Guardiola Stamps Out Questions Over Man City ‘Party’

Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola takes his seat for the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Manchester City at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on January 12, 2020.
Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Pep Guardiola defended his Manchester City stars on Friday following reports they held a team-bonding party this week.

Reports claimed City’s players invited 22 Italian female Instagram models to attend the delayed Christmas party after last weekend’s Premier League win at Aston Villa.

It was suggested this was inappropriate behaviour given the Premier League champions were not allowed to attend City’s own Christmas event as Guardiola was concerned there would be a repeat of the 2018 gathering that saw several players out into the early hours.

But the City manager said he is a big believer in the value of his squad relaxing together.

Guardiola made it clear he was aware of the recent party and had no problem with players letting off steam.

“I knew (about) it. When they have time, they make a lot of dinners together, with the staff. They did it many times anyway,” Guardiola told reporters on Friday.

“And I like it when they are together outside here, they do it sometimes at home, sometimes in a restaurant as was the case. It was nice.”

Nights out on the town are a fairly distant memory for Guardiola, who turns 49 when his team faces Crystal Palace at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

The Spaniard has been a manager since taking charge of Barcelona’s B team in 2007 and has the utmost respect for Palace boss Roy Hodgson — still going strong aged 72.

“Of course I admire him, it’s incredible that he’s got the passion to be manager, it’s incredible and they’re doing really well,” Guardiola said.

“The position when he took over, zero points and everyone thought they were relegated, he did an incredible job, it’s a pleasure and honour for me to face him. We’ve got a good relationship with him.”

– Future plans –

Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola (R) gives instructions to Manchester City’s French defender Benjamin Mendy during the English League Cup semi-final first leg football match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford in Manchester, north-west England on January 7, 2020.
Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Guardiola, who has insisted he will be back to see out the final season of his current contract with City next term, said he cannot see himself still managing at Hodgson’s age.

“If I still like it and I have offers and I’m enjoying it on and off the pitch, I’d not say I’m going to retire next week or next year,” he said.

“I don’t think I’ll be at that age a manager but I don’t know. I think when you are managing at 72 it must be boring at home!

“You are with young people, athletes, competition, that’s why it’s nice, every game is different.

“That’s maybe the reason why Roy and older managers are still in charge and they do it.

“I think the important thing when you retire is to know you want to do other things.

“If you’ve no interests and you are at home then you are going to come back but if you want to travel or do other things. I’m interested in doing other things and I’m going to do it.”

Guardiola wished new Barcelona manager Quique Setien good luck after his appointment this week to replace Ernesto Valverde.

“I wish him all the best, I think we played once or twice,” Guardiola said.

“His teams always play really well, I followed him at Real Betis in Sevilla.

“I wish him all the best and his staff, to do the best for Barcelona.”

AFP

Man City Thrash Villa 6-1, Move To Second On Premier League Table

Manchester City’s Argentinian striker Sergio Aguero (R) takes on Aston Villa’s English defender Kortney Hause (L) during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Manchester City at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on January 12, 2020. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Pep Guardiola said Sergio Aguero’s legendary status had grown again after becoming the Premier League’s top scoring foreign player with a hat-trick as Manchester City thrashed Aston Villa 6-1 on Sunday.

It may be too late to salvage City’s defence of the Premier League title as they remain 14 points behind runaway leaders Liverpool, who also have a game in hand, but led by Aguero the champions moved ahead of Leicester into second to show they will not give up the chase.

Aguero eclipsed Thierry Henry’s record as the top scoring non-English player in the Premier League by taking his tally to 177 goals and also surpassed Alan Shearer’s league record for hat-tricks with his 12th since joining City from Atletico Madrid in 2011.

“He was a legend and the legend rises tonight,” said Guardiola. “He is one of the most incredible players I’ve seen in this league.

“To score this amount of goals and hat-tricks means you have done for many, many years a lot of good things.

“You have to be consistent for many years so it’s an incredible compliment to him.”

Guardiola could afford the luxury of recalling Aguero among six changes to the side that also outclassed Manchester United in midweek to put one foot in the League Cup final.

Villa could be their opponents at Wembley on March 1 as they held Leicester 1-1 in the first leg of their semi-final on Wednesday, but on this evidence they would be powerless to stop City lifting the trophy for a third straight season.

