With one team scoring after just 18 seconds and another after 21 seconds, the Premier League made an explosive return Tuesday following the competition’s short winter break.
Arsenal left it much later for its goals in a win that kept the pressure on Liverpool at the top.
Just when it looked like being another frustrating match for Arsenal’s often-profligate attack, Gabriel Jesus and Bukayo Saka scored in the second half to help the team beat Nottingham Forest 2-1, jump into second place and trim the gap to first-place Liverpool to two points.
Arsenal might be able to maintain a title push heading into the final months of the campaign, but can Aston Villa?
Unai Emery’s team has been the big surprise this season but a 3-1 loss at home to Newcastle slowed its bid for a finish in the Champions League places, with Villa staying in fourth place.
There were five games in total and 16 goals scored, three of them coming for Luton striker Elijah Adebayo in a 4-0 thrashing of Brighton that lifted his team out of the relegation zone.
Adebayo’s first came after just 18 seconds and it was barely the quickest of the night, with Ben Brereton Diaz scoring after 21 seconds for Sheffield United in its 3-2 loss at Crystal Palace.
Fulham and Everton drew 0-0 in the other match on the opening night of the league’s midweek round.
JESUS INSPIRES ARSENAL
Gabriel Jesus has been criticized by some for not being the clinical finisher Arsenal might need to end its 20-year wait for a Premier League title.
The Brazil striker was enduring another frustrating match, heading over in the first half and smashing a shot against the post just after the restart, before being the inspiration behind the win.
In the 65th, he received a throw-in from Oleksandr Zinchenko, drove toward goal at an acute angle and sent in a shot that deflected into the net off the heel of Forest goalkeeper Matt Turner — a former Arsenal player.
Jesus then turned provider as he led a counterattack and passed the ball across to Saka, who took a touch and shot right-footed into the bottom corner from just inside the area in the 72nd.
Substitute Taiwo Awoniyi scored in the 89th for Forest.
Liverpool can restore its five-point lead by beating Chelsea at home on Wednesday.
VILLA STREAK ENDS
Villa hadn’t lost at home since February last year before getting beaten for the second time this season by Newcastle.
Two goals in four first-half minutes from Fabian Schar put Newcastle in control before Alex Moreno’s own-goal just after the break. Ollie Watkins grabbed a consolation for Villa, which will drop to fifth place if Tottenham beats Brentford on Wednesday.
Newcastle had lost six of its previous seven league games to slip away from the top four but victory lifted the team to seventh place, although still 11 points behind Villa.
Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80
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