Manchester City justified to fire Mancini?

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As the news broke of Roberto Mancini’s firing from Manchester City on Monday evening, mixed reviews split opinion across the soccer community.

City’s ownership group cited Mancini had failed to “develop a holistic approach to all aspects of football at the club” and had not reached “stated targets.”

But in their statement announcing the decision to show Mancini the door, chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak also stated his thanks to the Italian for delivering the club’s first league title in 35 years.

So what more could Mancini have done in his three and a half years at the club? Not that much.

Yes they should have beaten Wigan and won the FA Cup on Saturday, but that was hardly the determining factor in the decision to sack the former Sampdoria and Lazio forward.

He delivered trophies, winning the 2011-12 Premier League and the FA Cup in 2011. He bought well in some cases and played attacking, expansive soccer on the way to winning the title.

But that wasn’t enough.

Several spats with big name players, such as Joe Hart, Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tevez has punctuated his time in charge of City. It has often been stated that Mancini had a poor relationship with the majority of his squad and he liked to distance himself from the group.

In many ways that was his greatest feature. Often he would take a look from afar at his squad, make subtle changes that worked and he seemed to know when to alter formations, drop certain players and buy the likes of Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure to spearhead his squad of incredibly talented players.

(More: The Mancini Era, top five signings)

But the lack of youth in Man City’s squad didn’t sit well with their billionaire owners. With new UEFA regulations regarding financial fair play and the multi-million dollar academy and training complex they are building next to the Etihad Stadium, City are planning to become a team that is sustainable and full of homegrown youngsters. Former Barcelona director of football Txiki Begiristain, he joined City in 2012. The new emphasis is clearly on youth development.

Mancini just didn’t fit the bill.

The Italian brought joy and happiness to many City fans, who accepted the decision to get rid of Mancini was inevitable, but struggled to comprehend it at the same time. They still think of Mancini as the arrogant Italian standing on the edge of the technical area in a beautifully crafted suit, with his arms crossed. A blue and white Man City scarf was often wrapped around his neck and every now and then, a stylish stroke of his right-hand through his wavy hair would signal everything is okay. City are playing well. Mancini is chilled. The future is looking good.

That was then. This is now.

There will be no more Mancini on the sidelines. No more fiery bust ups in training splashed across the front pages of the British tabloids. No more “Robby Manc” as he was known locally. He won 61.65 percent of his EPL games in charge, ranking fourth all-time in managers who’ve be in charge for 20+ games.

How much more could he have really done?

Manchester City’s fans are amongst the most loyal in the land. They regularly sold out their old Maine Road ground while their side languished in England’s third-tier in 1998. They will support the new manager just as vehemently as they supported Mancini. But it will take time.

(More: Is Manuel Pellegrini the right man for Manchester City?)

After spending almost $500 million on players in his time in charge, not making the Champions League knockout stages was his biggest failure. But at least he had success. City fans will remember it. Mancini will move on with a huge severance pay and everything will settle down for a while.

But I for one would love to see Mancini return to soccer, sooner rather than later.

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

AP Photo/Bryan Woolston
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The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

AP Photo/Armando Franca
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A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia

MLS (afternoon) roundup: Historically awful MNUFC spanked again

Photo credit: New England Revolution / Twitter: @NERevolution
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The fourth (partial — playing during international breaks should be banned) MLS Saturday of 2017 is two-thirds of the way complete. A quick roundup of the day’s early games…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

New England Revolution 5-2 Minnesota United

What else needs to be said about Minnesota at this point? What else can be said? The number of goals they’ve conceded in their first four MLS games: 5, 6, 2, and 5. While (we think) a bit of luck will eventually go their way, and they’ll curtail the goals they’re conceding (we can’t be sure anymore), Adrian Heath’s side is on pace to conceded 153 goals this season.

Anyway, New England picked up their first win of the season. The quality (and ease) of goals scored will tell you everything you need to know about Minnesota’s defending.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

New York Red Bulls 0-0 Real Salt Lake

Five days after firing head coach Jeff Cassar, RSL returned to their inept, toothless ways in a scoreless draw away to New York. Through four games, the Claret and Cobalt have scored all of one goal, and genuinely look the league’s most lifeless side; Minnesota have at least shown signs of quality in the attacking half.

On Saturday, New York created the majority of the game’s best chances — a pair of shots from distance, masterfully saved by deputy goalkeeper Matt VanOekel — but the chance that will live in the memories of RSL fans for a lifetime came and went in agonizing fashion.