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Pos Team Pl   GD
1 Manchester City 38   72 98
2 Liverpool 38   67 97
3 Chelsea 38   24 72
4 Tottenham Hotspur 38   28 71

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West Ham 0 Manchester City 5  Well 'ammered
Sunday 11th August 2019 : Brent Hapgood for GYKO at the City of London Stadium

Welcome to the new world. Which looks, it must be said, quite a lot like the old world. On a breezy afternoon in east London, Manchester City’s two-times champions kicked off the new season with a defeat of West Ham that barely required a shift out of second gear.

Raheem Sterling made it four goals in a week with a wonderful hat-trick. Riyad Mahrez was involved throughout, passing, moving and dribbling with a familiar swagger, and taking a decisive hand in the first four goals. Kevin De Bruyne looked close to his hard-running best in midfield.

In-between this, VAR kept up a regular commentary on City’s dominance, disallowing one goal, retaining another and ordering a penalty retake.

This will surely become a feature of City’s matches given the rhythm of their attacks, the way cut-backs from the flanks and cute runs along the defensive line are key to their best moments. Otherwise it was a breathtaking show of controlled strength. Their opponents may come forewarned of the way City attack and facing essentially the same set of players. Trying to stop them is another matter altogether.

The stadium was full at kick-off, the skies above an autumnal grey, the atmosphere inside largely undetectable beneath the brain-mangling volume of the pre-match PA.

West Ham had seven players in their starting lineup who have joined the club in the past year. This included their record signing Sébastien Haller, who had previously mused on whether he might get a touch of the ball.

But West Ham did start brightly, with Jack Wilshere prominent in midfield, and Haller was sharp in the opening minutes, dropping deep at times and playing neatly with his back to goal.

Steadily, City began to exert their own patterns. With nine minutes gone, Mahrez had their first shot at goal, grooving in from the left and drawing a low save from Lukasz Fabianksi.

After 20 minutes Manuel Pellegrini appeared for the first time on his touchline, a small, sharp-suited figure in the middle of all that branded claret carpet, gesturing anxiously towards West Ham’s left.

Perhaps he was asking Michail Antonio to offer a little cover to his full-back. If so it went unheeded. Almost immediately Mahrez did his Mahrez thing, sitting Aaron Cresswell down on the turf inside his own area with that same old shimmy, but shooting into the side-netting.

The first goal arrived two minutes later courtesy of a lovely move down that side. De Bruyne carried the ball across from the left. Mahrez played a delightful through pass for Kyle Walker, tearing down the right. The cut-back was deflected on to Gabriel Jesus, who finished neatly.
Gabriel Jesus gives City the lead.

It was a move City repeated throughout the first half. It seems odd that opponents still set up against them as though in fear of being pierced down the middle. One day someone is going to say hang it all and just play two full-backs instead.

On 32 minutes, there was a first intervention from VAR as a bored-sounding voice said: “They’re checking for a red card,” followed, a few moments later, by “no red card”.

Ten minutes before half-time the home team had their first shot at goal, a hooked effort over the shoulder from Haller and City went to the break having barely broken into a collective sprint.

It was 2-0 five minutes after half-time. This was a glorious move down the right. Mahrez fed De Bruyne on the charge. He glided into space and played a perfectly weighted ball to Sterling, who veered in on goal and finished with ease.

Two minutes later it was 3-0, then 2-0 again as VAR scrubbed off the goal for a very narrow offside against Sterling’s shoulder; a moment of technical offside-dom that offered no advantage and a decision that penalised a fine piece of movement.

Clearly the offside rule needs to be tweaked for the post-VAR world. The best suggestion being: you are onside until the whole of you is offside.

For a while West Ham pressed hard again and after 72 minutes they should have pulled one back. Ryan Fredericks whipped in a cross from the right and Ederson pulled off a fine double save, first from Javier Hernández’s left thigh, then from Manuel Lanzini’s header. Moments later it was finally 3-0.

Mahrez cut inside and lofted a beautiful little pass over the defence. Sterling read it, stayed onside, then produced a lovely lobbed finish.

