Grealish And Haaland Destroy Wolves As Man City Go Top

Manchester City’s Norwegian striker Erling Haaland celebrates scoring his team’s second goal during the English Premier League football match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Manchester City at the Molineux stadium in Wolverhampton, central England on September 17, 2022. (Photo by Geoff Caddick / AFP)

 

Jack Grealish scored his first goal this season and Erling Haaland extended his record-breaking hot-streak as Manchester City powered to a 3-0 win over 10-man Wolves on Saturday.

Pep Guardiola’s side needed just 56 seconds to take the lead at Molineux as Grealish finally enjoyed a day to remember after a difficult time since joining City from Aston Villa last year.

Haaland doubled City’s advantage with his 14th goal in 10 games in all competitions following a £51 million ($58 million) move from Borussia Dortmund that already appears a bargain.

Wolves lost any chance of a fightback when Nathan Collins was sent off for an ugly stomach-high foul on Grealish in the first half.

Phil Foden capped City’s stroll in the midlands sunshine as the Premier League champions moved to the top of the table.

Unbeaten City are two points clear of second-placed Arsenal, who would regain pole position if they win at Brentford on Sunday.

“The game started really well for us with the two goals and the red card. After the Champions League to come here at 12:30 with the quality they have, it was an incredible victory,” Guardiola said.

Guardiola said this week that the “exceptional” Haaland was the “perfect” person to manage because his personality ensured he always remains hungry to improve.

Even Guardiola may run out of superlatives to describe the 22-year-old Norwegian if he continues this astonishing run.

Haaland was named Premier League Player of the Month for August after his blistering start to the season and he is already making his case for the September award.

He has netted in seven successive games for City and is the first player to score in their first four Premier League away appearances.

Showing their hunger to win the title for a fifth time in six seasons, City are unbeaten in a club record 22 away league matches since losing at Tottenham in their opening game last season.

Lethal Haaland

Goalscorers Manchester City’s English midfielder Jack Grealish (L), Manchester City’s Norwegian striker Erling Haaland (C) and Manchester City’s English midfielder Phil Foden celebrate after the English Premier League football match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Manchester City at the Molineux stadium in Wolverhampton, central England on September 17, 2022. (Photo by Geoff Caddick / AFP)

 

After a poignant tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth II, City reduced Molineux to silence with a beautifully crafted opener in the first minute.

Foden’s audacious backheel sent Kevin De Bruyne away down the right flank and the Belgian’s low cross was perfectly placed for Grealish, who timed his run to poke home from close-range.

It was a much-needed contribution from Grealish, who was making just his second league start this term after struggling to reach peak form since his British record £100 million transfer.

Guardiola might feel vindicated as well after defending the England forward following his anonymous display against Dortmund on Wednesday, blaming an ankle injury for his woes and telling him to ignore the doubters.

“Jack played really good. He was strong and he made a good goal,” Guardiola said.

Grealish added: “I’m always going to have people talking about me with the amount I got bought for.

“I owe the manager thanks for sticking with me after I didn’t play well in midweek.”

Haaland doubled City’s lead in the 16th minute with his first goal from outside the area for his new club.

His spectacular late winner against Dortmund led Guardiola to compare Haaland’s improvisation to Dutch legend Johan Cruyff.

This was a more prosaic strike, but it was no less effective.

With Wolves defender Max Kilman fatally backing off outside his own penalty area, Haaland was allowed to advance unchecked before drilling an unerring finish into the bottom corner.

It was Haaland’s 100th goal in his last 99 games in all competitions since leaving RB Salzburg for Dortmund in 2020.

Collins’ reckless foul on Grealish, the Wolves defender leaping into the air to kick him in the midriff, drew an inevitable red card that effectively ended the contest in the 33rd minute.

Foden added City’s third goal in the 69th minute, arriving in the six-yard box to flick in De Bruyne’s cross after Haaland’s flick teed up the Belgian.

AFP

Haaland’s Dortmund Winner Reminds Guardiola Of Cruyff

Manchester City’s Norwegian striker Erling Haaland (2nd-L) celebrates his goal with teammates during the UEFA Champions League group G football match between England’s Manchester City and Germany’s Borussia Dortmund at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester on September 14, 2022. (Photo by Lindsey Parnaby / AFP)

 

Erling Haaland’s stunning acrobatic finish to beat his old club Borussia Dortmund 2-1 sparked comparisons from Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola with his mentor Johan Cruyff.

The Norwegian had been kept remarkably quiet, but only needed the slightest glimpse of goal to extend his scoring streak to six games as his telescopic left leg prodded home the winner six minutes from time.

Haaland has now scored 13 goals in nine games for City since they met his bargain 60 million euro ($60m, £52m) buyout clause from the German giants.

“Everyone knows how important a person Johan Cruyff was in my life. As a person, educator, mentor, everything,” said Guardiola. “He scored in Camp Nou an incredible goal against Atletico Madrid (in 1973) that was quite similar. The moment he (Haaland) scored, I thought of Cruyff.”

