League Cup semifinal: Three goals see Manchester City to 9-0, two-legged romp past West Ham

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The drama was left in Manchester, where City built a 6-0 lead two weeks ago. Today at Upton Park, any hope the Hammers had of saving face dried up in the third minute, with Álvaro Negredo’s early opener paving the way for the Citizens’ 3-0, second leg victory in England’s League Cup semifinals.

Scoring the first of his two on the night, Negredo headed home from seven yards out in the third minute after being left unmarked on a Marcos Lopes cross. Sergio Agüero, making his first start since returning from a calf injury, doubled City’s lead in the 24th minute, giving the visitors the 2-0 lead they would carry into halftime. When Negredo dribbled through the Hammers’ defense to put City up three in the 59th minute, the Spanish international had his fifth goal of the tie, one that gave the visitors their final margin of victory.

Though City now moves on to face the winner of Wednesday’s Manchester United-Sunderland semifinal, the focus will be on West Ham’s failures. Though the team improved on a first leg performance that saw them out-shot 32-3, the Hammers’ inability to do more against a City team clearly in cruise control only underscores the club’s recent slump. Despite resting six of their regular starters, the Citizens still eased to a three-goal win, leaving West Ham with one win in their last eight matches.

In their last four outing, West Ham has been outscored 17-3, including an embarrassing 5-0 loss at second-tier Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup. With only one win in league play since Nov. 30, the East London club find themselves in the Premiership’s relegation zone, with their lopsided exits from both cup competitions only increasing pressure on Allardyce. Trying desperately to add talent in the transfer window, the West Ham boss may not get a chance to save his team from a Championship return.

Manchester City, on the other hand, move one step closer to their first piece of silverware under Manuel Pellegrini. Whether it’s rival Manchester United or an improving Sunderland they face in early March, City will be heavy favorites to claim their first trophy in two years – the first of what Pellegrini hopes will be four titles this season.

Henry, Aguero discuss playing up top under Pep

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One great striker got another one to open up on an up-and-down year at Manchester City.

Thierry Henry — one of the greatest of all-time, it must be said — sat down with Sergio Aguero ahead of Thursday’s Manchester Derby at the Etihad Stadium, and asked the Argentine about Pep Guardiola, Gabriel Jesus, and more.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

At times, it’s a fascinating discussion on playing lone striker. Even apart from the obligatory questions regarding Jesus’ arrival at City, Henry and Aguero speak their craft in a manner you don’t see too often.

That’s helped by the fact that Henry played for Guardiola at Barcelona, and can relate to the positional demands of Man City’s boss. Consider this exchange, from Sky Sports:

HENRY: When I was at Arsenal, I played up front and if I wanted to drift out to the left, I could. But when I got to Barca, I had to stay out wide and press. Sometimes doing that can be hard.

AGUERO: The thing I’ve found the hardest has been getting into my head the fact that I have to press the centre-back and the goalkeeper in matches. That’s what Pep asks me to do. It may not be a big deal, but in terms of processing it, the two of us speak a lot. He knows what I’m like.

I’ve been gradually learning and adapting to that style of pressing over the last few months. The first thing he taught me was how to press and how to do it well. Obviously there are times when I might drift out of position or I might press in an area where I’m not supposed to be, which might make it hard for the wingers or midfielders.

In the game itself, I may not realise because I’m so immersed and you can’t stop yourself. I’ve learnt a lot from him in terms of zones. He asks me to play as a No 9 and to stay in that position. I often drift out wide during matches and he looks at me and says, “If there’s a player out wide who wants to cross it in, who’s in there? Nobody.”

HENRY: I know all about that, believe you me.

I love this, because it shows how difficult it is for an elite striker to adapt his mentality. Both Henry and Aguero found world-celebrated success by playing in a certain fashion, and Guardiola understood that and still demanded a change. Earlier this season, the manager somewhat famously spoke of improving Aguero.

Aguero has been linked with Real Madrid given the tumult at City.

PHOTO: Liverpool unveils 125th anniversary kit for next season

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Liverpool rolled out its 125th anniversary kit, featuring a special crest to celebrate the occasion.

The Liver bird has 1892 on one side and 2017 on the other, with “125 YEARS” spelled out underneath the club’s emblem.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

The red shirt with a gold crest has a white V-neck and white at the ends of the sleeves. The goalkeeper kit is green.

The jersey will be available on May 19, and was announced last month.

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Jara’s goal lifts Pachuca to CONCACAF Champions League crown

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Hirving Lozano’s dipping shot rebounded into the path of Franco Jara, who scored the goal that won Pachuca its fifth CONCACAF Championship early Thursday morning.

The Argentine’s goal was the only one of the win over UANL Tigres, and gave Pachuca its first continental title since 2009-10. USMNT veteran Omar Gonzalez played for the winners, while Jose Torres started for Tigres.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

Major League Soccer teams were eliminated in the semifinals, with FC Dallas falling to Pachuca and Vancouver Whitecaps losing to Tigres.

Beginning with the 2017-18 tournament, qualified MLS and Liga MX teams will not enter the tournament until the Round of 16. The entire tournament will be held in the same calendar year.

USMNT: Brooks out with hip strain; World Cup qualifiers loom

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John Brooks is out of Hertha Berlin’s lineup “for the time being” after scans revealed a hip strain suffered in this weekend’s win over Wolfsburg.

That’s all Hertha has said, and that makes it hard to imagine whether American fans should be a little concerned or very concerned ahead of the USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers against Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago in early June.

Brooks was unavailable for two weeks with an adductor strain in September, missing a month before returning to the starting lineup.

The U.S. center back pool isn’t teeming after Brooks and Geoff Cameron. Matt Besler, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, and Walker Zimmerman were called up for the last World Cup qualifiers, and Gonzalez struggled but is a Bruce Arena favorite from their time in L.A.