Manchester City 4-0 Aston Villa: Dzeko double edges City towards title (video)

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Manchester City all but sealed the Premier League title by beating Aston Villa 4-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.

Two second half goals from Edin Dzeko — the big Bosnian striker now has five goals in his last three games — and late goals from Stevan Jovetic and Yaya Toure sealed a dominant win for the home side who now sit two points ahead of second-placed Liverpool going into the final game of the season.

Manuel Pellegrini’s side know all they need is a draw against West Ham on Sunday, as their superior goal difference over Liverpool will see the Citizens lift their second PL crown in the last three seasons.

They dominated from start to finish against a stubborn Villa side but despite going in 0-0 at the interval, City dug in to seal a crucial win in the pouring rain. City have now racked up 100 goals in the PL and sit at the top of the standings for just the eleventh day throughout the entire season. After a supreme display, Pellegrini’s side have one hand on the 2013-14 PL trophy.

MORE: Latest Premier League standings

Early on City pushed to go ahead as Aleksandar Kolarov bombed on down the left but his cross was hacked away by Villa’s defense. Soon after Vincent Kompany rose to try and head home a corner kick but USMNT ‘keeper Brad Guzan did just enough to put him off as City’s skipper headed wide. Guzan came up big again soon after, as James Milner’s reverse ball found Pablo Zabaleta and he cut the ball back to Yaya Toure who slotted the ball goalwards but Guzan denied City’s Ivorian powerhouse with a reaction stop. City continued to prod and probe but Villa’s defense held firm and made it extremely difficult for the Citizens to engineer clear-cut opportunities early on.

As the first half came to a close City still couldn’t break down a stubborn Villa side who showed no sign of attacking intent (apart from a brief chance at the back post for Jordan Bowery and a Andreas Weimann breakaway) in the pouring rain at the Etihad Stadium. Zabaleta was getting free down the right-hand side and played in David Silva before the break but the Spaniard saw his effort blocked. In first half stoppage time City again worked the ball to the right where James Milner delivered a perfect ball into the six-yard box but Samir Nasri directed his effort wide of the near post. After 45 minutes the Citizens were on course to drop two points and let Liverpool back into the title race.

City started the second half the same way they started the first: all-out attack. A long ball over the top almost found Dzeko but the Bosnian striker couldn’t control the ball on the slippery surface. City continued to try and get in behind Villa’s five-man defense and stayed patient in the pouring rain in Manchester.

That persistent finally paid off in the 64th minute, as Silva released Zabaleta down the right and the Argentine full back squared the ball across to Dzeko who sent the home fans wild after slotting past Guzan. Relief was rife around the Etihad. The floodgates then opened for City as a near identical strike put them 2-0 up in the 71st minute. Silva was again given time on the edge of the box to thread a ball to Zabaleta who pulled it back for Nasri to slot it into the bottom corner, however Guzan saved well but the rebound found Dzeko who tapped home his and City’s second.

Toure tried his luck from a free kick which flew wide and the final 20 minutes of the match played out with City threatening to add to their tally as Villa chased shadows, with the home side stroking the ball around in a carnival atmosphere. Jovetic and Toure then scored late on to make it 4-0 as City turned on the style after scoring their 99th and 100th goals of a stellar PL campaign.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Kolarov, Garcia, Yaya Toure, Milner (Jovetic, 60′), Silva (Fernandinho, 76′), Nasri, Dzeko (Negredo, 86′)

Goals: Dzeko (64′, 71′) Jovetic (90′), Toure (90′)

Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar, Clark (Robinson, 79′), Baker, Bertrand, Westwood, Delph, El Ahmadi, Weimann, Bowery (Bacuna, 59′)

WATCH: Knee slide celebration goes face plant for RSL’s Mulholland

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We’d ask Luke Mulholland to take a bow, but we’re unsure how that would turn out.

The Englishman celebrated his 16th Real Salt Lake goal with a knee slide turned face plant on Sunday, and it was immediately clear he shared in the laughter it caused at Rio Tinto and on screens around the world.

