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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Seven unheralded stars of this Premier League season

during the Barclays Premier League match between A.F.C. Bournemouth and Tottenham Hotspur at Vitality Stadium on October 25, 2015 in Bournemouth, England.
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Look, it’s been a crazy year in the Premier League. Leicester City is top by five points, Chelsea is a bottom-half side, and not one of the league’s top three scorers hails from a team in last season’s Top Four.

So it follows that among the league’s other statistical leaders — advanced and traditional — are some surprisingly shining stars.

[ MORE: West Ham 3-2 Liverpool | Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

Or at least they aren’t mentioned a ton. We plan to rectify that here. By no means do we claim these statistical leaders without fault this season, but hats off to the good they’ve done (or, in some cases, the pain they’ve felt).

Most saves in a starring role

You wouldn’t know it from the goal totals these past few weeks, but Stoke City’s Jack Butland has been playing otherworldly between the sticks. His 87 saves lead the Premier League, and the Potters would be in the thick of a relegation battle if he hadn’t shone as brightly.

Ironman

Eleven players have played every minute of their side’s Premier League campaign this season (a 12th, Gareth Barry, has played all but one). Four of those 11 are goalkeepers, and six more are defenders. The only midfielder? Bournemouth’s South African standout Andrew Surman (above).

Top thief, too

Surman is also the league leader in interceptions with 92. The next seven players on the list, headed by Chris Smalling, are all defenders.

The most under-appreciated of the underdogs

Kante (Mark Thompson / Getty Images)

Leicester City has been fantastic, and people are quick to name Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy as big parts of the table-topping effort at King Power Stadium. Then, perhaps they’ll say something about goalkeeper Kaspar Schmeichel or defender Wes Morgan.

But how about the Premier League’s leader in tackles. Midfielder N'Golo Kante (right) has 115 tackles, 12 more than second-best Yohan Cabaye of Crystal Palace.

An all-expense paid journey to the massage parlor for…

Five players have been fouled more than 50 times this year, and you need to be around the ball a lot for that to happen. The four also-rans are Southampton’s Sadio Mane, Swansea City’s Andre Ayew, Everton’s Ross Barkley and Mahrez, but the man who deserved to skip to the head of the ice bath line is from Crystal Palace: Wilfried Zaha has been fouled 59 times. And that’s the amount of times the foulers were caught in the act.

Let Newcastle United’s captain climb in second, though; Fabricio Coloccini‘s 47 blocked shots are eight more than runners-up Neil Taylor (Swans) and Christian Fuchs (Leicester).

A man possessed

He hasn’t been heralded like a year ago, and most witnesses would tell you the midfielder’s been playing much worse. No, touches don’t equal success, but Cesc Fabregas‘ 2,027 credited touches are 74 more than the next player despite the fact that he’s the only player in the top four to have started less than 25 matches. He’s also completed 83 more passes than the closest competitor (Surman).

All-around stars

Advanced stats site Squawka uses an algorithm to generate statistics on who just might be the most complete player in the Premier League.

It’s certainly not foolproof, but the best player per-90 minutes would likely surprise you: Mousa Dembele of Spurs (Minimum 15 matches).

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As for who’s produced the most when numbers are averaged out over the entire game, one man rises to the top: Ross Barkley.

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Oft-targeted in the Premier League, Carvalho extends deal at Lisbon

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William Carvalho has been running through the rumor mill for ages, and Sporting Lisbon has made sure they’ll get their due if he ever stops somewhere else.

The Angola-born Portuguese defensive midfielder with 15 caps has extended his contract with Sporting through 2020, a date that carries him through his 28th birthday.

[ MORE: West Ham 3-2 Liverpool | Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

Carvalho is 23 now, and has been linked with loads of big name clubs from Manchester United to Chelsea, Arsenal to PSG.

His new buyout clause is said to be as high as $53 million, and Carvalho hopes his commitment calms his supporters.

“Sportinguistas, I say to you that I am very happy with the deal which I signed up to 2020 and that you will have total effort on my part to be champions.”

Sporting is tied with Benfica atop the Portuguese table, second on goal differential. The club leads third-place Porto by six points, and is still alive in the Europa League. Bayer Leverkusen is up next.

Klinsmann hints at Euro-heavy roster for World Cup qualifiers

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 08:  Danny Williams #14 of the United States looks on before an international friendly against Brazil at Gillette Stadium on September 8, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)
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If your favorite Major League Soccer players don’t make the cut for Jurgen Klinsmann’s next roster, don’t think you won’t see them in the red, white and blue this summer.

[ JPW: What’s the best XI for USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers? ]

Perhaps it’ll be different for the players who were a part of January camp — stars Lee Nguyen and Steve Birnbaum chief among them — but Klinsmann says the late start of the MLS season can affect fitness for the critical qualifiers home and away to Guatemala.

That means there’s a better chance to see in-form Championship midfielder Danny Williams (above) or Pachuca’s Omar Gonzalez then, say, Orlando City’s Brek Shea or Real Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman.

From USSoccer.com:

“We are basically looking all over the place. We monitor all the players in Europe. We monitor all the players in Mexico, and obviously we can’t wait until MLS starts as well. It’s really kind of crucial that we see everybody getting in the best shape possible, everybody getting into a rhythm and making statements.

“Then you say, ‘Is the roster you see at the end of March the same one as Copa America?’ Probably not. The end of March comes early for MLS players. The European players are in the full swing, and also Mexican players because they started already a month ago with Liga MX. So we’ll be monitoring everyone.”

We’ve already covered the obstacle that is the CONCACAF-CONMEBOL Olympic qualifying playoff occurring at the same time as the Guatemala matches, but this is still good news for players in England, Germany and other European locales seeking caps in March.

Klopp on struggling Benteke: “He wants to score and we need him to score”

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09:  Christian Benteke of Liverpool reacts as he foiled by goalkeeper Darren Randolph of West Ham United during the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Replay match between West Ham United and Liverpool at Boleyn Ground on February 9, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Jurgen Klopp had his appendix removed this weekend, but it’s doubtful he’s feeling as sore as his big Belgian striker.

Christian Benteke had the opportunity to put himself in the good graces of Liverpool fans with a number of decent chances in Tuesday’s FA Cup loss to West Ham, but couldn’t get the job done.

[ MORE: Match recap | Watch Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

In one case, Benteke put himself in a prime spot only to lash his shot wide of the post. Instead, he’s now at 11 appearances without a goal (despite ripping nine shots against the Irons).

From the BBC:

“I don’t believe in the easy goal. He has to carry on like this. It’s not the nicest moment in his career but he has to work hard. He wants to score and we need him to score. We will work on it in the days, weeks and months.”

Klopp maintained that Liverpool was “the better team” on the night — counterpart Slaven Bilic disagreed — despite conceding a pair of very similar looking goals.

The game could’ve avoided extra time through Benteke’s boots and body, but he couldn’t find his finish again.

The 25-year-old has seen his goal production drop by nearly half since joining from Aston Villa in the summer, and it’s sure to return… just maybe not under Klopp.