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Liverpool hold on to end battling Manchester City's unbeaten record

Published in England Premier League
Monday, 15 January 2018 08:43

Premier League, Anfield - Liverpool 4 (Oxlade-Chamberlain 9', Firmino 59', Sadio Mané 61', Salah 68') Manchester City 3 (Sané 40', Silva 84', Gündogan 90+1')

Sergio Aguero double keeps Manchester City's quadruple hopes alive

Published in Football
Sunday, 07 January 2018 09:37

Manchester City kept alive their chances of winning four trophies this season, coming back from a goal down to beat Burnley 4-1 in the FA Cup third round on Saturday with two goals from Sergio Aguero.

The runaway Premier League leaders, who are also in the last-16 of the Champions League and semi-finals of the English League Cup, fielded a strong side but struggled initially to impose their will on Sean Dyche's side.
The runaway Premier League leaders, who are also in the last 16 of the Champions League and the English League Cup semi-finals, fielded a strong side but struggled initially to impose their will on Sean Dyche's side.

They ran away with the game in the second half, however, showing the attacking flair that makes talk of a quadruple more than mere speculation.

Burnley, seventh in the Premier League, grabbed a 25th- minute lead when City defender John Stones mis-kicked a Sam Vokes knockdown and Ashley Barnes and the striker burst goalwards before blasting the ball past Claudio Bravo.

Disciplined defending from the Clarets frustrated City who were able to create little in the first half but a lapse in concentration 11 minutes after the break allowed Pep Guardiola's side back into the game.
Ilkay Gundogan took a quick free kick to Aguero, catching the Burnley defence off-guard and the Argentine gleefully fired past Nick Pope.

Two minutes later and the same combination put City ahead when Aguero played a neat one-two with the German, collecting his clever back-heel and rounding Pope before slotting into the empty net.

"Both of Sergio Aguero's goals were amazing, there were clever and quick and I am happy with both of his goals," Guardiola told reporters.

"It's an honour for me to have Aguero under my command. The quality he has is amazing and we need him to score a lot of goals. Aguero is the kind of player that in a matter of seconds can score two goals. He is an essential player for us," added the Spaniard.
The gulf in quality became increasingly evident and Leroy Sane made it 3-1 in the 71st minute, collecting a David Silva through ball, evading Ben Mee and driving into the bottom corner.

Guardiola brought on Kevin De Bruyne and he created the fourth goal with a sweeping pass out wide towards Sane which prompted Pope to race out of his area. Fatally, the Burnley keeper hestitated, allowing Sane to waltz past him and set up Bernardo Silva for a simple finish.

"It is about that constant concentration and focus," said Dyche, reflecting on the two goals in two minutes and what his team need to learn.

"You can't let teams score again so quickly, it's about sticking in there and keeping that focus".

Cautious Kompany reminds leaders City of 2012 United meltdown

Published in England Premier League
Wednesday, 27 December 2017 08:59

Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany has used Manchester United's late title meltdown during the 2011/12 season as a cautionary example to remind his team mates that there is no room for complacency in the Premier League title race.

United held an eight-point lead at the top of the table in 2012, before losing two and drawing one of their final six league games to allow City to get back into the race and eventually, seal the title on the final day of the campaign.

Kompany, who was instrumental to City's dramatic comeback six seasons ago, is wary of a similar collapse from the league leaders this campaign and is eager to keep his team mates grounded despite their 12-point lead atop the table.

"I don't know if everyone will remember but it was six games left and we were eight points behind, so that's why I am always the first to come in and say, 'No, guys, we can't really take the foot off the gas'," Kompany told British media.

"I really don't want that.

"We push, we push, we push, and no one has the right to let their performance down or their guard down."

Manager Pep Guardiola's side extended their record-breaking winning streak to 17 league games with a 4-0 rout of Bournemouth last weekend and Kompany is keen to maintain the high with a win at Newcastle United later on Wednesday.

"We have to keep it going," the Belgian added.

"When you are on such a run you want to put it aside straight away and think about the next one, because you know how little it takes to lose that special feeling.

"So we have gone into Christmas with a feeling of duty towards the game at Newcastle and with a happy feeling."

A tale of three dives - Claudio Bravo the hero as Manchester City beat Leicester City on penalties

Published in Football
Wednesday, 20 December 2017 08:01

Carabao Cup, King Power Stadium - Leicester City 1 (Vardy 90+7') Manchester City 1 (B. Silva 26') City win 4-3 on penalties.

Manchester City crept into the League Cup semi-finals but needed penalties to beat Leicester City after Jamie Vardy’s controversial spot-kick in the 97th minute took the game to extra time.
Referee Bobby Madley handed the hosts an injury-time penalty when Demarai Gray went down under minimal pressure from Kyle Walker.
It was a soft decision, but nevertheless, after City had dispatched all four of their penalties in the shootout, Vardy saw his effort hit the post before Claudio Bravo kept out Riyad Mahrez’s attempt.