The injury-hit hosts were without a recognised striker and first-choice goalkeeper after Wesley and Tom Heaton were ruled out for the rest of the season.

Former Spanish international ‘keeper Pepe Reina was in the stands ahead of his loan move from AC Milan being completed and will be needed if Villa are to beat the drop after conceding 13 goals in their last four home games.

“It was a chastening experience,” said Smith. “We are embarrassed by some of the goals we conceded today.

“We’ve come up against a top class team with a top class manager and got found out.”

Mahrez on the mark 

Orjan Nyland was beaten at his near post as Riyad Mahrez was allowed to cut onto his favoured left foot to open the floodgates on 18 minutes.

The Algerian’s old Leicester teammate Danny Drinkwater was making his Villa debut after troubled spells at Chelsea and Burnley since leaving the Foxes.

His lack of match practice was exposed for City’s second as Drinkwater was caught in possession inside his own box by Gabriel Jesus and the ball broke kindly for Mahrez to drill home his ninth goal of the season.

Aguero then thumped home a third, although Nyland could have got a stronger hand to the Argentine’s effort.

All that was missing from a complete City performance was a moment of inspiration from Kevin De Bruyne and the Belgian duly delivered with a wonderful curling cross to set the fourth on a plate for Jesus in first-half stoppage time.

City did not let up after the break and could have made it many more than six as David Silva picked out Aguero to calmly slot home his record-breaking goal.

The Argentine’s hat-trick arrived eight minutes from time as he demonstrated his array of finishes by this time blasting his past the helpless Nyland.

“I’m so happy for the record. It is thanks to my teammates, they help me in these nine years,” said Aguero.

“When I scored the second, I thought one more (and) I break the hat-trick record. I want to keep scoring more goals.”

Anwar El Ghazi scored from the penalty spot in stoppage time, but it was little consolation for Villa, who dropped into the relegation zone after Watford’s win at Bournemouth earlier in the day.

AFP

City Fan Banned Five Years For Racially Abusing Sterling

Manchester City’s English midfielder Raheem Sterling goes for a header during a football match on November 6, 2019, at the San Siro stadium in Milan. Miguel MEDINA / AFP

 

 

A Manchester City supporter has received a five-year ban from football matches after racially abusing Raheem Sterling.

Ian Baldry, 58, made a racist comment towards the City and England winger as he celebrated scoring a goal in a Premier League game against Bournemouth at the Etihad Stadium in December 2018.

The defendant from Yorkshire pleaded guilty in September to causing racially aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress.

On Friday, he was sentenced at Manchester Magistrates’ Court and also ordered to complete 200 hours of community service and pay £170 (222 dollars) court costs.

In a witness statement against the defendant another supporter present at the match told police “it was disgusting in this day and age that this was going on.

“I was shocked and offended and felt sick to my stomach when I heard it.”

In another case of racism at a football match England’s Euro 2020 qualifier in Bulgaria was twice stopped due to racism in the stands earlier this season and Gareth Southgate’s team encountered the same issue in another match in Montenegro.

Last season a banana was thrown at Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang by a Tottenham fan, while Sterling was subjected to alleged racist abuse in a match at Chelsea.

Numerous football fixtures in Italy have also been marred by racism.

AFP

Gabriel Jesus Stars As Man City Beat Everton

Manchester City’s Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus (C) celebrates after scoring their second goal of the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Everton at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north-west England, on January 1, 2020.
Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Gabriel Jesus extended his remarkable record against Everton as the Manchester City striker’s second-half brace sealed a 2-1 win on Wednesday.

Jesus was handed the start as City manager Pep Guardiola rested Sergio Aguero, but the decision to select the Brazilian ahead of the club’s record goalscorer could easily have been inspired by his mastery of Everton.

Repaying his manager’s faith, Jesus feasted on the Everton defence once again.

He has now scored seven times in his last five appearances against the Merseyside club, who must be sick of the sight of him.

City remain third in the Premier League after a second successive win left them 11 points behind runaway leaders Liverpool, who have two games in hand on the champions.

