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Manchester City 5-0 Fulham: Toure hat trick seals punishment for pair of Amorebieta penalties (video)

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The first was questionable but the second was clear.

Fulham defender Fernando Amorebieta conceded two penalties and earned himself a straight red card for the latter.

On the other end, Yaya Toure splashed both into the back of the net and added a stunning free-kick for his hat-trick, as Manchester City eased past a composed visiting side prone to devastating mistakes and earned themselves the pole position for the Premier League title.

Neither side had any good pops on the opposition goal in the first 15 minutes, a win for Fulham.  City had an early half-shout for handball against Steve Sidwell in the box but it was waved off.

However, the home side began to build, and James Milner took a 17th minute crack at goal but it was saved low by David Stockdale.

Fulham themselves had a good chance just five minutes later, as a Kieran Richardson free kick came blasting back off the wall.  It fell back to Fulham, who worked to Alex Kacaniklic with space in the box. His shot was blocked, but it came back to Richardson who rifled just wide of Joe Hart’s post.

Manchester City’s breakthrough came back on the other end.  On 25 minutes, a long ball for Alvaro Negredo in the box was going well over, but Fernando Amorebieta jumped with the City forward anyways and kicked him in the back of the leg. Negredo went down theatrically, but the kick is hard to argue with and John Moss awarded the penalty via his assistant referee who flagged furiously.

source: Getty Images
Yaya Toure was the man of the day, as his hat-trick put him on 20 goals for the year.

Yaya Toure slotted the penalty through easily past a wrong-footed David Stockdale and City had their lead despite a solid start from Fulham.

City poured on the attack, and despite a chance for Sascha Riether with a header on the counter, there was little respite for the visitors defending. With 9 minutes to go to the break, a shot by Negredo from a tight angle brought Stockdale out of his goal, and Amorebieta was called upon to head off the line and keep out a second.

Aleks Kolarov had a go from a tight angle just before halftime, but Stockdale tipped it to the crossbar and the metal did the rest to keep City from doubling up.

Following the break, the Whites knew their chances would come if they could just hold onto their defensive shape, but they failed to do so.

With David Silva free on the right edge of the box, Amorebieta clattered the City attacker with a two-footed challenge, an easy decision for the referee who pointed to the spot and produced a straight red card.

With Fulham down a man and two goals, there was no way back for the team sitting bottom of the table and Manchester City saw the game out as the rain began to pour down, symbolic of Fulham’s season.

With the red card, promising youngster Patrick Roberts was handed his Fulham debut, marking somewhat of a consolation for Fulham as he looked quality.

City nearly had a fourth in the 78th minute but Martin Demichelis’s header off a corner was saved off the line by Riether.

They would end up with another six minutes from full time with a howitzer from Fernandinho on a tight angle after he beats William Kvist with just one touch. Then Demichelis would add insult to injury with a fifth, a tap-in following a Stockdale save.

With Arsenal’s drubbing at Chelsea earlier in the day, the three points allows Manchester City to jump into the third spot, still two back of Liverpool and six off the Blues with a pair of games in hand.  The games in hand mean City are at the moment in the lead for the Premier League title race.

Fulham still have their win two weekends ago against Newcastle to hang onto, but pending other results today they could be in a very dangerous position bottom of the table.  They came into the match four points from safety and theoretically five with their poor goal differential.

Manchester City – Hart; Zabaleta, Lescott, Demichelis, Kolarov; Fernandinho, Toure (Rodwell 77′), Milner, Nasri (Jovetic 82′), Silva (Navas 68′); Negredo.

Goals: Toure 26′ (pen), 54′ (pen), 65′; Fernandinho 84′, Demichelis 88′

Fulham – Stockdale; Heitinga, Hangeland, Amorebieta, Riise; Kačaniklić (Roberts 55′), Riether, Kvist, Sidwell, Richardson (Holtby 55′); Woodrow (Kasami 84′).

Discipline: Amorebieta straight red 53′

Watford “Behind The Badge” airs third installment; Catch up on Episode 2 here

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Catch up on Watford’s look “Behind The Badge” ahead of Sunday’s third episode of the four-part glimpse into one of the Premier League’s promoted sides.

The Hornets sit 11th, currently 7 points clear of relegation danger, and are giving fans a better idea of what’s been going on at Vicarage Road.

[ MORE: Behind the Badge archive

In an exclusive series, NBC Sports followed around the Hornets in a very similar fashion to HBO’s Hard Knocks which joins the preseason camp of one NFL team each summer.

Below is the schedule for the three remaining episodes on Watford, which you can watch on NBCSN and live online via NBCSports.com in the coming weeks, plus a link to watch episode one in full from last week.


First episode: Watch full episode, here
Second episode: Embedded above
Third episode: Sunday, Dec. 11, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Fourth episode: Sunday, Dec. 18, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN

Follow @NicholasMendola

MLS Cup Final preview: Seattle, Toronto battle subzero temps for first Cup

Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley walks off the field after a training session, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016, in Toronto, for the MLS Cup soccer championship. Toronto hosts the Seattle Sounders on Saturday. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP
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  • First MLS Cup Final for both
  • Sounders all-time 7W-2L-2T
  • TFC joined in 2007, Seattle 2009

It’ll be in the high twenties (-1 Celsius) when Toronto FC and Seattle Sounders kick off the MLS Cup Final on Saturday night in Ontario (Kickoff is Saturday at 8 p.m. EDT).

