January 2017 - Reports
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Crystal Palace 0 Manchester City 3      Eagles Grounded
Saturday 28th January 2017 : Phil Gartside for GYKO at Selhust Park

Manchester City gave a glimpse of their glistening future here at Selhurst Park, beating Crystal Palace 3-0 to reach the fifth round of the FA Cup.

This competition is not Pep Guardiola’s priority, Kevin De Bruyne was on the bench and Sergio Aguero was left at home, with City preparing for a Premier League trip to West Ham United on Wednesday. But he fielded a thrilling young front three of Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling, who was the oldest of them at just 22.

Sane, Sterling and Gabriel tore Palace apart, combining for City’s brilliant first two goals, before Yaya Toure capped it off with a brilliant free-kick at the end. They all played with imagination, skill, but above all with pace, providing exactly the type of threat Guardiola wants from his forwards. Guardiola hailed them post-match as the “future” of the club, and it was easy to imagine watching them that this could be City’s front line for the next 10 years.

As well as Sane and Sterling played, Gabriel was the most impressive of the three. He set up Sterling’s goal, played a part in Sane’s and should have grabbed one for himself at the end. All of this in his first start in English football, after just one substitute appearance on Saturday. He played through a heavy second-half hailstorm and some pretty rudimentary tackling but looked remarkably well-adjusted to English football. He looked strong, canny, enthusiastic and brave. On this showing City have bought well.

This was not as complete a performance as City’s 5-0 win at West Ham in the third round. But it was not far away. The first 15 minutes or so of this match was the most one-sided opening spell to any game this season. It is no exaggeration to say that Crystal Palace could not get a touch on the ball, and City swarmed all over them from the start. David Silva and Sane both missed chances to give City the lead.

As is often the case, City could not maintain their intensity and they let Palace in a few times on the break. Vincent Kompany, making his first start since November, completing his first 90 minutes since September, had to cut out a few counter-attacks But just as their control of the first half started to slip, they took the lead with a brilliant opening goal. Jesus dropped back into midfield, picked up the ball, turned and played a perfect pass through to Sterling. Running through on goal, Sterling shaped to shoot across Wayne Hennessey but tucked the ball into the near post instead. Jesus nearly scored himself just before the half-time whistle, but Hennessey saved.

City took their foot off the gas early in the second half and nearly allowed Palace back into it. But Palace never had enough quality to punish them, half-time substitute Loic Remy volleying their best chance over the bar. When City turned it back up they killed the game with a brilliant second goal.

Silva ran forward with the ball down the middle of the pitch. Gabriel made a clever decoy run across the box, dragging the defence with him. Sane ran around the back, behind Martin Kelly, and Silva’s pass found him. Sane finished into the bottom corner. A clever team just as precise and incisive as the first.

Gabriel still wanted a goal for himself and should have had one when he beat Kelly and skipped past Hennessey in the last minute, only to slip on the wet turf.

There was just enough time for a third, and it came not from the debutant but from a City veteran. Toure had a free-kick 30 yards from goal which he curled into the near top corner of the goal. City’s past did not want the whole afternoon to be about City’s future.

Crystal Palace (4-2-3-1): Hennessey; Ward, Kelly, Tomkins, Schlupp (Fryers, 75); Flamini, Ledley; Lee, Mutch (McArthur, 65), Townsend; Benteke (Remy, 45).

Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Caballero; Sagna, Kompany, Kolarov, Clichy; Toure, Delph; Sterling (Navas, 66), Silva (Fernando, 78), Sane (Nolito, 84); Gabriel.

attendance:- 13,979                  Referee Michael Jones

Manchester City 2 Tottenham Hotspurs 2  Jesus at the Etihad
Saturday 21st January 2017 : GYKO at the Etihad

Just when Manchester City thought they were out of it, Tottenham Hotspur pull them back in. Mauricio Pochettino’s side came back from 2-0 down to claim a draw at the Etihad that will re-assert their credentials, but those basic facts barely tell the story of a riveting psychodrama of a game that, really, was decided by hands as much as heads.

