Two separate Patrick Mahomes issues gave the Kansas City Chiefs serious cause for concern even as they beat the Cleveland Browns 22-17 to return to the AFC Championship Game.

The defending Super Bowl champions are now one win away from returning to the NFL's showpiece event but will spend the coming days worrying over superstar quarterback Mahomes' status after he exited this game with concussion, having already gone down with a toe injury.

Sunday's success proved far more testing than might have been expected as the Chiefs, led by Mahomes, got off to a typically dominant start, making the most of their full array of offensive weapons in a 10-play, 75-yard opening drive that ended with the QB running in from a yard.

The Browns were restricted to a field goal in response and Mahomes then found Travis Kelce - a boyhood Cleveland fan - for a second Kansas City score.

But Mahomes soon required treatment on his toe and the Chiefs' momentum waned, fortunate to stretch their lead through two field goals heading into halftime as a touchback cost the Browns, with Daniel Sorensen's hit - seemingly led with the helmet - forcing a fumble from Rashard Higgins through the end zone.

Even as Tyrann Mathieu picked off a Baker Mayfield pass at the start of the second half, Cleveland came again and the QB connected with Jarvis Landry for a first TD.

Mahomes was soon heading for the locker room after taking a big hit from Mack Wilson and struggling to regain his balance, with confirmation following that he would not return shortly before Kareem Hunt's three-yard run completed an 18-play, 75-yard TD drive to reduce the deficit to five points.

Veteran backup Chad Henne was called in for Kansas City and promptly followed up a pair of promising passes with an end-zone interception, giving the ball back to Mayfield in the fourth quarter.

However, an epic back-and-forth saw the Browns forced to punt with under four minutes remaining, and Henne came up with two huge plays inside the two-minute warning as head coach Andy Reid gambled on a pass from fourth and inches to clinch victory and a Championship Game against the Buffalo Bills with a vital first down.

John Stones "deserves the best", according to Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.

Stones scored twice – his first Premier League goals for City – and put in an accomplished display at the back in a 4-0 demolition of Crystal Palace on Sunday.

Alongside Ruben Dias, Stones has been in imperious form, and from the 10 games the pair have started together in all competitions, City have claimed nine wins and one draw, conceding just one goal.

Indeed, with Stones and Dias proving their worth, Aymeric Laporte, a star performer in recent seasons, has been limited to four league appearances this term.

Injuries and losses of form have marred Stones' time at City, and the former Everton centre-back had lost his place in the England squad after making just 16 top-flight appearances last season.

However, despite talk of a move away, Stones stayed put to turn his form around, much to the delight of Guardiola, whose side are up to second, two points behind Manchester United.

"If it's one guy who deserves the best, it's John. He struggled a lot but he is a fantastic human being, his parents must be so proud," Guardiola told a news conference.

"He had personal problems and injuries in the past but at the moment he is settled well. Confidence is everything and he is confident for himself.

"Managers cannot give confidence but he started playing alongside Ruben and they play really well."

STONES' GAME – BY THE NUMBERS

Stones scored from both of his attempts. While his opener was a fine header from Kevin De Bruyne's exquisite cross, his second – which came after Ilkay Gundogan had doubled City's lead in delightful fashion – was a predatory finish after Dias' header was saved.

The former Barnsley defender also topped City's distribution metrics, completing 112 out of 117 attempted passes (a success rate of 95.7 per cent) – 54 of these came in Palace's half.

With 120 touches, Stones tallied up more than any other player, four ahead of Fernandinho, while he won one of his two aerial duels. In this regard, his partnership with Dias proved particularly fruitful, with the Portugal international winning three of four aerial battles.

Stones did not have to make a single tackle, with Dias again doing the dirty work in that respect, though he did gain possession six times, behind only Fernandinho (seven) and Palace's Andros Townsend (12).

DE BRUYNE AND GUNDOGAN LIGHT UP

Sharing the limelight with Stones were midfielders De Bruyne and Gundogan, who flanked Fernandinho in a 4-3-3.

De Bruyne created a game-high three chances, including the assist for Stones' opener – the Belgium playmaker's 100th in all competitions for City, with the 29-year-old creating 32 more goals than any other Premier League player since making his debut for the club in 2015.

"What can I say? The managers can help many things but one thing is the talent up front," Guardiola said of De Bruyne.

"Managers are incredibly fortunate or lucky to be in charge with this kind of player because it makes your life easier."