The drama unfolded after a drab affair looked to have been decided by Bernardo Silva’s first-half strike.

On a night where four teams made 33 changes in yet another ringing endorsement for the Carabao Cup, it was perhaps no surprise to see Man City’s quality shine through in the first half, with Ilkay Gundogan finding Silva for a fine opener from a swift counter attack.
It was also telling that Leicester looked a force when introducing three familiar faces in Vardy, Mahrez and Gray after the break – all played their part, though it could be Gray who pays the price for his contribution.

TALKING POINT
A tale of three dives – Second half, just after the hour-mark, Gundogan dives on the edge of the area and he receives a yellow card. In injury time, Gray takes a tumble and wins the hosts a crucial penalty. In extra time, still reeling from giving away the spot-kick, Walker then goes down easily in the Leicester box and sees yellow himself.
Two dives correctly punished, while another one was missed. And they’re the three which have stayed in the brain. You have to feel for Madley when players are constantly trying to deceive the referee. It was embarrassing to watch at times.

Former referee Mark Halsey believes there will be retrospective punishment, and so there should be.
PLAYER RATINGS
Leicester: Hamer 6, Amartey 6, Dragovic 7, Maguire 7, Fuchs 6, Chilwell 7, King 5, Iborra 6, Albrighton 5, Okazaki 5, Iheanacho 5. Subs: Vardy 6, Mahrez 6, Gray 6, Benalouane n/a.

Man City: Bravo 6, Danilo 6, Mangala 7, Adarabioyo 7, Zinchenko 7, Gundogan 6, Foden 6, Toure 6, Diaz 6, Bernardo Silva 7, Jesus 7. Subs: Walker 6, Nmecha 6, Dele-Bashiru 6.


MAN OF THE MATCH
Oleksandr Zinchenko (Man City) - In only his third apperance for City this season, the 21-year-old looked solid at left-back, and a danger going forward. He has been on the bench in recent league games, and came off to face Swansea. Pep Guardiola will be delighted to see that he has another brilliant option in defence, with the Ukrainian capable of playing further forward too.
KEY MOMENTS
21 - OFF THE BAR! Almost a delightful finish from Gundogan. It looks as though he is going to lace it, but he then opts to chip the 'keeper, who just about tips the ball onto the bar and out for a corner, which comes to nothing for the visitors.

26 - GOAL!! Silva scores for Man City! Brilliant run from Gundogan, who has Jesus and Silva ahead of him. Jesus' run actually opens up space for Silva, who is picked out by Gundogan before slotting it past Hamer.
34 - SAVE! First real chance of note for Leicester, and it's a smart stop from Bravo, who keeps out Iheanacho's low, first-time effort.

62' - DIVE! Yellow card that man. Gundogan goes down after brushing past Maguire, the referee rightly reaches for his book and shows it to the City midfielder.

83’ - CLOSE! Mahrez and Vardy almost combine! The former ghosts past Zinchenko before sending in a dangerous cross, but Bravo is there to gather the ball, though only at the second time of asking.

90+7’ - GOAL!! VARDY LEVELS FROM THE SPOT! It's the softest of penalty decisions as Walker tangles with Gray, but Leicester won't care... Vardy sticks it into the bottom corner for an equaliser in the 97th minute!

96' - Well then.. It's a second Man City yellow for simulation. This time for Walker, and it is the right decision. The irony, given that it's the same end Leicester won their penalty moments ago.

Raheem Sterling 'attacked and racially abused' at Manchester City training ground

Published in England Premier League
Monday, 18 December 2017 09:34

The Sunday Telegraph reports Raheem Sterling was allegedly racially abused and attacked at Manchester City’s training ground on Saturday.

The paper describes how Sterling arrived at Etihad Campus to prepare for the 4-1 win over Tottenham only to be, “kicked and branded a 'n-----' by a man who appeared to be waiting for the 23-year-old at the players’ entrance.”
The Telegraph says the incident was captured on CCTV but it is as yet unclear whether it has been reported to police.
The report from James Ducker continued:

"Sterling had pulled into the entrance in his car as he arrived for City’s pre-match preparations, at which point he is believed to have been confronted by the man hurling a barrage of abuse at him. Telegraph Sport understands that Sterling got out of his car to ask what the problem was only for the man to react by reputedly kicking the City player in the leg."
Sterling scored twice in the 4-1 demolition of Tottenham as City made it 17 wins and one draw in the Premier League this season.

