Manchester City 2-2 Sunderland: Two Wickham goals, late Nasri equalizer leave sides even (video)

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A late goal from Samir Nasri gave Manchester City a point from a match Connor Wickham had temporarily stolen, but after the teams’ 2-2 draw at Etihad Stadium, Sunderland had dealt the Citizens a major blow in their title pursuit. Still six points behind league-leading Liverpool, Manchester City failed to take advantage of one of their two games in hand, with their remaining advantage from their fewer games played sitting pale in comparison to the gap between first and third.

Manchester City went up in the second minute through Fernandinho, giving an early impression that Wednesday’s game would be a City cruise. For the next 71 minutes, only scattered half-chances for the Black Cats hinted Sunderland would compete, though an often disorganized City defense continued to give the league’s last place club a path back into the match.

In the 73rd minute, after a cross from Emanuele Giaccherini found him open at the far post, Wickham’s first goal of the night seized that opportunity, with a second score 10 minutes later leaving the Black Cats within minutes of a shock upset. Two minutes before full-time, however, a Nasri shot through the hands of Vito Mannone trickled over Sunderland’s goal line, allowing City to salvage a 2-2 result.

It remains to be seen whether that point will even matter. Six points back with one game in hand, Manchester City is no longer in position to take advantage of a potential slip when Chelsea visits Anfield on April 27. Instead, Chelsea become sLiverpool’s main title contenders, with a lackadaisical City left hoping more missteps from the top two can bring the team back into the title race.

At the other end of the table, Sunderland gets a point it wasn’t expecting, pulling within six of safety. With a match in hand and a five-game losing streaked snapped, the Black Cats, buoyed by the result, have reason to think an improbable survival run is possible.

Having never won at the Etihad, Sunderland’s fortunes were brightened early, with Manuel Pellergini selecting a team without Yaya Touré and David Silva. Touré, removed early on Sunday against Liverpool, is out for two weeks. While Silva’s absence was without explanation, a lingering ankle problems on the back of a short turnaround likely left the Spanish playmaker on the sidelines.

Two minutes after kick off, those absences appeared to be irrelevant, with a turnover forced by Álvaro Negredo producing an early opener. Dispossessing Lee Cattermole, Negredo poked the ball to Sergio Agüero, who eventually found Fernandinho bolting into the right of Sunderland’s area. A near-post finish past Mannone gave the hosts an early 1-0 lead.

Sunderland nearly equalized four minutes later on a restart from the right, but John O’Shea’s header from 10 yards out went wide. Another chance created for Fabio Borini left the Italian alone in front of Joe Hart to the right of goal. The Liverpool loanee’s shot sailed out of play, leaving the teams destined to go into halftime 1-0.

source: AP
Samir Nasir (right) provided the late equalizer for Manchester City.

A more controlling Manchester City came out for the second half — an unmotivated but oppressive grip that seemed to eliminate the slim chances Sunderland was able to muster in the first 45 minutes. As Pellegrini removed Agüero (57th minute) and Negredo (69th), a slight arrogance started to appear in City’s approach, one that made the lack of a second goal even more important.

In the 73rd minute, City’s lack of urgency came back to haunt them. On play built down the left side, Marcos Alonso found Giaccherini on a run through the left channel. Chipping the ball far post just before the byline, the Italian midfielder found Wickham alone inside the six-yard box, the easy tap-in into an empty goal bringing Sunderland even.

Ten minutes later, it was Giaccherini providing for Wickham again, giving the Black Cats an unlikely lead. Putting the young striker behind City’s increasingly suspect defense, Giaccherini allowed Wickham to go in alone on Hart, with a slow reaction from the City keeper toward his left post allowing the Sunderland forward his second goal of the match.

With Agüero and Negredo out of the game, City initially struggled to muster a response. In the 88th minute, however, the team received some help from the opposing keeper. On a low shot toward Mannone’s feet by Nasri, City were able to equalize, with pair of soft hands from the Sunderland keeper allowing Nasri’s shot to inch over the goal line.

Minutes later, Nasri had a chance for an equalizer from a near-identical spot before putting his shot into the crowd. Left drawn 2-2, City were sent to the locker room to consider their new, diminished title relevance, while Sunderland may have rekindled hope it can find a path to survival.

Lineups

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Dimechelis, Kolarov, Milner, Garcia, Fernandinho (Rodwell 87′), Nasri, Aguero (Jovetic 57′), Negredo (Dzeko 69′)

Goals: Fernandinho (2′), Nasri (88′)

Sunderland: Mannone, Vergini, Alonso, Brown, O’Shea, Cattermole, Colback, Larsson (Giaccherini 68′), Johnson, Morini (Scocco 69′), Wickham

Goals: Wickham (73′, 83′)

Watch Live: Swansea City vs. Liverpool

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Swansea City’s bid to slow down steamrolling Liverpool begins at 3 p.m. ET Monday at the Liberty Stadium (Watch live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

The rampaging Reds are coming off a 4-3 win that ended Manchester City’s unbeaten Premier League season, and will hope to avoid a let down against desperate Swans.