Not to be outdone, Gundogan was equally as sharp. The Germany international boasted the highest pass completion rate in Palace's half (96.6 per cent) of any City player with at least 10 such passes, and scored a sensational goal to put the hosts 2-0 up, with Raheem Sterling's first career goal directly from a free-kick rounding things off late on after Stones had doubled his tally.

Asked if Gundogan was playing the best football of his City career, Guardiola said: "Ilkay, the year when we won the second title when we won 14 games in a row [2018-19], he played as a holding midfielder because Fernandinho was injured and he was incredible.

"I thought it would not be possible without his cleverness and vision. I knew him when he played at Borussia Dortmund with [Jurgen] Klopp that when he plays close to the box he has a sense of goal.

"It is not easy to find a player that can play as a holding midfielder and as a number 10."

Gundogan has scored four goals in his past six league matches – as many as he had netted in his previous 55 games in the competition.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PEP

Guardiola turns 50 on Monday and, though he thanked his players for an early birthday present, he will now be focused on Wednesday's scheduled match against Aston Villa, who have not played in the Premier League since January 1 due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

"Thank you for the players, it was a nice present. It's good," Guardiola said of being second in the standings.

"We fought a lot to be up there like many clubs and we will have to fight a lot to still be there. It is a weird season, everyone can beat everyone, it is difficult every game but I am happy for the players for another good performance and for the three points."

Lionel Messi was sent off for the first time in his Barcelona career after Inaki Williams scored a sublime goal that gave Athletic Bilbao a shock 3-2 win in the Supercopa de Espana final.

The Catalan giants were on the brink of a record-extending 13th triumph in the competition after Antoine Griezmann scored twice, either side of Oscar De Marcos' equaliser, to put Barcelona 2-1 up late on in normal time.

But Athletic, who knocked out holders Real Madrid in the semi-finals, equalised through substitute Asier Villalibre in the 90th minute and Williams scored early on in the additional period to turn the tie on its head.

Captain Messi was then dramatically sent off in the dying moments of extra time when VAR spotted an off-the-ball incident involving Villalibre, as the Argentinian violently knocked the Athletic player to the ground.

Barca were seeking their silverware under Ronald Koeman but it proved to be a night they would want to quickly forget.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen palmed Ander Capa's long-range drive over the crossbar from the game's first short on target as Athletic threatened after 26 minutes.

Barca slowly found their rhythm and took the lead through their first meaningful attack, Griezmann drilling home after Messi's shot from a Jordi Alba cutback was blocked.

It took Athletic just a minute and 33 seconds to respond through De Marcos, who ghosted in to guide Williams' impressive pass over the top away from Ter Stegen.

And Garcia thought he had given his side the lead just before the hour mark, only for his header to be rightly ruled out for offside following a VAR check.

Athletic lost 3-2 to Barca when the sides met in LaLiga less than two weeks ago but they continued to look the more threatening as Williams blazed wide from inside the box.

Koeman's men appeared to have won the game in normal time when Alba again got in behind and teed up Griezmann to steer home, yet there was to be a late twist.

Captain Iker Muniain sent a free-kick into the box and Villalibre, having kept himself just onside, fired past Ter Stegen to salvage an additional 30 minutes.

Williams' moment of magic arrived three minutes into extra time as he cut inside Oscar Mingueza and curled the ball away from Ter Stegen into the top-right corner.

Barca had time to take the game to penalties but Griezmann volleyed wide at the back post from the best of their remaining chances.


What does it mean? Opportunity missed for Koeman

This competition may be fourth on the list of Barcelona's priorities this season, but Koeman targeted victory in this four-team tournament to strengthen his claims that the club are on the right track under his stewardship.

Having won four in a row in all competitions, including a penalty shoot-out victory over Real Sociedad in the semi-finals, they entered this match with momentum on their side and as heavy favourites.

Athletic may be 13 points below their opponents in LaLiga but they more than held their own in this final, outshooting their opponents 12-10 over the 120 minutes and showing a little extra cutting edge when it mattered most. The Messi red card was an alarming blight on an already desperately disappointing night for Barcelona.

Antoine at it again

Griezmann scored from two of his five shots and has now been directly involved in seven goals in four games, having failed to score or assist in his previous seven outings.

He has also scored five goals in the last four finals he has played for club and country - two for Atletico Madrid, one for France and now two for Barcelona.

Messi's moment of madness

In what was his 753rd appearance for Barcelona in all competitions, Messi was shown his first red card for an off-the-ball swing at Villalibre.

Even before that incident it was a frustrating day for the Argentina international on his return from a short lay-off as he failed to find the target from any of his three attempts.

