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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′

Pep Guardiola: “Maybe I’m not good enough”

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Pep Guardiola has admitted he “may not be good enough” for his players at Manchester City.

Ahead of City’s clash against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) Guardiola has been defended his squad after severe criticism from the media.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

City were hammered 4-0 at Everton last weekend, their worst league defeat since 2008 and Guardiola’s worst-ever league defeat as a manager.

With plenty pointing the finger of blame at goalkeeper Claudio Bravo and City’s defense, their manager put himself in the firing line.

“They are good players. I have respect for the guys, so why would I say the guys are not good? So I don’t understand the lack of respect for the professionals when they have been amazing players, and [people saying] they are not good enough for me. Maybe I am not good enough for them,” Guardiola said. “They are Manchester City players, top players. They have a lot of quality. They have shown that many times in the past and this season.”

Mind games.

Guardiola, 46, is no doubt facing the biggest challenge of his season as City look to at least seal a top four spot in this his debut season in England. The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager has already “said goodbye to the title” and if they lose against red-hot Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium then more questions will be asked of his tactics and if they can work in the Premier League.

So far the possession-based slow build up style has been hot and cold for City, with plenty of counter-attacking teams in the PL (Chelsea, Spurs, Everton, Leicester etc.) having a field day against a shaky defense.

Despite being 10 points off the pace, Guardiola is sticking by his philosophy. One thing really sticks out to me from his first few press conferences in England: “We will see if my style of play can work in the Premier League.”

So far, it’s not.

Watch Live: Liverpool vs. Swansea City (Lineups, Stream)

SWANSEA, WALES - MARCH 16:  Kyle Naughton of Swansea City is closed down by Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Liverpool at Liberty Stadium on March 16, 2015 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
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Liverpool host Swansea City to Anfield on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with the Reds aiming to stretch their unbeaten run at home in the Premier League to 18 games.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE

Jurgen Klopp is a little concerned with the number of games his team have had to play over the past few weeks, but a victory against the struggling Swans would momentarily move his side just four points behind leaders Chelsea who play on Sunday.

As for Swansea, new manager Paul Clement knows a win would take his team out of the relegation zone and with new signings arriving that would be a massive boost. It would also be a massive ask for the Welsh side to get anything at Anfield but this may be a good time to play Liveprool after their midweek trip to Plymouth in the FA Cup and the EFL Cup semifinal second leg against Southampton coming up on Wednesday.

In team news Liverpool start with Philippe Coutinho once again, while Joel Matip is on the bench after the Reds finally settled the dispute with Cameroon. Swansea hand debuts to new signings Martin Olsson and Tom Carroll.

LINEUPS

Liverpool: Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Klavan, Milner; Can, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Lallana, Coutinho, Firmino. Subs: Karius, Sturridge, Moreno, Lucas, Origi, Matip, Woodburn

Swansea City: Fabianski; Olsson, Mawson, Fernandez, Naughton; Cork, Carroll, Fer; Sigurdsson, Llorente, Routledge. Subs: Nordfeldt, Rangel, Amat, Fulton, Dyer, Borja, McBurnie

Viktoria Plzen set to sign midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz

Obafemi Martins, Oniel Fisher, Andreas Ivanschitz
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
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PRAGUE (AP) Czech champion Viktoria Plzen is close to signing Austrian midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz.

Plzen says Ivanschitz agreed terms for a contract lasting 1 + seasons and will sign it when the team returns from a training camp in Spain. Ivanschitz has already joined the squad at the Oliva Nova resort, the club says.

Ivanschitz helped the Seattle Sounders win their first MLS Cup in December.

[ NEW HOMES: Fonte | Berahino ]

No financial details were given.

The 33-year-old Ivanschitz also played for Rapid Vienna and Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, Mainz in the Bundesliga, Levante in Spain and Panathinaikos in Athens.

Ivanschitz played 69 games for Austria in 2003-14, scoring 12 goals.

FIFA allows Matip to represent Liverpool during AFCON

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: Joel Matip of Liverpool heads to score his team's third goal during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park on October 29, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images
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Joel Matip is going to get to play for Liverpool during AFCON after all.

The center back had turned down the chance to represent Cameroon at the Africa Cup of Nations, and Liverpool was forced to apply to FIFA for a waiver.

[ PL PREVIEW: Swansea vs. Liverpool ]

Matip suffered an ankle injury in December, adding to his desire to stay at Anfield. He declared himself internationally retired and was one of six Cameroon players who refused call-ups for AFCON.

He last played for the Reds on Dec. 11, and can be selected by Jurgen Klopp against Swansea City on Saturday.