London — Manchester City are back on top of the Premier League after Arsenal and Liverpool’s title challenges were dealt major blows this weekend.
Arsenal’s controversial 1-0 defeat by Newcastle saw manager Mikel Arteta brand the standard of refereeing in the Premier League as “embarrassing”.
Liverpool needed a fairytale return from Luis Diaz on his first appearance since his parents were kidnapped in his native Colombia to avoid slumping to a shock defeat at Luton.
City smashed Bournemouth 6-1, while there was also some respite for the other side of Manchester as United beat Fulham 1-0 to ease the pressure on Erik ten Hag.
AFP Sport looks at three talking points from the Premier League weekend.
Diaz fairytale masks Liverpool’s frustration
Luton were seconds away from one of the biggest Premier League shocks in history as the Hatters led Liverpool 1-0 five minutes into stoppage time.
However, in a remarkable finale, Diaz soared high to head home at the back post.
The winger’s parents were seized by a guerilla group in their homeland on October 28.
His mother was rescued shortly afterwards, but the search goes on his father.
Diaz revealed a t-shirt saying “freedom for Dad” after scoring in emotional scenes that masked Liverpool’s frustration with the result.
Jurgen Klopp’s men failed to win any of their three trips to promoted sides last season and can ill afford a repeat of those slip-ups if they are to be back in the mix for the title this season.
Doku dazzles at City
Jeremy Doku is making a mockery of the consensus that it often takes 12 months to come to terms with the demands of Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.
The electrifying Belgian winger has displaced Jack Grealish on the left side of Guardiola’s attack since arriving from Rennes for £55 million in August.
Doku tore Bournemouth to shreds at the Etihad on Saturday.
His deflected strike opened the floodgates before playing a major role in four more City goals as Guardiola’s men shrugged off the loss of Erling Haaland to an ankle injury at half-time.
Even Guardiola admitted to being surprised at how easily the 21-year-old has adjusted to life in the Premier League.
“It’s difficult to find a player today with the ability to play in small spaces and he is one of the fastest players over five metres,” said Guardiola.
“It’s incredible how he changes the rhythm in five metres. After that when he’s not able to dribble, he takes good decisions and I’m impressed by that.
“That’s why for me he’s a great, great footballer.”
VAR in the dock again
Arteta is likely to face disciplinary action for his astonishing rant after Anthony Gordon’s winner for Newcastle survived three different VAR checks for possible offences.
But the Gunners did not back down as the club released a statement on Sunday supporting their manager and criticising “unacceptable refereeing and VAR errors”.
Arsenal are far from alone in voicing their frustrations in a season littered by controversy over the use of VAR.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp called for his side’s 2-1 defeat at Tottenham in September to be replayed after Diaz had a goal wrongly ruled out by a VAR error that thought the strike had been given on the field.
Wolves have suffered more than most and were the victims of another highly controversial call that awarded Sheffield United a stoppage-time penalty to win Saturday’s game 2-1.
Twice referees have already been demoted after making errors against Gary O’Neil’s men this season and the Wolves boss said he has now “given up” with the level of officiating.
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