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.

source: Getty Images
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′)

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alex Sanchez this weekend ]

The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alexis Sanchez over the weekend ]

The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

[ MORE: Chicharito talks heating up with LA FC ]

On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.