READ ALSO: Leicester Keep Title Hope Alive After Newcastle Win

Richarlison got one back for Everton, but it was a first defeat for new boss Carlo Ancelotti, who had masterminded wins over Burnley and Newcastle in his first two matches since replacing the sacked Marco Silva.

The former Chelsea chief got the better of Guardiola in their previous meeting — two Real Madrid wins against Bayern Munich in the 2014 Champions League semi-finals.

There would be no repeat against a City side with a point to prove after a spluttering end to 2019.

City won 10 trophies, including four Premier League titles, in the decade just closed, but Liverpool’s remarkable form over the last 18 months is a serious threat to that dominance.

Guardiola has already conceded City have no chance of catching Liverpool this season, instead setting his sights on a more sustained challenge next term by admitting they need to “play better and pray”.

There was no need for divine intervention against Everton, although with Aguero, Raheem Sterling and Kyle Walker among those left out by Guardiola, the visitors nearly snatched a shock lead when Seamus Coleman’s volley forced a one-handed save from Claudio Bravo.

Nervous Finale

City thought they had taken the lead when Phil Foden met Joao Cancelo’s cross with a close-range finish in the 13th minute.

But the hosts’ celebrations were curtailed by VAR as the goal was ruled out for a tight offside against Riyad Mahrez, who had supplied the pass to Cancelo.

It was the latest VAR decision to go against City this season and Mahrez responded with a stinging drive that forced a good save from Pickford.

City should have been in front just before half-time when Jesus picked out Mahrez in space in the area, yet the Algerian dragged his shot wide.

Guardiola’s team have failed to score a first-half goal in six of their last eight home league games.

But they only needed six minutes to take the lead after the break.

Ilkay Gundogan’s pass split the Everton defence and Jesus took a touch inside before a curling a fine finish into the far corner.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin had five goals in his last five appearances and the Everton forward nearly grabbed an instant equaliser with a close-range header that flashed wide.

It was a crucial moment as Jesus struck again in the 58th minute.

Kevin De Bruyne teed up Foden and he found Mahrez as City carved opened the Everton defence before Jesus applied the finishing touch with a powerful low drive for his 13th goal of the season.

City went to sleep in the 71st minute, allowing Richarlison to slot home after Claudio Bravo made a hash of passing to Fernandinho.

Jesus wasted a chance to kill off Everton when his close-range shot smacked the post in a nervous finale, but City held on.

AFP

Ancelotti Expects City Clash To Be Good Test For Everton’s Progress

 

 

Manchester City will provide a test to see how genuine Everton’s revival is, Carlo Ancelotti said on Tuesday, despite the Premier League champions’ shaky campaign.

Everton coach Ancelotti, 60, has guided Everton to two wins in his first two matches in charge since replacing Marco Silva, who was sacked in early December after they slipped into the bottom three.

However, Ancelotti — one of  only three managers to have won the Champions League three times — says City will provide a more realistic barometer on where Everton stand despite the welcome wins over Burnley and Newcastle.

“Against City this is a fantastic test to see where we are at,” Ancelotti said at his pre-match press conference.

“They are a really strong team but we can have confidence to do our best.

“I think at this moment it is good to have this kind of test.”

Ancelotti, who in his previous stint in England won the domestic double with Chelsea in the 2009/10 campaign, said City remained a formidable opponent even if their defence of the league title has gone awry and trail leaders Liverpool by 14 points.

“Maybe City aren’t at the same level as last year but they still remain a fantastic team with fantastic players and a fantastic manager,” he said.

“It will be really tough to compete with them, but we need to have the confidence to compete and to be focused on our football.

“We don’t have to look too much to the opponent because they are really strong so it’s better to be focused on our idea of football.”

Ancelotti, a two-time European Cup winner as a player with the outstanding AC Milan side of the late 1980’s and early 90’s, heaped praise on City manager Pep Guardiola, who he replaced as Bayern Munich manager when the Spaniard left to take over City in 2016.

“Pep is a fantastic manager,” said Ancelotti.

“We’ve met some times, not a lot in games, but I have a really good relationship (with him) and a lot of respect for him.

“He is a genius; he’s always tried to do something special on the pitch.”