What's next?

Barcelona switch focus to the Copa del Rey on Thursday with a trip to Cornella, though that last-32 tie could be in doubt due to reports of a coronavirus outbreak in the opposition's camp.

Athletic are up against lower-league opposition on the same day, too, as they take on Ibiza for a place in the last 16.

Inter proved they have what it takes to maintain a serious title challenge this season by defeating reigning champions Juventus 2-0, according to Arturo Vidal.

Vidal opened the scoring against his former club at San Siro on Sunday, heading home a cross from Nicolo Barella to find the net in Serie A for the first time since his goal clinched the Scudetto for Juve in May 2015.

He became the first ex-Juve player to score for Inter in the Derby d'Italia since Christian Vieri in 2004 and the eighth player to score for both sides in the fixture.

Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku missed opportunities to add to Inter's tally but Barella made no mistake with an emphatic finish in the 52nd minute.

The Nerazzurri consequently claimed their first league win against Juve since September 2016 and their first with a clean sheet since April 2010.

Antonio Conte's side moved level with Serie A leaders Milan on 40 points and opened up a seven-point advantage over the reigning champions.

Milan can restore their three-point cushion by beating Cagliari in their game in hand on Inter on Monday, but Vidal does not think Conte's men are going to fall away.

"It's important for me and for the team. It was a very difficult game against the best team in Italy," Vidal told Sky Sport Italia.

"I am glad to have scored my first goal for Inter, very happy. I think we proved that we are up to the task of fighting for the Scudetto.

"This gives us the confidence to keep pushing, to believe we can win the Scudetto, as we beat the strongest team over the past nine years. We believe that we can go all the way."

Ahead of kick-off, Vidal was seen kissing the Juve badge on Giorgio Chiellini's training top while the pair shared a hug. He then celebrated his goal in a muted fashion.

Conte led Juve to three straight Serie A titles to start their ongoing period of dominance and finally got his first league victory over them at the fourth attempt.

Despite Inter coming out on top and Juve being seven points adrift, Conte still believes the Bianconeri are the team to beat in the race for the title.

"In order to beat a team like Juventus, which for all the Italian clubs are the reference point, we have to put in a great performance. We did that," said Conte.

"We prepared well and it's satisfying to see that we were right about the things we thought could hurt Juventus. The lads followed the plan perfectly and I am very happy for them because these are games that must give you self-belief, let you understand you are on the right path.

"We already saw the fruits of this process last season and we are continuing to see them this term. Juventus were an important reference point, a side that dominated Serie A for nine years, having done exceptional work both on the field and as a club.

"I still maintain Juve have a gap not just from Inter, but all the other clubs, but we are working to close the gap."

In what appeared to be a dig at his club, Conte added: "If people think we are the favourites now, imagine if we'd been able to work in the transfer market in August. We'd be massive favourites!"

Lionel Messi was sent off for the first time in his Barcelona career after Inaki Williams scored a sublime goal that gave Athletic Bilbao a shock 3-2 win in the Supercopa de Espana final.

The Catalan giants were on the brink of a record-extending 13th triumph in the competition after Antoine Griezmann scored twice, either side of Oscar De Marcos' equaliser, to put Barcelona 2-1 up late on in normal time.

But Athletic, who knocked out holders Real Madrid in the semi-finals, equalised through substitute Asier Villalibre in the 90th minute and Williams scored early on in the additional period to turn the tie on its head.

Messi was then sent off in the dying moments of extra time when VAR spotted an off-the-ball incident involving Villalibre, as the Argentinian violently knocked the Athletic player to the ground.

If Juventus are "a benchmark" and "a reference point", as Antonio Conte suggested pre-match, the Inter head coach can now feel much more positive about his side's Scudetto hopes after a superb 2-0 win.

Conte, formerly the main man in Turin, had good reason to be pessimistic even as the Nerazzurri entered the Derby d'Italia four points ahead of the champions.

Juve were the only Serie A opponents against whom Conte possessed an 100 per cent losing record, beaten in each of his prior three matches against his former club.

And Inter's misery in this fixture extended beyond the start of Conte's reign, going seven without a win as Juve used meetings with the Nerazzurri to consolidate their domestic dominance.

Indeed, there was little reason heading into this match to doubt Juve's credentials, with Andrea Pirlo's side seemingly building up a head of steam in his rookie season.

The Bianconeri had followed up a shock December defeat at home to Fiorentina with four straight successes in all competitions, scoring 13 times in the process.

