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)

Spanish police dismantle match-fixing scheme in 3rd, 4th tiers

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MADRID (AP) Spanish police have dismantled a match-fixing scheme involving players and clubs in the country’s lower divisions.

Authorities said more than 20 people have been detained as part of the police operation launched on Monday, including players, although no names were immediately disclosed.

The matches under suspicion were in the third and fourth divisions this season and last season.

The match-fixing scheme reportedly involved Chinese betting sites.

The Spanish league said the operation was based on information collected by its analysts about suspicious activities.

UCL preview: Chelsea host Barcelona; Bayern vs. Besiktas

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  • Chelsea vs. Barcelona, at Stamford Bridge
  • Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas, at Allianz Arena
  • Champions League round of 16 resumes on Tuesday

[ UCL: Spurs fight back to draw Juventus | Liverpool thrash Porto in leg 1 ]

Chelsea, mired in some of their worst form since the disastrous 2015-16 season, welcome a Barcelona side enjoying one of the best six-month runs of results in the famed club’s entire history. The Blues have won just four of their last 12 games across all competitions, while the Blaugrana have lost once in 38 games.

On the plus side, Chelsea enter Tuesday’s colossal clash as winners of their last two games — back-to-back wins for the first time in 2018 — having outscored the likes of West Bromwich Albion and Hull City by a combined 7-0. Star striker Alvaro Morata returned to action against Hull after five weeks out with a back injury, thus Antonio Conte has something of a selection dilemma on his hands with the Spaniard perhaps only partially fit, and Olivier Giroud racking up a goal and three assists in the last two games, his first starts for the club.

Barcelona, meanwhile, have conceded just two goals in their last nine games (all competitions) and even managed to overturn their lone defeat, to Espanyol, and advance to the Copa del Rey semifinals (and eventually final). Despite losing Neymar in the summer, Barca mostly cruised through their Champions League group, only dropping points in draws away to Juventus and Olympiacos. Lionel Messi has, strangely, never scored a goal in his eight career appearances against Chelsea, a record which has been spoken about at length in the build-up to Tuesday — similarly to the goal-less record which plagued him against Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, whom he finally bested back in September.

[ MORE: Man City win big away to Basel | Real Madrid 3-1 PSG ]

In the other round-of-16 first-leg matchup on Tuesday, five-time (soon-to-be six) defending Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich host surprise winners of Group G, Besiktas, ahead of the likes of Monaco, RB Leipzig and Porto.

Since taking over on an interim basis (through the end of the season), Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes has won 21 of 22 games of which he’s been in charge, including four of six games during the group stage en route to finish second behind Paris Saint-Germain, while also racing out to a 19-point lead back home in Germany.

Aguero involved in clash with Wigan fan after FA Cupset

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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Sergio Aguero was involved in a confrontation with a Wigan fan as ugly scenes marred the end of the third-division side’s shock FA Cup win over Manchester City on Monday.

[ MORE: Wigan shock Man City, the world and themselves ]

Fans spilled on to the pitch at DW Stadium as the host celebrated its 1-0 fifth-round win against the runaway English Premier League leader.

Supporters from both clubs were involved in disturbances, while television pictures appeared to show a home supporter and striker Aguero involved in a physical exchange.

Aguero appeared to hit the supporter after the fan said something to the player, and Aguero had to be held back by his City teammates.

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Advertising hoardings were also ripped out and thrown as a pitch invasion by Wigan fans got out of hand while the defeated City players were being escorted off the pitch.

Footage also appeared to show objects, including an advertising board, being thrown at police officers by fans in the City end.

Wigan shock themselves: “Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet”

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Wigan Athletic didn’t just shock Manchester City with their FA Cup fifth-round slaying of the runaway Premier League leaders; nor did they merely shock the rest of the footballing world; they also shocked themselves into disbelief, according to defender Dan Burn.

[ MORE: Goodbye, quadruple! Wigan bounce 10-man City from FA Cup ]

Speaking following Monday’s triumph over Pep Guardiola‘s quadruple-chasing side at the DW Stadium, Burn admitted he himself didn’t know what to make of the night that would undoubtedly highlight and change his own professional career — quotes from the BBC:

“Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet. It was a really tough game. The belief was always there. We’ve got Will Grigg, who does what he keeps doing.

“We pride ourselves on our clean sheets. We had a couple bad results before, so we wanted to prove ourselves, so a clean sheet against the best team in England is great.

“Once we scored, the fans really got behind us, just knew we needed to hang on. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life.”

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Manager Paul Cook was able to articulate his happiness and pride only slightly better — “It feels great” — but offered the highest of praises to his players, whom “had to ride [their] luck at times” during the game, and gave everything they had to the cause, because that’s the only way you beat a team like Man City:

“It feels great. It’s such a severe test. They’re such a strong side and move the ball so well. We had to ride our luck at times and the sending off is always a big incident.

“Our lads deserve credit for their work and some of the blocks they made were outstanding, and to beat Man City you have to do that.”