AFP

Man City Overcome Fatigue To Blunt Sheffield United

Man City Overcome Fatigue To Blunt Sheffield United

 

Manchester City shrugged off a tight turnaround from defeat at Wolves to beat Sheffield United 2-0 on Sunday thanks to second-half strikes from Sergio Aguero and Kevin de Bruyne.

City boss Pep Guardiola had lambasted the scheduling that saw the English champions kick-off less than 48 hours after playing the majority of Friday’s 3-2 defeat at Molineux with 10 men.

Fatigue seemed to get the better of City in the first half as the Blades enjoyed the better of the chances and had a goal ruled out after a VAR review for offside

However, the greater individual quality at Guardiola’s disposal decided the game as De Bruyne teed up Aguero to smash into the roof of the net seven minutes after the break.

De Bruyne then rounded off another excellent display by scoring the second himself with a fine finish eight minutes from time to inflict United’s first defeat away from home for nearly a year.

Despite claiming the Premier League and broadcasters “don’t care” about player welfare given the schedule his side were handed over the festive period, Guardiola made just three changes to the side that started against Wolves.

City’s sluggish start should have punished by the visitors with Lys Mousset particularly wasteful.

The Frenchman spurned a glorious early chance to put United ahead when he get on the end of a floated Callum Robinson cross but headed wide.

The hosts were restricted to long-range efforts early on but De Bruyne, Rodrigo and Raheem Sterling were all unable to work goalkeeper Dean Henderson.

United thought they had claimed the lead on 29 minutes when Mousset raced onto a long ball from John Fleck and fired home.

City were furious because they thought Aguero had been fouled in the build-up but, while their complaints were brushed aside by referee Chris Kavanagh, VAR came to their aid by ruling Mousset was marginally offside.

It was a let-off for City but they were caught out by a long ball again as Oliver Norwood picked out Mousset from just outside his own box.

This time Mousset was onside but could only shoot into the side-netting.

The lack of a clinical finisher has been the only thing holding back a stunning return to the Premier League by Chris Wilder’s men and they got a lesson in taking their chances from City’s all-time record scorer soon after the break.

De Bruyne picked out the Argentinian with a fine through ball and Aguero blasted high past Henderson from a narrow angle.

Riyad Mahrez then teed up De Bruyne to wrap up the points in the closing minutes as the Belgian finished powerfully after taking a nice touch inside the area.

Billy Sharp went close to grabbing a late consolation but his header rebounded off the post.

Manchester City End Leicester’s Unbeaten Run

Manchester City’s Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus celebrates with teammates after scoring their third goal during the English Premier League football match against Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on December 21, 2019. Lindsey Parnaby / AFP

 

 

Manchester City hit back to beat Leicester 3-1 as the champions kept alive their faint hopes of catching Premier League leaders Liverpool, while Carlo Ancelotti and Mikel Arteta got a glimpse of the problems that lie ahead as Everton and Arsenal shared a dreadful 0-0 draw on Saturday.

City have been left trailing in Liverpool’s wake this term and a defeat against second-placed Leicester would have been a fatal blow to their bid for a third successive title.

But goals from Riyad Mahrez, Ilkay Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus gave Pep Guardiola’s side a win that moved them within 11 points of Liverpool, who don’t play this weekend due to their involvement in the Club World Cup.

Jamie Vardy had punished City’s defensive weakness against the counter-attack with a breakaway opener in the 22nd minute.

But former Leicester winger Mahrez equalised with a deflected 30th-minute effort and Gundogan stroked home a 43rd-minute penalty after Raheem Sterling was tripped by Ricardo Pereira.

Jesus extended third-placed City’s lead from Kevin De Bruyne’s cross in the 69th minute to leave Leicester 10 points behind Liverpool.

Liverpool, chasing a first English title since 1990, have a game in hand to bolster their lead and also face Leicester on Boxing Day.

Elsewhere, former Napoli boss Ancelotti was confirmed as Everton’s new manager on Saturday morning, 24 hours after Arteta left his role as Manchester City assistant coach to take charge of Arsenal.

Both bosses were in the Goodison Park stands with Duncan Ferguson and Freddie Ljungberg in temporary charge of Everton and Arsenal for the final time.

And the lack of confidence of two sides struggling at the wrong end of the table was obvious in a match completely devoid of quality.

