Manchester City 3-0 Swansea: Incisive City attack slices up Swansea defense (video)

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Tried to push forward they did, but the visitors were powerless to stop a Manchester City attack led by Samir Nasri’s double to give the home side a 3-0 win at the Etihad.

Swansea’s Jonathan De Guzman missed a sitter to pull level at 1-1 at the end of the first half, and City were in the clear from there.

Manchester City asked the early questions, with Swansea struggling to get out of their own half within the first five minutes.

They broke through early, as Jose Canas brought down Alvaro Negredo in the 8th minute, and the Spanish winger came through with the ensuing free kick.

Manchester City posted up men at the end of the Swansea wall to box the players in, and Negredo bent the ball around the pinned down wall and past a rooted Gerhard Tremmel for a 1-0 lead.

With Swansea opening the game up soon after, 4-time Joe Hart understudy Costel Pantilimon was forced into an impressive diving save by Jonjo Shelvey in the 14th minute.

Shelvey was bright in the Swansea attack, and he made a run in the 23rd minute through the City midfield and cut out Alvaro Vasquez with space between the defense, but the Spaniard dragged his shot wide.  Unfortunately, chances were few and far between for the Swans who were without both Michu and Wilfried Bony due to injury.

Negredo and Samir Nasri cut through the Swansea defense again in the 29th minute and Negredo’s shot was palmed out by Gerhard Tremmel.  The ensuing corner was a good one, and Martin Demichelis’s header clattered the crossbar before being cleared.

source: Getty Images
A double from Samir Nasri (right), one assisted by Yaya Toure (left), sank the Swans.

Demichelis got away with a bit of a shirt tug on Pozuelo in his own penalty box a few minutes later, which sprung Aguero on the other end to have a go but a fantastic tackle by Jose Canas stopped Aguero on the other end in his tracks.

Just on the stroke of halftime Swansea had a beautiful chance to equalize as Jonathan De Guzman beat Demichelis one-on-one with a nutmeg, sending the defender embarassingly to the turf. It sent De Guzman through on goal, but with Jolean Lescott and Costel Pantilimon bearing down on the midfielder he panicked and blasted well over, a shocking miss.

Samir Nasri, filling in brilliantly in David Silva’s absence, put City up 2-0 after the break and on the home side went.  Yaya Toure, ever present in that midfield, won the ball and ran easily through to the box, where he cut back for Nasri.  The Frenchman reached out with his foot, stuck the ball at his feet, weaved through and shot past Tremmel.

City were clearly the better side the entire second half, and after they searched for a third, Nasri finally had it in the 77th minute. Pablo Zabaleta latched onto the ball on the right of the box on the overlap, and he cut back for a wide open Nasri bang in the middle of the box for a powerful close-range finish.

Nasri came inches from his hat-trick when he got a pass from Dzeko on a break in the dying minutes, cut back to his right foot and fired for the top corner but it went just wide.

With Chelsea also winning, the victory sends Manchester City up to third place and takes advantage of Liverpool’s loss earlier today.  Swansea remain in 12th, with an attractive brand of soccer this season but fewer points to show for it than many would have expected.

City now have scored 29 goals at home and conceded only two, and are the only club in the Premier League with a perfect home record.

GOALS:

Manchester City – Negredo 8′; Nasri 58′, 77′

LINEUPS:

Manchester City – Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Lescott, Demichelis, Clichy; Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Navas (Kolarov, 76′), Nasri; Negredo (Milner, 63′), Aguero (Dzeko, 79′).

Swansea City – Tremmel; Tiendalli, Chico Flores, Williams, Davies; Canas (Routledge, 62′), de Guzman, Shelvey, Pozuelo (Dyer, 67′), Hernandez; Vazquez.

Willian proves he’s Chelsea’s x-factor against Brighton

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There’s a considerable difference when watching a Chelsea team that plays with and without one of its Brazilian influences in the attacking part of the field.

Willian — who first debuted for the Blues back in 2013 — hasn’t always managed to be a regular starter for Chelsea, whether it was Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink or current manager Antonio Conte at the helm, though.

[ SOURCES: Jack Harrison expected to join Stoke City this winter ]

The 29-year-old plays with considerable flair, something that certainly isn’t uncommon amongst many players that have grown up in Brazil.

At times Willian’s overconfidence is a significant blessing, and at others it can be considered a curse, however, the former Corinthians player’s presence is something that Chelsea needs now more than ever.

That was on display on Saturday during the side’s 4-0 win at Brighton, a match in which Chelsea dominated from start to finish with Willian on the pitch. While the performance cannot solely be attributed to the attacking midfielder’s showing, it’s easy to argue that the Blues midfielder is becoming the club’s biggest x factor — one that can determine the outcome of a match.

Just look six minutes into the match, when the Blues put together one of the best team goals you’ll see in a match this year (or any year for that matter), which of course, was started and finished by none other than Willian.

What stands out about the play isn’t the brilliant slicing shot into the near post corner by the veteran playmaker, but instead the confidence that Willian exudes and brings to a Chelsea lineup that has plenty of talent to be considered one of the best teams in England and all of Europe.

After all, Conte’s group is just a season removed from winning the Premier League and still sits inside the top three in the world’s top league.