[ RECAP: RSL 2-0 Seattle ]

Mulholland helped RSL continued it’s improbable red-hot run into the playoff picture with his third goal of the season on Saturday night against Seattle with a run in front of a defender to punch home a cross.

On his way to the corner flag for a nice slide, the pitch decided to rebel against his knees and sent him face-first into the Earth.

WATCH LIVE: Brighton hosts Newcastle United

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Newcastle United looks to continue its rich vein of form when it visits some old friends at Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

Brighton manager Chris Hughton has led both clubs to Premier League promotion during his managerial career.

He’ll keep ex-Newcastle keeper Tim Krul on the bench in favor of Australian backstop Mathew Ryan.

As for Newcastle, the Magpies are unchanged from last week’s win over Stoke City.

LINEUPS

Brighton and Hove Albion: Ryan; Bruno, Duffy, Dunk, Suttner; Knockaert, Stephens, Propper, March; Gross; Hemed. Subs: Krul, Rosenior, Huenemeier, Schelotto, Izquierdo, Murphy, Brown.

Newcastle United: Elliot; Mbemba, Clark, Lascelles, Yedlin; Ritchie, Hayden, Merino, Atsu; Perez, JoseluSubs: Darlow, Gamez, Manquillo, Diame, Murphy, Shelvey, Gayle.

Steven Gerrard didn’t want any part of Coutinho in training

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Steven Gerrard has issued some fairly hilarious comments regarding former Liverpool teammate Philippe Coutinho.

The Premier League legend admits there were days in training that the sight of the Brazilian wizard on the other side of the pitch made him lash out.

[ MORE: Palace fans must be patient ]

It seems Gerrard wanted nothing to do with marking Coutinho in small-sided games, and the idea of “Stevie G” spouting off in frustration when Brendan Rodgers posted Coutinho across from him is a wonderful mental picture.

From The Liverpool Echo:

“He’s impossible to defend against,” Gerrard told BT Sport after Saturday’s game.

“I mean when I used to train against him, I’d hate it if I was on the opposite five-a-side team. I wouldn’t go near him. And sometimes I’d say to him: ‘Keep away from me! He can embarrass you [as a defender]. He can stand you up, he can both ways, he’s got such a low centre of gravity. He’s sharp, he’s quick and he’s two or three steps ahead of defenders. He’s so, so clever.”

Again, the vision of Gerrard throwing his hands up with a “Nope, not having this today” is amazing. Even if exaggerated, we love it. We picture that old meme with the office worked tossing papers through the air.

Patience with Hodgson required by Palace

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Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson is 0-2 in his new gig and the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t exactly within touching distance.

The latest defeat is a 5-0 blowout at Manchester City, and the immediate road ahead is sobering: at Manchester United and home to Chelsea. Following a trip to Newcastle, who is in form, the Eagles have matches vs. West Ham, at Spurs, and versus Everton.

[ MORE: Premier League Sat. roundup ]

Palace is 0-6 overall and the first team in the history of the Premier League to go goalless through its first six matches.

Palace fired Frank De Boer after four league matches and a summer in which the club failed to add much to its squad.

And Hodgson is feeling his way through the dark. Perhaps the most difficult aspect of this is the timing of Palace’s change.

From the BBC:

“I am learning about the team all the time and they are learning,” said Hodgson.

“Our focus has to be in May. By the latter part of the season the players must know what we are looking for. They should feel stronger by then.”

To be shooting for May has to be overwhelming for the Selhurst Park faithful but may indicate their most reasonable promise of life in the Premier League.

Palace fans cannot afford to get caught up in how Sam Allardyce saved them a year ago, because his turnaround coincided with the Eagles’ purchases of Luka MilivojevicMamadou Sakho, and Patrick Van Aanholt. An influx of talent does not save a season alone, but we’re fairly sure Alan Pardew would’ve relished the chance to work with two new backs and a stabilizing center midfielder.

Remember that Allardyce then retired, which says something given his willingness to bask in any light in which he can claim a modicum of credit.

So Hodgson, known for his relentless training methods, needs to be given his time. Palace will likely have at-most one point after the next two PL matches, and they may have not scored yet. History can be daunting, but supporters need to exhale and realize the road ahead is long.