Raheem Sterling: 'Ruthless' Tottenham stars can upset Manchester City

Published in England Premier League
Saturday, 16 December 2017 12:43

Manchester City must be wary of a dominant Tottenham Hotspur side that elevate their game for big matches, the hosts' midfielder Raheem Sterling said ahead of Saturday's Premier League clash at the Etihad stadium.

Tottenham, who last lost away at City in October 2014, are 18 points behind the league leaders and have recorded back-to-back wins to climb to fourth position.
Spurs also progressed to the Champions League last 16 as group winners, recording an impressive 3-1 win over holders Real Madrid in the process, and Sterling has warned his team mates to be at their best.

"They are a great team. In their game against Real Madrid they were fantastic and they really turn up in big games," Sterling told the BBC.

"Last season when we played them at White Hart Lane they were fantastic - aggressive, strong, dominant. They play good football and have players that can score goals.

"Harry [Kane], Dele [Alli] that I play with, they are ruthless and also Son [Heung-min] - these are massive players that they have, so it will be a massive game."
Kane and Alli have scored two goals each in Tottenham's last four league games against City, resulting in three wins for the north London side and a 2-2 draw at the Etihad last season.

Sterling, 23, has been a major factor in City's 15-game winning streak in the league, scoring nine goals and providing five assists in 15 appearances this season, but the England international believes there is room for improvement.
"I am always analysing myself, I am always critical of myself and always trying to improve," Sterling added.

"I have been thinking about [how good I can be] since I was 17. Something good happens or something bad, I think 'what can I do better, what didn't I do this year'...

"I'm trying to make the box, trying to be more ruthless, more clinical and trying to decide games... As a person I like to challenge myself and say 'I need to get better at this'."

Pep Guardiola: Manchester City are confident but not complacent

Published in England Premier League
Friday, 15 December 2017 06:49

Pep Guardiola has spoken of his confidence after another record-breaking triumph by Manchester City on Wednesday, but denied that complacency could derail his team's title hopes.

Fresh from overseeing an outright record for successive Premier League victories -- 15 and counting this season -- with another 4-0 master-class at Swansea City, Guardiola sounded almost affronted at the idea the leaders might lose their focus.
"That is not going to happen," the Spaniard told the BBC, when asked if a slacking off might materialise with City now 11 points clear and their nearest chasers all seemingly becoming more resigned to it being a hopeless pursuit.

"We are so demanding for our players. We can lose, we can drop points but complacency never happened in the past, the present or the future. Winning 15 games in a row gives us a lot of confidence," Guardiola said.
Having broken the single-season record with a 14th consecutive win in the Manchester derby at United on Sunday, win number 15 beat the top-flight landmark in the Premier League era set by Arsene Wenger's Arsenal, spanning two seasons in 2002.

Yet what has evidently delighted the Spaniard more than anything has been the way City seemed to have carved out their triumphs in the same kaleidoscopic manner he fashioned previously at Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

"If people are happy watching us, that is the best gift," he said, making it sound like an early Christmas present for English soccer fans.

Among the delights he has served up, perhaps nothing has been finer than the way Guardiola has brought David Silva, his marvellous Spanish midfield conductor, into full bloom.
With his double against Swansea, Silva has now been involved in 13 Premier League goals in 17 matches this season -- five goals and eight assists -- which is already more than he managed in the whole of 2016-17.

Guardiola was left delighted that, at 31, his orchestrator was now apparently also becoming more of a predator.

"I'm so happy for David," he enthused. "We cannot disguise his quality but in the past he didn't score too much goals. He's sharp, he's in an amazing condition."
It may have been a pleasure for the neutral but for Swansea boss Paul Clement, who also had to see goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero ensure his side remain rooted to the foot of the table, it was "horrible" to behold.

"For me, [City] are one of the best sides I've ever come across," said Clement, who has been assistant manager at Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

"So many good athletes, so many intelligent footballers and it's really hard to pin them down."

So hard indeed that only Everton, in the Premier League, this season have managed to take a point from them and it is increasingly looking the tallest of orders for any other side to follow suit.

Man City keen to strengthen defence in January

Published in England Premier League
Wednesday, 13 December 2017 10:54

Premier League leaders Manchester City plan to strengthen their defence in the January transfer window to avoid a lack of squad depth as they compete on multiple fronts, manager Pep Guardiola has said.

Injured defenders John Stones, Vincent Kompany and Benjamin Mendy are all expected to return next year, leaving Guardiola with limited options as his team target domestic league and cup honours, along with the Champions League.

"In that department we have too few players and to handle all competitions we are in trouble, real trouble if this is the case. But I can't assure anything. We're going to see what will happen in January," Guardiola told a news conference on Tuesday.

"Maybe we are thinking of looking at another central defender because of Vincent's problems, John Stones is four or five weeks out. And we miss an important player like (Benjamin) Mendy."

