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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Arena reacts to USMNT draw, expects CONCACAF fight to end

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Bruce Arena didn’t enjoy watching Tuesday’s 1-1 draw between the United States and Panama, but he’s not upset with the result.

“The referee didn’t blow his whistle too much, and that’s the way the game looked for 90 minutes,” Arena said.

[ MORE: Player ratings | 3 things ]

Arena’s Yanks struggled to find their flow in the draw, ravaged by injuries to their back line. Arena praised his back four for their performance in difficult circumstances on the road with new teammates.

And he’s feeling a lot better than a week ago, when the U.S. had zero points and sat last in the table.

[ WATCH: Full match replay (Spanish) ]

“We’re obviously in better shape with four points in two games. We’ve made progress. Every game in qualifying is going to be critical for every team. Everyone’s in it. It’s going to be a battle for the second, third, and fourth spots.”

The Americans’ next World Cup qualifier is June 8 against Trinidad and Tobago before a June 11 road trip to Azteca to face Mexico.

Panama 1-1 USMNT: Ugly, scrappy point for both sides

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The United States will finish the international break in the Hex’s fourth place after a 1-1 draw at Panama in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.

Clint Dempsey scored off a feed from Christian Pulisic to give the U.S. a brief 1-0 lead, and Gabriel Gomez leveled the score before halftime.

The Americans’ next World Cup qualifier is June 8 against Trinidad and Tobago before a June 11 road trip to Azteca to face Mexico.

[ MORE: Player ratings | 3 things ]

Here’s the Hex table as it stands, with the U.S. on pace for a playoff spot against Asia’s playoff winner:

Mexico — 10 points
Costa Rica — 7 points
Panama — 5 points
———————
USMNT — 4 points
———————-
Honduras — 4 points
Trinidad and Tobago — 3 points

[ WATCH: Full match replay (Spanish) ]

The first 10 minutes were a bit frenetic, with the U.S. focused on adventurous first touch passes when it managed to earn the ball from Panama.

That feel wasn’t aided by the officiating, as Cesar Ramos was inconsistent in a very physical opening quarter-hour (and never pulled a single card).

Felipe Baloy flashed a header over the cross bar off a 16th minute corner kick as he lost Jozy Altidore and nodded back across goal. It was a bit of set piece foreshadowing, as Arena has yet to fix a long-held USMNT problem.

Christian Pulisic was fired up when Luis Tejada shoved him to the turf in the 20th minute.

Tim Ream bailed out Jorge Villafana, who wasn’t as composed and smart as his Friday versus Panama, sliding to divert Armando Cooper’s cross for a corner kick.

Jermaine Jones cued up Pulisic moments later, but the youngster had to wait for a bounding ball to settle before Panama conceded a corner. That opportunity was wasted by an overly aggressive Gonzalez, who was called for a foul before the ball arrived in the 18.

Howard saw his first danger and averted it when Alberto Quintero shook Zusi to rip a shot on frame. It was 0-0 after 32 minutes.

Then, the breakthrough. Dempsey moved to within a goal of Landon donovan’s all-time mark thanks to Pulisic, who cooked Felipe Baloy and held off Roman Torres before laying off to the veteran. 1-0, 39′.

The lead lasted all of three minutes, as Gomez pounced on a loose ball with the Yanks’ back line at sixes and sevens off a long throw-in. Gomez turned off Jermaine Jones and lost Villafana to bury his chance behind Howard. 1-1, 44′.

The second half began with more chunky play until Villafana blazed down the left wing on an overlapping run to cross for Pulisic, whose shot was forced out for a corner which led to nothing.

Dempsey then turned a Michael Bradley free kick to a waiting Jaime Penedo as the Yanks started to refind their flow.

Panama found a doorstep chance when Torres nodded down for Tejada, but Howard made an exceptional nether regions “leg” save to keep it 1-1.

Arena introduced Alejandro Bedoya for Darlington Nagbe with 20 minutes to play, a move that was a testament to the physical nature of the game.

Fittingly, it was creative work from Pulisic that helped the U.S. win a corner kick soon after, though Penedo claimed the offering.

More chances came Panama’s way, as the U.S. spent much of the late stages desperately clearing loose balls. On another night, with better finishing from Tejada, the Yanks would’ve been sunk.

Three takeaways from the USMNT’s 1-1 draw at Panama

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What did we learn from the United States’ 1-1 draw in Panama City on Wednesday?

For one thing, that the coach isn’t going to matter without a number of your very best players.

[ MORE: Match recap | Player ratings ]

The USMNT saw precious few moments of brilliance from its injury-ravaged side, saved by its soon-to-be all-time leading scorer, its 18-year-old star attacker, and its legendary goalkeeper.

