Manchester City's Toure celebrates with Navas and Negredo after scoring during their English Premier League soccer match against Hull City at The Etihad Stadium, Manchester

Manchester City 2-0 Hull City: Negredo and Toure seal hard-fought win (Video)

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Manchester City ground out a solid 2-0 win against newly promoted Hull City at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

City were second best for most of the first half but the pivotal moment came in the games 65th minute as substitute Alvaro Negredo headed home from a fabulous Pablo Zabaleta cross, as Man City kept scored for the 52nd home league game in a row.

Then in the 90th minute captain Yaya Toure put some gloss on the scoreline by curling home a wonderful free kick from 25-yards out to make it 2-0.

Hull spurned several good chances early as Man City started slowly following their shock 3-2 defeat to Cardiff City last time out.

But Manuel Pellergini’s side held firm and struck the decisive blow in the second period to give them a second-straight home win to begin the season. The result was slightly harsh on the visiting Tigers who battled well throughout and could have easily snatched a draw.

In the first half Hull City were lively early on and in the 7th minute Sone Aluko spurned a terrific chance when clean through against Joe Hart.

source: AP
Negredo celebrates his opener off the bench.

The 24-year-old striker was played in and only had Hart to beat but he scuffed his shot wide of the post as Man City were let off the hook.

Then on 11 minutes Danny Graham slotted in at the back post as Hull boss Steve Bruce celebrated… but his jubilation was premature as the offside flag was raised. Graham, making his first start for Hull, should have really done better as he could clearly see across the line and was completely unmarked.

Manchester City soon hit back as Joleon Lescott powered in a header that McGregor tipped over the bar as City began to find space in Hull’s defense after a barrage of set pieces.

But the theme of the first half continued as Hull’s Robert Koren smashed a volley from the edge of the box just past the post after 15 minutes, as the Tigers started off impressively at the Etihad.

The rest of the first half saw City trying to push forward but Hull stayed firm and the home fans vented their frustration at the break. Pellegrini’s men had work to do.

You had to look way back to November 2010 for the last Premier League team to kept a clean sheet at the Etihad and Hull were looking like they could snatch a shutout.

In the second half City started off much better with substitute Alvaro Negredo offering more punch up front than Edin Dzeko. The Spaniard wormed free of his marker but headed a good chance horribly wide after 46 minutes.

City then came close once more as their diminutive Spanish duo of David Silva and Jesus Navas linked up on the right but the latter hit his volley over the bar.

Hull came back into the game once again as Graham had a few half chances but the real action was in the midfield as the Tigers flew into challenges and plenty of yellow cards were dished out to both teams by referee Phil Dowd.

In the 62nd minute Lescott was left unmarked at the back post but his header across goal was easily cleared for a corner as City piled on the pressure.

The Citizens continued to toil as the half wore on and struggled to break down the visitors but the all-important breakthrough for arrived in the 65th minute as substitute Alvaro Negredo headed home.

For the second week in a row the Spanish international striker came off the bench to score with a header after a fantastic ball from right back Pablo Zabaleta.

After the opener Hull City huffed and puffed to try and get back in the game but Joe Hart made some great claims in goal and City’s backline looked solid.

Then in the 90th minute Manchester City’s captain Yaya Toure stepped up to curl home a magnificent free kick to seal all three points and put the result beyond doubt. It was Toure’s second superb free kick in as many home games as the Citizen’s got the win they needed but Hull City certainly made them work hard for it.

Man City’s narrow win momentarily put them second in the Premier League table with six points from three games, while Hull remain 13th after one win and two defeats since returning to the Premier League.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Nastasic, Lescott, Kolarov, Toure, Fernandinho, Jesus Navas, Aguero (Milner 76), Silva (Nasri 66), Dzeko (Negredo 45). Subs not used: Javi Garcia, Clichy, Pantilimon, Jovetic.

Hull City: McGregor, Elmohamady, Chester, Davies, Figueroa, Livermore, Huddlestone, Koren (Boyd 75), Aluko (Quinn 70), Brady, Graham. Subs not used: Rosenior, Bruce, Meyler, McShane, Harper.

Goals: Negredo, 65 (MC) Toure, 90 (MC)

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Loss to Sevilla quickly puts Real Madrid’s Zidane on the defensive

SEVILLE, SPAIN - JANUARY 15:  Head Coach of Real Madrid CF Zinedine Zidane looks on prior to  the match against Real Madrid CF during the La Liga match between Sevilla FC and Real Madrid CF at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on January 15, 2017 in Seville, Spain.  (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)
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MADRID (AP) Real Madrid’s first loss after a 40-game unbeaten streak was enough to put coach Zinedine Zidane on the defensive.

Two days after Madrid’s unbeaten record was halted by a 2-1 defeat at Sevilla in the Spanish league, Zidane was forced to defend some of his players against criticism from fans and local media.

[ MORE: Klopp, Liverpool still consulting lawyers over absurd Matip situation ]

Most comments were aimed at goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who failed to stop Sevilla’s injury-time winner on Sunday. Navas got to Stevan Jovetic‘s long-range shot but was unable to keep the ball from going in.

“He’s having a really good season,” Zidane said on Tuesday. “You can always ask for more, but if up until now we had gone 40 games without losing, it’s for a reason, and he has been there all the way.”

There have been calls for Zidane to give reserve goalkeeper Kiko Casilla a chance, but the coach said there was “no need to go over this again.”

Zidane also dismissed talk about signing a new goalkeeper.