There was time for Fabianksi to save a weak 83rd-minute penalty from Sergio Agüero, on as a sub, before VAR ordered a successful retake for encroachment by Declan Rice and as the stadium began to empty Sterling completed his hat-trick with a lovely low finish after fine work from Rodri

West Ham (4-2-3-1): Fabianski; Fredericks, Balbuena, Diop, Cresswell; Wilshere (Snodgrass 56), Rice; Anderson (Hernandez 66), Lanzini, Antonio (Fornals 45), Haller
Substitutes not used: Roberto, Ogbonna, Sanchez, Zabaleta

Manchester City (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Laporte, Zinchenko; De Bruyne (Gundogan 79), Rodri , David Silva (Foden 80); Mahrez, Jesus (Aguero 69), Sterling
Substitutes not used: Bravo, Otamendi, Bernardo Silva, Cancelo

Referee: Mike Dean 6    Attendance: 59,870

Liverpool 1 Manchester City 1    City win first Trophy on Pens
Sunday 4th August 2019 : Ben Jacobs for GYKO at Wembley Stadium

Call it a phoney war, if you like, but the Community Shield suggested Manchester City and Liverpool are set for another epic battle. One point separated them last season and there was nothing between them on Sunday until City prevailed in the penalty shootout. So Pep Guardiola’s side won by the narrowest margin. Again. But there was enough to indicate things could go the other way over the next nine months.

If the purpose of this curtain-raiser was to stoke anticipation for the main event that kicks off on Friday, mission accomplished. Gabriel Jesus converted the decisive spot-kick after Georginio Wijnaldum missed for Liverpool but there was enough before that to please – and worry – both managers.

At first City threatened to win at a canter; Raheem Sterling giving them an early lead that reflected their superiority and Liverpool’s sluggishness. But the European champions gradually found fluency and began to expose frailties in City. They struck the frame of the goal twice before Joël Matip nodded in an equaliser. Liverpool would have clinched victory if not for a spectacular clearance off the line by Kyle Walker. Factor in Guardiola being booked for a tantrum and it was clear City were spooked before emerging triumphant.

Both managers had said they would have welcomed a longer break before renewing hostilities but that did not mean either was about to make this chore any easier for his rival: 65 days after Jordan Henderson lifted their sixth European crown, Liverpool began with nine of the 11 players who started the Champions League final.

Guardiola, too, deployed nearly all of his artillery; the main acknowledgment of this match’s ceremonial status being the inclusion of Claudio Bravo in goal ahead of Ederson. “We have to prepare as if every match is a final,” said Guardiola and, given how little room either side leave the other for error, both will probably have to sustain that approach throughout the campaign ahead.

City started far sharper. They could have scored in the fourth minute after Sterling dispossessed Joe Gomez 30 yards from goal and slipped a pass through to Leroy Sané, who fired into the side netting.

Roberto Firmino was the only Liverpool player who shone from the start. Mohamed Salah, by contrast, was off‑colour: busy and dangerous but wasteful. He dragged a shot wide of the near post early on and did almost exactly the same thing several more times.

The fact City’s breakthrough came while they were at a numerical disadvantage – Sané having an injury assessed – spoke of how much better they started. The nature of the goal confirmed the point, as Liverpool’s defence was caught napping by a quick free-kick. Oleksandr Zinchenko headed a lofted pass from Walker back across the six-yard area, where Sterling beat Henderson to the ball and forced it past Alisson.

Salah botched another good opportunity before Sterling did likewise for City, shooting straight at Alisson from eight yards. Rodri, City’s record signing at £62.8m, moved and passed with almost Fernandinho-esque intelligence on his debut but he was given a lesson in the competitiveness of the Premier League when he was muscled off the ball twice in the first half by Firmino.

City’s chief vulnerability was in defence. Zinchenko found the going tough at left-back and was not helped much by his central defenders. A weak header by John Stones in the 29th minute from a cross by Divock Origi demanded an intervention from Zinchenko that did not come; Salah should have punished him but poked high and wide.

City’s vibrancy had subsided. When Gomez escaped being penalised for raising a foot to prod a bouncing ball away from David Silva, Guardiola, highly strung at the best of times, bawled and gesticulated so much the referee booked him.

City’s grip on the game loosened as Liverpool’s menace grew. In the 57th minute Virgil van Dijk hooked a shot on to the underside of the crossbar after a corner by Trent Alexander-Arnold was allowed to bobble all the way to him at the edge of the six-yard area. Reminiscent of City’s decisive escape at the Etihad Stadium in January, the shot was millimetres from crossing the line. Then Salah cut into the right-hand side of the box and rattled the post.