Guardiola has turned to midfielder Ilkay Guendogan and Eliaquim Mangala in the absence of his first-choice defenders, with the duo helping City to a 2-1 win over second-placed Manchester United last Sunday.

City have ridden a record 14-game winning streak to establish an 11-point lead at the top of Premier League and have been drawn against Swiss side Basel in the last 16 of the Champions League after winning their group.

The league leaders travel to relegation-threatened Swansea City on Wednesday.

David Silva will play Manchester Derby says Pep Guardiola

Published in England Premier League
Saturday, 09 December 2017 10:43

Manchester City's Spanish playmaker David Silva is fit and will play in Sunday's derby against Manchester United at Old Trafford, City manager Pep Guardiola said on Friday.

Guardiola had suggested that Silva was doubtful for the game after he had reported feeling "uncomfortable" following his match-winning 83rd-minute goal against West Ham at the Etihad last weekend.
"He's going to play. He's going to play - after the game he had a bit of doubt that's why I said it but today he arrived and said he's really good so he's going to play," Guardiola told reporters.

Silva did not travel with the City squad to Ukraine for their final Champions League group match against Shakhtar Donetsk.
However, the City manager will have to wait until training on Saturday before deciding on whether centre-half Vincent Kompany and left back Fabian Delph are ready to face Jose Mourinho's side.

"Kompany, before the game against Shakhtar, felt something, was not comfortable and couldn't play. Delph was sick, vomited and had fever the day before. Today they are off so I don't know but tomorrow we will check how the conditions are," Guardiola said.

Raheem Sterling saves Manchester City with sensational 96th-minute winner

Published in England Premier League
Thursday, 30 November 2017 09:40

Etihad Stadium, Premier League - Manchester City 2 (De Bruyne 47, Sterling 90+6) Southampton 1 (Romeu 75')

Raheem Sterling scored a brilliant winner in the final seconds of added time to earn Manchester City a 2-1 victory over Southampton at the Etihad Stadium.
Manchester City were looking to extend their lead at the top after Manchester United's 4-2 win over Watford on Tuesday night.
Manchester City took the lead with a deflected Kevin De Bruyne free kick just 77 seconds into the second half, but Oriol Romeu scored against his former manager to put his side on course for a draw with 15 minutes remaining.

But the in-form Sterling produced a moment of magic with the final play of the game to prompt delirious celebrations.

City remain top with an eight point lead over Manchester United, while Southampton remain in 11th spot.

TALKING POINT

Manchester City have the mentality of champions. With a draw looming, they might have accepted a point to stay six above Manchester United. Instead, they kept their nerve, forced Southampton back, and with their most intricate move of the match they delivered a winner at the death.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Raheem Sterling (Manchester City): After that goal, there is no other contender. He has 13 goals this season and is now a regular, late match winner for City. At just 22 and with the best manager in the world to learn from, he could be the best English player for many years.

PLAYER RATINGS

Manchester City: Ederson 6, Delph 6, Kompany 5, Otamendi 7, Walker 6, Fernandinho 6, Gundogan 6, De Bruyne 7, Sterling 7, Jesus 6, Aguero 6. Subs: Bernardo 6, Silva 6.

Southampton: Forster 6, Cédric 6, Yoshida 6, van Dijk 6, Hoedt 6, Bertrand 6, Højbjerg 6, Romeu 7, Lemina 7, Redmond 6, Long 6. Subs: McQueen 6, Boufal 7, Austin 6.

KEY EVENTS

14’ - HOEDT HEADER - Kompany slides a leg out to block a cross from the right wing. Corner for Southampton. Hoedt gets to a flick on and flicks an instinctive header against the crossbar.

34’ - YOSHIDA CHANCE - A corner from Redmond to the back post is headed down by Van Dijk, Yoshida sticks out a leg and the ball flies over the bar.

47’ - GOAL! Manchester City 1-0 Southampton. Van Dijk scores an own goal - De Bruyne curls in a free kick to the near post Otamendi dives towards it and Van Dijk sticks out a leg to send it past Forster.

70’- VAN DIJK HEADER - Redmond curls in a corner and Van Dijk leaps to meet the ball and head over the bar.

75’- Manchester City 1-1 Southampton. Romeu scores - Redmond loops a cross to the back post. Boufal brings it down brilliantly, pulls it back and Romeu stabs home.

90+6’ - GOAL! Manchester City 2-1 Southampton. Sterling scores - With seconds remaining, Sterling comes in from the left. He swaps passes with De Bruyne on the edge of the box, and he arcs a brilliant shot into the top corner.

KEY STAT

Raheem Sterling has 13 goals this season, which is three more than he scored in all of last season.

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