March 2017 - Reports
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Manchester City 1 Liverpool 1     A Tale of Penalty Decisions
Sunday 19th March 2017 : GYKO at the Etihad

Sergio Aguero's equaliser claimed a vital point for Manchester City, who remain above Liverpool in third in the Premier League after the sides drew 1-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

City were looking to bounce back from Wednesday's surprise Champions League exit at Monaco and they had to come from behind to extend their unbeaten league run to seven games.

James Milner opened the scoring from the spot shortly after half-time, picking out Willy Caballero's bottom-right corner to score his seventh penalty of the season on his Etihad return.

John Stones should have converted a free header as a substandard City tried to improve a dire head-to-head record against Liverpool that had seen them lose five of the previous six meetings between the sides.

Aguero equalised for City with a close-range finish from Kevin De Bruyne's right-wing cross and the Belgian hit the post as Pep Guardiola's side cranked up the pressure in search of a winner.

But it was Adam Lallana who should have scored the decisive goal, the England international somehow mishitting his shot from eight yards after sublime Liverpool build-up play as both teams lost ground on Tottenham in the race for the second – with Manchester United now just four points behind Jurgen Klopp's fourth-placed side.

Simon Mignolet blocked Leroy Sane's cross-shot with his left boot after 19 minutes, David Silva slicing the rebound over the crossbar to spurn City's first real chance of the game.

Penalty appeals were rejected at both ends, with Aguero challenged by Joel Matip as the Argentine tried to connect with Fernandinho's low cross, before Sadio Mane collided with Nicolas Otamendi as he shaped to shoot.

Matip headed Milner's deep free-kick wide after 37 minutes and the game finally exploded into life before the interval.

Milner had to make a brilliant challenge to stop Raheem Sterling from tapping home Silva's cross, with Fernandinho unable to convert at the back post, before Caballero palmed Roberto Firmino's curled shot over his crossbar.

Caballero elected to punch the resulting corner but he could only pick out Lallana, whose powerful volley was beaten away by the goalkeeper.

Chances continued to flow in the second half, with Mane's goal-bound effort deflected over by a Stones block, but Liverpool were awarded a penalty when Clichy clumsily bundled over Firmino.

Former City player Milner tucked away the spot-kick, sending Caballero the wrong way to put the visitors in front, extending City's run without a clean sheet against Liverpool to 13 games.

Stones had a big chance to rapidly respond for City but he headed De Bruyne's corner wide. Caballero then did well to save from Firmino after a superb Philippe Coutinho reverse pass sent his fellow Brazilian into the box.

But after 68 minutes City levelled the scores when Aguero tucked away De Bruyne's cross to continue his record of scoring in all five of his home league games against Liverpool.

Aguero's one-two with Sane freed the striker for a chance to complete the turnaround but he could not find a finish after losing his balance, De Bruyne slamming the loose ball against the woodwork, then Lallana's opportunity to claim the points arrived.

Emre Can and Firmino combined beautifully to set Lallana up for a golden chance but the midfielder failed to convert and despite a breathless finale - with Aguero unable to turn in Silva's centre and blazing over De Bruyne's chipped cross - the points were shared.

Man City: Caballero, Fernandinho, Stones, Otamendi, Clichy, Yaya Toure, Sane, De Bruyne, Silva, Sterling, Aguero        Subs: Sagna, Fernando

Liverpool: Mignolet, Clyne, Matip, Klavan, Milner, Can, Wijnaldum, Lallana, Mane, Coutinho, Firmino.   
Subs: Origi, Lucas

 Referee: M. Oliver • Attendance: 54449

AS Monaco 3 Manchester City 1      Away Goals Defeat
Wednesday 15th March 2017 : Denis Greggory for GYKO at the

For seven giddy second-half minutes Manchester City thought they would get away with it. They had snuck back into the game, ahead in the tie, and back into the quarter-final draw.

But they were one goal from disaster and sure enough that disaster struck. Tiemoue Bakayoko got on the end of a free-kick and headed it in. Monaco won the game 3-1, the 6-6 tie on away goals. They are still in Europe and City are not.