Combine the visible breath and slight chance of snow with a BMO Field which has been relentlessly loud throughut TFC’s playoff run, and we have the makings of an all-timer.

[ MORE: PST’s MLS Cup roundtable ]

Toronto and Seattle met up at the same venue on July 2, the 1-1 draw perhaps a bit deflated by the absence of Clint Dempsey for Seattle and TFC’s American duo of Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore.

Seattle superstar Nicolas Lodeiro wasn’t there, either, still weeks away from arriving from Boca Juniors.

This is the second MLS Cup Final at BMO Field, after Colorado defeated FC Dallas in 2010. TFC men Drew Moor and Clint Irwin were part of the championship-winning Rapids in that one.

Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris greets fans who gathered to send off the team after MLS soccer training, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Tukwila, Wash. The Sounders were scheduled to travel to Toronto later Wednesday to prepare to face Toronto FC in the MLS Cup Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Seattle’s Jordan Morris (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

[ MORE: PST’s Michael Bradley interview ]

Toronto will bring star power to go with a challenging formation; While accolades rightly go to Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, and Sebastian Giovinco, the Reds’ 3-5-2 under Greg Vanney features versatile wide men in Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow.

Seattle is powered through Nicolas Lodeiro, the ex-Boca Juniors playmaker who has been nearly as effective as Giovinco (albeit with a smaller MLS sample size). Goalkeeper Stefan Frei, the ex-TFC man, has been very good at the back, but can the Sounders’ back line handle Altidore and Giovinco?

The metronomes could be the difference. Bradley’s been good for TFC, but Osvaldo Alonso gave an MLS MVP caliber performance this season.

[ MORE: PST talks with Ozzie Alonso ]

What they’re saying

Toronto FC keeper Irwin on the weather: “It’s probably the most difficult part. As a field player, you can move around. You’re warmer, more active. At this point, there’s not much we can do other than bundle up, and I’ll stay moving back there.”

Seattle forward Jordan Morris on Lodeiro“The first thing Lodeiro said to me is, ‘When I get the ball, you just run.’ I think of him like a quarterback.”

Prediction

Look to the engine rooms here. Alonso is a handful and a magnificent passer of the ball. On his day, Bradley is even better. Will it be? Neither player will shirk from pressure. We’re thinking extra time after a 1-1 match. And Toronto’s depth and home field will propel it to a 2-1 win.

Follow @NicholasMendola

Premier League Preview: Leicester City vs. Manchester City

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 29:  Bacary Sagna of Manchester City clears the ball from Riyad Mahrez of Leicester City during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Manchester City at The King Power Stadium on December 29, 2015 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
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  • Man City leads all-time 53W-29D-28L
  • Leicester took 4 of 6 pts last season
  • MCFC won previous four

To cure what ails, Leicester City has to knock off one of the top contenders to its Premier League throne: Manchester City (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. EDT Saturday on NBC and NBCSports.com).

There are some advantages for Leicester, though, as Fernandinho and Sergio Aguero are suspended for their red cards picked up the loss to Chelsea. Pep Guardiola used Pablo Zabaleta next to Fernando in the UCL draw with Celtic, and looks set for the same come Saturday.

Leicester rested the majority of its starters in a 5-0 loss at Porto this week, following up a 2-1 setback at Sunderland that left the champs just two points ahead of the 18th and 19th placed clubs in the PL.

What they’re saying

Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri on the task at hand: “I was waiting for a period like this. Now it’s important to react with a big effort together from the team. That is my focus now. We have to be focused on these matches until Christmas Day. We have to get points. We need points and we have to fight. This part of the season is our key moment. I think every match gives us an opportunity. We have to fight. I repeat, we have to fight.”

Man City’s Pep Guardiola on Zabaleta’s positional change“But I think Pablo Zabaleta can play in the middle – he is very experienced and he can play there as he did very well against Celtic. I think in the last years of his career he’ll play more in the middle and it gives us another option.”

Prediction

As much as the injuries hurt Man City, there’s certain harm in the wounded unit that fell 3-1 to Chelsea. We believe the Foxes will strike, but Kelechi Iheanacho has proven more than a suitable fill-in for Aguero. Man City 2-1.

Follow @NicholasMendola

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks – Week 15

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Week 15 of the Premier League is here.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ] 

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Click play on the videos below to hear my score prediction and preview of each game.

[ VIDEO: Previews of every PL game – Week 15 ]

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the longshots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Chelsea 3-0 West Brom – (Sunday, 7 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Liverpool 4-1 West Ham – (Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Leicester City 1-3 Man City – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]

Arsenal 2-0 Stoke City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

DON’T TOUCH THIS… 

Swansea City 2-3 Sunderland – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, CNBC) – [STREAM]

Watford 0-1 Everton – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Burnley 1-2 Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Southampton 1-1 Middlesbrough – (Sunday, 9:15 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Man United 1-2 Tottenham – (Sunday, 9:15 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Hull City 2-1 Crystal Palace – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]