Haaland’s incredible flexibility despite his giant frame also drew comparisons from Guardiola to another former Barcelona striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Ibrahimovic endured one unhappy season under Guardiola at the Camp Nou, but has used an upbringing in martial arts to devastating effect during his long and storied career.

“I remember my dear friend Ibrahimovic had this ability to put his leg on the roof,” added Guardiola.

“Erling is quite similar. He’s elastic, flexible and after has the ability to put it in the net. He’s so big, but has this natural flexibility.”

Jude Bellingham had given Dortmund the lead 11 minutes into the second half.

But a triple substitution awoke City from their slumber and two goals in four minutes turned the game around.

John Stones’ piledriver from outside the box levelled with the aid of some poor goalkeeping from Alexander Meyer.

Haaland then took centre stage by somehow stretching to meet Joao Cancelo’s cross and beat Meyer at his near post.

“In the end, we showed what we are. This is how we have to play. I’m proud of the last 20, 25 minutes,” said Haaland.

“Two wonderful goals today –- mine was a bit better, honestly! It was a nice cross from Cancelo and in the end a really important win.”

The victory sees City open up a three-point lead at the top of Group G, with Dortmund still in second after FC Copenhagen and Sevilla played out a 0-0 draw in the Danish capital.

READ ALSOHaaland Haunts Dortmund As Man City Come From Behind

Bellingham shines 

Manchester City’s Norwegian striker Erling Haaland (2nd-L) celebrates his goal with teammates during the UEFA Champions League group G football match between England’s Manchester City and Germany’s Borussia Dortmund at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester on September 14, 2022. (Photo by Lindsey Parnaby / AFP)

 

Bellingham admitted on the eve of the game he had no idea how Haaland can be stopped.

But the Germans did a good job of suffocating the service to their former star striker as the first 45 minutes passed with barely any goalmouth action to note.

“I think we were brilliant for the majority of the game,” said Bellingham. “We gave them little to work with.

“Great teams, you give them a yard and they can deliver like that, they can hurt you and that’s what they did tonight.”

Bellingham has been strongly linked with a move back to the Premier League with City, Manchester United, and Liverpool reportedly interested.

The England international was quick to shut down speculation over his future on Tuesday and may have added a few more millions to his price tag as he timed his run perfectly to head in Reus’ cross.

Guardiola responded immediately with a triple substitution as Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden and Julian Alvarez were called upon to add more guile in the final third.

When City’s equaliser did arrive, it came from an unlikely source as Stones blasted home his first Champions League goal since 2017 from outside the box.

Haaland was not to be denied the headlines, though, as Cancelo’s inventive cross with the outside of his right foot was pounced on by City’s giant number nine who raised his foot to head height to flick the ball home.

AFP

Fuelled By Premier League Dynasty, Man City Crave Champions League Legacy

Manchester City’s Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho lifts the Premier League trophy as City players celebrate on the pitch after the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on May 22, 2022. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Manchester City’s latest Premier League title triumph established the champions as a burgeoning dynasty, but Pep Guardiola won’t be satisfied until their domestic bliss becomes the catalyst to conquer Europe.

City’s fourth title in five seasons is arguably the greatest achievement of Guardiola’s glittering career as he found a way to hold off Liverpool’s relentless challenge by one point.

“The magnitude of our achievement is because of the magnitude of this rival,” said Guardiola. “Never ever I had a rival like Liverpool in my career as a football player or manager.”

But even Jurgen Klopp’s men, in the midst of one of the best seasons in their history, were unable to surpass City, leaving them with just one Premier League title in 32 years.

Lauding his players’ remarkable staying power, Guardiola said: “You cannot be here over the last five years if you don’t have that resilience.

“We have the desire to win. To win titles, especially the Premier League, is not just how good we are with the ball.”

Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola (R) and Manchester City’s English defender John Stones (L) celebrate with the Premier League trophy on the pitch after the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on May 22, 2022.  Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Nothing resembled that resilience more than the manner of City’s latest title triumph.

Losing 2-0 to Aston Villa with 15 minutes to go, City rallied in remarkable fashion to score three times in five minutes.

Yet, while Guardiola celebrates the ninth major prize of his six-year City reign, Klopp will be planning to add another chapter to Liverpool’s rich Champions League history.

Liverpool face Real Madrid in the Champions League final on May 28 and Guardiola would dearly love to swap places with Klopp in Paris.

Since winning the second of his two Champions League crowns with Barcelona on 2011, Guardiola’s relationship with Europe’s elite club competition has been scarred by one agonising failure after another.

This season was no different as City crashed to a devastating semi-final exit against Real Madrid, blowing a 5-3 aggregate lead in the final seconds of normal time before losing in the extra period.

That heartache at the Bernabeu came a year after City’s limp loss to Chelsea in their first ever Champions League final.