Among those victories was a deserved triumph at league leaders Milan. Juve had not won at both Milan and Inter in the first half of a Serie A season in 80 years; they now had the opportunity to do so in consecutive away games.

But preparations were not ideal. Cristiano Ronaldo, like opposite number Romelu Lukaku, had not been able to enjoy the week of rest he had set aside, instead called from the bench in a midweek Coppa Italia tie and forced to see out extra time.

Ronaldo played on the fringes at San Siro, his most notable involvement an 11th-minute tap-in ruled out for offside, with the clash between two of Serie A's foremost scorers not panning out as many would have imagined.

Lukaku was as influential as ever in the Inter attack, running Giorgio Chiellini ragged as he contested 15 duels, winning nine, earned three fouls and conceded two, and created three chances.

There was no goal for the forward, though, as the game was decided in the midfield, where Inter were even more impressive, setting the tone right from the outset.

Marcelo Brozovic anchored the side, Nicolo Barella buzzed all over the pitch, and Arturo Vidal - the subject of a clip on social media that appeared to show him kissing the badge of former club Juve pre-match - made clear where his loyalties now lie.

Conte had failed to offer an explanation for some slow starts so far this season but certainly had no need to worry about that issue on this occasion. By half-time, Inter's only concern could have been their failure to add to a lead secured by Vidal.

The midfielder, whose previous Serie A goal back in 2015 had won Juve the title, spread the ball wide to Barella moments after Ronaldo's disallowed goal and then ran onto the subsequent cross, towering over Danilo to nod beyond Wojciech Szczesny and offer a muted celebration.

That was one of 11 first-half Inter efforts, their joint-high this season. Juve mustered just three before the break, a joint-low for them.

But this unpredictable Inter side had led 4-1 and trailed 2-0 respectively on the previous two occasions they had attempted 11 shots in the opening 45 minutes this term.

Juan Sebastian Veron, a former Inter star, told Stats Perform News prior to this game the Nerazzurri would "need to be decisive". Despite the opener, they were anything but.

Vidal's wait for his next Serie A strike should have lasted only three minutes, but he blazed over. Then so too did Lautaro Martinez after Szczesny saved from Lukaku.

Martinez shot wide and Szczesny again denied Lukaku, before scrambling to retrieve Barella's deflected drive. A one-goal first-half deficit felt like an escape for Juve.

But if the Bianconeri were going to make their hosts pay, a swifter start to the second period would have to follow.

Instead, Inter scored with their very first shot after the break and finally the game was beyond Juve. A slipping Alessandro Bastoni's low, long pass somehow tore a gaping hole through the visiting defence and Barella, a deserving scorer, held off Chiellini and Gianluca Frabotta to finish high into the net.

Rather than call on Weston McKennie and Dejan Kulusevski to build on an advantage, as against Milan, Pirlo turned to the pair in a desperate, failed rescue bid.

Juve still had 32 minutes to forge a response after reinforcements arrived, but one strong Samir Handanovic save from Federico Chiesa was all they had to show for a period of pressure.

Inter could have added further goals on the counter yet will worry not. Indecisive, perhaps, Conte's side ended the weekend level on points with Milan. It is now for Pirlo and Juve, seven points back, to rise to this benchmark.

John Stones has explained his decision to go "back to basics" in a bid to rediscover his form for Manchester City.

Stones scored twice – his third brace for club and country – in City's 4-0 Premier League victory over Crystal Palace on Sunday.

The win, City's fifth in succession in the top flight, sent Pep Guardiola's team into second place above defending champions Liverpool, who could only draw with leaders Manchester United at Anfield.

Though Palace, shorn of the injured Wilfried Zaha, were hardly a threat, Stones and his centre-back partner Ruben Dias were rock solid as City gave boss Guardiola an early birthday present the day before he turns 50.

City are the first team to record five consecutive victories in the Premier League this season, while in the 10 games Stones and Dias have started together in all competitions, Guardiola's side have claimed nine wins, one draw and conceded just once.

Stones, a big-money signing from Everton in 2016, appeared to be surplus to requirements after an injury-hit 2019-20 campaign, with the 26-year-old handed just 12 league starts.

However, his first Premier League goals for City – and his first in the top flight since he netted for Everton against United in April 2015 – have capped off a remarkable turnaround in fortunes.

"We knew it was a tough game today. I put a lot of pressure on myself to get goals. I need to contribute by getting those goals," Stones told Sky Sports.

"I'm just trying to keep improving, building day by day on the training pitch, give a platform for the lads to express themselves up the pitch and get some goals.

