Manchester City 1-0 Crystal Palace: Dzeko’s strike downs plucky Palace, sends City top (video)

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Manchester City came up against a hugely resilient Crystal Palace at the Etihad on Saturday, as Manuel Pellegrini’s side labored to their tenth-straight Premier League win at home this season to go top of the PL standings.

Edin Dzeko’s second half goal was the difference between the two teams, after City failed to make their first half dominance show and Palace forced the excellent Joe Hart into several top class stops — two from Jason Puncheon and a cracker from Joel Ward — in the second half.

But the Eagles came up just short as City were relieved to take all three points and go top of the table.

With the win, the Citizens are now in first with a two-point lead over second-placed Arsenal, while Palace are in 17th and out of the relegation zone on goal difference.

Early on Manchester City were well on top as Dzeko struck wide after Silva played him through superbly, as Crystal Palace’s defense continued to retreat.

That trend would continue for the rest of the first half as Palace were quite content to retreat and let City have the lions share of possession.

However Yannick Bolasie was causing plenty of problems on Palace’s left and in the 14th minute he cut inside and dragged an effort just wide of Hart’s right hand post. In the 20th minute Jame Milner flashed a shot just over the bar as City continued to press for the opening goal against a defiant Eagles side.

Moments later Milner flashed in an effort on goal which was deflected wide as City continued to crank up through the gears.

In the 28th minute Hart and Cameron Jerome both needed treatment after John Parr’s ball caused a collision in the box between both players. Hart’s brave save saw him get a nasty gash above his eye as he carried on but Jerome had to leave the pitch and was replaced by Marouane Chamakh.

(MORE: Latest Premier League Standings)

In the 43rd minute Fernandinho skipped past his marker but smashed a left footed effort over the bar as City racked up 18 first half efforts but just two were on target. Minutes later the Brazilian saw his header tipped over by Julian Speroni as City continued to crank up the heat.

Time after time City piled forward but Palace’s resolute defense stood firm as the score was 0-0 at half time.

After the break Puncheon forced Hart into a magnificent stop as the winger struck from 30-yards out and from the resulting corner Chamakh headed just over the bar as Palace looked to go ahead.

City responded by bringing on Alvaro Negredo and Sami Nasri off the bench but Puncehon almost scored another beauty which flashed wide of the post, then Mile Jedinak saw his effort tipped over and some nervy defending meant City were living life dangerously as Palace pushed them back.

But just as Palace looked to be on top, City broke free and Dzeko smashed home from close range after 66 minutes to put the Citizens 1-0 up. Yet no sooner had City taken the lead than Palace looked like equalizing, as Joel Ward was first denied by the superb Hart and then put a header from close range wide of the post.

City looked dangerous on the break for the remainder of the game, but plucky Palace kept attacking as they searched for a way back into the game.

However that was to no avail, as Pellergini’s side held on go top of the table with a two-point lead over Arsenal in second as the Gunners play on Sunday.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Hart, Boyata (Negredo, 55), Kompany, Nastasic, Clichy, Garcia, Fernandinho (Nasri, 55), Navas, Silva, Milner (Kolarov, 75), Dzeko

Goal: Dzeko (66)

Crystal Palace: Speroni, Mariappa, Gabbidon, Delaney, Parr, Ward, Jedinak, Bannan (Gayle, 81), Puncheon, Bolasie (Williams, 76), Jerome (Chamakh, 35)

Everton loses Coleman to leg break on Ireland duty

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A horror tackle from Wales’ Neil Taylor snapped Seamus Coleman‘s leg in gruesome fashion on Friday.

Taylor was given a red card, and Coleman was stretched off the pitch in the 0-0 draw.

[ MORE: UEFA World Cup qualifying wrap ]

Ireland manager Martin O’Neill confirmed what was apparent from the match replay: the Everton man has a broken ankle.

“It’s a bad break. He’s a fantastic player and character. It’s a major blow for the lad, his club and us.

“Apparently it wasn’t the best challenge in the world – I haven’t seen it. He’s gone to hospital. I saw his reaction immediately and it didn’t look good. He was holding is leg up and it didn’t look good.

This is not only awful for the player, but causes stress as Everton mounts its assault on the Top Six. The right back has also manned right mid for Ronald Koeman this season, and has four goals and four assists in 26 Premier League matches.

Mason Holgate, Muhamed Besic, and Phil Jagielka have played some right back for Everton, while Ramiro Funes Mori has deputized at left back.