This was never going to be as good as the 5-3 first leg but it was still an enthralling back-and-forth. City were going through, then Monaco, then City, then Monaco. But there was no doubt that the right team made it in the end.

Monaco’s first-half display was one of the best seen in the competition this season. Pep Guardiola said on Tuesday night that Monaco were the “best team in the world at scoring goals”, and that City would have to score to progress. Here Leonardo Jardim’s side did everything to prove him right. They raced into a 2-0 lead, enough to send them through, but that alone does not tell the full story of their dominance. They won every 50-50 and looked like scoring with every attack. With a bit more luck they would have killed this game long before City could get back into it.

That first half, ultimately, was where City lost this tie. That 5-3 lead was not ideal but it should have been enough to see them through. But City chose the worst moment of the season to go missing, to get on the wrong side of a game this one-sided.

For all the inevitable attention on City’s defence, who conceded six goals over two legs, they lost this game in midfield. In the first half Fernandinho, David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne were utterly absent, losing every loose ball and looking, in basic terms, far less up for contest than Monaco.

Pep Guardiola’s big decision to play Fernandinho ahead of Yaya Toure in holding midfield was a bust. Toure is their biggest, strongest, most experienced and most consistent midfielder. He has been at the heart of everything City have done well since November. But tonight he watched from the bench as Fernandinho, whose place Toure has taken, was back in the team and powerless to stop Monaco’s attacks.

Ultimately this defeat was collective more than individual, and it belongs to the players as much as it does to Guardiola. They were caught off-guard and as soon as Monaco started to play it was clear only one team was being serious.

Even without Radamel Falcao, Monaco played with so much speed, energy and bristling intent that City could not live with them. Kylian Mbappe and Valere Germain set the tempo up front, pressing and harrying in a way City’s front three failed to do. How much talent City had on the pitch was irrelevant when they could not get a foothold in the game. Whenever they tried to string three passes together a Monaco player forcibly intervened. City looked weak, soft, tired and complacent.

So it was no surprise when Monaco took the lead. Mbappe had just forced a good save from Willy Caballero after Fernandinho was pushed off the ball. The ball went left, Mendy’s cross was blocked, but Bernardo Silva’s flew to the near post, where Mbappe put it in.

Monaco were half-way there and there was no letting up in their tempo. Mbappe had a second disallowed for offside and Germain put one just over the bar. But the barrage continued and, on 30 minutes, Monaco had their second. Another sharp move gave Mendy the ball on the left. Against he was free to get his cross in. It flew to Fabinho, unmarked in the box, and he slotted his first-time finish in. Monaco were 2-0 up and had turned the tie around already.

Guardiola needed to change things and he moved De Bruyne back alongside Fernandinho, giving City more stability in midfield. Monaco sat back to play on the break, City pushed up and for the first time controlled the game.

De Bruyne, nowhere in the first half, started to dictate play. He found Sterling whose cross to Aguero was intercepted by Andrea Raggi. Then Aguero put one over before firing straight at Danijel Subasic. Sane grew into the game, shooting into the side netting from Silva’s pass.

But there was a sense of inevitability building and sure enough City got their goal. De Bruyne darted another diagonal out to Sterling on the right. He cut inside and shot, and Subasic could only palm it into Sane’s path, and he did the rest.

That made it 2-1 to Monaco, 6-5 to City and would have been a smash and grab on the balance of play, if only City could hold onto it. But they never looked in control for that seven minutes, not against a team so much stronger and hungrier than them. City were giving away silly free-kicks and it was dramatic, but not surprising, when they were punished.

De Bruyne pulled down Fabinho and Monaco had their chance. Thomas Lemar whipped in the free-kick and Bakayoko got behind Kolarov, unmarked, to head in the ball at the near post. City tried to get their second but never had enough. They never had enough all night.

Monaco (4-4-2): Subasic; Sidibe, Raggi (Almamy Toure, 70), Jemerson, Mendy; Bernardo Silva, Fabinho, Bakayoko, Lemar; Germain (Dirar, 90), Mbappe (Moutinho, 80).   Subs not used: De Sanctis, Jorge, Cardona, Diallo.

