Manchester City 4-1 Southampton: Citizens go second despite early scare (video)

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Manchester City beat Southampton 4-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, as the Citizens blitzed Saints with a hammer blow on half time to keep their title charge on course.

An early penalty kick from Yaya Toure set them on their way, but Southampton dominated the first half and drew level in the 37th minute as Rickie Lambert also scored from the penalty spot. But the pivotal moments came in first half stoppage time, as Samir Nasri finished off a stunning team move, despite David Silva being offside in the build up, and moments later Edin Dzeko headed home a third.

Saints striker Jay Rodriguez suffered a worrying knee injury, as the away side lost their attacking intent after his departure on a stretcher. In the second half City sealed the win with Stevan Jovetic jumping off the bench to make it 4-1 late on, as City have now won 14 of their 15 PL home games.

City are momentarily in second, as they sit one point behind leaders Liverpool with a game in hand. Southampton remain in eighth, as the Saints started brightly but tailed off in the second half.

(WATCH: Mauricio Pochettino furious at officials, after Saints’ defeat to Man City)

In the second minute City were awarded a penalty as Edin Dzeko turned inside Jose Fonte, and Southampton’s Portuguese defender flicked out his leg and Dzeko crashed to the ground. On second viewing Fonte failed to touch Dzeko, but the intent was there and referee Chris Foy pointed to the post.

Yaya Toure stepped up to score his 22nd goal of the season, as City took a commanding lead to ease any nerves inside the Etihad.

Southampton pressed for the equalizer as in the 10th minute Jay Rodriguez’s cross almost found Rickie Lambert in the box but the England international couldn’t get on the end of terrific ball. Lambert then teed up Adam Lallana but the Saints captain saw his first touch let him down as City took their foot off the gas.

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Kay Rodriguez suffered a serious looking injury, as the England international twisted his knee.

The Saints continued to press, but a sickening injury to Rodriguez in the 25th minute put things into perspective. The England international — who has scored 15 PL goals this season and is in fine form with five goals in his last four games — jumped in the air to control a chipped pass, but twisted his right knee as he landed. Saints’ star writhed on the floor in agony before he was stretchered off the field, as his World Cup hopes hang in the balance.

(MORE: Latest Premier League standings)

In the 34th minute City finally got another chance as Samir Nasri’s free kick from the left was headed towards goal at point-blank range by Dzeko but the Bosnian striker saw his effort clip the bar and go over. Soon after Saints were level, as Jack Cork surged into the box and was brought down by Pablo Zabaleta’s dangling leg with Foy pointing to the spot for the second time in the first half. Lambert stepped up and confidently the ball past Joe Hart into the top corner to make it 1-1. Lambert has now scored 34 PKs from 34 attempts.

But on the stroke of half time City scored twice, as a superb flowing move was finished off by Nasri in the 45th minute (despite Silva looking miles offside in the buildup) and two minutes later Dzeko headed home to make it 3-1 as Saints imploded. The Citizens stepped into another gear seamlessly, as somehow Southampton trailed 3-1 after dominating most of the first half.

At the break Javi Garcia came on for Fernandinho, as City tried to solidify their midfield and stop Saints from possessing in the middle third of the pitch. City looked much more dangerous in the second half, as Dzeko raced cleared just before the hour mark but saw his first effort saved and then blazed his follow up way over the bar. Chances for Alvaro Negredo and Silva were thwarted by Saints, as Lambert had a glorious chance to half the deficit in the 74th minute but he smashed his effort wide of the far post.

Jesus Navas whipped in a great cross into the box in the 80th minute, as Negredo slid in to try and score but Jovetic cleaned up in behind him and scored his first Premier League goal at the Etihad Stadium. City held on to collect a valuable three points, despite a minor tantrum from Toure after he was booked for diving and fouled several times, to put themselves just one point behind PL leaders Liverpool.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Kolarov, Navas, Fernandinho (Javi Garcia, 45′), Toure, Nasri, Silva (Jovetic 77′), Dzeko (Negredo, 5′)

Goal: Toure (3′), Nasri (45 + 1), Dzeko (45 + 2), Jovetic (80′)

Southampton: Gazzaniga, Chambers, Fonte, Lovren, Shaw, Cork (Wanyama, 80′), Schneiderlin, S. Davis (Gallagher, 75′), Lallana, Rodriguez (Ward-Prowse, 26′), Lambert

Goal: Lambert (37′)

CONMEBOL WCQ: Venezuela, Bolivia teetering on elimination

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CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying is always a challenge, and this World Cup cycle is no different.

With six teams currently separated by a mere five points under leaders Brazil, everything is left to play for as Round 14 hits South America.

[ MORE: Messi could face suspension from CONMEBOL ]

Here’s a look at what’s on the docket for Tuesday:

Bolivia vs. Argentina — 4 p.m. EDT

It wasn’t pretty at all, but La Albiceleste picked up a crucial three points against Chile, which could produce a morale lift for Argentina given their past struggles against the reigning Copa America holders.

Lionel Messi’s actions from the match could harm the Albiceleste though, with the Barcelona man reportedly facing sanctions from CONMEBOL for verbally abusing a linesman.

Meanwhile, Bolivia is in desperate need of a win in La Paz, and anything but three points could potentially end La Verde’s hopes of reaching Russia 2018.

Ecuador vs. Colombia — 5 p.m. EDT

It took a long time for Colombia to crack the Bolivia backline on Thursday but a late run from Juan Cuadrado helped set up the eventual winner from James Rodriguez, and kept Los Cafeteros in the top four.