For once, they were no Claudio Bravo’s hands, even if he could have done better on the Heung-Min Son’s decisive final goal of the game. It was instead Hugo Lloris making two errors in this game for City to go ahead through Leroy Sane and Kevin De Bruyne, but also referee Andre Marriner, as he somehow failed to award a penalty for Kyle Walker’s blatant push on Raheem Sterling when through on goal at 2-1.

It was instead left to Spurs to show they can push on, as they finally avoided a demoralising defeat at the home of one of their rivals for the first time since the 1-1 draw. That could be a landmark moment for Pochettino, but Guardiola can justifiably feel aggrieved that it wasn’t a transformative moment for his own team.

The irony, and frustration was that he had done so much to right the problems of the last few weeks and that City had clearly done enough to win the game.

Those are the thin margins, as so much work was undone in one chaotic minute.

Undoubtedly stung by all the debate and criticism of the last week since the Everton game, City started by clearly looking to make a point, and looking much more like a Guardiola team. There was an intricacy and intensity to their attack again.

Part of that was probably because this wasn’t the same Tottenham either, at least in defence. With Jan Vertonghen injured, City so conspicuously looked to play right through the centre, rather their more common route of the wings. It almost paid off several times in that opening 20 minutes alone. Raheem Sterling was pulled a little too wide after one brilliant interchange with Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero; David Silva and Pablo Zabaleta both shot narrowly wide from just outside the area, and Toby Alderweireld had to put in a brilliant last-man challenge to deny the Argentine defender when just in front of goal.

It was vintage Guardiola counter-intuitiveness in some senses. After weeks of criticism about his defence, that reached a peak in the last few days, the Catalan looked to get his side back on form by going completely on the front foot. This was a team crammed with attackers, with Yaya Toure as the sole defensive midfielder against one of the best pressing teams in Europe - except it was City here doing all the pressing. They were forcing Tottenham into a lot of errors and slips around Hugo Lloris’ goal, and into an unusually meek initial display.

That did raise a question, though. Was it all City forcing Spurs back - or had Mauricio Pochettino realised it was as well to save energy and wait to break against a backline that suspect; that fragile?

Guardiola’s attack weren’t willing to let them find out, as they just relentlessly pressed Tottenham like Tottenham so often do to so many others. They should really have been out of sight by the break, as the last 10 minutes of the half saw Leroy Sane put a header wide and Aguero put one into Lloris’s hands.

Then, the game was completely inverted. Lloris was guilty of a mishap that even Bravo would struggle to produce. It won’t go unnoticed, of course, that it also came from the most traditional of English routes. Nicolas Otamendi slid in with a industrial tackle, De Bruyne lofted the ball forward and Lloris somehow missed it with his head to ensure Sane couldn’t possibly miss with his foot.

So clearly rattled, Spurs and Lloris crumpled again just four minutes as later, as the goalkeeper spilled the ball at the feet of De Bruyne for his first league goal since September.

City still couldn’t get too confident or comfortable in themselves, though, as they were instantly reminded of why they have had such issues; why they haven’t produced this level of performance so consistently: those holes at the back that so often suck out so much of their assurance.

Spurs found another on 58 minutes. Venturing forward, Harry Kane - who only had 11 touches in the first half - pushed the ball out wide, to give Gael Clichy a dilemma. He could have come out, but instead hesitated as Kyle Walker surged onto the ball. The wing-back put in a perfect cross, and Dele Alli powered in another header.

The season for both of these teams, then, may well have been turned on its head.

City were still purring even after that goal, to the point that a series of attacks eventually saw Sterling power through on goal for what should have been the clincher. Just as he was about to shoot, though, Walker clearly pushed him to unbalance.

Although Sterling was going to ground, he got a tame shot off, and that is the only possible reason that Andre Marriner could not have given a penalty.

An irate Guardiola could not believe it, and couldn’t contain his anger, as Spurs immediately went up the other end and equaliser.

It was perhaps the goal of the match, as Christian Eriksen burst through for Kane to then exquisitely push the ball on oncoming substitute Heung-min Son to roll it beyond Bravo’s reach.

A moment of crisp clarity amid so much chaos.There was still more as City’s substitute Gabriel Jesus had a goal ruled out for offside on his debut.