Manchester City (4-1-4-1): Caballero; Sagna, Stones, Kolarov, Clichy (Kelechi, 73); Fernandinho; Sterling, De Bruyne, David Silva, Sane; Aguero.       Subs not used: Bravo, Zabaleta, Delph, Otamendi, Navas, Yaya Toure.

Referee: Gianluca Rocchi (ITA)       attendance:- 15,700

Middlesbrough 0 Manchester City 2   Stroll by the Riverside
Saturday 11th March 2017 : Keith Roland for GYKO at the Riverside Stadium

Pep Guardiola will mark his first season in English football with a return to Wembley, where he won the Champions League with Barcelona in 2011.

The Manchester City manager will have more troubled afternoons than Middlesbrough could muster. Guardiola and his players cantered to the capital and an FA Cup semi-final place.

That did not stop the delight or the celebration afterwards, but a goal in each half, from David Silva and then Sergio Aguero did not tell the story of a one-sided game at the Riverside Stadium. Only wayward finishing and an excellent display from Brad Guzan stopped a rout. By the finish, those players in blue were queuing up to extend the two goal margin.

CIty’s lead came early, and it was remarkably simple. Yaya Toure lifted the ball down the right handside, to Pablo Zabaleta, who fired a low cross into the heart of the home penalty area. Raheem Sterling, its intended target, missed the ball and in doing so allowed it to carry through to David Silva and the Spanish forward stabbed the ball past Brad Guzan with the outside of his left foot.

The clock read two minutes and eight seconds and Middlesbrough’s noisy supporters gulped. Their side had scored just nine goals all year before the visit of Guardiola’s men but the FA Cup had offered solace during that run. That at least offered hope. Indeed all of their victories in 2017 (not to mention seven of those nine goals) had come in the competition.

The decisive goal for the visitors would come, but not until midway through the second half. Before then it was largely one way traffic, but the home side could reflect on two opportunities that had caused consternation.

Midway through the first half, Grant Leadbitter’s left wing corner found the head of Rudy Gestede and Claudio Bravo in the City goal could only parry the ball to his left, where it struck Zabaleta on the goal line and the visiting captain hacked clear.

The aerial route looked the most likely to unsettle Manchester City and in the 37th minute Marten de Roon crossed from the right this time and Alvaro Negredo, on for the injured Gestede headed powerfully and Bravo parried then saved.

That was as troubled as City would be. Just past the half hour mark, Sterling’s low cross found Leroy Sane but the finish, from close range, was weak and easy for Guzan. Silva would do the same, in the 38th minute, with Guzan this time saving to his left. The lead should have been doubled again in the 42nd minute. Kevin de Bruyne’s right wing free-kick was perfect for Toure but the free header went narrowly wide and the player berated himself for the miss.

The second half became an onslaught. There was simply no respite for either Karanka or his team. It was simply a matter of time until the game clinching second came. In the 48th minute Toure again chipped a ball down the right, De Bruyne crossed, Sterling missed it and Silva smashed over the crossbar.

Guzan then tipped an Aguero clipped shot from a Sterling cross onto the post and seconds later Zabaleta shot wide. Sane was denied by the feet of the Middlesbrough keeper in the 62nd minute and two minutes later Guzan was again at full stretch, this time to tip a Silva shot around his post.

By now it was relentless. Sane’s curling, left footed shot was tipped away by Guzan until finally, in the 67th minute, the same player crossed from the left and Aguero stole in ahead of Fabio to finally beat Guzan.

The chances kept coming. Aguero saw a shot parried by Guzan, the Middlesbrough goalkeeper then stopped from Silva and then in the 80th minute Sterling cut inside Ben Gibson and through he had scored with a left foot shot, only for Guzan to deny City once more, this time to his left.

That had Guardiola sinking to his knees, but victory was still his and he will return to Wembley.

Middlesbrough (4-1-4-1): Guzan; Fabio, Bernardo (Fry 51), Gibson, Barragan; Clayton; Traore, de Roon, Leadbitter (Ramirez 66), Stuani; Gestede (Negredo 26).

Subs not used: Valdes, Fischer, Forshaw, Husband.

