech.
At that stage, Arsenal hadn’t managed a single shot on target and they had to wait until the 77th minute to equalise when substitute Kieran Gibbs bundled in a volley at the far post from Mesut Ozil’s cross, although Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris should have saved the shot.
“Tottenham bossed the first half,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger told Sky Sports. “I must give credit to players, they refused to lose the game.
“We now gain two weeks’ treatment for 10 players who are not available and I hope that we do not lose more.”
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino, whose side moved up to fifth place, was proud of the visitors’ display. “The level we showed and the commitment was fantastic. It’s the way we want to carry on,” he said.
Before kick-off, Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain’s main opposition Labour Party and the MP for the local constituency of Islington North, joined a protest outside the Emirates calling on football clubs to pay all their employees the National Living Wage.
“We think, by the way, the players already get the Living Wage,” joked firebrand left-winger Corbyn, wearing an Arsenal scarf.
In the mid-table clash at Anfield, visitors Palace went ahead when Yannick Bolasie scored from 12 yards in the 21st minute. Liverpool equalised shortly before the interval through Brazil playmaker Philippe Coutinho’s close-range effort.
Palace bounced back to score the winner eight minutes from time when Liverpool-born Scott Dann saw his header from a corner blocked by goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, only for the Eagles defender to nod in the rebound.
“Today is a bad feeling -- it was not necessary to lose this game,” said Klopp. “This was not enough for us -- we can do more. We have to learn from this.”
For boyhood Liverpool fan Dann, getting a goal at Anfield was the realisation of a cherished ambition.
“I have had dreams of scoring here -- and I had a feeling before the game that I was going to score,” he said.