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Offshore drilling, England: Manchester United 3, at Chelsea 2

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Man of the MatchJuan Mata provided another entrancing display, fulling validating a week’s worth of media hype anointing him the season’s best player. From an amazingly curled free kick goal in the 44th, to his cross in the buildup to Chelsea’s 53rd minute equalizer, to his constant stressing of Manchester United’s defense, Mata turned around what initially looked destined to be a lopsided affair.

Mata’s October contributions may have finally surpassed Eden Hazard’s early season results. Even if he’s still playing catchup, Chelsea has the Premier League’s two best performers of the (still young) 2012-13 season. 

Packaged for takeaway:

  • Two huge Sunday matches, two games overshadowed by the officiating. Whereas the Everton-Liverpool match saw one late call determine the result, Mark Clattenburg and crew provided two talking points for us content-hungry keyboard jockeys.
  • With Chelsea already down a man (Branislav Ivanovic uncontroversially shown red in the 63rd after running through a goal-bound Ashley Young), Fernando Torres was given a second yellow card (68′) for exaggerating a foul by Jonny Evans. At the time, the score was 2-2.
  • Two interpretations of the play – where Torres appears to be brought down after playing a ball behind Evans – with most people critical of Clattenburg.
    • The first: There was contact, it was a foul, so Torres shouldn’t have been carded. Clattenburg ARRRRGGGH!
    • The second: Foul or not, Torres was guilty of simulation, exaggerating the effect of the contact.
  • There’s no doubt Torres did just that. The problem: Evans wasn’t whistled, Torres was shown off, and onlookers were left to wonder what Clattenburg was thinking.
  • There is a huge, hypocritical tension here. There are constant complains about diving, and without a doubt, Torres dived to one degree or another. He exaggerated for the purpose of drawing a foul. Yet there’s general consternation over Clattenburg’s call, mostly because Evans made some contact with Torres. But if the problem with diving is the ethics behind it – the deceit, exaggeration, simulation of it all – then Torres should have been booked. No doubt, no debate under that standard. So which way do we want it? Because when decisions a binary and Clattenburg has to give a yes-no, it can’t go both ways.
  • Fine print: Don’t dive when you’re carrying a yellow card!
  • Three minutes after Torres left, Javier Hernández (having just been brought on for Tom Cleverley) put home a pass from Rafael from an offside position. The play stood, and Manchester United had their first win in 10 years at Stamford Bridge.
  • Before Blues started being dismissed, the match was split into two halves: Thirty minutes of United dominance followed by a half-hour of Chelsea control.
  • Manchester United played the best soccer of the Premier League season over the first third. Their passing was impeccable, their attacks were decisive and destroyed Chelsea’s defense, and we finally saw the devastating effect the speed of Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young can have with Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney through the middle. Who knows how potent this team can be when Shingi Kagawa returns?
  • The first goal was a perfect example. Van Perise and Young had switched, leaving “RVP” wide left. A turnover on Chelsea’s left allowed Young to burst between Chelsea defenders before Rooney hit him at the edge of the attacking third. Young laid it of for Rooney, pulled the defense with him as he ran toward goal, leaving an open area for van Persie. Rooney found him, RVP putting his shot off the post and David Luiz for a fourth minute goal.
  • The second goal, nine minutes later, was very similar. Rafael and Valencia blew through their right thanks to a poor read from Ashley Cole. The United winger was able to hit van Persie as his teammate dropped back from the defense, a right-footed shot into the middle of goal giving United a 2-0 lead.
  • As is there tendency, United let up, willing to let Chelsea control the game. Based on the first half hour, this should have been fine. United’s 4-1-4-1 defensive shape gave them a line across midfield that prevented Chelsea from connecting with their Eden Hazard-Oscar-Juan Mata level.
  • United look vulnerable on crosses, however, with Gary Cahill missing a chance off a corner. With the control Chelsea had over the game, it was a matter of time before the home side broke through.
  • Rooney helped him out. A misguided takedown of Hazard at the edge of the arc gave Mata too much of David de Gea’s goal. When the United keeper took a step left before Mata aimed to his right, he had no chance to stop a shot put into the side-netting. Minutes before halftime, Chelsea had got United’s lead in half.
  • Coming out the break, Chelsea made a crucial adjustment, having Oscar drop behind Manchester United’s midfielders to pick up the ball from Ramires and John Obi Mikel. As a result, Chelsea dominated the opening of the second half, exploiting United’s fullbacks, eventually creating a goal after crosses from Mata to Oscar to the goal-scorer, Ramires.
  • Ten minutes later, the match changed again. Ivanovic was off, and Chelsea was on their way to their first loss of the season.
  • For each team, it was a very mixed performance. Put the last 30, chaotic minutes aside and look at the first two-thirds. Over the first half hour, United looked like the best team in England. Through the middle third, Chelsea made the beginning seem a fluke. While Chelsea’s defense showed an alarming vulnerability, United again displayed a willingness to concede control of a match they should dominate.
  • Despite the loss, Chelsea maintains the lead in England. One point behind them: the Manchesters.