No-one could quite grasp it. The title may well be handed to Chelsea.

Manchester City:  Bravo Kolarov Otamendi Clichy (Stones 84’) Zabaleta Silva (Delph 90’) De Bruyne Sterling (G Jesus 82’) Touré Sané Agüero         Unused subs: Fernando, Nolito, Kompany, Caballero

Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris Alderweireld (Winks 65’) Dier Wimmer (Son 46’} Rose Dembélé (Sissoko 78’) Wanyama Walker Kane Eriksen Alli     Unused subs: Carter-Vickers, Vorm, Trippier, Davies

Referee: A. Marriner         Attendance  54402 .

Everton 4 Manchester City 0     Lucky to get Nil
Sunday 15th January 2016 : Eddie Griffin for GYKO at Goodison Park

Pep Guardiola conceded Manchester City were out of the Premier League title race after enduring the heaviest league defeat of his managerial career against Everton.

City were beaten 4-0 at Goodison Park where two teenagers, the impressive Tom Davies and the new signing Ademola Lookman, scored their first Everton goals and two Belgium internationals, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas, were also on the scoresheet. The defeat left City 10 points adrift of the league leaders Chelsea and outside the Champions League qualification places.

Asked whether City were out of the title race, Guardiola replied: “Yes. The first one is a 10-point gap and that is a lot. The second one is three points, so we have to see. I spoke with the players for the last three weeks to forget about the table, focus on the next game and do our best. After that, at the end of the season, we’ll analyse how our level was, our performance, the coach, the players. After we are going to decide.”

Everton opened the scoring with their first shot on target – the fourth time in seven Premier League games City have fallen behind to an opening attempt. Guardiola insisted the problem lay not with his defence but the team’s failure to convert one of several chances before Lukaku struck. He said: “Believe me, I would like to know why [it keeps happening] I will be concerned and worried when the opponents arrive six or seven times and create a lot of chances. That’s then our problem to control the game.

“I know in many cases the people don’t agree with me but to control the game means you have the possession to create enough chances and concede as few as possible. That has happened. But what happens when they arrive for the first time it’s a goal. Gaël Clichy loses the ball, they make the counterattack and we don’t have our line. To avoid that you put the ball up. Then you lose the ball because our strikers are our strikers, and 10 men behind the ball. Maybe we would be solid with that but I don’t believe in it.

“I want us to get better and better and feel we are able to score goals. When that happens we are going to suffer less behind. Our strikers will have more confidence. It is tough for the players. I was a player and understand how tough it is for them right now. We are trying to do absolutely everything. But it’s not the first time it’s happened this season.”

Everton: Robles Williams Funes Mori Holgate Baines Coleman Davies Barry McCarthy 74’ Mirallas Schneiderlin 65’ Lukaku Barkley Lookman 90’          Unused subs: Jagielka, Stekelenburg, Lennon, Valencia

Manchester City: Bravo Sagna Otamendi Stones Clichy De Bruyne Touré Zabaleta Iheanacho 61’ Silva Agüero Sterling
Unused subs: Caballero, Delph, Kolarov, García, Sané, Navas,

Referee: M. Clattenburg;   Attendance: 39588

West Ham United 0 Manchester City 5   Hammers Hammered
Friday 6th January 2017: Connor McAlinden for GYKO at the London Stadium

It was cold, wet and horrible – the kind of night to make a continental manager pine for those winter breaks. There have been plenty of pictures doing the rounds in recent days of European players reclining on beach loungers in expensive-looking locations. Pep Guardiola’s pleasure was a first taste of football’s oldest competition.

It all turned out rather nicely. The spotlight had burned intensely on the Manchester City manager, a result of a few sketchy results in December and his tetchiness after his team’s home win over Burnley last Monday. He had given the impression of being a little embattled with this English football lark. The vultures were circling.
West Ham 0-5 Manchester City: FA Cup third round – as it happened

His City team gave a powerhouse performance, shaped by a virtuoso display from David Silva, the floating midfield sprite, and marked by ruthlessness. It was an occasion when everything went right for Guardiola’s team. Take the fourth goal. Yaya Touré sliced his shot following Raheem Sterling’s pass back to him but it flew perfectly into Sergio Agüero’s space and he touched home deftly.