"We're taking great pride in it, keeping clean sheets, it's what we're there to do. Hopefully we can keep the run going, keep as many clean sheets as we can because we know how vital they are in big games and in games like today.

"We know what'll happen if we keep getting them. We don't have to go out and score four or five goals every week. We've done it when it's 1-0 and we've fought right until the 90th minute. We kind of take the credit at the back but we've got to give credit to the whole team."

Asked how tough it had got when he was out of the side, Stones replied: "Very. It's always tough when you're not playing and you don't get a run of games, and when you do you don't perform to what you can do because maybe you've put too much pressure on yourself.

"I've gone back to basics, looked at myself first, looked at what I can improve on in every aspect. 

"You need to look yourself in the mirror and ask if I'm doing everything for myself and for the team and I did that, kept working hard, kept the faith and grinding away, keep trying to improve and I still am now. I don't think you ever stop improving yourself."

Stones' first goal was a glancing header from Kevin De Bruyne's sensational outside-of-the-boot cross – the Belgium midfielder's 100th assist for City.

"Kevin's done it over the seasons that I've been here," Stones said.

"I remember a few, off the top of my head, to Leroy [Sane] when he was here, some outrageous passes that you just don't know how he's done it.

"As he's put the ball in I knew it was coming straight to me. It's something we can only dream of and Kev can just do it when he wants."

Inter dealt a blow to Juventus' Serie A title defence and moved level on points with leaders Milan by securing a 2-0 victory at San Siro on Sunday.

Former Juve midfielder Arturo Vidal opened his Inter account with a 12th-minute header and Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku wasted chances to increase the Nerazzurri's lead.

The Bianconeri were unable to make the most of those reprieves as an emphatic finish at the end of a route-one move saw Nicolo Barella double Inter's advantage.

It was enough to give Antonio Conte a first Serie A win against Juve – the club he led to three straight Scudetti at the start of their ongoing run of dominance – and move the hosts level with Milan, who play their game in hand against Cagliari on Monday.

Cristiano Ronaldo had a goal correctly ruled out for offside but there was no doubt about Vidal's opener a minute later, as the Chile international rose above Danilo to nod Barella's delivery into the left corner.

Martinez should have doubled Inter's lead in the 23rd minute when he blazed over with the goal gaping after Wojciech Szczesny parried Lukaku's shot straight to him.

Striker Martinez again failed to hit the target with his next opening, while Lukaku placed an effort from Barella's cutback too close to Szczesny before half-time.

Inter finally had a second goal in the 52nd minute, Barella surging into a huge gap in the Juve defence and firing Alessandro Bastoni's ambitious pass into the roof of the net.

Andrea Pirlo responded by sending on Dejan Kulusevski, Federico Bernardeschi and Weston McKennie but Federico Chiesa had their best effort in the 87th minute.

Samir Handanovic kept out Chiesa's powerful drive with a superb reaction as Inter held on for an important victory.

What does it mean? Juve with ground to make up

Juve would have closed to within a point of Inter if they triumphed at San Siro, and they would have still had a game in hand on Conte's men and Milan.

However, they missed their chance to make up ground and are now seven points adrift of Inter.

They will find themselves 10 points off the top if Milan win on Monday, meaning winning their game in hand would still not put them firmly in the title picture.

Brilliant Barella

Italy international Barella put in a livewire performance against the reigning champions, creating a game-high three chances – including the assist for Vidal's goal – and producing an emphatic finish early in the second half. After managing one goal and four assists in Serie A last season, he has already scored twice and set up five more in the league in 2020-21.

Vidal sparks controversy

Pre-game footage showed Vidal embracing Giorgio Chiellini and kissing the Juve badge on his warm-up top. He may have followed it up by scoring his first Serie A goal since clinching the title for Juve in May 2015, but his muted celebrations led to much discussion about where his loyalties lie.

What's next?

Juve face Napoli in the Supercoppa Italiana on Wednesday, while Inter travel to Udinese in Serie A on Saturday.

John Stones scored twice as Manchester City moved into second place in the Premier League by sweeping aside Crystal Palace 4-0 at the Etihad Stadium.

With league leaders Manchester United and defending champions Liverpool sharing the spoils in a goalless stalemate at Anfield, City took full advantage to move within two points of first place.

On top of another top-class defensive display alongside Ruben Dias, Stones broke the deadlock 26 minutes in with his first league goal for City – Kevin De Bruyne the creator with a sensational cross to bring up his 100th assist for the club.