But mainly, we saw that you can change the boss, but you need better performances to make a difference.

Limits of depth tested in ugly affair

Bruce Arena was without his best center back pairing thanks to injury, and you could argue he was without his best back four if you see Fabian Johnson as a left back (John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, DeAndre Yedlin, and Johnson).

The U.S. also couldn’t pair Bobby Wood with Jozy Altidore or Clint Dempsey, and lost Sebastian Lletget to injury on Friday. Timmy Chandler has rarely thrived with the USMNT, but it certainly would’ve been nice if Arena had called him up for the second match alone (He was suspended Friday for yellow card accumulation).

Given the above, this was not a pretty match. You just have to hope this isn’t the result that keeps them from Russia.

Mexico, revisited (What game plan?)

This might be an unpopular take, but Tuesday’s loss was nothing more than the performance put forth against Mexico in Columbus.

The main differences? Tim Howard was there to make a tremendous save, and Panama is nowhere near to the level of El Tri.

[ WATCH: Full match replay (Spanish) ]

The Yanks didn’t have a great plan other than to outwork Panama. This isn’t a big knock on the coach’s tactics given the lack of starting caliber players noted above, but once Panama flooded the middle of the pitch with fouls and tight tackles, an answer wasn’t provided by the players or the coach.

Plan B hasn’t been a U.S. strong suit for a long time, perhaps back to the finer moments of the Bob Bradley era. Arena got away with one on Tuesday.

Rough road ahead

This is something we know, but my was it reinforced: Winning CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers at home is a necessity, because there’s carnage and bad pitches on the road.

Perhaps that could’ve changed if referee Cesar Ramos brought a yellow card out for either team at any point in the proceedings. Christian Pulisic and Darlington Nagbe were fouled as part of Panama’s game plan, and the Yanks’ beleaguered defense went with a similar plan as the sloppy match wore into the waning moments.

The U.S. is still in control of its own World Cup destiny, of course, but simply must handle its business in remaining home matches against Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, and Costa Rica. T&T is next, and anything other than three points sends them into Azteca in a bad, bad way.

Player ratings from the USMNT’s 1-1 draw in Panama

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Player ratings reverted to old form after Tuesday’s 1-1 draw in Panama City, though fortunately one of the other U.S. tropes is dead.

That’s because “Christian Pulisic is the future” can officially be moved into “Christian Pulisic is the present”.

[ MORE: Match recap | 3 things ]

The Borussia Dortmund teenager again manufactured the United States’ best moment, feeding Clint Dempsey for the Yanks’ lone goal.

Starting XI

Tim Howard  — 7 — Don’t know what he’s supposed to do on the goal, but his jewels save to deny Luis Tejada could be a World Cup saver.

Jorge Villafana  — 4 — One of the many star men from the win over Honduras was too adventurous and less composed. Bad combo.

Omar Gonzalez  — 4 — I say this in a way that ignores Timmy Chandler’s fine work in the Bundesliga: Is Gonzalez going to be Bruce Arena’s Chandler? Hopefully this is the last time he has to start.

Tim Ream — 5 — Had a bad time on the goal, and made several bad plays. But it’s hard to get a read on the Fulham’s man night because he bailed out Gonzalez and Villafana on a number of occasions.

Graham Zusi  — 5 — Gets bumped up a point for handling a very difficult situation, still adapting to right back in a match where Panama’s tactics were to attack his side. A better second half than the first.

Michael Bradley  — 6 — Nothing exceptional from the captain, but still an upgrade from his form under Jurgen Klinsmann. A little too deep in the formation on the evening, but that could’ve been the plan?

Jermaine Jones  (Off 75′) — 5 — Ornery as usual, his only successes came in standing up for his oft-fouled midfield mates.

Darlington Nagbe  (Off 68′) — 6  — This game looked set up for him to pick the ball up from Michael Bradley and dance into the midfield, but he only got a few chances as Panama’s tactics were aimed at fouling the Yanks’ two best dribblers in him and Pulisic.

Christian Pulisic  — 9 — A simply incredible bit of work to work two veteran defenders and assist Dempsey’s goal. Failing an unforeseen dip in company, Pulisic is going to be one of the most important players in American men’s history.

Clint Dempsey  — 6 — Scored the goal that earned the point, but otherwise fought to be a part of the match. That’s the sign of a legend, though, still finding a way to make himself matter on a poor evening.

Jozy Altidore  — 5 — Might’ve had a dozen touches in the game. Part of this was down to the U.S. aiming balls at his head and not his feet, but not his day.

Subs

Alejandro Bedoya (On 68′)  — 6 — Dogged work rate from the Union man.

Kellyn Acosta (On 75′) — 6 — Some creativity on display in limited time

Paul Arriola (On 83′) — N/A —