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′

Watch Live: Southampton vs. Tottenham Hotspur

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Hugo Lloris and Christian Eriksen miss out as sickness-hit Tottenham Hotspur visits struggling Southampton at St. Mary’s on Sunday (Watch live at 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com)

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

That opens up spots in the lineup for Michel Vorm and Moussa Sissoko, as Spurs aim to go level on points with fourth-place Liverpool.

Saints dipped into the drop zone when Stoke City won on Saturday, but will sit 14th if they can spring a home win over Spurs.

Mauricio Pellegrino is giving Mario Lemina and Manolo Gabbiadini, as well as in-form James Ward-Prowse, the starters’ chance to stop the rot. Southampton is winless in 10 league matches, but has drawn three of the last five.

LINEUPS

Southampton: McCarthy, Cedric, Stephens, Hoedt, Bertrand, Lemina, Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Tadic, Hojbjerg, Gabbiadini. Subs: Forster, Pied, Bednarek, Davis, Boufal, Redmond, Obafemi.

Tottenham Hotspur: Vorm, Aurier, Sanchez, Vertonghen, Davies, Dier, Dembele, Sissoko, Dele, Son, Kane. Subs: Gazzaniga, Foyth, Trippier, Walker-Peters, Wanyama, Lamela, Llorente.

Making sense of the Silva firing: Should’ve let him walk?

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Watford fired manager Marco Silva on Sunday, blaming Everton’s recruitment of the Portuguese boss for his failure, and it seems his replacement has already been identified as Javi Gracia.

I mean, holy smoke: So much for “easy like Sunday morning.”

The Hornets have been poor for some time, and their drop from chasing an unlikely European position to a spot on the fringes of the relegation race does stretch back to time Everton was repeatedly asking to hire Silva.

Funny thing: Perhaps letting him walk would’ve been the right decision.

What Silva did in the first quarter of this season and his lauded attempt to save Hull City last season may recall his overachievement at Estoril in Portugal, but the 40-year-old worked wonders at league powers Sporting CP and Olympiacos.

In the case of the latter, Silva led Thrylos to an absurd record of 38W-3D-7L before quitting after one season.

There’s another piece of the puzzle to consider, too: Watford under owner Gino Pozzo has been quick to change manager, which is a sign the club values — to quote longtime Buffalo basketball coach Reggie Witherspoon — “Jims and Joes more than x’s and o’s.”

As Sam Allardyce, the man who was hired by Everton, has joined Ronald Koeman as bosses unable to get the Toffees’ talented roster humming, it’s worth asking whether both Watford and Everton would’ve been better off had the Silva “transfer” went down at Goodison Park.

Watford has eight losses in 11 matches, handing three points to a variety of teams who’ve struggled to find wins this season: Swansea City, Brighton and Hove Albion, and Huddersfield Town. The Hornets have also drawn Southampton.

Everton under both Koeman and Allardyce has done the opposite: the Toffees have too much talent to religiously fail against the lower clubs. This season, which also saw a short run for caretaker boss David Unsworth, their wins are over Stoke City, Bournemouth, Watford, West Ham, Huddersfield Town, Newcastle and Swansea.

The Toffees big slump has seen a pair of draws with woeful West Bromwich Albion and a loss at Bournemouth.

Which brings us back to Watford under Silva. Despite its long slump, the club is performing in a way more suited for Everton’s talent than the Hornets’ bunch (which certainly isn’t poor). Consider:

Consider that Watford has 49.5 percent possession on the season, behind only Man City, Arsenal, Spurs, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, and Southampton (Everton has 46.4 and that number has regressed under Allardyce).

Also, Watford is ahead of Everton in pass completion percentage, shots per game, goals, shots allowed per game, and dribbles per game.

All this with the Toffees getting some of the finest goalkeeper performances in the league from Jordan Pickford. His 81 saves are second to Lukasz Fabianski and his seven in the six-yard box are joint-top with Mat Ryan.

So, yeah, Everton probably had the right idea in trying to get Silva, who was obviously interested in the job. The Toffees’ buys of Cenk Tosun and Theo Walcott are only going to up the ante at Goodison Park, and Allardyce does not have the record of getting talent to reach its potential (at least not in a decade).

Everton’s top performers this year according to advanced stats sites WhoScored and Squawka are ranked 82nd in the Premier League (Mason Holgate) and 103rd in the league (Ashley Williams), respectively.

All this goes to not just say that Silva has done a decent job at Watford, but beg why they’ve decided to fire the boss midway through a transfer window. And considering the Hornets would’ve received compensation of some sort for the move, it’s even more of a head scratcher

Multiple reports: Watford set to hire Gracia as manager

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Watford looks set to appoint Javi Gracia to its managerial position, hours after firing Marco Silva and blaming Everton for the manager.

[ MORE: Watford fires Silva, blames Everton ]

Gracia led Malaga to eighth and ninth place finishes in La Liga between 2014-16 before spending last season at Rubin Kazan.

Gracia, 47, has led promotion campaigns in Spain and has plenty of experience with perceived smaller clubs battling the drop zone.

Watford will hope the Hornets don’t reach that point, still five points clear of the drop after flirting with the Top Seven for the first quarter of the Premier League season.

Latest: Sunday medicals for Mkhitaryan, Sanchez

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Henrikh Mkhitaryan has agreed to join Arsenal from Manchester United, clearing the path for Alexis Sanchez to join the Old Trafford set.

[ MORE: 2 Robbies on the deal ]

The BBC is reporting that both players will undergo medicals at their proposed new clubs on Sunday ahead of a straight swap deal.

Sanchez, 29, has scored 80 goals for Arsenal since arriving before the 2014-15 campaign, including 30 last season.

Mkhitaryan turns 30 this summer, and has struggled at Manchester United since posting five assists in his first three matches of the season.

[ MORE: Watford sacks Silva ]

He was, however, a combination of Sanchez and Mesut Ozil in his final season at Borussia Dortmund, scoring 23 goals with 32 assists.

This could be win-win, as Mkhitaryan at his best is a like-for-like replacement for Mesut Ozil should the German leave in the summer and Sanchez is a more proven PL commodity (though his attitude should be a major question for the United room).