Manchester City (4-1-2–3): Bravo; Zabaleta, Stones, Otamendi, Clichy; Toure (Fernando 86); De Bruyne, Silva; Sterling, Aguero (Iheanacho 90), Sane (Nolito 70).

Subs not used: Caballero, Kolarov, Delph, Fernandinho.

Referee: Mike Dean

Manchester City 0 Stoke City 0    Bore Draw against the Potters
Wednesday 8th March 2017 : GYKO at the Etihad

The recent momentum gained by Manchester City in the tall task of overhauling runaway leaders Chelsea at the top of the Premier League was brought to a juddering halt by a resilient and determined Stoke City at the Etihad.

Pep Guardiola gambled on his team selection and, for once in recent weeks, the City manager’s magic touch deserted him as his side lacked conviction in their efforts to break down Mark Hughes’s well-organised side.

Considering the stakes - potential second place in the table and closing the gap behind first place to eight points - it was a strangely subdued performance by City and one reflected in the team selection made by Guardiola.

As the first half wore on, the decision to leave David Silva on the bench and Raheem Sterling out of the squad altogether looked increasingly questionable although at least City were not trailing by that stage, for they could have been.

Three times in the opening 16 minutes, a Stoke team looking to improve on a dreadful run of five defeats in their previous six away games might have taken the lead.

Just five minutes had gone when Erik Pieters’ cross was met by Mane Biram Diouf, who might have taken an advantage of a slip by Gael Clichy, but could only steer a difficult chance directly at keeper Willy Caballero.

After 16 minutes Saido Berahino, making his first start since his controversial move from West Brom in the January window, played in Ramadan Sobhi whose dangerous cross was intercepted by Caballero’s outstretched leg.

And a minute later, Phil Bardsley’s free-kick found Bruno Martins Indi unmarked in the City area but the big defender was unable to control the ball.

It was an ambitious start from Stoke, a reward for manager Hughes’s bold selection and decision to play two up front, although after those early chances, City began to take control.

Leroy Sane, the German winger really hitting his stride in the second half of the Premier League season, was a constant threat down City’s left wing.

But the closest City could come to beating Lee Grant in the Stoke goal was a 24th minute free-kick from defender Aleksandar Kolarov which the keeper did well to punch to safety as it threatened to sneak inside his post.

In the dying moments of the first period, Kevin De Bruyne came within an inch of gathering a well-weighted long ball from Nicolas Otamendi.

But the second half opened with Silva still on the bench and City again lacking any real killer instinct close to the Stoke goal.

Indeed, it took a strong covering block from Otamendi to make sure Berahino’s shot did not test Caballero after Jonathan Walters had been allowed to flick on a long punt from Grant.

The frustration being felt - and, increasingly, voiced - by home supporters increased when Sane was booked for simulation just outside the Stoke area after an attack came to nothing.

And Sane almost made amends by spearheading a fast break which ended with him squaring to the unmarked Aguero whose 18-yard shot struck Pieters and flew over.

Well before the hour, Guardiola had seen enough and finally threw on Silva, to replace the ineffective Navas.

Almost immediately, there appeared more urgency about City with Silva sparking a move which ended with De Bruyne crossing and Sane mistiming badly with a 12-yard shot.

City continued to improve, with Yaya Toure shooting over, Sane almost turning in Aguero’s touch at the far post and Silva playing a superb one-two with Fernandinho and sending a low shot narrowly wide of the post.

Silva also won a corner, somewhat fortunately, after a dangerous 20-yard shot passed just wide and took the flag kick himself, crossing for Otamendi to head narrowly over. There were also late chances for Aguero and substitute Kelechi Iheanacho but City could not break down a dogged Stoke rearguard

Manchester City: Caballero, Clichy, Sagna, Kolarov, Otamendi, Sané, Navas (Silva 57’), De Bruyne, Touré (Iheanacho 76’), Agüero         Unused subs: Zabaleta, Bravo, Delph, Agudo Durán, Stones

Stoke City: Grant, Pieters, Bardsley, Shawcross, Martins Indi, Allen (Imbula 85’), Sobhy, Ahmed, Diouf (Afellay 69’) , Cameron, Berahino (Whelan 79’),  Walters,  Luiz Rosa     Unused subs:Muniesa, Crouch, Given, Adam,

Referee: Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire)       Attendance: 52,625

Sunderland 0 Manchester City 2        Machems Going Down
Sunday 5th March 2017: Frank Delaney fro GYKO at the Stadium of Light

The question of Sergio Aguero’s future provoked a prickly response from his club manager on Friday. “He is so happy, I am so happy, 10 times I answer,” Guardiola had said. “No more please.”