Walker, resolving to get City back on to the front foot, launched into a storming run forward before feeding Sterling. Clean through on goal and with Walker offering support, Sterling appeared overwhelmed by the options and allowed Alisson to step out and relieve him of the ball. City’s sharpness had faded all right.

And their defensive frailties – relative to the strength of the rest of their team – were being increasingly exposed by Liverpool, who soon equalised with a goal similar to City’s. Van Dijk, pulling wide to retrieve a free-kick from the right by Henderson, dabbed a dainty cross back across goal and Matip climbed above Nicolás Otamendi to nod into the net.

City were not exactly unravelling but there was certainly some raggedness about them. Maybe that was inevitable given the lack of preparation; maybe, though, they will regret not replacing Vincent Kompany.

Liverpool, spruced up by five substitutions and running through City’s midfield with impressive regularity, came closest to winning in normal time. Bravo foiled Naby Keïta and Salah before he finally beat the goalkeeper – only for Walker to hook his header off the line spectacularly.

LIVERPOOL: (4-3-3) Alisson; Alexander-Arnold (Matip 67), Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson (Lallana 79), Fabinho (Keita 67), Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino (Shaqiri 79), Origi (Oxlade-Chamberlain 79)
SUBS NOT USED: Mignolet (GK); Lovren

MAN CITY: (4-3-3) Bravo; Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Zinchenko; De Bruyne (Foden 89), Rodri , Silva (Gundogan 61); Bernardo Silva, Sterling, Sane (Gabriel Jesus 13)
SUBS NOT USED: Ederson (GK); Tasende, Aguero, Garcia

REFEREE: Martin Atkinson 7       ATTENDANCE: 77,565

Manchester City Fixtures & Results 2019/20

Date Kick Off Opponent Venue  Comp Result
Su 04/08/2019 15:00 Liverpool Wembley CS D 1-1*
Sa 10/08/2019 12:30 West Ham United A PL W 5-0
Sa 17/08/2019 17:30 Tottenham Hotspur H PL  
Su 25/08/2019 14:00 Bournemouth A PL  
Sa 31/08/2019 15:00 Brighton & Hove Albion H PL  
Sa 14/09/2019 17:30 Norwich City A PL  
Sa 21/09/2019 15:00 Watford H PL  
Sa 28/09/2019 16:30 + Everton A PL  
Sa 05/10/2019 15:00 Wolverhampton Wanderers H PL  
Su 20/10/2019 16:30 Crystal Palace A PL  
Sa 26/10/2019 12:30 Aston Villa H PL  
Sa 02/11/2019 15:00 Southampton H PL  
Sa 09/11/2019 15:00 Liverpool A PL  
Sa 23/11/2019 15:00 Chelsea H PL  
Sa 30/11/2019 15:00 Newcastle United A PL  
Tu 03/12/2019 19:45 Burnley A PL  
Sa 07/12/2019 15:00 Manchester United H PL  
Sa 14/12/2019 15:00 Arsenal A PL  
Sa 21/12/2019 15:00 Leicester City H PL  
Th 26/12/2019 19:45 Wolverhampton Wanderers A PL  
Sa 28/12/2019 15:00 Sheffield United H PL  
We 01/01/2020 19:45 Everton H PL  
Sa 11/01/2020 15:00 Aston Villa A PL  
Sa 18/01/2020 15:00 Crystal Palace H PL  
Tu 21/01/2020 19:45 Sheffield United A PL  
Sa 01/02/2020 15:00 Tottenham Hotspur A PL  
Sa 08/02/2020 15:00 West Ham United H PL  
Sa 22/02/2020 15:00 Leicester City A PL  
Sa 29/02/2020 15:00 Arsenal H PL  
Sa 07/03/2020 15:00 Manchester United A PL  
Sa 14/03/2020 15:00 Burnley H PL  
Sa 21/03/2020 15:00 Chelsea A PL  
Sa 04/04/2020 15:00 Liverpool H PL  
Sa 11/04/2020 15:00 Southampton A PL  
Sa 18/04/2020 15:00 Newcastle United H PL  
Sa 25/04/2020 15:00 Brighton & Hove Albion A PL  
Sa 02/05/2020 15:00 Bournemouth H PL  
Sa 09/05/2020 15:00 Watford A PL  
Su17/05/2020 14:00 Norwich City H PL  

* Won 5-4 on Penalties                                                                
+ Subject to change due to Champions League schedule

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