Emotional McClean speaks after honoring deceased teammate (video)

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After wearing the No. 5 to honor of his recently deceased teammate, James McClean met with the media following Ireland’s 0-0 draw with Wales in World Cup qualifying on Friday.

McClean played with Ryan McBride at Derry City, and left Ireland camp to attend funeral services after McBride died following a match last weekend. McClean was also mourning the death of friend and Sinn Féin politician Martin McGuinness.

Throw in a gruesome injury to teammate Seamus Coleman and, in McClean’s words, “I’ve had better weeks”.

[ MORE: UEFA World Cup qualifying wrap ]

McClean, 27, spoke with evident emotion following a Man of the Match turn in Ireland’s draw (video below).

“It was a really tough week. The lads here have been great. They rallied around me. The manager was first class as well. He let me go up to Derry there on Tuesday and say my goodbyes. It’s been a tough week with Seamus injury as well. It’d been nice if we had have got a win and ended on a positive note, but it wasn’t to be.

“(McBride and McGuinness) were going through my thoughts today. I wanted to put in a performance that would make them proud. In the national anthem and the moment’s applause, holding my wee girl, it was emotional but I tried to put that in the right way into my performance. Hopefully tonight I’ve done the lads proud.”

World Cup qualifiers: Wales in trouble; Buffon hits 1000

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Friday’s matches mark the midway point of the main round of qualifying in UEFA, and the tables remain tight near the top of Groups D and G.

[ MORE: Smalling hurt, Gibson called up ]

Group I, however, is seeing some distance between first and second thanks to Croatia’s result versus Ukraine.

Republic of Ireland 0-0 Wales

Neil Taylor was sent off in the 69th minute for Wales, whose World Cup hopes are in trouble.

Seamus Coleman was stretchered off after the tackle, with a scary-looking injury that will leave Everton fans sick in more ways than one. Coleman’s leg was broken, and left dangling by the challenge.

Ireland couldn’t take advantage of the sending off, and failed in a bid to overtake Serbia for first in Group D. The Irish trail on goal differential, and will host Serbia on Sept. 5.

But Wales will rue the result more, remaining four points back of second-place Ireland. Chris Coleman’s side drops a point behind Austria as well, and will not have Taylor or Gareth Bale (card accumulation) in its next match. That comes against leaders Serbia.

Italy 2-0 Albania

Daniele De Rossi scored a 12th minute penalty kick won by Andrea Belotti, and Ciro Immobile scored late to provided the goals in Gianluigi Buffon’s 1000th appearance for club and country. Fittingly, it ended in a clean sheet. The match was briefly delayed after flares were thrown onto the field.

Spain 4-1 Israel

David Silva, Vitolo, and Diego Costa stakes the Spaniards to a three-goal lead, with Lior Refaelov ruining David De Gea‘s clean sheet with 11 minutes to play. Isco scored the match’s final goal.

Spain remains atop Group G on goal differential, eight better than second place Italy. Israel is four points behind both.

Croatia 1-0 Ukraine

Fiorentina’s Nikola Kalinic’s 38th minute goal was enough for the hosts, and Croatia is now five points clear of Ukraine and three above Iceland midway through qualifying.

Elsewhere
Austria 2-0 Moldova — RB Leipzig’s Sabitzer nabs winner
Liechtenstein 0-3 Macedonia — Ilija Nestorovski bags brace
Kosovo 1-2 Iceland — Sigurdsson PK the match winner
Georgia 1-3 Serbia — Mitrovic, Tadic lead the way
Turkey 2-0 Finland — Brace for Cenk Tosun

Boro’s Gibson called to England after injury to Man Utd’s Smalling

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Scoring goals has been the biggest problem for Middlesbrough in its return to the Premier League, and that overshadows how well the Northeast club has defended its own goal.

Ben Gibson has been a huge part of that, and now he’ll earn the chance to represent his nation thanks to an injury to Chris Smalling. Gibson will join England ahead of Sunday’s home World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.

[ MORE: Podolski leads Germany past England ]

Gibson has far and away been Boro’s best player, leading the side in blocked shots and clearances. The blocked shots total is tied for ninth in the Premier League, 11 behind current leader and new England teammate Michael Keane.

Smalling’s undisclosed injury is a bigger problem for Manchester United, which had already lost center back depth on England duty when Phil Jones was hurt.