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′)

USMNT: 4 players, including Brooks, Lletget, released; Arriola added

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Hours after his side’s 6-0 thrashing of Honduras to resuscitate dreams of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, Bruce Arena announced on Saturday five changes to the U.S. national team roster ahead of Tuesday’s qualifier against Panama.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | MLS ]

John Brooks (sinus infection), Sebastian Lletget (foot), Jordan Morris (knee) and Michael Orozco (knee) were all released back to their club teams, while Club Tijuana midfielder Paul Arriola was added to the squad.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Brooks dealt with the sinus infection throughout USMNT camp this past week, as Morris did his knee injury which he picked up last weekend. Lletget left Friday’s win over Honduras in the 18th minute and will undergo further tests to determine the severity of his injury; he was seen leaving the stadium on crutches and wearing a walking boot.

The USMNT’s roster for Tuesday’s qualifier in Panama City, Panama, now stands at 23 players, and reads as follows:

Goalkeepers: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Rapinoe won’t back down on social issues despite U.S. Soccer policy

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Megan Rapinoe recently earned her spot back in the U.S. Women’s National Team squad ahead of next month’s friendlies against Russia, but the veteran won’t remain silent when it comes to her stance on the social climate of America.

[ MORE: Looking back on USMNT’s big win over Honduras ]

The 31-year-old was scrutinized for joining NFL player Colin Kaepernick in 2016 when they knelt during their respective sporting events, along with dozens of other athletes across the United States.

While Rapinoe admits that the form of protest is up for discussion, she also states that social inequality issues in the U.S. go far beyond that.

“What has surprised me the most, especially post-election, is that people are still sort of arguing against it. It’s really obvious that we have very serious inequality in this country across many different spectrums,” Rapinoe told the Guardian. “Yes, we can talk about the form of protest, or the way it’s done, or this or that. But it’s still not really the conversation that I think we desperately need to have more of in this country.”

A few weeks back, U.S. Soccer announced that it now requires all players that represent the Stars and Stripes to stand when the national anthem is played, and Rapinoe has agreed to do such.

While her days of kneeling on the pitch are in the past, Rapinoe believes she wouldn’t do anything different because she was simply trying to spark discussion amongst the American people.

“I don’t think there’s any perfect way to protest. I think if there was something else being done, something else would have been said about it. I can’t look back and say that I would have done this different, this different or this different.

“I can sleep at night knowing that I genuinely tried to have a really important conversation, or at least tried to open it up. I think I came to it with an open mind, an open heart and tried to get as many people to talk about it as I could.”

Report: Chelsea planning Hazard, Courtois pay raises

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Eden Hazard has returned to his old self under Antonio Conte this season, and now Chelsea is hoping to lock down their star attacker.

[ MORE: Lukaku says decision has been made on Everton future ]

According to the Mirror, the Premier League leaders are planning on offering up a pay raise to Hazard, who has 11 league goals this season for the Blues.

Hazard signed a nearly $250,000 per week deal two seasons ago, but the Belgium international will likely rake in significantly more under the reported deal as Chelsea hopes to keep the 26-year-old away from Spanish giants Real Madrid and others.

The Mirror is also reporting that goalkeeper and Hazard’s Belgian teammate Thibaut Courtois is likely to be handed a raise is salary as well.

The shot-stopper is set be handed a deal roughly in the range of what Hazard is currently making after allowing just 21 goals in 28 PL matches this season.

Ballack acknowledges difficult decision ahead for John Terry

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For the better part of 19 years John Terry has been a staple of Chelsea’s backline.

[ WATCH: Zaha nets first international goal for Ivory Coast ]

With his future at Stamford Bridge becoming more and more in doubt though, it appears it’s time for the 36-year-old to move on from his longtime club, and that’s a decision that another former Chelsea player doesn’t envy.

[ MORE: Everton’s Coleman breaks leg on Ireland duty ]

Ex-Blues midfielder Michael Ballack knows that Terry has options, whether it be in Major League Soccer, the Chinese Super League or even with another Premier League club, but the German says it’s difficult because of what the centerback has meant to Chelsea.

“He is a player with that history and charisma,” Ballack, who spent four years with Chelsea during his playing days, told Sky Sports. “He’s such a Chelsea boy and they love him there.

“I know what it means if your career comes to an end and you’re getting older. You don’t know whether you extend your contract, play for another club or go abroad to America.

“I’m sure he has some options but if you think long-term, you have to feel comfortable with the decision.

For the first time in years, Terry has failed to establish himself as a first-team regular largely due to Antonio Conte‘s three-back system. The 36-year-old has appeared in just five PL matches this campaign, while making 10 appearances overall for the Blues, who currently sit atop England’s top flight and are in position to go for the double with the FA Cup semifinals lurking.

Terry himself has acknowledged that his career is nearing its end, but knowing the competitive drive that has made the Englishman great throughout his almost 20-year career, it’s hard to imagine that he’ll just give up his playing days without a fight.