READ ALSOArsenal Miss Out On Champions League For Fifth Season In A Row

Haaland The Perfect Fit? 

In this file photo, ex-Dortmund’s Norwegian forward Erling Braut Haaland applauds after the German first division Bundesliga football match Borussia Dortmund v VfL Wolfsburg in Dortmund, western Germany, on April 16, 2022. INA FASSBENDER / AFP

 

With that in mind, Guardiola knows City cannot afford to stand still if they are to finally triumph in Europe and keep Liverpool at bay in the Premier League.

A £51.5 million ($63 million) swoop for Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland earlier in May was the opening salvo in their bid to achieve those two targets.

Haaland scored a remarkable 86 goals in 89 games for Dortmund and appears an ideal fit for City.

The 21-year-old son of former City defender Alfie Haaland will arrive in time for next season, bringing his elite predatory instincts and physical presence to a City attack lacking both those qualities despite their success.

With the Norway international in the fold and Guardiola also looking to upgrade his options at left-back and in central midfield, it would be a major surprise if City were missing from the title race next term.

The only threat to City’s dynastic ambitions comes in the shape of Guardiola’s future plans.

Guardiola’s current contract expires in June 2023, by which time he will have spent seven years with City, three seasons longer than he managed Barcelona and four more than his spell with Bayern Munich.

The 51-year-old revealed amid the title celebrations he is “exhausted” and will not discuss a further extension to his time in Manchester until next season.

However, it is unlikely he would be able to find a better working environment than the one he enjoys with City.

City’s Abu Dhabi-based owners are never afraid to flex their financial muscle in the transfer market and have surrounded Guardiola with the lieutenants of his choice in director of football Txiki Begiristain and chief executive officer Ferran Soriano.

The quirky Spaniard marches to the beat of his own drum and a game-changing departure cannot be completely ruled out.

But the fierce competitor that lies beneath Guardiola’s urbane demeanour could be the key to his decision.

He sees Liverpool as a worthy opponent and, as a title race for the ages proved, pitting his wits against Klopp is the toughest, and most rewarding, challenge he could face.

AFP

‘Story Of My Life’: Klopp Laments As Man City Pip Liverpool In Title Race

Liverpool's German manager Jurgen Klopp looks on during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Watford at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on April 2, 2022. Paul ELLIS / AFP
In this file photo, Liverpool’s German manager Jurgen Klopp looks on during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Watford at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on April 2, 2022. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Jurgen Klopp admitted Liverpool’s agonising failure to win the Premier League title was the “story of my life” as the German had to settle for second place behind Manchester City again.

Klopp’s side were within touching distance of the title for a few precious minutes at Anfield on Sunday as they chased a winning goal against Wolves while City trailed 2-0 against Aston Villa.

But, in a dramatic finish to the title race, City scored three times in the closing stages to win 3-2 and take the trophy by one point from second placed Liverpool.

The Reds’ 3-1 victory over Wolves was rendered irrelevant by City’s epic comeback, leaving Klopp to rue a second last-day title blow inflicted by Pep Guardiola’s team.

City had edged out Liverpool in the 2019 title race, while Klopp endured two last-day failures to win promotion to the Bundesliga during his time as Mainz boss.

READ ALSOArsenal Miss Out On Champions League For Fifth Season In A Row

“Congratulations to Man City and Pep Guardiola. Thank you to Aston Villa and Wolverhampton for making a proper game of it,” Klopp said.

“It’s not the result we wanted. It was a bit of a rollercoaster. I don’t know the results exactly but I know Villa were 1-0 up –- were they 2-0 up as well? Of course at the moment there’s disappointment here as well.

“92 points is absolutely incredible. We wanted it all, but now it’s OK.

“Finishing second is the story of my life. I’m still record holder for not getting promoted in Germany with the highest points tally. You need to get more points than any other teams, but we didn’t do that.”

Despite Klopp’s lament, he has led Liverpool to FA Cup and League Cup glory this term and can win a third trophy if they beat Real Madrid in the Champions League final on Saturday.

The German has also won the Champions League and Premier League with Liverpool in 2019 and 2020 respectively.

Klopp insisted Liverpool had nothing to be ashamed of after cutting into the 14-point lead City held at the top in January to take the title race to the wire.

Hailing City as the world’s best team, he said: “You can’t do more than give your absolute best and that’s what the boys did again.

“We chased the best team in the world to the wire, that’s absolutely special. We’ll build a team again and go again.”

Klopp’s main concern ahead of the Champions League final is an injury to Thiago Alcantara that is likely to rule out the influential midfielder.

“I think he’ll be out of the final but I don’t know. He’s limping, so it’s maybe not the best sign,” he said.

AFP

Five Key Moments That Won Manchester City The Premier League

Manchester City’s players run towards the pitch to celebrate after winning the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on May 22, 2022.  Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Manchester City are champions of England for a fourth time in five years after holding off Liverpool in a titanic tussle for the Premier League title.