Ilkay Gundogan doubled the lead early in the second half prior to Stones celebrating an unlikely second, and a classy finish from Raheem Sterling wrapped up a fifth successive league win for Pep Guardiola's ever-improving City.

In search of his milestone moment, De Bruyne attempted to tee up Sterling with a quick exchange of passes in the 26th minute, when the Belgian might have been better served to shoot.

Yet his 100th assist did not take long to arrive. His initial poor corner was cleared, but De Bruyne was found by Sterling and, with the outside of his right foot, placed a wonderful cross onto the head of Stones, who turned in his first league goal since he scored for Everton in April 2015.

Gabriel Jesus was unable to beat Vicente Guaita after latching onto Gundogan's flick-on, but the Germany midfielder took matters into his own hands 11 minutes after the restart, robbing Andros Townsend on the edge of Palace's box and dispatching a fantastic finish into the top-right corner.

Jordan Ayew mustered Palace's second shot soon after, though it was blocked by Dias, who then played a key part in City's third.

Dias' header was parried out by Guaita, but the Portuguese's defensive partner Stones was on hand to drill in his second.

Sterling had the final say, the England forward – who missed a late penalty against Brighton and Hove Albion – curling a sublime free-kick into the top corner to add further gloss to a resounding triumph.

Kevin De Bruyne created his 100th goal for Manchester City across all competitions with a stunning cross that teed up John Stones' opener against Crystal Palace.

Having previously gone close to hitting the landmark when he attempted to set up Raheem Sterling, De Bruyne reached a century of assists in supreme style in the 26th minute on Sunday.

After Palace failed to clear their lines from a corner, De Bruyne floated in a wonderful right-wing cross with the outside of his foot, dropping the delivery precisely onto the head of Stones, who celebrated his second Premier League goal and his first for City.

It means the Belgium playmaker has now created 31 more Premier League goals than any other player since he made his debut for City in 2015.

Of his 100 assists, 75 have come in the Premier League, from 165 appearances, while the 29-year-old has crafted 15 goals in the Champions League, from 37 games played.

A further five have come in the FA Cup, with four in the EFL Cup – which City have won four times during De Bruyne's time with the club – and one assist has come in Champions League qualification.

It was as if he had never been away.

Luka Jovic has endured a dismal start to his Real Madrid career but was quickly back among the goals at Eintracht Frankfurt.

Having failed to impress in a season and a half in LaLiga following a €60million transfer from Eintracht to Madrid, Jovic headed back to Frankfurt on loan this week.

And a second debut swiftly followed, with Jovic called from the bench after 62 minutes at home to Schalke.

The game was all square at 1-1 at the time, with Andre Silva's first-half opener immediately cancelled out by Matthew Hoppe, the teenager whose hat-trick last week had secured Schalke's first win in 31 Bundesliga matches.

There was to be no second straight success for the strugglers, however, as Jovic required only 10 minutes to restore Eintracht's lead, hammering Filip Kostic's cutback into the roof of the net.

The loanee then made the points safe in stoppage time as he moved inside past Ozak Kabak to again finish right-footed and clinch a 3-1 win.

"You can tell that the air here is good for him," sporting director Fredi Bobic told Sky Sport afterwards. "The goals were top class, the whole process. That is a great art.

"I always get annoyed that I always have to sell the best players. Now he's back for a short time. That's what I'm most happy about."

With just two LaLiga goals to his name, the brace meant Jovic had netted as many times in 28 minutes back in the Bundesliga as in 32 matches for Madrid in all competitions.

The strikes came from Jovic's only two shots on Sunday, while he also completed 17 of his 18 passes in a lively display.

Roy Keane thought Manchester United’s defence-first approach at Anfield deserved praise, even though he was frustrated with a missed Paul Pogba chance.

Despite Liverpool fielding midfielders Jordan Henderson and Fabinho in defence, United surrendered possession and territory on Sunday in a top-of-the-table Premier League clash. 

It finished goalless, with the draw taking Premier League leaders United onto 37 points, keeping them three clear of the champions.

After a fast start from Liverpool, the match settled into a tense affair. The hosts had 17 attempts – nine more than United – yet only managed three on target.

It was the third league game in succession in which Liverpool have failed to score, with Jurgen Klopp's side without a top-flight win since they thrashed Crystal Palace 7-0 before Christmas.

United, who managed four efforts on target to the hosts' three, had the chances to snatch Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's first league win over Liverpool, who had goalkeeper Alisson to thank for a string of impressive stops in the second half.

Arguably United's best chance fell to Paul Pogba, but the France star – employed in an unfamiliar right-wing role – struck straight at Alisson from close range.

