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′)

Oxlade-Chamberlain injury update

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Jurgen Klopp does not seem confident that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will play again this season.

The Liverpool and England midfielder suffered an injury to his right knee early on in Liverpool’s 5-2 win over Roma in their UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg, as he appeared to extend his right knee under his body when making a challenge on Aleksandar Kolarov.

Speaking to the media following Liverpool’s dramatic win, Klopp was downbeat about Oxlade-Chamberlain’s chances of playing again this season.

“We don’t know exactly but if the medical department are quite concerned without a scan, you can imagine it’s difficult. The season is not that long anymore. It doesn’t look good,” Klopp said. “I’m a very positive person and still hope it only feels bad, but is not that bad. We’ll see. We lost a fantastic player tonight. It’s not good news.”

This injury has come at such a bad time for The Ox.

He has been flourishing with Liverpool in a central midfield role and has delivered key goals and assists in big wins since arriving from Arsenal last summer. Most notably the Ox’s driving midfield runs have caused Manchester City all kinds of problems and he scored two screamers against them in wins at Anfield in the Premier League and UCL.

Georginio Wijnaldum stepped in admirably for Oxlade-Chamberlain against Roma and the Dutch midfielder will be used alongside James Milner and Jordan Henderson from here on out by Klopp, especially with Emre Can battling a back injury.

As for Oxlade-Chamberlain, he will now be focused on trying to be fit for the UCL final on May 26 (if Liverpool get there) and on making England’s 2018 World Cup squad. That seems like a big ask given Klopp’s gloomy assessment.

Wenger: Timing of departure “not really my decision”

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Arsene Wenger has been speaking about his Arsenal departure and there are some intriguing details emerging.

Wenger, 68, announced last Friday that he would be leaving Arsenal at the end of the current 2017-18 campaign after almost 22 years in charge.

But when asked about the timing of his decision during his press conference ahead of the Europa League semifinal first leg against Atletico Madrid on Thursday and whether or not that was helpful, Wenger said it was taken out of his hands.

“The timing was not really my decision, the rest I have spoken about already,” Wenger said. “I focus on what I have to do every day. At the moment, I work like ever.”

Wenger added that he will “for sure” continue to work beyond this season but wasn’t giving anything away on where he would go. The Arsenal boss also said he had a “high opinion of Luis Enrique” but that he didn’t “want to influence the next manager” of Arsenal with so many contenders mentioned as he also confirmed he will have no say on his successor.

What do we make of all this?

Wenger still has one more year left on his current deal at Arsenal and it appears he was keen to be in charge next season, but he could have simply been saying that he would have preferred an announcement at the end of the season rather than before a big European semifinal. His comments can be interpreted either way but many journalists in the room are all suggesting Wenger was talking about the overall decision to step down now.

The growing, and widely reported, notion that Wenger stepped down before he was sacked seems to be on point. After three Premier League titles and 10 major trophies in total in over two decades in charge, it appears Wenger didn’t get to decide when he called time on his Arsenal career.

The perfect end for Wenger at Arsenal would be to win the Europa League and then leave on a high, but these comments suggest the Frenchman may not be happy with some of the hierarchy at Arsenal.

These comments amid links to PSG and the French national team also suggest to rule out a role upstairs at Arsenal, at least for the foreseeable future, for Wenger. Intriguing times ahead.

Roma condemn violent scenes outside Anfield

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AS Roma have condemned an attack from some of its supporters on Liverpool’s fans before the game after a 53-year-old Liverpool supporter was injured outside Anfield before the UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg on Tuesday.

The Serie A side said that a “small minority of traveling fans brought shame on the club” as two men from Rome have been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after the attack on the Liverpool fan who is in a critical condition after suffering head injuries.

Below is the statement in full from the Italian club.

AS Roma condemns in the strongest possible terms the abhorrent behavior of a small minority of traveling fans who brought shame on the club and the vast majority of Roma’s well-behaved supporters at Anfield after getting involved in clashes with Liverpool supporters before last night’s fixture.

There is no place for this type of vile behavior in football and the club is now cooperating with Liverpool Football Club, UEFA and the authorities. The club’s thoughts and prayers are with the 53-year-old Liverpool fan in hospital and his family at this time.

Salah’s sensational season in context

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Mohamed Salah is having a season on the same level as Lionel Messi.

Some* will even say it’s better.