City’s failure to land a natural striker to replace Sergio Aguero cast doubt on their title credentials as Liverpool and Chelsea strengthened their squads with eyes on the crown.

Pep Guardiola’s men again proved to be well-suited to the marathon grind of a 38-game season, but needed to summon the spirit of champions to seal the deal on the final day.

Trailing 2-0 to Aston Villa with 14 minutes remaining, City needed to score three times to avoid a trophyless season and pulled it off thanks to Ilkay Gundogan’s double either side of Rodri’s strike.

READ ALSO: Arsenal Miss Out On Champions League For Fifth Season In A Row

AFP Sport looks at five defining moments that swung the title race City’s way:

Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola (R) and Manchester City’s English defender John Stones (L) celebrate with the Premier League trophy on the pitch after the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on May 22, 2022. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Chelsea put in their place

Chelsea had City’s number towards the end of last season, beating them three times in three different competitions, culminating in lifting the Champions League in Porto.

The Blues were expected to carry that momentum into a title challenge and started the season strongly.

City were three points behind Chelsea and Liverpool when they travelled to Stamford Bridge in early September having dropped points in two of their first five games.

However, Guardiola’s men laid down a marker with a dominant display that deserved a more comprehensive result than their 1-0 victory.

The same day, Liverpool were held 3-3 at Brentford to nullify the impact of City’s slow start.

Winter Wins

Fans were back in the stands all season but coronavirus still had a major impact as outbreaks among squads led to mass postponements in the winter months.

City were one of the few clubs to escape without a single match being rearranged and produced a 12-game winning run between November and February that took the title race away from the chasing pack.

Rodri’s 92nd-minute winner at Arsenal in an early kick-off on January 1 amid a packed schedule was the stuff that champions are made of.

But there was plenty of the exhilarating football Guardiola’s sides are synonomous with too as Leeds were dispatched 7-0, Leicester hit for six and Newcastle and Norwich thrashed 4-0.

Liverpool Pay Penalty At Leicester

As City motored through the festive period, Liverpool’s title bid came off the rails.

Jurgen Klopp’s men have lost just three of 62 games all season that kept their bid for an unprecedented quadruple alive into the final week of the campaign.

However, one of them came in the most unlikely circumstances at Leicester on December 28.

The postponement of Liverpool’s Boxing Day game with Leeds had given Klopp’s men a rare six-day rest amid the busiest time of the English football calendar.

Leicester, by contrast, had lost 6-3 at City only 48 hours previously and were severely weakened by injuries and Covid cases.

Mohamed Salah missed a Premier League penalty for the first time in four years before Ademola Lookman gave Leicester an unlikely 1-0 win.

Draws at Tottenham and Chelsea either side of Liverpool’s trip to the King Power allowed City to move 12 points ahead on New Year’s Day.

‘Title decider’ stalemate suits City

Liverpool’s stunning form in 2022 gave Klopp’s men the chance to leapfrog City when the top two faced off at the Etihad in early April.

But City maintained a one-point lead at the top after a thrilling 2-2 draw.

Guardiola bemoaned his side had left the Reds “alive” after missing the best chances to win the game.

However, ultimately it proved to be a vital point in retaining the title.

No Hammer Blow

Liverpool’s first dropped points at Anfield since October in a 1-1 draw with Tottenham allowed City to extend their lead to three points going into the final two games of the season.

But they twice nearly threw it away by falling behind 2-0 to both West Ham and Aston Villa.

Jarrod Bowen punished an injury-decimated City defence scoring twice for the Hammers before Jack Grealish and Vladimir Coufal’s own goal did enough to salvage a point and keep the destiny of the title in their own hands.

City did not learn their lesson as Villa also counter-attacked to good effect to take a 2-0 lead at the Etihad on Sunday.

This time Gundogan was the hero off the bench to spark scenes reminiscent of Aguero’s 93rd minute title winner to start City’s era of dominance 10 years ago.

AFP

Pep’s Perfect 10 The Tonic For Man City’s Euro Woe


Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola goes for the Premier League trophy as he prepares to celebrate their title during the award ceremony after the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on May 22, 2022. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Pep Guardiola may not yet have delivered the Champions League crown Manchester City crave, but four Premier League titles in five years demonstrate a period of dominance to match his time at Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

The Catalan now has 10 league titles to his name in just 13 seasons as a senior coach across three of the toughest divisions in the world.

Few of those have been as hard-fought as City’s latest title triumph.

Guardiola’s men were pushed all the way by a Liverpool side he described as the best he has faced in his managerial career.

The Reds could still complete a treble of League Cup, FA Cup, and Champions League should they see off Real Madrid in Paris on May 28.

READ ALSOMan City Retain 2021/2022 Premier League After Aston Villa Comeback

However, just as in the engrossing title tussle between the same two clubs three years ago, City’s squeaked home by a point thanks to a dramatic fightback from 2-0 down to beat Aston Villa 3-2 on the final day.