AFCON wrap: Ghana books place in quarterfinals, Egypt edges Uganda

FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 21:  Asamoah Gyan of Ghana celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group G match between Germany and Ghana at Castelao on June 21, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
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One Group D side has already sealed its fate in the final eight, while another squad moved on step closer to the African Cup of Nations knockout phase on Saturday.

[ MORE: All AFCON 2017 coverage ]

Ghana 1-0 Mali

The Ghanaians ensured their place in the knockout round after Asamoah Gyan scored for the Black Stars.

Gyan, 31, nodded home a Jordan Ayew cross in the 21st minute, giving Ghana its second straight win in the competition.

Mali will need a victory in its final group stage match against Uganda in order to have a shot at advancing to the last eight.

Egypt 1-0 Uganda

Abdallah El Said played hero on Saturday for Egypt after scoring in the 89th minute to lift Héctor Cúper’s side past Uganda.

The Al Ahly forward finished off Mohamed Salah‘s cross in the game’s dying moments to give Egypt a strong shot at advancing out of Group D.

The Egyptians currently sit second in the group on four points, while Uganda has officially been eliminated from advancing.

Sunday’s AFCON schedule

Cameroon vs. Gabon — 2 p.m. ET
Guinea-Bissau vs. Burkina Faso — 2 p.m. ET

PL Saturday roundup: City, Spurs finish level; United drops points at Stoke

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 21:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City walks off after the Premier League match between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur at the Etihad Stadium on January 21, 2017 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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League leaders Chelsea weren’t in action on Saturday, but things couldn’t have possibly gone any better for the Blues.

With Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham and Manchester United all dropping points in their respective matches, Antonio Conte‘s men have the opportunity to widen the gap atop the Premier League on Sunday as Chelsea faces Hull City.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Here, we take a look back at Saturday’s action from around England’s top flight.

Manchester City 2-2 Tottenham — RECAP

The Citizens will surely feel disappointed in referee Andre Mariner’s lack of a penalty decision, and more so both sides are feeling the affects after finishing level at the Etihad Stadium. Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris had a rough go of it early in the second stanza after two goals to Leroy Sane and Kevin De Bruyne just four minutes apart. Luckily for the visitors, Dele Alli and Heung-Min Son each netted for Tottenham to give Mauricio Pochettino‘s side a share of the points.

Liverpool 2-3 Swansea City — RECAP

It was bound to end some time but Liverpool certainly wasn’t expecting a fight from the Swans on Saturday. Unfortunately for them, that’s exactly what they got. And more. Swansea picked up its first ever top-flight win at Anfield, and the victory couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. Fernando Llorente netted twice for the visitors, while Gylfi Sigurdsson played hero on the day for the Swans. The loss for the Reds snapped a 25-match unbeaten streak at home, while also opening the door for Chelsea to extend its lead at the top of the PL.

Stoke City 1-1 Manchester United  — RECAP

Wayne Rooney was the star of the show, but the veteran attacker’s moment of achievement was overshadowed by his side’s failure to pick up three points. Rooney’s 250th goal was surely the day’s biggest talking point, but Juan Mata‘s earlier own goal ensured United that a draw was their fate on the day. The Red Devils currently sit 11 points out of the top spot in the PL, while the draw keeps Stoke in ninth.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 21: Seamus Coleman of Everton (R) celebrates scoring his sides first goal with Mason Holgate of Everton (L) during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Everton at Selhurst Park on January 21, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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Everton 1-0 Crystal Palace — RECAP

The Toffees have found new life a recent string of victories but it’s Palace that has become the bigger story on Saturday after falling into the depths of the relegation zone. Seamus Coleman sealed the victory for Everton after Tom Davies picked out the veteran Toffee for the match’s lone finish. Outside of Crystal Palace’s FA Cup victory over Bolton, the Eagles have lost eight consecutive PL fixtures, prompting the team’s fall into 18th place.

West Brom 2-0 Sunderland — RECAP

Goals from Darren Fletcher and Chris Brunt kept the Baggies on the top half of the table as Sunderland continues its relegation woes. The Black Cats now sit three points buried at the bottom of the PL following Saturday’s defeat.

West Ham 3-1 Middlesbrough — RECAP

The Hammers moved into the top half of the PL courtesy of goals from Andy Carroll and Jonathan Calleri, while the Boro couldn’t keep up with Slaven Bilic‘s surging side. West Ham has now moved up to 10th place after winning five of its last seven league matches. Christian Stuani managed Middlesbrough’s lone tally on the day, however, the club now sits just four points above the bottom three.

Bournemouth 2-2 Watford — RECAP

Four straight draws between the two sides have left very little between the mid table clubs but Saturday’s encounter surely had its share of entertaining moments. The Hornets led twice on the day with goals from Christian Kabasele and Troy Deeney, however, Bournemouth managed to fight back on both occasions to record the draw. The Cherries currently have a two-point advantage over Watford in the table, with the two clubs sitting 11th and 14th, respectively.

