West Bromwich Albion 2-3 Manchester City: Citizens address road worries with convincing performance at The Hawthorns

Leave a comment

Playing as if to dispel the growing notion they can’t win away from home, Manchester City put in a dominant display at The Hawthorns, with early goals from Sergio Agüero and Yaya Touré paving the Citizens’ way to a comfortable 3-2 victory over West Bromwich Albion. A late own goal credited to Costel Pantilimon and a 94th minute score from Victor Anichebe made the final score superficially close, with Touré’s 74th minute penalty kick having given City a three-goal lead entering the final quarter-hour.

City, third in the Premier League, had gone 1-4-1 through their season’s first six road games, but a decisive display at West Brom will help address suspicions Manuel Pellegrini’s side becomes a far more manageable beast on the road. With the three points, the 2011-12 champions move to 28 on the year, staying within one of second place Chelsea, who were 4-3 winners at Sunderland.

West Brom, on the other hand, are now winless in four, last season’s eighth place finishers falling to 13th place after today’s loss.

Threatening from the onset, City broke through the ninth minute when Edin Dzeko put an overlapping Pablo Zabaleta behind the defense and toward the byline, the Argentine right back cutting the ball back toward the penalty spot just before it went into touch. Sergio Agüero, having pulled away from the defense, was open 10 yards out. Scoring for the 11th time this season, Agüero finished into the top of Boaz Myhill’s goal to make it 1-0.

Dominating play throughout the half, City doubled their lead in the 24th minute, with Yaya Toure’s ríght-footed finish from the left of goal beating Myhill after Aleksandar Kolarov’s cross. Despite chances of Edin Dezko, Fernandinho, and a slew of opportunities for Agüero, the visitors would have to content themselves with the 2-0 lead at halftime, having held their hosts without a shot on target.

Though the Baggies showed signs of renewed life in the moments before halftime, City came out in the second half and reasserted a type of benign control, looking capable of bleeding out the final 45 minutes of the match. If there was any doubt about their ability to do so, it ended when Claudio Yacob brought down Kolarov in the West Brom area. Completing his brace, Touré fired his second into the top of Myhill’s goal, giving City a 3-0 lead.

In the 85th minute, West Brom were given their first piece of minor consolation when Kolarov’s clearance of a Matej Vydra ball through the six went off a sprawled Pantilimon and into the Manchester City goal, depriving the recently promoted Citizens’ number one of a clean sheet. It also gave the Baggies the curious distinction of having scored before registering an official shot on target.

By full-time, the Baggies had put a shot on goal – their last chance of the game. With the match out of reach, the Citizens defense apparently turned off, with Victor Anichebe taking advantage by hammering home a shot from the middle of the penalty area in the 94th minute. Though the score brought the Baggies within one, the final whistle blew moments later, City’s commanding night obscured by two late goals.

Though it was one of West Brom’s worst performances of the year, the Citizens deserve more credit than the Baggies do blame. Assertive from the opening whistle, Manchester City looked every bit the title favorites many saw before the season’s first kickoff, and while their inconsistent play has cast them six points back of league-leading Arsenal, on form the Sky Blues look like the best team in the league.

Whether that translates into a climb up the table may depend on how often they can replicate today’s road performance.

Goals

West Bromwich: Costel Pantilimon (o.g.) 85, Victor Anichebe 90+4

Manchester City: Sergio Agüero 9, Yaya Touré 24, 74 (p.k.)

Lineups

West Bromwich Albion: Boaz Myhill; Steven Reid, Gareth McAuley, Jonas Olsson, Liam Ridgewell; Claudio Yacob, James Morrison (Zoltan Géra 64); Morgan Amalfitano (Matej Vydra 76), Chris Brunt; Saido Berahino, Shane Long (Victor Anichebe 65)

Unused Substitutes: Luke Daniels, Diego Lugano, Goran Popov, Stéphane Sessègnon

Manchester City: Costel Pantilimon; Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany, Martín Demichelis, Aleksandar Kolarov; Jesús Navas, Yaya Touré (Jack Rodwell 88), Fernandinho, Samir Nasri (Javi García 77); Sergio Agüero (James Milner 69), Edin Dzeko

Unused Substitutes: Joe Hart, Joleon Lescott, Micah Richards, Álvaro Negredo

Copa QF: Messi misses PK, Barca’s 29-game unbeaten run ends

Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MADRID (AP) — Lionel Messi missed a penalty and Barcelona conceded late as its 29-match unbeaten streak ended in a 1-0 loss to city rival Espanyol in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarterfinal on Wednesday.

Messi failed from the spot in the 62nd minute, his shot brilliantly saved by goalkeeper Diego Lopez.

Youngster Oscar Melendo netted the winner for the hosts in the 88th with his first goal as a professional.

“I have no words, I was looking forward to this first goal,” said the 20-year-old Melendo, who had come on as a substitute in the second half.

It was Espanyol’s first win against Barcelona at its RCDE Stadium.

The second leg of the Catalan derby is next week at Camp Nou.

Barcelona hadn’t lost since a 2-0 defeat by Real Madrid in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Aug. 16. It had won 23 of its last 29 matches in all competitions.

“We knew we would lose one day,” Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets said. “The positive thing is that in a week we have a chance to rebound and advance.”

Messi had his chance from the spot after Sergi Roberto was fouled by Esteban Granero, but his low shot into the right corner was stopped as Diego Lopez dived to his left to tip the ball away.

It was a rare miss for Messi, who is having a stellar season and is the Spanish league’s top scorer with 17 goals.