Recognition of Guardiola’s achievements at City often comes with the caveats of the huge resources at his disposal and consistent failings to convert domestic dominance into European success since leaving Barcelona a decade ago.

“If we don’t win it in my final period here, I will be a failure,” Guardiola said last month, speaking about his Champions League record.

But his ability to construct sides capable of rising to the relentless demands of winning a title over 38 games is unmatched.

The 51-year-old has laughed off suggestions he could match former Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson’s longevity.

But only Ferguson’s haul of 13 Premier League titles in 27 years at Old Trafford comes close to matching Guardiola’s strike rate in Europe’s toughest leagues.

“Pep is the best coach in the world,” said Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp last month. “I think we would all agree on that and it might be a coincidence that it didn’t work out in the Champions League so far.

“If anybody doubts him, I have no idea how that could happen.”

City infrastructure 

City’s long-term strategy of building the infrastructure of the club around Guardiola, even prior to his arrival, has been thoroughly vindicated.

Director of football Txiki Begiristain and CEO Ferran Soriano were plucked from Barcelona with the aim of luring Guardiola to England.

Guardiola was burned out by the demands of the job at Barcelona after four seasons and cut short his time at Bayern after three years.

By contrast, he has stayed at City now for six seasons and will be around for at least a seventh.

Backed by the state wealth of Abu Dhabi, Guardiola has been given the money to assemble one of the most expensive squads in football history.

However, there are limits to that spending power as City found out last year.

Tottenham would not let Harry Kane go despite City’s interest and the England captain’s desire to leave.

The English champions have already swooped to fulfil their need for a striker for next season by beating off competition from other leading clubs in Europe to sign Erling Haaland.

But Guardiola had to make do without a natural finisher this season and still conjured up the top-scoring team in the Premier League.

Most importantly, he also held onto the trophy he values more than any other.

“I would say it’s more difficult,” said Guardiola on Premier League glory compared with winning the Champions League.

“There’s a lot of weeks and games, struggles with injuries, good and bad moments with different situations, tough opponents.

“It’s satisfying because it’s every day. When you fight for the Premier League and have success right at the end, it gives you a sense that you enjoy a lot. We are happier in our lives when you win.”

The fear for the rest of the Premier League is that with Haaland’s arrival, City look likely to get even stronger.

After three league titles at Barca and Bayern, Guardiola has a fourth in England and his grip on the Premier League is only getting tighter.

AFP

Man City Keep Title Fate In Their Hands Despite West Ham Scare

Manchester City’s Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus reacts at the end of the English Premier League football match between West Ham United and Manchester City at the London Stadium, in London on May 15, 2022. Ian Kington / IKIMAGES / AFP

 

Manchester City staged a thrilling fightback from two goals down to keep the destiny of the Premier League title in their hands, but Riyad Mahrez’s late penalty miss forced the leaders to settle for a dramatic 2-2 draw at West Ham on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola’s side were in danger of gifting second placed Liverpool a title lifeline after West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen struck twice in the first half.

But City’s stirring recovery showed the character that has already brought them three titles in the last four seasons.

Jack Grealish got one back soon after the interval and Vladimir Coufal’s own goal completed City’s escape act.

It should have been even better for City, but Mahrez’s penalty was saved by Lukasz Fabianski with five minutes left.

While that was a bitter blow to Guardiola, who stood ashen-faced on the touchline, in the circumstances City will be relieved to have moved four points clear of Liverpool with a goal difference seven better than their rivals.

They will retain the title if Jurgen Klopp’s side lose their game in hand at Southampton on Tuesday.

If Liverpool beat Southampton to close the gap to one point, Guardiola’s men can still clinch the trophy with a victory against Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium on May 22.

A title race for the ages could well go down to the last day of the season, when Liverpool host Wolves, as it did when City pipped the Reds to first place in 2019.

Guardiola said this week he wants players with a “special mentality” as he looks to bolster his squad for next season, personalities who, like him, wake up every day obsessed with winning.

City’s enthralling revival to extend their unbeaten league run to 11 matches showed Guardiola already has plenty of fighters in his squad, although he might not put Mahrez on penalty duties again for a while.

Aymeric Laporte and Fernandinho were passed fit in start in City’s defence after suffering injuries in Wednesday’s win at Wolves.

But City were already without injured defenders Ruben Dias, John Stones, and Kyle Walker and they didn’t look comfortable at the back from the opening moments.

READ ALSO: Tottenham Move Temporarily Into Top Four After Burnley Win

On a Knife-Edge 

West Ham United’s Czech defender Vladimir Coufal (L) and Manchester City’s Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne speak at the end of the English Premier League football match between West Ham United and Manchester City at the London Stadium, in London on May 15, 2022. Ian Kington / IKIMAGES / AFP

 

Craig Dawson got behind Oleksandr Zinchenko to meet Pablo Fornals’ cross, but with the goal at his mercy, the West Ham defender headed over.

