Manchester City v Southampton - Premier League

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′)

After January camp, USMNT looks to rosters for World Cup, Olympic qualifying

at StubHub Center on January 31, 2016 in Carson, California.
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The United States men’s national team finished its experimental January camp with a 2-0 record, and now trains its eyes on World Cup and Olympic qualifying.

The last part is critical not just because of the ramifications of a potential second-successive Olympic absence for the men’s U-23 side.

[ USMNT: Tops Iceland 3-2 | Knocks off Canada, too ]

The Yanks have to deftly divide their player pool because March 25 and 29 are not only the dates for the next round of World Cup qualifying matches — a home-and-home series with Guatemala — but also the dates for the U-23s’ pair of matches with Colombia.

That’s why Jordan Morris isn’t likely headed to Guatemala City, and the same is true for impressive January camper Jerome Kiesewetter and new Chelsea defender Matt Miazga.

[ JPW: Recapping the top stories from an intense Premier League weekend ]

Bobby Wood, John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin are also eligible for the U-23s, but there’s the rub. All three are in good form for country, and only Yedlin isn’t playing well for his club (That’s because Sam Allardyce isn’t using him much at all. His substitute appearance against Liverpool was his first action since Jan. 9).

New England midfielder Lee Nguyen impressed Jurgen Klinsmann during January camp, and it’s hard to ignore the impact of Steve Birnbaum’s goal and assist.

Assuming health, here’s our best guess at who’s making the squad for Guatemala on March 25 and 29. It’s worth noting that six MLS clubs play on March 26 (NYC, New England, Vancouver, Houston, DC and Dallas):

Goalkeepers: Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Sean Johnson

Defenders: DeAndre Yedlin, John Brooks, Matt Besler, Steve Birnbaum, Geoff Cameron, Brad Evans, Jonathan Spector, Tim Ream

Midfielders: Fabian Johnson, Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Danny Williams, Lee Nguyen, Darlington Nagbe

Forwards: Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Gyasi Zardes, Bobby Wood, Aron Johannsson

Report: Atletico’s Fernando Torres has interest from MLS, NASL

Real Madrid v Atletico de Madrid - Copa del Rey: Round of 16
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Spanish outlet Marca claims that a number of North American sides are among the clubs chasing Fernando Torres.

The Spanish striker has only scored more than 11 goals once since 2009-10, and is uncapped since 2014. But that doesn’t mean clubs from China to to the U.S. and the UAE to Japan aren’t interested in the 31-year-old.

[ JPW: Recapping the top stories from an intense Premier League weekend ]

The Marca report claims three MLS teams are interested and also name drops the New York Cosmos of the NASL, who’ve recently brought Venezuelan legend Juan Arango on board.

It’s hard to imagine anyone outside the MLS rich sides taking a risk on Torres. Maybe Montreal would look to reunite him with Didier Drogba, and Torres certainly has experience combining with New York City’s David Villa. As for the third… Orlando City? Chicago?

Your guess is as good as ours, though it could be moot if this is solely about money. China continues to spend well.

Difficult fixture run looms as Aston Villa aims for great escape

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JANUARY 12:  Joleon Lescott of Aston Villa (3L) celebrates with team mates as he scores their first goal with a header during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Crystal Palace at Villa Park on January 12, 2016 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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Gabriel Agbonlahor is riding high, as the Premier League Player of the Week broke his duck this weekend and is thinking “great escape” for his Aston Villa side.

Villa has eight points in its last five matches, doubling its season total to 16. That’s still table bottom, but Remi Garde’s bunch would love to see their way out of the drop zone after a brutal start to the season under Tim Sherwood.

What would it take for Villa to pull that off, and avoid the first Premier League relegation in club history?

[ MORE: Premier League Team of the Week ]

Turns out, a lot.

There is no easy match in the next five, and Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal are all on the schedule after that.

Villa next five matches
Feb. 14 – vs. Liverpool
Feb. 27 – at Stoke City
March 1 – vs. Everton
March 5 – at Manchester City
March 12 – vs. Spurs

The Villans do have three relegation six-pointers left, and two of those are at Villa Park with Bournemouth and Newcastle United. Villa also heads to Swansea City.

But Villa has to make up 12 points on the Cherries, 11 on Swans and eight on the Magpies. And while they are within two goals difference of Newcastle, they have eight goals to make up on Bournemouth and 11 to make up on Swansea.

That doesn’t include Sunderland and Norwich, sides four and seven points ahead of the Villans (though both have tricky runs left as well).

If Garde’s club is to make its escape, it will be close to unbelievable. That it will close with a match against Arsenal makes it even trickier, but that would be just the final impressive note in what could only be considered a Garde-conducted masterpiece.

VIDEO: Recapping the top stories from an intense Week 25 in the Premier League

JPW at Stamford Bridge
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What a weekend. Let’s relive it.

Round 25 of the Premier League provided plenty more thrills, shocks and excitement as two unlikely title contenders — Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur — are pushing ahead.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Our own Joe Prince-Wright recaps all the major headlines from what could turn out to be a pivotal weekend in the Premier League title race.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League news

Click play on the video below to join JPW as he battles the elements and checks in from outside Stamford Bridge in London following Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Manchester United.