Premier League: Sheffield United Climbs to 5th as Leicester City's Winning Run Ends
A superb second-half double by midfielder John Fleck sent Sheffield United up to fifth in the Premier League with a 2-0 home win over fellow promoted side Aston Villa, whose captain Jack Grealish missed a second-half penalty.
After a dull first period, the hosts burst into life five minutes into the second half with a brilliantly-worked opener, Chris Basham back-heeling the ball to John Lundstram who fired it across the box for Fleck to lash home from close range.
The build-up play for Fleck's second goal was equally impressive as the Blades worked the ball in from the left before striker David McGoldrick, who has yet to score this season, hooked a pass over his shoulder for Fleck to net with ease.
"Finishing is something I've worked on over the last couple of years and thankfully I am now getting my rewards," Fleck told the BBC. "David McGoldrick has been amazing for us, I am sure his goal will come but he keeps creating chances."
Villa were thrown a potential lifeline when the video assistant referee (VAR) called play back to award them a penalty for handball, but Grealish thumped his spot kick off the crossbar and the ball was cleared by Lundstram.
With tough games against fellow strugglers Southampton, Norwich City and Watford to come over the busy Christmas period, that penalty miss seemed to knock the stuffing out of Villa as they slumped to their third league defeat in a row.
Sheffield United have 25 points from 17 games, while Villa are on 15 and will drop into the bottom three if Southampton draw or win at home to West Ham United in the late kickoff.
Before the season began, few would have expected to see United occupying a European place approaching the halfway point, but Fleck was not getting carried away.
"We just need to keep the run going as much as we can and keep working hard. We know there will be bumps in the road but we keep going and see where it takes us," he said.
NORWICH HOLD LEICESTER TO SURPRISE 1-1 DRAW
Norwich City boosted their hopes of avoiding relegation from the Premier League after a spirited performance saw them hold high-flying Leicester City to a pulsating 1-1 draw on Saturday.
The result snapped Leicester's eight-match winning streak, leaving them second in the table on 39 points from 17 games, 10 behind runaway leaders Liverpool who marched on with a 2-0 home win over Watford in the lunchtime kick-off.
Teemu Pukki gave Norwich a 25th minute lead with a clinical finish before visiting keeper Tim Krul scored an own goal in the 37th, failing to clear a Jamie Vardy header as the league's top scorer got on the end of a James Maddison corner.
Both sides came close in the opening exchanges as Krul tipped a Youri Tielemans shot on to the woodwork before Pukki fired wide from a good position barely a minute later.
Vardy missed a pair of gilt-edged chances to complete Leicester's comeback before the home side were twice let off the hook in the closing stages.
Livewire Pukki saw a shot blocked by Ricardo Pereira and the home team's centre back Caglar Soyuncu cleared a Christoph Zimmermann effort off the line from the resulting corner