A point leaves Arsenal 11th and the Gunners have now won just once in their last 13 games in all competitions.

Everton move up to 15th but are only four points clear of the relegation zone.

Ferguson’s role in Everton’s impressive victory over Chelsea and draw at Manchester United in their last two league games was enough to ensure the Scot a role in Ancelotti’s backroom staff.

“What a fantastic performance we put in. I couldn’t have asked for any more from them, they’ve been incredible for me,” Ferguson said.

On Ancelotti, Ferguson added: “A guy of that pedigree coming here, I can’t wait to start working under him.”

Ljungberg, meanwhile, looks set to remain on the Gunners’ coaching staff and the Swede said: “I’ve been told by the club that they want me to stay.

“I was very happy. We put a very young side on the pitch and gave them a chance.”

– Saints alive –

Southampton climbed out of the relegation zone at the expense of Aston Villa, who have now lost their last four league games.

Danny Ings struck for Southampton in the 21st minute at Villa Park, the in-form striker pouncing after Shane Long’s shot was saved to net his 12th goal of the season and his sixth in his last seven games.

Jack Stephens doubled Southampton’s lead 10 minutes later with a header from James Ward-Prowse’s corner.

Ings wrapped up Southampton’s first win in three games when he punished Marvelous Nakamba’s poor defending in the 51st minute.

Jack Grealish’s fine 75th-minute strike was no consolation for Villa, who sit three points behind Southampton.

Despite having two goals ruled out after VAR reviews, Sheffield United climbed to within one point of the top four as Oli McBurnie’s 23rd-minute strike clinched a 1-0 win at Brighton.

Wolves moved into sixth place as they fought back for a 2-1 win at second-bottom Norwich.

Miguel Almiron bagged his first Premier League goal at the 27th attempt to seal Newcastle’s 1-0 win against Crystal Palace, before the Paraguayan earned a buzz-killing booking for taking off his shirt to celebrate the 83rd-minute strike at St James’ Park.

Jay Rodriguez’s 89th-minute goal handed Burnley a 1-0 win with their first shot on target at Bournemouth.

AFP

‘Guardiola Best Coach In The World’

Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola takes his seat for the English League Cup quarter-final football match between Oxford United and Manchester City at the Kassam Stadium in Oxford, west of London, on December 18, 2019. OLLY GREENWOOD / AFP

 

Zinedine Zidane insisted Saturday his key aim this season was to win La Liga with Real Madrid, but admitted they faced a thrilling challenge trying to outwit Pep Guardiola and Manchester City, who they meet in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Zidane, who has won three Champions Leagues as a coach compared to Guardiola’s two, described the Catalan as “the best coach in the world”.

The two sides meet in Madrid on February 26 before heading to Manchester for the second leg on March 17.

“It’ll be fabulous to play against him (Guardiola),” said Zidane, speaking ahead of Real’s game against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, their final Liga match ahead of the winter break.

“I respected him as a player and now as a coach. He’s the top coach in the world and has proved it throughout his career.”

READ ALSO: Zidane Dismisses Speculation Over Bale’s Future At Real Madrid

Guardiola coached Barcelona to the 2009 and 2011 Champions League titles. He went on to win plaudits at Bayern Munich and City with domestic championships but has failed to land a third Champions League title.

“So it’ll be a pleasure for me and a pleasure for all of us to come up against him and his team,” said Zidane.

Real are currently level with Barcelona on 36 points on top of la Liga after their 0-0 draw on Wednesday. Athletic Bilbao are seventh, nine points behind.

“Bilbao is another rival and a different proposition. We will play them with all our energy, it’s the last game of the year.

“The league is our priority and we will fight for it all the way,” he said.

 

AFP

Man City, Man Utd And Leicester Qualify For League Cup Semis

A photo combination of Manchester City, Manchester United and Leicester City players celebrating their qualification into league cup semi-final

 

Holders Manchester City booked their place in the semi-finals of the League Cup as Raheem Sterling’s second-half double warded off a shock by League One Oxford in a 3-1 win at the Kassam Stadium.

Manchester United ended fourth-tier Colchester United’s fairytale run with a 3-0 win at Old Trafford, while Leicester survived a second-half fightback from Everton to secure their place in the last four 4-2 on penalties after a 2-2 draw.