The game had turned on a soft 33rd-minute penalty, awarded after Pablo Zabaleta drew contact from Angelo Ogbonna. Touré rifled it past Adrián. But City had been the better team up until that point and they cut loose thereafter.

Sterling pressured Havard Nordtveit into putting through his own goal and Silva ended the game as a contest with the third before half-time. He practically had a cigar out before he placed his shot past Adrián.

Slaven Bilic was still smouldering after West Ham’s 2-0 loss to Manchester United here on Monday, when Sofiane Feghouli had been wrongly sent off in the 15th minute. The card would be rescinded but it was too little, too late. “I still feel angry and disappointed,” Bilic said, earlier on Friday.

He could express his exasperation over the penalty award but this was a night when West Ham were outclassed by a strong Guardiola selection.

Bilic used Dimitri Payet only as a 57th-minute substitute and the winger managed to nutmeg Agüero. There was precious little else for West Ham to remember. Feghouli blew their only clear chance at 1-0 down and it was a terrible miss from close range.

Guardiola’s lineups are routinely difficult to classify, such is the movement of his players and the manner in which they interchange positions, and nobody is harder to pin down than Silva. His licence to roam was pronounced and so, too, was his threat.

There was one lovely cutback in the early running for Zabaleta, who offered a passable impression of a box-to-box midfielder, and his shot was blocked by Winston Reid while, from a Gaël Clichy pass, Silva worked Adrián.

Watching football in this vast bowl remains a curious experience. There were moments here when the noise levels rose sharply but many more when it all seemed to drift away on the breeze. Perhaps City simply succeeded in taking the sting out of the occasion.

Their passing was too slick for West Ham and it felt symbolic that Bilic’s team did not even pick up a yellow card in what was a humiliation. They could not get close to their City counterparts.

The visitors had further advertised the opening goal through Sterling and Agüero. The first chance was created by Silva only for Sterling to choose the wrong option in jinking inside Nordtveit; Reid nipped back to tackle. Agüero’s effort was a beautifully sculpted side-on volley, after Michail Antonio’s ropey clearance. Adrián tipped over.

It took the penalty to break the deadlock and it was a depressing moment for West Ham and Ogbonna. Everybody inside the stadium knew that Zabaleta was going to take a touch following Silva’s cute pass and then see if there was any contact to be had inside the area. Thanks to Ogbonna, there was. Did Zabaleta initiate it? Possibly. Yet it was there and the referee, Michael Oliver, was entitled to point to the spot. From West Ham’s point of view, it just felt so needless.

West Ham’s big moment came immediately after the penalty. Antonio bustled through and his shot was pushed out by Willy Caballero but only as far as Feghouli. He looked odds-on to score but when Clichy dived into a saving challenge, he managed to distract him and Feghouli shot badly wide. Antonio had also worked Caballero on 14 minutes.

City summoned a devastating one-two punch. First, Bacary Sagna ran on to Agüero’s ball forward and put a devilish delivery into the area towards Sterling. In front of his own goal, Nordtveit was in that unenviable position for a defender. He could not leave it; he had to do something. The right-back stretched out his right leg but he succeeded only in diverting it past Adrián.

Minutes later, it was 3-0. Sterling swapped passes with Agüero and bombed away and, when he looked across, he had Silva completely unmarked in the centre. Silva had the time and composure to take a touch following Sterling’s low cross and, with Adrián grounded, impudently rolled the ball past him.

Guardiola could afford to remove Silva on 57 minutes, and Kevin De Bruyne and Touré after that, and the last word went to John Stones. From the substitute Nolito’s corner, he flashed home a header that the goalline technology showed had crossed the line before Mark Noble’s attempted clearance. It was Stones’s first goal for City since joining last summer.


West Ham: Adrian, Nordtveit, Reid, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Fernandes, Obiang, Feghouli, Lanzini, Antonio, Carroll.
Subs: Randolph, Noble, Fletcher, Payet, Calleri, Oxford, Quina.

Manchester City: Caballero, Sagna, Stones, Otamendi, Clichy, Toure, Zabaleta, De Bruyne, Silva, Sterling, Aguero. Subs: Nolito, Kolarov, Jesus Navas, Delph, Iheanacho, Garcia, Bravo.