That will not prove easy, the Argentinian forward once more proving pivotal, scoring his 115th Premier League goal for the club and ensuring a fourth straight league victory. He also turned the direction of a game. For 41 minutes yesterday Manchester City had their hands full. Sunderland had missed chances and then struck a post, through Jermain Defoe.
It looked a struggle, an effort to rise to the Premier League’s bottom team, and then Aguero struck, almost in the blink of an eye, a move that saw the ball swept from left to right, starting with Yaya Toure, then to David Silva, quickly to the overlapping Raheem Sterling, and while the low cross took a slight deflection of the leg of Brian Oviedo, it was the response of Aguero that changed the direction of the game. The forward was behind Lamine Kone and fired the ball past Jordon Pickford before the Sunderland goalkeeper could flick out a right hand to stop the opening goal.

It changed the game and it finished Sunderland. It will lend strength, if it was needed, to Aguero's hand if discussions about his future, which have been suggested, take place.

“We’ll take it one game at a time,” Guardiola had said before the game. He is learning the English way, but when the goal was followed by another, just before the hour mark, through the lightening quick pace of Leroy Sane, he may have allowed himself a private glance at a league table that is softening in his debut season in the country.

Much will rest on whether West Ham can do anything against their London rivals Chelsea on Monday night, but the gap was down to eight points to the division’s summit when the City bus left the North East.

Importantly too, there is now just a five point cushion to fifth place and Arsenal and the unthinkable prospect of missing out on a Champions League place. City and Guardiola have found a way at just the right time. Victory was their fourth straight in the league. They have not conceded a goal in any of those games, since the humbling loss at Goodison Park.

It suggests a corner was turned that afternoon, when nothing seemed to go right. If there was fortune at the Stadium of Light, perhaps they carried it for it was not an afternoon without its problems.

Defoe striking a post and then Fabio Borini heading a difficult rebound wide was not the only opportunity that Sunderland, now with just one win in their last 10 games, had in the opening 45 minutes.

The right back Billy Jones was the culprit twice. In the 36th minute, he lost Bacary Sagna and from eight yards his downward header was stopped by Willy Caballero. Four minutes later, from the opposite flank, he was again free, this time from a Seb Larsson corner and headed wide. They were massive chances for a Sunderland side as desperately short of firepower as the one David Moyes is leading.

The entire outfield side to face Manchester City had scored 18 Premier League goals between them, with Defoe responsible for 14 of them. They could not afford to miss and that was hammered home by the clinical finishing of Aguero three minutes before half time.

Silva found Sane on the overlap for the second, in the 59th minute, the ball again being moved from right to left and the forward clipped a right foot angled shot past Pickford. There should have been more. The substitute Kevin De Bruyne shot narrowly wide and Pickford excelled to stop Aguero adding a second. It was all City by then.

They will face Stoke on Wednesday at the Etihad Stadium, knowing the possibility of a late charge at catching Chelsea is alive, at least in theory.

Sunderland (4-2-3-1): Pickford; Jones, Kone, O’Shea, Oviedo; Larsson, Gibson (Rodwell 69(; Januzaj, Ndong, Borini; Defoe.

Manchester City (4-1-4-1): Caballero; Sagna, Stones, Kolarov, Clichy; Toure (De Bruyne 78); Sterling, Fernandinho, Silva; Aguero.

Ref: Mr M Atkinson      Attendance: 41107

Manchester City 5 Huddersfield Town 1  City on the March Again
Wednesday 1st March 2017 : GYKO at the Etihad

Pep Guardiola survived an early scare to remain on course for possible success on three fronts in his debut season at Manchester City, booking a place in the FA Cup quarter-finals where they will visit Middlesbrough.

