Yaya Toure returned to Manchester City’s ranks on Saturday after a public apology to manager Pep Guardiola and scored twice in a 2-1 win at Crystal Palace that took them to the top of the Premier League alongside Liverpool.
While Liverpool’s progress was checked by a goalless draw at Southampton, City clambered back level with the Anfield club on 27 points from 12 matches thanks to the double from old favourite Toure whose stand-off with Guardiola was quickly forgiven and forgotten.
On an afternoon when Jose Mourinho complained Manchester United were “the unluckiest team in the Premier League” after Arsenal snatched a 1-1 draw with an 89th-minute equaliser at Old Trafford, there was nothing fortunate about City’s victory.
While resting key players before the Champions League clash with Borussia Moenchengladbach on Wednesday, Guardiola brought Toure in for his first league appearance of the season after the midfielder’s apology following comments the player’s agent made about the club and manager.
The Ivorian repaid Guardiola’s faith with a 39th-minute run and shot and, after Connor Wickham had equalised in the second half, netted an 83rd-minute winner.
After a three-month stand-off at the club, Toure sounded emotional as he spoke of being applauded back into the dressing room by team mates.
“They have always been brilliant with me, always supportive. I always want to be there to help them. I am professional, I always want to improve my game,” he told the BBC.
“I was prepared mentally and I knew that one day my manager would need me.”
Liverpool’s recent magisterial progress ended in driving rain at Southampton where, although they extended their unbeaten sequence to 10 games, the league’s top scorers squandered a series of chances.
It left them still leading the way on the strength of having scored more goals than City but Chelsea, two points behind, have the chance to jump ahead of both if they win at Middlesbrough on Sunday.
Arsenal were grateful to extend their unbeaten streak to 17 games in all competitions after a last-gasp header from substitute Olivier Giroud earned them a barely deserved point at Manchester United.
Juan Mata had put United ahead in the second half of a game they dominated but Giroud’s late rescue act left Mourinho cursing his luck, even if he had stretched his unbeaten league record against old foe Arsene Wenger to 12 matches.
“We are the unluckiest team in the Premier League,” Mourinho said of his sixth-placed team. “I’m not going to say they (Arsenal) didn’t want to win but they couldn’t be the way they normally play football.
“They were the lucky ones and we were the unlucky ones but that’s football.”
The draw left Arsenal fourth on 25 points, the same as Chelsea. Tottenham Hotspur are one point adrift in fifth after Harry Kane netted twice in three dramatic late minutes to earn a pulsating 3-2 win over West Ham United at White Hart Lane.
The England striker hammered home the winner from the penalty spot in stoppage time as Spurs came roaring back from 2-1 down to protect their record as the only unbeaten team in the league.
At the other end of the table Victor Anichebe struck twice and Jermain Defoe netted his 150th Premier League goal as Sunderland clambered off the bottom with a 3-0 win over fellow strugglers Hull City.
Swansea City are now bottom, with American Bob Bradley still looking for his first win as manager, after Seamus Coleman equalised for hosts Everton in the 89th minute to secure a 1-1 draw.
Leicester City’s difficult reign as champions continued as they went behind to an Etienne Capoue goal at Watford after 33 seconds and ended up losing 2-1, a defeat that left them two points above the relegation zone.