Then, there’s the Blues’ third goal against Brighton, which was set up by a smart, and instinctive, through ball played into the path of Eden Hazard by Willian (below).

Even though Hazard ends up with a ton of time on the ball to make his next decision, which was ultimately to cut inside on his preferred right foot, the run by Willian towards the end line dragged a defender away from the Belgian international — allowing the sequence to progress.

Arguing Willian’s importance isn’t a knock on Hazard — a world-class player in his own right — or Alvaro Morata, who has had the intolerable task of replacing a key player like Diego Costa.

Instead, it simply shows that Chelsea has a plethora of talent, and that some of the club’s attacking struggles throughout the 2017/18 season can be chalked up to Willian being left out of the starting XI on a regular basis.

[ MORE: Sergio Aguero continues to display brilliance for Man City ]

The Brazilian international has scored eight goals and added seven assists this season in all competitions for the Blues, despite only starting 19 matches.

The mind of manager Conte is an ever-changing one, so maybe Willian still doesn’t get the starting nod on an every week basis, but just by watching the team’s performance at the Amex Stadium it’s quite hard to argue against the player being on the field as much as possible.

Premier League Preview: Southampton vs. Tottenham

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Southampton will host Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with both sides hoping to pick up three points for very different reasons.

The Saints are currently in the midst of a fierce relegation battle through 23 matches, and sit in 18th place in the Premier League, while Spurs are hoping challenge for a top-four position.

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Mauricio Pellegrino‘s Southampton could get defender Maya Yoshida back in time for Sunday’s match, however, the side will be without Charlie Austin once more, who is currently nursing a hamstring injury.

Meanwhile, a number of key figures will miss the match for Tottenham, including goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and Harry Winks. Also, Danny Rose and Toby Alderweireld remain sidelined with injuries, although the latter is expected to be back soon.

What they’re saying

Mauricio Pellegrino on state of the Saints: “We are not happy with our position but in three or four weeks’ time everything can change. It’s part of our competition. I feel in our team the spirit is really good and everybody is conscious about what we need. I receive these messages from players every day, and we have to convert these feelings into stats.”

Mauricio Pochettino on potential January moves: “To be honest it will be difficult. At some point you always dream but not too much exciting [is happening]. If it happens, it happens. If not, then it doesn’t happen. We are happy with the squad.”

Prediction

Harry Kane is firing at an absurd rate recently, and Southampton’s current form is worrisome to say the least. With just four wins all season, it’s hard to imagine the Saints coming out in front in their clash. Southampton 0-3 Tottenham

La Liga: Las Palmas stuns nine-man Valencia, Atleti settles for draw

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A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Las Palmas 2-1 Valencia

It’s never ideal when you finish a match with nine men, and that was the case on the day for third-place Valencia. Things were going according to plan for the visitors early on at the Gran Canaria when Santi Mina scored five minutes into the match.

However, goals from Jonathan Viera (22nd minute) and Jonathan Calleri (53rd minute) brought Las Palmas in front, and they wouldn’t relinquish the advantage.

Gabriel Paulista‘s second yellow card, which set up Las Palmas’ penalty kick in the second half was the first sending off for Valencia, while Ruben Vezo joined his teammate in the locker room with three minutes remaining in regulation.

The victory moves Las Palmas into 19th place in La Liga.

Atletico Madrid 1-1 Girona

Barcelona’s lead at the top of La Liga will likely grow courtesy of Atletico’s inability to apply pressure on the Blaugrana. Antoine Griezmann’s first-half strike wasn’t enough to cushion the Atleti lead, and in turn, Girona equalized with 17 minutes left in regulation when Portu scored off of a great take out of the air.

Espanyol 0-3 Sevilla

Franco Vasquez got things started for the visiting side after just 15 minutes, and before halftime Sevilla managed to double their lead through Pablo Sarabia. For good measure, the sixth-place side added a third goal in the 90th minute as Luis Muriel finished off a pass from Sarabia.


Elsewhere in La Liga

Villareal 2-1 Levante


Sunday’s La Liga matches

Alaves vs. Leganes — 6 a.m. ET
Real Madrid vs. Deportivo La Coruna — 10:15 a.m. ET
Real Sociedad vs. Celta Vigo — 12:30 p.m. ET
Real Betis vs. Barcelona — 2:45 p.m. ET

Blockbuster trade sends Kamara to Galaxy, Zardes to Columbus

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The MLS offseason has been in full force for some time now, and the blockbuster moves continue to take shape.

On Saturday, the Columbus Crew finalized a deal with the LA Galaxy to send striker Ola Kamara to the Western Conference side.

[ MORE: All of the picks from Friday’s MLS SuperDraft first & second rounds ]

In exchange for Kamara, the Galaxy have sent U.S. Men’s National Team attacker Gyasi Zardes and $400,000 in Targeted Allocation Money to the Crew. The amount of TAM could increase to $500,000 if Kamara scores 12 or more goals in 2018.

Since arriving on the MLS scene in 2016, the Norwegian had scored 34 regular season goals for the Crew, while adding five assists.

Meanwhile, Zardes has spent his entire professional career with the Galaxy up until this point, after having signed a Homegrown contract with the club over five years ago.

The USMNT winger has scored 34 goals in 131 regular season appearances since making his senior team debut for the Galaxy.