The evening was not without moments of anxiety but two goals from Sergio Aguero, his first in seven domestic appearances for City, were one of many plusses for the City coach who will have to rely on the Argentinian heavily over the remaining months of the campaign given the absence of the injured Gabriel Jesus.

City settled the tie with a devastating spell that brought three goals in eight minutes after the half-hour mark although the anxiety prior to that blitz had been palpable.

Huddersfield, indeed, had the audacity to take the lead, through a seventh minute effort from former City academy player Harry Bunn, a goal which yet again highlighted the weaknesses in the home team’s goalkeeping and defence.

First, Philip Billing was allowed too much space to advance the ball deep into the City half, eventually finding Bunn, via a touch from Collin Quaner, whose low finish passed through the legs of goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.

The Chilean’s debut season at the Etihad has been one to forget, his first team place having effectively been passed to Willy Caballero, and by the time he made an unconvincing save to keep out Jack Payne’s 43rd minute shot, the home crowd greeted him with sarcastic jeers.

Fortunately for those supporters, by that stage the tie was over thanks to a devastating attacking performance from Guardiola’s team.

Leroy Sane had already struck the post, cutting in from the left and striking a lethal shot against the right-hand upright, by the time City fell behind.

And before they equalised, there were strong claims for a pair of City penalties as Jon Stankovic, not once but twice, appeared to stop shots with his hand.

However, there was no debate about the clinical manner of the equaliser, scored on 30 minutes, as Kevin De Bruyne switched play from left to right wing and Raheem Sterling crossed low through the six-yard area and Sane tapped in.

Four minutes later City succeeded with a third penalty appeal after Pablo Zabaleta’s chip into the area saw Stankovic wrestle Nicolas Otamendi to the ground.

Aguero strode up and nonchalantly converted his 21st goal of the season past Joel Coleman from the resulting penalty.

The forward was soon played clean through and should have claimed goal number 22 only for his finish to strike the same post hit by Sane earlier in the game.

But after 38 minutes Aguero was heavily involved in City’s third after his shot was parried well by Coleman and the Argentinian responded quickly to square the rebound for Zabaleta to shoot home.

The fact that David Wagner, watching from the stands as he served the first of a two-game FA suspension, had made nine changes from his last league selection indicated that the Huddersfield manager’s thoughts were more on Saturday’s Championship encounter with leaders Newcastle.

And the scoreline should have looked even uglier for him soon after the restart when Aguero launched a devastating counter-attack half the length of the field before slipping through a pass for Sane who miscontrolled.

Huddersfield regained a foothold impressively to demonstrate the depth Wagner has in his squad with Quaner dispossessing De Bruyne just inside the City half and sprinting into the area before his shot was deflected behind.

Joe Lolley headed just over, from a well-worked short corner, while Quaner appealed for a penalty after contact with John Stones.

But with the tie long since decided, it was a question of the two teams winding down towards full-time. De Bruyne was denied by the keeper from a 20-yard free-kick before Aguero scored his second, and City’s fourth, after 73 minutes.

Zabaleta sent Sterling away down the right and the England forward’s cross was met by Aguero who clinically swept the ball in from six yards with the minimum of effort.

Substitute Kelechi Iheanacho wrapped up the scoring in injury-time with a similar goal as Zabaleta’s pass to Jesus Navas was crossed for the Nigerian to score from six yards.

Man City: Bravo; Zabaleta, Otamendi, Stones, Clichy; Fernandinho, Garcia; Sterling, De Bruyne (Delph 74 mins), Sane (Navas 81 mins); Aguero (Iheanacho 78). Substitutes (not used) Caballero, Sagna, Fernando, Silva.

Huddersfield: Coleman; Cranie, Hudson, Stankovic, Holmes-Dennis; Whitehead, Billing (Hogg 67 mins); Lolley (Smith 61 mins), Payne, Bunn (van La Parra 54 mins); Quaner.

Referee: P Tierney          Attendance 42425

 

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