[ MORE: LFC 2-1 Roma | Klopp reacts ]

There are few ways to overstate how well the Egyptian has performed for Liverpool this season, and few matches have been as strong as Tuesday’s destruction of AS Roma.

Make no mistake about it: Destruction is the right word. I Lupi isn’t dead thanks to the Reds right side of the defense and James Milner‘s arm, but it was fading out of consciousness when Salah departed the game.

It’s not crazy to draw the connection. Just ask Jurgen Klopp:

“If anyone wants to say it is my mistake that we concede the two goals because I change the striker, I have no problem with that,” he said. “Mo was running all the time and it would not have helped us if he gets an injury. What a player. If you think he is the best in the world, write it or say it. He is in outstandingly good shape, world-class shape, but to be the best in the world you need to do it over a longer period, I think. The other two are not bad.”

No, no they are not, but Salah is on their level.

The aesthetics of his first goal were first-class, dinging off the bottom of the cross bar like a vicious swish of a Steph Curry three. When the night ended, Salah had two more goals and two more assists to bring his total to 43 goals and 15 assists in 47 matches. In three more matches, the best player on the planet has 40 and 18 (Ronaldo has 42 and 7 in 39).

[ MORE: LFC supporter in critical condition after Roma attack ]

The reason not to overreact is Luis Suarez’s 2013-14, in which he posted posted 31 goals and 24 assists in 37 games and would’ve arguably made Salah’s season look just “pretty great” if the Reds were in European football (or, one could argue, Suarez wasn’t slowed by the demands of a more congested adventure).

And we also won’t know Salah’s path next season. Take Cristiano Ronaldo’s 2007-08 season, the closest thing we have to Suarez or Salah in this generation. The then-23-year-old posted 42+8 in 49, but took a step back the next season before exploding into space upon debut with Madrid the following season (His second Real campaign, 2010-11, was the first real otherworldly CR7 campaign, with 53+18 in 54).

Salah is the Premier League Player of the Year, and he’s the front-runner for the Ballon d’Or (which is likely to be determined by this summer’s World Cup in Russia, with Argentina and Portugal possibly on a quarterfinal collision course and Egypt in an very winnable Group A with Russia, Uruguay, and Saudi Arabia).

Jurgen Klopp deserves much credit for Salah’s explosion. Even if the Egyptian began his ascent in Italy, there’s been nothing like this. And if he can do it a few more years, he has the chance to land amongst the generational names in soccer (perhaps as the best African player in Premier League history with Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba).

He’ll almost certainly become the all-time single-season Liverpool league goal scorer this season barring rest for the UCL, and he’ll be their top all-time according to Opta if he nabs four or more goals across 4-5 matches (Roma again, Stoke, Chelsea, Brighton, and probably Real Madrid or Bayern Munich).

The Reds were unbelievably good for 80 minutes on Tuesday — 75 of which were Salah-led — and the praise would’ve been flowing like a waterfall had they not switched off for 10 (in which it must be said Liverpool was fortunate to only concede twice!).

*By the way, Messi fans, you’ll be relieved to count me as not one of those who’d say Salah is having a better season. It’s closer than you think. Messi is better than Salah in league play, while Salah is having a superior UCL campaign. Given the general consensus top-to-bottom on Premier League vs. La Liga and Barca’s UCL competition vs. Liverpool’s opponents — which is drawing level now — we’d say it’s even.

Messi vs. Salah league play (per 90, Squawka)
Assists: Messi 0.4-0.31
Key passes: Messi, 2.16-1.63
Chances created: Messi, 2.56-1.94
Attack score: Messi, 73.04-54.5
Possession score: Messi, 5.6 to minus-5.12
Pass completion (%): Messi, 81-77
Shot accuracy: Even (62%)
Tackles won: Salah, 0.24-0.2
Take-ons won (%): Messi, 69.47-64.96

Messi vs. Salah league play (per 90, Squawka)
Assists: Salah, 0.45-0.23
Key passes: Salah, 2.13-1.72
Chances created: Salah, 2.58-1.95
Attack score: Salah, 70.89-55.69
Possession score: Messi, 2.71 to minus-3.34
Pass completion (%): Messi, 81-73
Shot accuracy(%): Salah, 73-69
Tackles won: Messi, 0.69-.45
Take-ons won (%): Salah, 76.4-61.4