“These are rumors,” he said. “We are focused on what we are doing this year. Whatever happens next I’m not interested and it’s not the time to talk about it. The three goalkeepers we have are important, they’re doing well and I’m very happy with them. I don’t want to change anything we’re doing.”

[ MORE: How Sevilla hope to break up the Madrid-Barca duopoly ]

Zidane defended forward Karim Benzema, who lost possession near midfield in a mistake that led to host Sevilla’s winner on Sunday.

“Everyone can say and write what they want,” Zidane said. “On a field, playing 90 minutes, you can’t do everything right. There is talk of lack of concentration, but we only had five bad minutes and that happens in football.”

Benzema also missed a chance to score from close range in the game, but a few days earlier it was the French striker who netted in stoppage time in a Copa del Rey match against Sevilla to help Madrid set the Spanish unbeaten record.

Zidane downplayed the end of Madrid’s unbeaten streak. The club hadn’t lost since a 2-0 defeat at Wolfsburg in the Champions League in April.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

“These things happen,” he said. “Nothing is going to change in what I’m going to do. Those who are not Real Madrid fans will want us to lose, but we must be ready and think that what we’re doing is fine. We lost a game, something that happens, and now we have to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

Madrid hosts Celta Vigo on Wednesday in a first-leg match in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey.

Celta has won all four matches this year.

“I am not surprised by Celta’s record because they’re a very good team, they fight and play very good football,” Zidane said. “It’ll be another complicated match for us.”

FA fines Man City’s Sagna over “10 against 12” Instagram message

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 02: Scott Arfield of Burnley (L) tackles Bacary Sagna of Manchester City (R) during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Burnley at Etihad Stadium on January 2, 2017 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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LONDON (AP) The English Football Association has fined Manchester City defender Bacary Sagna 40,000 pounds (around $50,000) for an Instagram post about a referee.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Sagna posted a photo with the caption “10 against 12.. but still fighting and winning as a team” on the social network site following City’s 2-1 win against Burnley on Jan. 2.

Sagna later amended the post to read “still fighting and winning as a team” after a match that saw referee Lee Mason send off midfielder Fernandinho.

[ MORE: Klopp, Liverpool still consulting lawyers over absurd Matip situation ]

The FA also warned Sagna about his future conduct.

Klopp, Liverpool still consulting lawyers over in-limbo Matip

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 11: Joel Matip of Liverpool and Andre Ayew of West Ham United compete for the ball during the Premier League match between Liverpool and West Ham United at Anfield on December 11, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
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Few footballing sagas will ever reach heights of absurdity comparable to that of the Joel Matip/Liverpool versus Cameroon/FIFA battle currently raging, as the Reds defender finds himself “ineligible” to play for his club due to an international call-up 18 months after announcing his international retirement.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

PST’s Joe Prince-Wright summed up the situation quite well, in full, right here. An excerpt:

Matip, 25, was called up by the Cameroon national team for the 2017 African Cup of Nations which is currently taking place in Gabon. However, the former Schalke defender has previously stated that he did not want to play for them and he had retired from international duty.

Cameroon called him into their initial 35-man squad for the competition anyway but did not include him in their final 23-man squad once it became clear Matip, along with six other players, had no interest in playing for them at AFCON.

FIFA has confirmed that Liverpool has been in touch regarding Matip’s status and it now appears that he will not be able to play in any other competition while Cameroon is still in AFCON action under Article 5 of FIFA’s rules.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

Fast forward a few days, and Jurgen Klopp and Co. have no further clarity regarding the situation. It’s so unclear, in fact, that Klopp said on Tuesday he may select the 25-year-old during one of two remaining games this week, and hope for the best — quotes from the Guardian:

“As you can imagine, we are in a lot of talks. We’ve done transfers quicker than this. It’s already long term but now it’s getting really tense on our side. We’ve tried everything but at the end I have to make the decision. Of course I have to ask [Liverpool’s lawyers] but the decision is for me to make. I could put him in the lineup. I don’t think the referee is going to say: ‘Stop, stop, you cannot go on the pitch.’ But I will do it when it’s OK from our point of view. Of course I need advice — I’m not a lawyer.”

“Most of the time in life you know if you do this, then you get this. But it’s not 100 percent clear what happens [if Matip plays]. We try everything to win football games. If this can happen — out of the tournament or whatever — then we have to decide about the risk. He’s ready to play for us and that makes it difficult.”

What an utter disaster of a situation Cameroon have intentionally created here.

VIDEO: Jeison Murillo’s incredible bicycle from a corner kick

MILAN, ITALY - JANUARY 17:  (R-L) Jeison Murillo of FC Internazionale celebrates his first goal with Geoffrey Kondogbia during the TIM Cup match between FC Internazionale and Bologna FC at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on January 17, 2017 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
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Look away now, Andy Carroll. Take a bow, Jeison Murillo.

[ VIDEOS: All in a week’s work — Messi free kick no. 1 | Messi free kick no. 2 ]

Just three days after Carroll scored the bicycle-kick goal of the year (so we thought), here comes Murillo, Inter Milan’s 24-year-old Colombian striker, to steal his thunder (below video). The fact he did it directly from a corner kick, with the ball traveling roughly 40 yards before flinging his body into the air and striking the ball so cleanly, (somehow) trumps Carroll’s accomplishment from Saturday.

[ MORE: PL Power Rankings — Tight at the top… and bottom ]

Sensational goals come in twos now, apparently, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Olivier Giroud scored stunning scorpion-kick goals (WATCH HERE and HERE) just days apart earlier in the season.