West Bromwich Albion v Manchester City - Premier League

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

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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

Mancini reportedly not interested in Leicester City, De Boer says no

GENOA, ITALY - APRIL 20:  Head Coach of FC Internazionale Roberto Mancini looks during the Serie A match between Genoa CFC and FC Internazionale Milano at Stadio Luigi Ferraris on April 20, 2016 in Genoa, Italy.  (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
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Two top candidates to replace Claudio Ranieri at Leicester City have reportedly turned down any interest in the job.

Roberto Mancini, the heavy favorite out of the gates after Ranieri’s dismissal, tweeted his support for Ranieri after the news broke. “I am sorry for my friend Ranieri,” Mancini said. “He will be in the history of LCFC, in the hearts of Leicester fans and all football lovers.”

However, the fellow Italian has rebuffed Leicester’s informal advances towards his services. According to Sky Sports, Leicester sent “intermediaries” to “sound out” Mancini’s feelings towards the position, but came back empty-handed. The report states Mancini was turned off to the club after a short and unsuccessful spell there as a player in 2001.

That leaves a host of other names who have been linked to the job, with no clear favorite. One person mentioned was Dutch legend Frank de Boer, who is unemployed after an unusually short stint in charge of Inter Milan. However, De Boer’s agent went public to say he was not ever in the running.

“There is zero possibility that Frank could go to Leicester,” agent Guido Albers told Italian publication Tuttomercatoweb. “I too heard these rumors, but that’s all they are – rumors. I can affirm without doubt that Frank will not become the Leicester City manager. This will 100 per cent not happen.”

Albers explained that De Boer is only interested in joining a club in the offseason, preferring to enter a project with a blank slate rather than joining midseason with particular goals already clearly laid out. With Leicester, it seems De Boer is turned off by the notion of a relegation battle.

Win over Las Palmas again has La Real on edge of CL spot

GETAFE, SPAIN - DECEMBER 11:  Xavi Prieto of Real Sociedad in action during the La Liga match between Getafe CF and Real Sociedad de Futbol at Coliseum Alfonso Perez stadium on December 11, 2015 in Getafe, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
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All it took was one mistake. Real Sociedad’s Xabi Prieto capitalized, and has La Real once again on the verge of next year’s Champions League.

La Real finished 7th in 2013/14, and 9th in 2015/16, and this year, they’re closer than ever. Preito’s goal on the mistake by Las Palmas goalkeeper Javi Varas gave Real Sociedad the 1-0 road win and has them just a point off a Champions League place.

[ MORE: Antonio Conte pulling from experience to keep Chelsea on top ]

That could be even closer next week, as fourth-placed Atletico Madrid has to welcome Barcelona to the Calderon tomorrow, leaving the door open for La Real to make another move next weekend.

The goal down the stretch is not just to win the games they should, but make the teams above them work. La Real has won seven of their last ten matches, but the three losses came to Real Madrid, Villareal, and Sevilla, all teams fighting at the top of the table. They still have chances down the stretch, with matches against Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla, and Eibar coming up, with the latter on the docket next weekend.

Conte pulling from prior experience as title race pushes on

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 18: Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea looks on during The Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Chelsea at Molineux on February 18, 2017 in Wolverhampton, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Antonio Conte has recalled some painful memories to push himself and his players forward despite their commanding lead at the top of the Premier League table.

Chelsea sits eight points clear of Manchester City, and has the chance to go even further in front with many of the top teams off this weekend, but that won’t give the Italian any better sleep at night.

In the 1999/2000 season, Conte was nearing the end of his 13-year Juventus tenure. He’d won three league titles already, plus two league cup trophies and a Champions League title with the Serie A giants. With a comfortable nine point lead after 26 matches, the club became complacent. They would lose four of their final eight matches, collapsing on the final day in the pouring rain, allowing Lazio to come roaring back to win the title.

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks for Week 26 ]

“I was captain of the team,” Conte said. “I remember after this game I must go to the European Championships with the national team. I didn’t sleep for six days because it was a shock for me to lose the title.”

Clearly, that still haunts him. “I have experienced this,” Conte continued. “When I continue to repeat that there are 13 games, there are 39 points… there is a long time before we can say we won the title. We must be focused, we must go step by step.”

The Blues host Swansea City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday before a trip to West Ham next weekend. If anyone believes the Chelsea players are complacent holding such a significant lead with 13 matches to go, it’s clear that’s not nearly the case. Anything can happen in three months.

Sean Dyche says Joey Barton should have a TV show

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 18: Joey Barton of Burnley (L) and Matt Rhead of Lincoln City (R) exchange words during The Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round match between Burnley and Lincoln City at Turf Moor on February 18, 2017 in Burnley, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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Burnley manager Sean Dyche says Joey Barton‘s life is chock full of fascinating moments, so much so that he should have his own TV show.

Except when he’s behind closed doors at Burnley, of course. Then he’s a stand up individual. Right, sure.

“It could be a TV series,” Dyche said in his pre-match press conference ahead of an away tilt with Hull City. “Being Joey. It’d be interesting. Never a dull moment.”

But of course, immediately after that, Dyche switched gears. “Unless he’s in here, training with me,” he backtracked. “I think it’s pantomime stuff. I’ve seen a lot more controversy around Joey than that. If that’s as far as it goes, I’ll be a happy man.”

“That” referred to Barton’s embarrassing dive in the FA Cup loss to non-league opponents Lincoln City where the midfielder play-acted after nothing more than a brush of the elbow from Matt Rhead, falling to the ground and clutching his head. Barton was involved in a number of heated moments during that match, adding to his already massive list of controversial moments in a mercurial career.

“Joey’s been terrific,” Dyche said. “I thought by a mile, by an absolute mile, he was the best player on the pitch last weekend. So he’s been absolutely fine. He’s in good nick – as you can see – and he’s definitely up for the challenges that come in front of us.”

But word of Joey Barton apparently hasn’t reached London. A few weeks ago, ahead of Chelsea’s 1-1 draw at Burnley on February 12th, Blues manager Antonio Conte was asked if he was familiar with Burnley’s squad and Barton in particular – an admittedly leading question – and Conte was unable to give an immediate answer. He instead asked his press officer muttering, “Joey Barton?” under his breath. The press officer embarrassingly tried to save face before Conte stepped back in giving a generic answer that they had already played once and he was familiar with the squad.