The Welsh hosts are six points adrift in the race for Premier League safety, and look set for a 5-4-1 with Jordan Ayew the only forward. Wilfried Bony and Oliver McBurnie are on the bench along with attack-minded Luciano Narsingh.

LINEUPS

Swansea City: Fabianski, Naughton, Van der Hoorn, Fernandez, Mawson, Olsson, Ki, Fer, Clucas, Dyer, Ayew. Subs: Nordfeldt, Bartley, Roque Mesa, Carroll, Narsingh, McBurnie, Bony.

Liverpool: Karius, Gomez, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Can, Wijnaldum, Salah, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mane, Firmino. Subs: Mignolet, Milner, Klavan, Lallana, Ings, Solanke, Alexander-Arnold.

Kevin De Bruyne commits to Man City through 2022-23

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Kevin De Bruyne is one of the best players in the world, and he’s committing his prime to the club which has taken him to the next level.

[ MORE: How will Arsenal, Man Utd line up? ]

Manchester City announced a new deal for the Belgian wizard, keeping him at the Etihad Stadium through 2023.

De Bruyne, 26, has posted 31 goals and 38 assists for Pep Guardiola‘s men since returning to England from the Bundesliga, and appreciates being given a lot more money. From ManCity.com:

“As I’ve said previously, my intention has always been to stay here at City, where I’ve felt at home from day one. Not only are we winning – we are playing great football. It’s a pleasure to be a part of and I’m really excited about what we can achieve in the coming years.”

De Bruyne is in the discussion for a Ballon d’Or finalist spot this year, along with Lionel Messi, Neymar, Gareth Bale, Harry Kane, and others (Hot take: This does seem to be year Ronaldo possibly knocked off, barring a remarkable run in the Champions League or World Cup).

After the swap: Alexis, Mkhi-infused XIs for Man Utd, Arsenal

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The deal is done: Henrikh Mkhitaryan has moved to Arsenal with Alexis Sanchez going the other way in a monumental January move.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

How will it look for each side once the shape’s settled?

Arsenal

When Henrikh Mkhitaryan was at his very best — for Borussia Dortmund in 2014-15 — he was deployed as a left or right wing. He contributed 23 goals and 32 assists in 52 matches during his final season at the Westfalenstadion, and predictably saw those numbers drop as Jose Mourinho consistently moved him toward an attacking center midfield role.

He’ll get the chance to go out wide again at the Emirates Stadium, though perhaps not always to the extreme flanks. Expect Alexandre Lacazette‘s numbers to explode with this move.

Arsene Wenger used a 4-3-3 to batter Crystal Palace 4-1 at the weekend, with Ozil on the right wing and Alex Iwobi on the left. The club still needs better at center defensive mid while Aaron Ramsey is out, so that will likely keep the lineup similar until he returns (at a minimum):

Cech

Bellerin — Mustafi — Koscielny — Montreal

Elneny (Ramsey, eventually)

Xhaka — Wilshere

Ozil — Lacazette — Mkhitaryan

By the way, a lot of Arsenal supporters aren’t feeling great about this (understatement alert):

Manchester United

Alexis Sanchez prefers left wing, too, and Mourinho has a trio of in-form players who like that side of the field. Anthony Martial is red hot but plays wider than Jesse Lingard, and it seems one of them will take the slot of Juan Mata to the right of Paul Pogba in a 4-1-4-1. Marcus Rashford could also see the far right positioning.

But against top competition — continued apologies to Burnley — it’s usually a 4-2-3-1 for Mourinho with Pogba dropping next to Nemanja Matic a little deeper in the formation. Lingard has been getting the run as CAM here, usually to the detriment of Juan Mata. With Alexis as the clear-cut left wing in this formation, it causes real combat for the two other slots between Mata, Lingard, Rashford, and Martial.

So while it’s likely we’d see something like this in a big game for Manchester United…

De Gea

Young — Jones — Smalling — Valencia

Matic — Pogba

Martial — Lingard —  Sanchez

Lukaku

… We’d love to see something more like this:

De Gea

Young — Jones — Smalling — Valencia

Matic — Herrera

Pogba

Martial — Lukaku — Sanchez

How do you think Wenger and Mou will run ’em out?

Alexis Sanchez-Henrikh Mkhitaryan swap official (video)

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Arsenal and Manchester United have completed their American-style trade, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan joining the Gunners and Alexis Sanchez on board the Red Devils’ train.

Both 29 years old, the playmakers arrive at their new homes with plenty to prove.

More to come…