“The penalty save gave us the boost that we needed,” Melendo said. “We were playing too defensively.”

Melendo netted the winner with a low shot from the middle of the area after a well-timed pass by Marc Navarro.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde did not use all of the team’s regular starters, leaving players such as Luis Suarez on the bench.

The match was interrupted for a few minutes in the 76th after Barcelona goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen was hit by an object thrown by fans behind his goal.

Barcelona midfielder Paulinho was replaced in the second half because of a foot injury.

Neymar makes history in PSG’s 8-0 thrashing of Dijon

Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A pair of statements which are both true, and not at all mutually exclusive, if you allow logic and balance to prevail: 1) Neymar and his friends at Paris Saint-Germain are quite good at the soccer; 2) they aren’t challenged enough in Ligue 1.

[ MORE: Wednesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Tuesday | Friday ]

Of course, they’ll be challenged plenty during the latter stages of the Champions League (they drew Real Madrid in the round of 16), but on a weekly basis, the level of competition in their domestic league isn’t of a high standard to indicate just how good they are. That’s the new debate with regard to PSG — it’s no longer, “Are they good? Maybe they’re just a big fish in a small pond.”

On Wednesday, led by Neymar, the most expensive transfer signing of all-time, Unai Emery’s side thrashed 10th-place Dijon to the tune of 8-0. As mentioned, Neymar did slightly more than just pull his own weight — four goals to go with a pair of assists; he lent a direct hand in six of the eight goals.

[ MORE: Chelsea survive Norwich in PKs, reach FA Cup 4th round ]

Even the statistical whizzes at Opta appear somewhat stumped by such an abundance of goals.

Anytime the keepers of stats toss out a “since we started collecting data,” be proud of your achievement. Be very, very proud.

FA Cup: Chelsea, Swansea into 4th rd; B’mouth ousted by Wigan

Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Two more Premier League sides booked their place in the fourth round of the FA Cup, courtesy of third-round replays, on Wednesday, bringing the PL’s total representation to 14 clubs…

[ MORE: Tuesday’s 3rd-round replay roundup ]

Chelsea 1-1 (5-3 PKs) Norwich City

Chelsea’s scoreless streak — for both themselves and opponents (three straight 0-0 draws across all competitions) — came to a merciful end on Wednesday, but not before surpassing the 300-minute mark. Michy Batshuayi — who, it must be said, struggled mightily in making just his third start (all in cup competitions) since mid-October — broke yet another scoreless deadlock in the 55th minute, ending the Blues’ scoreless run at 331 minutes.

With barely 30 seconds remaining in second-half stoppage time, 19-year-old left back Jamal Lewis brought the Canaries level with a thunderous header off the post.

Extra-time saw Chelsea reduced to 10, and then nine, men. Pedro was booked for diving just after the hour mark, and the Spaniard earned a second yellow card for a wild challenge in the 117th minute. Four minutes later, in second-half extra-time stoppage time, Alvaro Morata was booked for diving and proceeded to shout and gesticulate in the referee’s face. A second yellow was shown immediately.

Willy Caballero denied Nelson Oliveira on Norwich’s first attempt of the ensuing penalty shootout, giving the Blues the only cushion they’d need as Willian, David Luiz, Cesar Azpilicueta, N'Golo Kante and Eden Hazard all converted.

Chelsea will host Newcastle United in the fourth round on Sunday, Jan. 28.

[ MORE: Wednesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Tuesday | Friday ]

Swansea City 2-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers

Swansea faced the greatest threat of a Cupset on Wednesday but managed to come out on top, knocking off runaway Championship leaders and champions-elect Wolves. The Swans went ahead through Jordan Ayew in the 11th minute before the prolific Diogo Jota, who’ll be in the PL one way or another next season, brought Wolves back to 1-1 in the 66th. Three minutes later, Wilfried Bony bagged the winner to see Carlos Carvalhal’s side through to the next round.

Swansea will visit League Two side Notts County, who knocked off Championship playoff hopefuls Brentford in the third round, on Saturday, Jan. 27.

Wigan Athletic 3-0 Bournemouth

Bournemouth sat 32 places above Wigan in the English football pyramid when Wednesday’s replay kicked off, and it matter not a single iota, as Paul Cook’s side hammered the Cherries at the DW Stadium. Sam Morsy, Dan Burn and Callum Elder bagged the goals for the League One leaders (three points clear after 26 of 46 rounds played). Wigan have alternated each of the last four seasons, finishing 23rd in the Championship and leading/winning League One. It’s been five years since the Latics were relegated from the PL, in the 2012-13 season.

Wigan will host West Ham United in the fourth round on Saturday, Jan. 27.

Sir Alex’s son in trouble for saying he’d “shoot” refs

Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Leave a comment

LONDON (AP) It clearly runs in the family.

Former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson was known for having an explosive temper during his nearly 27 years at Old Trafford, and it seems he has passed it down to his son.

Darren Ferguson, who is the manager of third-tier English team Doncaster, is in trouble for saying he would “shoot” referees because of what he perceived as their poor standards.

Ferguson was charged by the English Football Association on Wednesday for remarks that “were improper and/or brought the game into disrepute.”

The 45-year-old coach has already apologized, saying it was a “tongue-in-cheek comment” and that “I do not advocate violence against officials.”

Ferguson was unhappy his team was denied a penalty in a 1-1 draw with Plymouth on Saturday.

“The referees are part-time and the standard is appalling, their fitness levels are a disgrace, I’ve had enough of it,” Ferguson said after the match.

“What can I do? Shoot them, it would be a good idea.”