Bundesliga wrap: RB Leipzig keeps pace, BVB rises

Leipzig's Marcel Sabitzer, right, challenges for the ball during the German first division Bundesliga soccer match between RB Leipzig and Eintracht Frankfurt in Leipzig, Germany, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)
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Neither Werder Bremen nor Hamburg could ease historic relegation fears as 12 more Bundesliga sides played their first matches since the winter break.

[ WATCH: Lewandowski wins it on Friday ]

RB Leipzig 3-0 Eintracht Frankfurt

The winter break didn’t slow RB Leipzig, who leapt off the mat to bury Eintracht Frankfurt in a battle of surprise top-end contenders.

Defender Marvin Compper put Leipzig ahead in the sixth minute before Timo Werner netted his 10th of the season. A late own goal finalized the score line, as Leipzig kept pace with Bayern.

Werder Bremen 1-2 Borussia Dortmund

Andre Schurrle scored early for BVB, and a 39th minute red card to Bremen’s Jaroslav Drobny seemed to indicate that the visitors would be well on their way to three points.

Yet Fin Bartels scored in the 59th minute to put a bit of unease on Thomas Tuchel’s crew. Lukasz Piszczek found the winner a minute after a pair of attacking substitutes entered the game.

USMNT winger Christian Pulisic went 90 minutes for the victors, and had the most runs of any player in the match with 95. He puts three shots on target.

BVB pulls to within a point of third place, still 12 behind Bayern Munich.

Wolfsburg 1-0 Hamburger SV

Mario Gomez’s 82nd minute boosted Wolfsburg six points clear of 16th place in a relegation six-pointer.

Elsewhere
Freiburg 1-2 Bayern Munich — RECAP
Augsburg 0-2 Hoffenheim
Schalke 1-0 Ingolstadt
Darmstadt 0-0 Borussia Monchengladbach
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hertha Berlin — 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Mainz vs. Koln — 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday

Standings

 

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Bayern Munich 17 13 3 1 40 10 30 7-2-0 6-1-1 42
 RB Leipzig 17 12 3 2 34 15 19 7-1-0 5-2-2 39
 1899 Hoffenheim 17 7 10 0 30 17 13 4-5-0 3-5-0 31
 Borussia Dortmund 17 8 6 3 37 20 17 5-3-0 3-3-3 30
 Hertha BSC Berlin 16 9 3 4 24 16 8 7-0-1 2-3-3 30
 Eintracht Frankfurt 17 8 5 4 22 15 7 5-3-0 3-2-4 29
 1. FC Köln 16 6 7 3 21 15 6 4-4-0 2-3-3 25
 SC Freiburg 17 7 2 8 22 29 -7 5-0-3 2-2-5 23
 FC Schalke 04 17 6 3 8 21 19 2 5-1-3 1-2-5 21
 Bayer Leverkusen 16 6 3 7 23 24 -1 3-2-3 3-1-4 21
 FSV Mainz 05 16 6 2 8 26 30 -4 4-1-2 2-1-6 20
 VfL Wolfsburg 17 5 4 8 16 24 -8 2-2-5 3-2-3 19
 FC Augsburg 17 4 6 7 13 19 -6 2-3-4 2-3-3 18
 Mönchengladbach 17 4 5 8 15 25 -10 4-3-2 0-2-6 17
 Werder Bremen 17 4 4 9 21 36 -15 3-1-5 1-3-4 16
 Hamburger SV 17 3 4 10 14 32 -18 2-2-4 1-2-6 13
 FC Ingolstadt 04 17 3 3 11 14 28 -14 1-2-5 2-1-6 12
 Darmstadt 17 2 3 12 11 30 -19 2-3-4 0-0-8 9

Walker, Guardiola, Pochettino react to non-PK call in Man City-Spurs

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A thrilling match has ended with an unfortunate focus on officials.

Kyle Walker shoved Raheem Sterling on a second-half breakaway, but a stumbling Sterling still poked the ball at Hugo Lloris.

Referee Andre Marriner didn’t make the call, and moments later a potential 3-1 became 2-2 when Heung-Min Son equalized at the other end.

[ RECAP: Man City 2-2 Spurs ]

Man City boss Pep Guardiola was furious, and went off on the fourth official. Walker, it seems, knows he was guilty.

“I wasn’t going to get him otherwise,” Walker said. “You just have to try to put him off as much as possible.”

Then there’s Pep, who tried to avoid speaking about the penalty.

“We made an outstanding performance. It’s a pity what happened. … We’re upset, sad at what happened, but I am so, so proud of what we did.”

Later he was told that Walker admitting to pushing Sterling, and said with a smirk, “In this country you appreciate honesty. Thank you to Walker for being honest.”

Finally, Pochettino seems to think there wasn’t a problem at all, except when City was allowed to score when Hugo Lloris headed a ball off Leroy Sane’s hand before Sane scored.

Cheeky.

“The first goal we conceded was handball. We can’t start to see every single detail, in England it’s different. It wasn’t a penalty. From my side, there’s no complaint about from me about the referee.”

Sure, Mauricio. Sure.