Though United great Keane was left frustrated by the failure to take full advantage of Liverpool's mini-malaise, he believed his old club deserved credit for a resilient rearguard performance.

Keane told Sky Sports: "The big opportunity is the [Pogba] chance. You can tell by his reaction. His first touch is excellent, my goodness, he has to score. Go anywhere, across the goalkeeper, but not straight at him.

"Because his first touch was so good he's given himself that opportunity to go across the goalkeeper – a huge moment in the season for United. Credit to the goalkeeper, he's stood up, but that's the moment they might've been praying for before the game.

"It's easier said than done [to come out of defence]. We knew Liverpool would be quick out of the blocks, they haven't played for nine days.

"United were always going to be on the back foot for the first half-an-hour. They were sloppy in some of their play. You knew United would get the opportunities, it was a case of whether they could take them.

"You can't say Liverpool have played badly, but they've lost their spark, definitely, and when you get the opportunities like Pogba did, it's so disappointing. We've been giving Pogba a big build-up, we've been quick to criticise him but that was a moment for him to say he wants to be the main man, you've got to take that chance.

"I wouldn't be too critical of United, I thought they showed a good mentality."

Scott McTominay and Fred both made a game-high five tackles for United, while Victor Lindelof – preferred to Eric Bailly alongside Harry Maguire – made 10 clearances, more than any other player.

Though disappointing going forward (he lost possession more times than anybody else), Pogba managed to keep Andy Robertson under wraps, and gained back the ball nine times, behind only Trent Alexander-Arnold (11) and Thiago Alcantara (10).

"I thought the back four, which always worries me, were brilliant," Keane continued.

"I know they gave up one or two chances in the first half-an-hour. [Luke] Shaw was brilliant defensively and going forward. When I look at the couple of chances United created, they still created the best chances in the game. Huge moments."

After a build-up dominated by talk of the danger of goal celebrations in the pandemic era, Liverpool and Manchester United did their bit to calm the nerves of concerned viewers on Sunday.

Two sides being tipped as title rivals this term simply eschewed goals completely as they produced a spectacle that didn't quite live up to the pre-match hype.

But, while there weren't exactly fireworks at Anfield, the 90 minutes did at least offer some insight into the championship credentials of two bitter rivals.

For Liverpool, it was another game that highlighted the true reasons behind their recent Premier League malaise.

Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez's absences continue to dominate analysis of the champions' performances, but it was telling that Jurgen Klopp's most notable selection looked to supplement his attack.

That saw Xherdan Shaqiri, whose two goals in one game against United in December 2018 means he has scored twice as many times in this fixture as Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah, brought into midfield in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Unfortunately for the Swiss, he couldn't reinvigorate a front three whose struggles have gone under the radar as a result of the focus on those defensive injuries.

Having failed to trouble the scoresheet in successive Premier League fixtures against Newcastle United, Southampton and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side, Liverpool are on a three-game scoreless run for the first time since March 2005.

But this latest streak is all the more criminal given the wealth of talent at the manager's disposal, particularly when it is compared to Milan Baros and an ageing Fernando Morientes.

How Klopp must regret using Diogo Jota in that dead rubber against Midtjylland in December - a decision that ultimately resulted in him turning to Divock Origi in search of a goal here.

By contrast, Solskjaer had an embarrassment of riches on his bench and made use of them in bringing on Edinson Cavani and Mason Greenwood as he searched for a breakthrough.

That both players were used said a lot about United's performance, which incrementally improved throughout to the point that they looked the likelier winners as full-time approached.

Yes, they had been forced to dig in during the first half but, as former United captain Gary Neville pointed out on commentary for Sky Sports, that is exactly what even the truly great sides he was part of were expected to do at Anfield.

And, when Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba were denied only by Alisson brilliance in the final 15 minutes, another Alex Ferguson-style smash and grab on Merseyside looked on the cards.

In the end, Liverpool held on, ensuring both sides were left with a point that did little good to their hopes of claiming the title this term but plenty for Manchester City's.

Pep Guardiola's men have a favourable run of fixtures approaching and an opportunity in the aftermath of this stalemate to truly take hold of the race at the summit.

However, of their two rivals, it is United who will feel they did the most on Sunday to convince observers that they will be the closest challenger to their neighbours as the season wears on.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer felt Manchester United missed an opportunity against Liverpool after they played out a 0-0 draw with the champions on Sunday.

