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′

Mourinho delighted to have “engine of the team” Pogba back

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One takeaway which has been made 100 percent clear — in case the first four games of the season weren’t enough — is this: Manchester United are, in every way imaginable, a different team when Paul Pogba is on the field.

[ RECAP: Pogba’s star (re)turn lifts United past Newcastle ]

Pogba returned to action on Saturday and paced Man United to a 4-1 thumping of Newcastle United. After the game, United manager Jose Mourinho wasted little time in pointing the finger as Pogba, acknowledging he’s the player that makes the Red Devils tick — quotes from the Express:

“Paul Pogba is different class. Paul and Nemanja Matic grew up together at the start of the season and are the engine of the team. It was in Paul’s hands, how many minutes to play until he began to feel fatigued. It was a great performance from him.

“I know that strikers depend on goals for confidence and happiness. I was really happy to see him score his goal.

“We go match to match — we can only play Manchester City twice in a season. In those games we will try to take points — outside of those fixtures we are not in control.”

As for another returning superstar, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, we shouldn’t gloss over the fact that he returned from a torn ACL in just seven months. The original period for recovery was pegged at nine months.

“I am pleased for the three three points, the quality of our performance after Newcastle’s goal, that mentality to react without panic and in a positive way, and obviously the return of injured players is always nice, especially in Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s case. His was such a dramatic injury. To see him back is a great emotion”

The gap between United and City is currently eight points, but 26 games remain. There is time, but Mourinho’s men can afford to drop very few points the rest of the way.

Man United 4-1 Newcastle: Pogba’s star (re)turn

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  • Red Devils fall behind early
  • Pogba’s return: goal, assist
  • Gayle’s goal, Yedlin’s assist
  • Martial, Smalling flip the score before HT

It was like Paul Pogba hadn’t been away for even one day of the last 10 weeks, as the French superstar returned from a hamstring injury and inspire Manchester United’s 4-1 victory over Newcastle United at Old Trafford on Sunday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Zlatan Ibrahimovic also returned from the torn ACL he suffered in April, making his first appearance in seven months — two months ahead of schedule — as a 77th-minute substitute.

Saturday’s rout wasn’t always straightforward and easy for Man United, as the final score might deceive.

Newcastle struck first in an action-packed, goal-filled first half. U.S. national team right back DeAndre Yedlin tallied his first assist of the PL season, as he sped to the end line and cut a low cross toward the penalty spot, finding the late-arriving Dwight Gayle for a gentle finish

The lead lasted 23 minutes, until Pogba marked his return to action with a delightful assist for Anthony Martial‘s equalizer. Pogba danced past Isaac Hayden, raced toward the end line and floated a delicate ball to the back post, where his compatriot headed home.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Right on the stroke of halftime, United went 2-1 up after Chris Smalling headed home Ashley Young‘s lofted cross to the back post. Smalling remained forward after a short corner Young acres of space to pick his head up and hit the right ball.

United required only nine minutes to double their lead, and it was Pogba, once again proving his worth to the side, who got the goal. Romelu Lukaku floated a cross to Marcus Rashford at the back post, and Rashford’s cushioned header dropped the ball into no-man’s land. Pogba reacted quickest. 3-1. Pogba’s back, and so is United’s swagger.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Seconds after Pogba was subbed — without incident — Lukaku pounced on Florian Lejeune‘s botched clearance inside his own penalty area and slammed a left-footed shot past Robert Elliot.

As exciting as the performance and result were, it was only enough to keep United on pace — eight points back — with Premier League leaders Manchester City, who also won on Saturday.

Jurgen Klopp hails “perfect day” for Liverpool

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Jurgen Klopp has had far from an ideal week but his Liverpool side ruthlessly dispatched Southampton at Anfield to end it on a high note.

[ MORE: Liverpool batter Saints ]

Klopp was sent to hospital earlier this week when he felt unwell but the German coach was given a big boost as Mohamed Salah scored twice in the first half, which included a stunning opener, and Philippe Coutinho finished Saints off in the second half as the Reds eased to victory and stayed in touch with the chasing pack behind runaway leaders Manchester City.

Speaking to the BBC after the game, Klopp was happy with what he saw from his side after he was fit enough to be on the bench on Saturday.

“Difficult game, Southampton are a really good football side. It was an open game, we had more chances before we scored. We need to be patient in a lively way,” Klopp said. “The first goal, wow, I have nothing to do with the goal and the second was a fantastic pass and Mo Salah makes great runs. We could have scored more often but it was a perfect day for us.”

Klopp, 50, sees his side just three points off second place after 12 games of the Premier League season, while his side remain firm favorites to qualify for the UEFA Champions League Round of 16.

So far, so good.

Yes, Man City will take some catching (and a collapse of their own) but Liverpool’s aim should be to secure a second-straight top four finish and go from there.

With Sadio Mane, Salah, Coutinho and Roberto Firmino in the form they showed on Saturday, plus a fifth clean sheet in six PL games this season at Anfield, the defensive woes Klopp’s team have faced away from home this season aren’t troubling them at home.

Next up is Chelsea at home for Liverpool, which will be a supreme test of their newfound defensive solidity at home. Their results against title contenders this season have been up and down with a draw against Manchester United, hammerings at Tottenham and Man City and a thrashing of Arsenal at home.

Liverpool’s clash against top four rivals Chelsea is followed by five winnable games before they travel to Arsenal on Dec. 22.

Between now and then we will see if Liverpool’s season will amount to more than just a top four challenge. Saturday’s shellacking of a lackluster Southampton may have been “perfect” but a much tougher test awaits next week against a rejuvenated Chelsea side who have Alvaro Morata and Eden Hazard purring in attack

Can Liverpool’s oft-fragile defense cope? We are about to find out.

Burnley’s Barnes: “Can we finish the season now?”

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Ashley Barnes broke his season duck in classy fashion, scoring and adding an assist as Burnley stayed in the thick of the race for Europe with a 2-0 win over Swansea City at Turf Moor on Saturday.

[ RECAP: Burnley 2-0 Swans ]

The win shouldn’t be a surprise, as Burnley is humming in style. The Clarets entered the day with a win at Chelsea and draws at Liverpool and Spurs, so why would a visit from Swansea lead to anything than three points.

It’s dream world, really.

From the BBC:

“We’re on a fantastic run. We’re working hard every day and today we were different class.

“Can we finish the season now? No, I’m kidding. there’s still a long way to go and we need to pick up as many points as possible.”

Every win makes more and more believers of the Burnley Football Club. Perhaps more important to the Clarets, each win makes it less likely that Sean Dyche will leave the club for a better gig (Everton), at least right now.