Aston Villa completes the semi-finalists after they thrashed Liverpool’s youngest ever side 5-0 on Tuesday with the European champions’ first team away at the Club World Cup.

READ ALSO: Firmino Strikes Late To Take Liverpool Into Club World Cup Final

City have won this competition for the past two seasons and Pep Guardiola showed his intent to keep hold of the trophy by naming a strong side.

Joao Cancelo’s first goal for the English champions opened the scoring midway through the first half, but City were momentarily stunned when Matty Taylor levelled a minute into the second half.

Sterling quickly restored the visitors’ lead as he tapped home a wonderful cross from Angelino.

But City men were put under intense pressure for a spell and needed Claudio Bravo to make a fine save from Tariqe Fosu’s shot.

Guardiola introduced Gabriel Jesus from the bench in a bid to kill the tie off and it was from the Brazilian’s cross that Sterling tapped home his second 20 minutes from time.

United patience pays off

Manchester United had to be patient before seeing off Colchester, who had beaten Tottenham and Crystal Palace to make the last eight.

Marcus Rashford was guilty of missing a host of chances in a goalless first half.

However, the England international made amends six minutes into the second period with a calm finish to register a career-best 14th goal of the season.

Rashford was also the creator of United’s other two goals as Ryan Jackson turned a cross into his own net before Anthony Martial stretched to convert at the back post.

Leicester travel to City in the Premier League on Saturday, four points ahead of the champions in second place.

And the Foxes will also have a semi-final to look forward to in the new year as they held their nerve from the spot after blowing a comfortable lead.

James Maddison and Jonny Evans struck in five first-half minutes to give the visitors a 2-0 half-time lead.

Ben Davies gave Everton hope 20 minutes from time and a sensational long-range strike from Leighton Baines sent the game to penalties.

Maddison then saw his spot-kick saved to start the shootout, but Kasper Schmeichel was Leicester’s hero with saves from Cenk Tosun and Baines before Jamie Vardy scored the decisive penalty.

AFP

Jesus Hat-Trick Powers Man City Into UCL Round Of 16

 

A hat trick by Gabriel Jesus has powered Manchester City into the last sixteen of the UEFA Champions League. 

Man City came from behind to win 4-1, shattering Dinamo Zagreb’s Champions League ambition.

READ ALSO: Champions League Debutants Atalanta Reach Last 16

A win for Dinamo would have given the Croatian side a place in the knockout stages for the first time in their history.

Man City’s Walker Insists Title Race Not Over

Newcastle United’s French midfielder Allan Saint-Maximin (L) vies with Manchester City’s English defender Kyle Walker during the English Premier League football match between Newcastle United and Manchester City at St James’ Park in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, northeast England on November 30, 2019.
Lindsey Parnaby / AFP

 

Kyle Walker insists the Premier League title race isn’t over for Manchester City despite their latest damaging defeat.

Pep Guardiola’s side trail leaders Liverpool by 14 points after losing 2-1 against Manchester United in Saturday’s derby at the Etihad Stadium.

In a match marred by an alleged racist gesture from a City supporter towards United players, the champions were punished for defensive miscues and a lack of cutting edge in the final third.

United continually cut City open in a series of incisive counter-attacks, with a penalty from Marcus Rashford opening the scoring before Anthony Martial doubled their lead.

City did pull one back through Nicolas Otamendi late on but they could not force an equaliser, condemning them to a fourth defeat of the season.

READ ALSO: Police Arrest Man Over ‘Racist Gesture’ At Manchester Derby

City defender Walker is adamant his side aren’t out of contention yet, but he acknowledged it will take a big effort to catch Liverpool.

“We knew they had quick players in quick areas – Martial, Rashford and (Daniel) James. They are very good on the counter-attack. We knew that but we didn’t handle it as well as we could have,” Walker said.

“It’s a massive gap, we know that, but we need to keep fighting until the end. It’s not over until it’s over. We will keep trying, as a team.”

After just 16 games, City, who have also drawn twice, have now dropped as many points as they did in the whole of last season.

They would have to win all their remaining 22 games to match last season’s final points tally of 98.