Ecuador didn’t have the same fortunes though four days ago after falling to a very game Paraguay side. La Tricolor have gone winless in three of its last four World Cup qualifiers, leaving Gustavo Quinteros side with little margin of error against the Colombians.

Chile vs. Venezuela — 6 p.m. EDT

Chile’s qualifying struggles continued on Thursday after falling to La Albiceleste in a closely-contested match. Arturo Vidal’s six goals leave the Bayern Munich midfielder third in all of CONMEBOL this campaign, but the Chileans still sit on the outside looking in at the moment and in sixth place.

Venezuela is teetering on the edge of elimination, and a loss against Chile would all but seal their fate of missing out the World Cup. After reaching the quarterfinals at last summer’s Copa America Centenario, La Vinotinto have failed to replicate that form this qualifying campaign with just one win to show.

Top scorer Josef Martinez is no longer with Venezuela after suffering an injury in Thursday’s 2-2 draw against Peru, creating a major void in the side’s attack.

Brazil vs. Paraguay — 8:45 p.m. EDT

The Selecao continue to score at a lightning pace this qualifying campaign with 32 goals in the first 13 rounds of play. Despite conceding early to Uruguay on Thursday, Brazil responded emphatically with four goals, and most notably Paulinho‘s hat-trick.

Elsewhere, Paraguay kept itself within striking distance of the top five after its 2-1 win over Ecuador. The side is just two points behind fifth place Ecuador.

Peru vs. Uruguay — 10:15 p.m. EDT

Los Incas have not reached a World Cup since 1982, and although the team is just five points behind fifth, they need to pick up victories. Ricardo Gareca will be pleased with his side’s resiliency against Venezuela on Thursday, but more draws simply won’t do with only four rounds remaining after Tuesday.

Uruguay still sits in a solid second position after Thursday’s slip up against Brazil but another defeat could be potentially disastrous for La Celeste, who are just three points above sixth place Chile. However, Edinson Cavani’s nine goals leads all of CONMEBOL and Peru has allowed the third-most goals this campaign (22).

Ugly scene forces Ivory Coast-Senegal match to be abandoned

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Monday’s international friendly between Ivory Coast and Senegal turned out to be anything but that when the match was interrupted towards the tail end.

Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

The fixture was abandoned with two minutes remaining in regulation after pitch invaders disrupted the the match by getting past security guards and began chasing after players from both sides.

The score was level at 1-1 in the 88th minute when the disruptions occurred, causing the referee to halt play at the Stade Sebastien Charlety in Paris.

One of the intruders even managed to tackle Senegalese defender Lamine Gassama (as shown in the picture to the right).

Liverpool’s Sadio Mane gave Senegal the lead minutes into the second stanza after he converted from the penalty spot, while Cyriac Gohi Bi leveled the score at one apiece just minutes later.

Messi could face CONMEBOL suspension for verbal abusing official

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Already facing some uncertainty with a depleted roster, Argentina could face a significantly greater challenge.

[ MORE: Aguero left out of Argentina starting XI vs. Bolivia ]

Barcelona star Lionel Messi could face suspension after reportedly verbally abusing linesman Marcelo Van Gasse during the second half of Thursday’s 1-0 win over Chile.

UPDATED: Fox Sports Argentina is reporting that Messi will receive a two to four match suspension and will be effective for tomorrow’s match against Bolivia.

Messi was reported to CONMEBOL for yelling, “F*** off, your mother’s c***” at Van Gasse and refused to shake the official’s hand at the end of the match.

The officiating crew from the match didn’t initially include Messi’s rant in the post-match report, however, it was added on Monday and submitted to CONMEBOL.

The South American federation must now decide if and when it will punish Messi for his reported actions, and there is the potential that the world-class attacker could be suspended for Tuesday’s clash against Bolivia if the federation acts quickly.

There are several other scenarios though for CONMEBOL to action, including disregarding Messi’s verbal assault.

La Albiceleste currently sit third in World Cup qualifying on 22 points.

Arena speaks about USMNT turnaround, says “no secret formulas”

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It’s only been one competitive match since Bruce Arena regained control of the U.S. Men’s National Team and there’s already been a noticeable difference in form.

[ MORE: Three keys for the USMNT ahead of Panama clash ]

The former LA Galaxy manager wouldn’t have you believe that though following Friday night’s convincing 6-0 victory over Honduras in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

“It’s nothing I can write a book on,” Arena said about his team’s turnaround in form against Honduras. “You have a sense of your group, and you go about doing your business. There’s no secret formulas to this stuff. Work together, take ownership in what you’re doing, treat them like responsible professional athletes, and you get on with your business.

He added, “They want to be successful. They want to play in a World Cup. Is that a recipe for success? I don’t know. I’m sure Honduras wants to play in a World Cup too.”

Arena, who took over for Jurgen Klinsmann following the U.S.’ collapse during the first two matches of the Hexagonal, is unbeaten in his first three games in charge since getting his job back with the Stars and Stripes.

Although there has been a considerable turnaround in the way the USMNT has performed in the first three matches of 2017, Arena wouldn’t stoop to comparing his style to that of Klinsmann.

“I’m not doing anything differently,” he said. “I’m not taking a survey [of the players]. I know it’s different. We lose tomorrow, there will be articles written that, ‘This a—— is letting these guys run loose.'”

“I have spent no time on the past. There’s nothing I can do about it. I kind of have a sense about things, but there’s no point in me spending time investigating what went on in the past. The idea was to get it going the right way from the start.”

Arena’s next test with the U.S. will be on Tuesday when the Yanks travel to Panama City to take on Panama.