That early threat seemed to fluster City, who controlled possession but found it difficult to create clear chances with West Ham happy to defend deep and strike on the counter.

Just as City looked set to turn the screw, they were hit with a sucker punch in the 24th minute.

Fornals’ opportunistic pass caught Laporte and Zinchenko trying to play offside and Bowen nipped in behind, rounding Ederson before slotting home from a tight angle.

Although West Ham had nothing to play for, they had already beaten Liverpool and Chelsea at home and this was no easy ride for City as David Moyes’ game-plan exposed the flaws in the leaders’ commitment to all-out attack.

City’s soft centre was exposed again on the stroke of half-time.

Fabianski’s long kick was headed on and Michail Antonio clipped his pass beyond Zinchenko, freeing Bowen to sprint clear and shoot low past Ederson.

Desperately needing a quick response after the break, Grealish gave City a lifeline in the 49th minute.

Rodri’s flick reached Grealish and his shot bounced into the ground, going through Dawson’s legs and past the wrong-footed Fabianski.

That was the signal for City to lay seige to the West Ham goal.

Fabianski saved Jesus’s drive with his legs, then kept out Bernardo Silva’s volley.

City’s relentless pressure was rewarded in the 69th minute when Mahrez’s free-kick was headed into his own net by the diving Coufal.

The drama wasn’t over and City were awarded an 85th minute penalty after a VAR review of Dawson’s trip on Jesus.

Mahrez stepped up with a chance to almost seal the title, but Fabianski dived to his left to make a save that kept the title race on a knife edge.

AFP

Liverpool Still Chasing Man City Like ‘Mad’ In Title Race – Klopp

In this file photo, Manchester City’s English midfielder Phil Foden (L) crosses the ball during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on April 10, 2022. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Liverpool are still “chasing like mad” after Manchester City at the top of the Premier League, said Jurgen Klopp after coming from a goal down to beat Aston Villa 2-1 on Tuesday.

The top two are now level on points, but City stay top on goal difference and have a game in hand away to Wolves on Wednesday.

Liverpool could ill-afford another slip up after being held 1-1 at home by Tottenham at the weekend and got off to the worst possible start when Douglas Luiz fired Villa in front after three minutes.

But Joel Matip quickly levelled and Sadio Mane’s fine header 25 minutes from time kept the Reds in contention for a historic quadruple of trophies.

“We are still chasing like mad,” said Klopp. “We just know we have to win, that didn’t change and now we have to recover to play the FA Cup final. There is no mercy.”

READ ALSOGuardiola Hints Man City Closing In On Haaland Deal

However, victory came at a cost as Fabinho limped off with a muscle injury that makes him a major doubt for both Saturday’s FA Cup final and the Champions League final against Real Madrid on May 28.

“He felt a muscle, not too much,” added Klopp. “He is quite positive but I’m not sure what I can make of that to be honest.”

With one eye on Wembley, Klopp rolled the dice with his team selection as Mohamed Salah and Thiago Alcantara were left on the bench, while there was no place in the squad for Andy Robertson.

The visitors looked like a much-changed side as Villa sprang out of the traps and caught them cold.

Alisson Becker had already denied Ollie Watkins by the time Steven Gerrard’s men took the lead on three minutes.

Luiz’s header was parried by Alisson, but only back into the path of his Brazilian international teammate to hammer the rebound high into the net.

Villa won this fixture 7-2 last season, but Liverpool this time bounced straight back from the early blow of conceding.

The hosts did not deal with a free-kick into the box and the ball eventually broke for Virgil van Dijk to square for his centre-back partner Matip to apply the finishing touch.

Chances continued to come at both ends in a frantic first half.

Mane headed inches wide and Naby Keita missed his kick with the goal gaping for Liverpool, while, at the other end, Danny Ings just failed to keep his header down from Lucas Digne’s inviting cross.

Mane Header

Liverpool's Senegalese striker Sadio Mane (L) celebrates scoring the team's second goal with Liverpool's English midfielder Jordan Henderson (C) and Liverpool's Portuguese striker Diogo Jota during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on May 10, 2022. Paul ELLIS / AFP
Liverpool’s Senegalese striker Sadio Mane (L) celebrates scoring the team’s second goal with Liverpool’s English midfielder Jordan Henderson (C) and Liverpool’s Portuguese striker Diogo Jota during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on May 10, 2022. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Liverpool’s heavy schedule began to show physically when Fabinho limped off with a hamstring injury midway through the first half.

However, Liverpool went through the gears in the second period to show the gulf in class between the sides.

“We’ve got to take the big moments we created in the game,” said Gerrard. “I’m frustrated we didn’t score more than once.

“We were ambitious, brave, and courageous against one of the best teams in the world.”

Luis Diaz’s arrival in January has played a huge part in keeping Klopp’s men in contention for four trophies.