City midfielder Rodri, in his first season at the club, conceded United had come up with a good game-plan but blamed the loss on poor defending and bad finishing.

“We created lots of chances but we didn’t manage to put the ball in. We played the way we wanted but it’s always difficult when you concede two goals,” he said.

“You need to find spaces but at the same time, you concede more spaces to them for their counter-attacks.

“It’s very difficult to attack when they put 11 players behind the ball but we shouldn’t have conceded those two goals.”

Asked about City’s fading title hopes, Rodri added: “It’s a big gap but my mentality has always been never give up, never. We will play and we will fight until the end.”

AFP

Premier League Recap: United Win Manchester Bragging Rights

Manchester United’s English striker Marcus Rashford (C) celebrates scoring the opening goal from the penalty spot during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on December 7, 2019. Lindsey Parnaby / AFP

 

Manchester United delivered a potentially fatal blow to Manchester City’s Premier League title hopes on Saturday after leaders Liverpool secured the Christmas number one spot with victory against Bournemouth.

City came into the match at the Etihad knowing they had to win after Jurgen Klopp’s men coasted to a 3-0 victory on England’s south coast but succumbed to United’s lightning-quick attacks, losing 2-1.

Earlier, Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham blitzed Burnley 5-0, with Son Heung-min scoring a sensational individual goal, to close to within six points of fourth-placed Chelsea, who went down 3-1 to Everton at Goodison Park.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United side started the evening match at the Etihad buoyed by their victory against Spurs in midweek and were immediately on the front foot, sprinting forward at every opportunity.

Marcus Rashford opened the scoring from the penalty spot in the 23rd minute and Anthony Martial doubled the visitors’ lead six minutes later.

City came back strongly, dominating possession, but could not force a breakthrough and the visitors continued to look dangerous on the break.

Eventually City’s pressure paid off, with Nicolas Otamendi’s late header sparking a frantic wave of City attacks but they failed to find an equaliser and are now 14 points behind Liverpool. United are up to fifth.

Klopp’s team took advantage of playing before their closest rivals to widen the gulf at the top of the table to 11 points, with Leicester not in action until Sunday, meaning Liverpool cannot be caught by December 25.

Klopp, mindful of a fixture pile-up for his side, made seven changes from the 5-2 midweek victory against Everton, with Sadio Mane dropping to the bench and Alisson Becker back in goal following suspension.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain opened the scoring for the European champions in the 35th minute and Liverpool made it 2-0 just before the break when Naby Keita played a fine one-two with Mohamed Salah and finished from close range, with Keita turning provider for Salah in the 54th minute.

It was Liverpool’s first clean sheet in any match since late September.

“Yes, it was (perfect), 100 percent,” said the manager.

“We scored wonderful goals, we had more chances and did really well and we were really uncomfortable to play against.

“From 3-0 on we controlled the game absolutely. The players didn’t like it too much, they wanted to be really loud in these moments but I didn’t want to see any unnecessary risk. It was maybe not the most exciting but necessary.”

Son stunner for Spurs

Spurs flew out of the blocks at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Harry Kane scored twice and there were also goals for Lucas Moura and Moussa Sissoko but it was Son Heung-min’s goal that caught the eye.

With Spurs already 2-0 up, Son stole the show just after the half hour, running from deep inside his own half past a host of Burnley defenders and capped the astonishing burst with an ice-cool finish.

Spurs are still six points behind fourth-placed Chelsea but will fancy their chances of closing the gap on their London rivals, who are stumbling after a six-game winning run earlier in the season.

“A perfect day,” Mourinho told the BBC. “No injuries, a clean sheet, goals, perfect football, kids coming on for first Premier League football.”

Everton made it a miserable day for Frank Lampard’s Chelsea thanks to an early strike from Brazil forward Richarlison and two goals from England under-21 international Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

Former Everton player Duncan Ferguson, in charge for the first time of the Toffees after the sacking of Marco Silva, refused to talk up his chances of getting the coaching job full-time, telling BT Sport: “I’m sure they’re out there looking for other candidates, and rightly so. We want the best guys in the world managing our football club.”

Watford, who appointed former Leicester boss Nigel Pearson as their new manager on Friday, were unable to force their second win of the season, drawing 0-0 with Crystal Palace.

 

AFP