Premier League leaders United maintained a three-point advantage over their Anfield hosts after an uneventful encounter, as they stretched their unbeaten away league run to 16 matches.

Liverpool had 66 per cent of the possession and 17 shots to United's eight, but they rarely had visiting goalkeeper David de Gea troubled.

Indeed, United had the best two chances in the second half, with Alisson saving from Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba to preserve the Reds' unbeaten home record in the top flight which has now reached 68 games.

Solskjaer thought his side did not show enough composure in possession and was disappointed they did not do more to test a makeshift centre-back pairing of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson.

Asked if United deserved to win, Solskjaer told Sky Sports: "No, we didn't, because I don't think we played well enough. We didn't impose ourselves on the game, especially first half.

"I think we grew into the game and at the end, you felt 'yeah, it's here for us to win'. We created two massive chances and two brilliant saves by the keeper.

"We can play better than this – we know that. We can be more composed, have the ball more.

"We had to defend really often and I thought we gave the ball away too often, maybe some moments we missed, when Marcus [Rashford] makes his runs in behind, maybe sometimes we don't pass it every time he runs and sometimes we missed it when he should have had it. [There are] a couple of things to improve on.

"I've got to be honest and say I'm a bit disappointed at the moment. We're playing against a fantastic team and they had more of the possession, but still, you want to go here, you know the injuries they've had lately, you think you can go here and get a result. We didn't, but a point might be okay if we win the next one."

When asked if United should have been braver, Solskjaer replied: "It depends on what you mean with bravery, in team selection or on the ball. I think we could have been better on the ball, been more quality, but I'd probably start with the same team, if that's what you're asking.

"I know we can play better but we're still coming away with a point, which I think shows how far we've come in a year or even six months.

"Of course it's a positive, you take a point, but you want to win every game so you can't be sat or standing here smiling too much. But we go again. We know we can do better than this, which is the big positive."

Pogba's late opening was the best chance of the game, the France midfielder firing straight at Alisson after being set up by Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

It was otherwise a strong performance from United's record signing, who attempted more passes in the opposition half (22) than any team-mate and regained possession a joint-high nine times from an unorthodox role on the right wing.

"I think Paul was absolutely brilliant," said Solskjaer. "We knew he had to do a job defensively, block and help us with [Andy] Robertson, and I thought he was excellent and he should have got the goal his performance deserved."

Jose Mourinho says Tanguy Ndombele is a prime example that "the door is always open" for players to come in from the cold after the midfielder scored a sublime goal in Tottenham's win at Sheffield United.

Ndombele endured a disappointing first season at the London club following his big-money move from Lyon, scoring just two goals and providing four assists in 29 appearances.

The French midfielder has shown what he is capable of in the current campaign, finding the back of the net four times and laying on three goals across all competitions for a Tottenham side battling for honours on all four fronts.

Ndombele produced a moment of magic with a clever lobbed strike to score his third Premier League goal of the season – his best tally in any league campaign - in a 3-1 victory at Bramall Lane on Sunday, with Serge Aurier and Harry Kane also on target.

The classy Ndombele made 38 passes in the Blades half, more than any of his team-mates, and misplaced only nine of his 78 passes in the match, also winning 75 per cent of his duels and making three interceptions in an impressive all-round display.

Dele Alli and Harry Winks were not in the squad for the clash with the bottom-of-the-table Blades, while Gareth Bale was not called upon from the bench, but Tottenham boss Mourinho pointed to Ndombele as proof that there can always be a way back for out-of-favour players.

"I have coached for so many years, had so many players, and I have enough experience to say and to feel that when a player is not playing very well, it's his responsibility, and when a player turns things around and brings his performance level to a very high level, it's also his responsibility," said Mourinho.

"It's a great example that with me the door is always open. The door of the team is always open, and when a player is not playing he has to try to understand why and he has to try to understand how can he walk through that door. He understood, he understood.

"The goal is amazing, but I don't care about the goal, I care about the performance and the performance was magnificent and I'm really pleased that he's come to this level. He's playing very, very well."

Spurs are unbeaten in seven games and four points behind leaders Manchester United, who drew 0-0 with champions Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday, and Mourinho says it is all to play for.

"We have to do our season, we have to play our matches. We are in four competitions, we have a final [against Manchester City in the EFL Cup] to play," he said.

"Unfortunately we cannot do that [showdown with City] next month, we have to wait until end of April, we are going to fight in Europa League, we are going to fight in the FA Cup, we have a lot to take.

"I think at the end of the season, with the right results, you realise how good your season was, how better it could be, how worse it could be, and where you can improve."

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