The Colombian created the winner as he teased Tyrone Mings before delivering a pinpoint cross for Mane to head in his 22nd goal of the season.

There were still nervy moments for Liverpool to see out in the final quarter as Villa sought to expose their high line.

Twice Ings failed to capitalise when played through on goal before being flagged offside when he did finally put the ball in the net.

But Liverpool held on and will hope Gerrard can finally come to their rescue in a title race.

Gerrard famously never won a league title during his decorated playing career at Anfield but will take Villa to face City at the Etihad on the final day of the season.

AFP

Man City Agree To Sign Dortmund Striker Haaland

In this file photo, Dortmund’s Norwegian forward Erling Braut Haaland and Dortmund’s US midfielder Giovanni Reyna (L) warm up before the German first division Bundesliga football match Borussia Dortmund v Arminia Bielefeld in Dortmund, western Germany, on March 13, 2022. (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP)

 

Manchester City announced Tuesday they had reached an agreement to sign star striker Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund — sending an ominous statement of intent to their rivals.

The Norwegian international will move to the Etihad after the Premier League champions agreed to pay his reported 60-million-euro (£51 million, $63 million) release clause.

“Manchester City can confirm we have reached an agreement in principle with Borussia Dortmund for the transfer of striker Erling Haaland to the club on 1st July 2022,” the club said in a statement.

“The transfer remains subject to the club finalising terms with the player.”

READ ALSO: Guardiola Hints Man City Closing In On Haaland Deal

The deal for the towering 21-year-old ends City’s long search for a specialist striker to replace record goalscorer Sergio Aguero, who left last year.

The club failed in a high-profile attempt to prise England captain Harry Kane away from Tottenham Hotspur last summer.

Haaland, whose father Alf-Inge played for City from 2000 to 2003, has been sensational since joining Dortmund from RB Salzburg in January 2020, scoring 85 goals in 88 appearances for the German side.

Speculation linking City with Haaland had been gathering momentum in recent weeks, with reports on Monday claiming the player had already undergone a medical.

Manager Pep Guardiola was reluctant to discuss the situation in a press conference on Tuesday to preview Wednesday’s game at Wolves, but all but suggested a deal was imminent.

“Everybody knows the situation, but I should not talk because I do not like to talk about the future, next season,” he said.

“At the same time I should say something, but Borussia Dortmund and Man City told me I’m not allowed to say anything until the deal is completely done, so I cannot talk. I’m sorry. We’ll have time to talk.”

But after Haaland’s in-principle move was announced, City centre-back Aymeric Laporte tweeted: “Happy not to be running after this guy for the next couple of years. Welcome Erling.”

Top-scorers 

City, who are the Premier League’s top-scorers this season with 89 goals, have often played without a recognised striker for the past two seasons.

Riyad Mahrez is their top scorer with 24 goals in all competitions, ahead of Raheem Sterling (16), Kevin De Bruyne (15) and Phil Foden (14).

Guardiola was keen to play down the significance of any one new signing.

He said: “We have a number nine right now. New players always help us try to be a stronger team, but a good defender will not solve our defensive problems and one striker will not resolve the scoring problems that maybe we have.

“We have always been consistent, scoring a lot of goals and conceding few. The stats are there, we are stable in those terms but the club always has to have a vision for the future.

“That’s why with the decisions the club takes, I’m always completely aware and supportive 100 percent.”

City, who lead Liverpool on goal difference at the top of the Premier League table and have a game in hand, are closing in on a fourth English league title in five years.

But they suffered a painful exit from the Champions League last week, losing 6-5 on aggregate to semi-final opponents Real Madrid.

For all Guardiola’s success in six years at the Etihad, his inability to conquer Europe is seen as a failure.

Haaland’s predatory instincts could be the missing ingredient to take City’s domestic dominance onto the Champions League stage.

“They have done fantastically well without having a top striker and now they have a top striker so you can only imagine what they will be like now,” former Manchester United and Norway defender Henning Berg told the BBC.

“As a number nine, as a goalscorer you cannot go to a better team because they get the ball in the box so many times.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp described Haaland as a “beast”.

“He’s a good player but City was never and will never be a team that wins games because of one player,” said Klopp after Liverpool’s 2-1 win at Aston Villa kept the pressure on City at the top of the Premier League.

“He’s a real beast, so unfortunately a really good signing.”

AFP

Guardiola Hints Man City Closing In On Haaland Deal

Manchester City’s Spanish coach Josep Guardiola (2R) watches his players (LtoR) Manchester City’s Portuguese midfielder Bernardo Silva, Manchester City’s Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho and Manchester City’s Algerian midfielder Riyad Mahrez, during the UEFA Champions League.
ATTILA KISBENEDEK / AFP

 

Pep Guardiola said Tuesday he could not comment on Manchester City’s move for Erling Haaland until “it’s completely done”, all but confirming that a deal for the forward is imminent.