Referee Michael Oliver                                 attendance:  56,975

Manchester City 2 Burnley 1      10 Man City Scrape Home
Monday 2nd January 2017: GYKO at the Etihad

When Pep Guardiola’s achievements are measured in May, the second half of this match might prove to be the most vital 45 minutes of all. Manchester City had been booed off at the interval. Fernandinho’s third red card in the space of six weeks had ensured they were down to 10 men and they had been as formless and incoherent as they had been during the defeat at Liverpool on New Year’s Eve. They were in fifth place. A game against a team that had picked up one point away from Turf Moor all season had spiralled wildly out of control. Had they lost this match, their season would have been in danger of collapse. They finished the game in third, seven behind Chelsea.

It was some salvage operation that began with Guardiola bringing on David Silva and Sergio Aguero, who along with John Stones had been the casualties of the defeat at Anfield. The fact that Guardiola was prepared to drop three of his most influential footballers demonstrated the manager’s mood and his ruthlessness.

Aguero scored the second, and as it turned out, the decisive goal of the afternoon. It was his 153rd for Manchester City, drawing him level with Colin Bell, and it was the kind only a natural-born striker could have scored.

City were already one up through Gael Clichy’s improbable strike from the edge of the area when Ben Mee’s error allowed Raheem Sterling a clear run on goal. As Tom Heaton spread himself, the toe of Sterling’s boots caught in the turf. The ball came back to Aguero. The angle was tight and there were two defenders on the line. The shot smacked against the inside of the post and bisected them both.

It may have been easier for Sean Dyche to keep his temper during the interval but his Burnley side came out to face a delicate equation. A point at the Etihad Stadium would count as a very good day’s work – would they risk exposing themselves and go for all three?

Burnley dallied and were punished in the most unlikely way. The way Clichy struck the ball from the corner of the 18-yard line into the corner of Heaton’s net belied the fact that this was his first goal at the Etihad Stadium. He had joined the club five years ago.

Manchester City’s goals made Burnley’s minds up for them. They pulled one back in extraordinary fashion. Claudio Bravo, who tipped a shot from Michael Keane over the bar in stoppage time, dropped a relatively straightforward ball. Nicolas Otamendi cleared it off the line, Mee shot it back towards goal and the referee Lee Mason ruled it had crossed the line.

Despite the fact that goal-line technology had been used to make the decision, Manchester City’s players decided to besiege Mason’s assistant in a futile attempt to have it reversed.

There had been similar protests when Fernandinho was shown a straight red card in the 32nd minute after he launched himself at Johann Berg Gudmundsson. The Brazilian’s feet were off the ground when he began the tackle and on the turf when he finished it. It was probably a straight orange but by losing control, Fernandinho, captaining Manchester City, had been stupidly reckless.

Guardiola has a policy of never commenting on refereeing decisions but his reactions demonstrated what he thought of Mason’s decision. He tore off the cagoule he was wearing, waved his arms around and launched into a furious discussion with anyone who would listen.

If his dismissal in the 1-1 draw at Borussia Monchengladbach was soft, this was a poorly-judged tackle which will lead to another ban – this time for four matches.

It was Manchester City’s seventh red card of the season which is some total under a manager not associated with tackling.

At the final whistle the whole stadium dissolved into a relieved cheer. This was proof of what Guardiola had been told in July. Nothing in this league can be taken for granted.

Manchester City: (4-2-3-1) Bravo; Sagna, Otamendi, Kolarov, Clichy; Toure, Fernandinho; Navas (Silva ht), De Bruyne, Sterling (Stones 89); Iheanacho (Aguero ht). Substitutes: Caballero (g), Zabaleta, Nolito, Garcia.

Burnley: (4-4-2) Heaton; Lowton, Keane, Mee, Ward; Boyd, Arfield (Bamford 88), Hendrick, Gudmundsson (Defour 59); Barnes (Vokes 68), Gray. Substitutes: Robinson (g), Tarkowski, Darikwa, O’Neill.

Referee: Lee Mason         Attendance: 54463

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