There were reports on Monday that the Norway international had already undergone a medical after agreeing personal terms with the Premier League champions.

The club have not officially commented but manager Guardiola gave a clue that the 21-year-old is on his way to the Etihad when speaking at a press conference on the eve of his side’s match against Wolves.

“Everybody knows the situation,” said Guardiola. “I shouldn’t talk because I don’t like to talk about the future or next season. Borussia Dortmund and Man City told me I’m not allowed to say anything until it’s completely done.”

It has been reported that Haaland is set to sign a five-year contract to move to the Etihad for the start of next season after City formally triggered his release clause, reportedly £63 million ($78 million).

Guardiola said: “I’d love to talk but they tell me don’t say anything until (after) the legal actions. We’ll have time to talk, not because I don’t want to.”

The signing of Haaland would end City’s long search for a specialist centre-forward to replace record goalscorer Sergio Aguero, who left last year.

City then tried but failed in a high-profile attempt to prise England captain Harry Kane away from Tottenham.

Haaland, whose father Alf-Inge played for City from 2000 to 2003, has been prolific since joining Dortmund from RB Salzburg in January 2020, scoring 85 goals in 88 appearances for the German side.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, whose side are involved in a tight title race with City this year, said he would expect the transfer to set new boundaries.

“I signed a new contract knowing City would not stop developing,” he told Sky Sports. “If Erling Haaland went there he would not weaken them, definitely not.

“I know a lot of people talk about money but this transfer will set new levels, let me say it like this.”

‘No Words Can Help’ Ease Man City Euro Exit – Guardiola

Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola reacts during the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg football match between Real Madrid CF and Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on May 4, 2022. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)

 

Pep Guardiola admits “no words can help” ease the pain of Manchester City’s elimination from the Champions League as he refocuses on his side’s Premier League title challenge.

City were just moments away from claiming a place in the final against Liverpool before Real Madrid staged a stunning fightback at the Bernabeu on Wednesday.

Real scored twice in the final seconds of normal time and eventually won the game 3-1 after extra-time, taking the semi-final tie 6-5 on aggregate.

Asked on Friday what he said to his players, Guardiola told reporters: “We didn’t speak. No words can help what we feel.

“It’s a question of time, try to sleep and think of the targets. Tomorrow we will talk.”

READ ALSO: Three Things We Learned From Real Madrid Vs Manchester City

Real Madrid players celebrate their victory at the end of the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg football match between Real Madrid CF and Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on May 4, 2022. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO / AFP)

 

The City boss must now pick his men up for the Premier League run-in.

City, who lead Liverpool by just one point with four games left, host mid-table Newcastle on Sunday, a day after Jurgen Klopp’s team play Tottenham.

“We’re not thinking about the title, we’re thinking about Newcastle,” said Guardiola.

“That’s enough to focus on. Then Wolves, then West Ham. It’s not necessary to listen to what people are saying we can achieve.”

Guardiola, speaking at his pre-match press conference, made a passionate defence of his side after their latest stumble on the European stage.

City have dominated English football over the past decade but have yet to be crowned European champions despite huge investment from their Abu Dhabi owners.

“If people say it’s a failure then I disagree,” said Guardiola, whose team lost last year’s Champions League final to Chelsea.

“The people in the squad know how difficult it is. But they accept it. I’m not going to make a debate.

“In the club the feeling we have is we try to do it again. We are sad, of course, because we were close.”

Guardiola, who won two Champions League titles when in charge of Barcelona, said Real deserved their victory but vowed City would not give up on their Champions League dream.

“The players wanted to play the final but for this club to compete against Real the way we did is a joy,” he said.

“I say congratulations to Liverpool and Madrid, they deserve it. Next season we try again and if it doesn’t work we try again.”

AFP

Liverpool Face Fixture Crunch In Premier League Title Bid

In this file photo, Liverpool’s Senegalese striker Sadio Mane celebrates with teammates after scoring his team third goal during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on April 19, 2022.
Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Title-chasing Liverpool will play two Premier League games in the final week of the campaign after their match against Southampton was rescheduled due to their participation in the FA Cup final.

Jurgen Klopp’s men will travel to the south coast for their penultimate fixture of the league season on Tuesday, May 17, three days after their date at Wembley with Chelsea.

READ ALSO: Mourinho Rebuilding Reputation As Revitalised Roma Eye European Glory

Quadruple-chasing Liverpool, who already have the League Cup in their trophy cabinet, are going head to head with reigning champions Manchester City for the title.

They are one point behind Pep Guardiola’s City with five games remaining for both teams.

City’s trip to Wolves, which was postponed due to their FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool, has been scheduled for May 11.

Guardiola’s men face a tough trip to West Ham on May 15 and conclude their season a week later at home to Aston Villa, while Liverpool host Wolves on the final day.

Liverpool and City could also meet in the final of the Champions League if both win their semi-final ties.

AFP