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PL Saturday roundup: Chelsea unbeaten in seven, Bradley earns first win

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On a day where three of the league’s top sides continued their push towards a Premier League title, Swansea City and Crystal Palace provided viewers with one of the games of the season to date.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The Swans earned its first victory under American manager Bob Bradley, after netting two goals in second-half stoppage time.

Meanwhile, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool were all victorious at the top of the table, as the PL’s elite continue to apply pressure on each other.

Here, we take a look back at Saturday’s action from around England’s top flight.

Chelsea 2-1 Tottenham — RECAP

The Blues remain atop the PL following Saturday’s massive win at Stamford Bridge, and in the process, Antonio Conte‘s men ended Tottenham’s unbeaten start to the 2016/17 season. Goals from Pedro and Victor Moses paced Chelsea to its seventh straight victory. Tottenham’s lone tally was the first allowed by the Chelsea backline during its win streak, which saw Conte shift his tactics to a 3-4-3 system.

Swansea City 5-4 Crystal Palace — RECAP

Easily in the conversation for Game of the Year through 13 matches, Swansea City has the monkey off its back as Bob Bradley has guided his side to a PL win for the very first time. The Swans controlled the match with 15 minutes remaining and a 3-1 lead, however, Palace did not quit and pulled back three goals in nine minutes to take the lead. Fernando Llorente provided the late-game drama for the Swans, scoring twice in stoppage time to lift Bradley’s side above Sunderland to 19th place.

Burnley 1-2 Manchester City — RECAP

Dean Marney gave Burnley an emphatic first-half lead off of his fantastic volley from distance, but it was Sergio Aguero that helped the Citizens claw back and take the three points back to Manchester. The Argentine striker equalized prior to halftime before scoring once more on the hour mark at the Turf Moor. City sits level on points (30) with Liverpool, but Pep Guardiola‘s side trails slightly based on goal differential.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 26: Sadio Mane of Liverpool and Dider Ndong of Sunderland compete for the ball during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Sunderland at Anfield on November 26, 2016 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Liverpool 2-0 Sunderland — RECAP

While Divock Origi and James Milner helped guide Liverpool to another victory as the club continues to soar, the Reds did receive some deflating news as Philippe Coutinho was forced out of Saturday’s match and stretchered off the field. A hard challenge from Didier Ndong left the Brazilian in some serious pain, and now the Reds will await the results of the tests to come on Coutinho’s right leg.

Leicester City 2-2 Middlesbrough — RECAP

A pair of Alvaro Negredo finishes looked like they would be enough to give Middlesbrough the three points on the road, but penalty kicks proved to be the savior for the Foxes. Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani each netted from the PK spot at the King Power Stadium to give Claudio Ranieri‘s men a share of the points on the day. Leicester sits 13th in the table on 13 points, while the Boro trails by one point.

Hull City 1-1 West Brom — RECAP

West Brom remains in the top half of the PL table, but Michael Dawson‘s second-half finish served as a massive lift for Hull on Saturday. The Tigers remain 18th in England’s top flight, however, Mike Phelan‘s side is level on points with Crystal Palace and West Ham. West Brom nicked the lead after the hour mark when Gareth McAuley headed home a Matthew Phillips corner kick.

The 2 Robbies: Terriers Triumph And Chelsea Leave It Late

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe start today’s show off by discussing Huddersfield Town’s surprising win against Manchester United (00:20), Jose Mourinho’s measured post-match interview (03:50), praise Manchester City again (10:30), discuss Sean Dyche’s next move (16:10), analyze that exciting match between Chelsea and Watford (18:30) and finally, weigh in on Slaven Bilic’s future at West Ham United (27:30).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

La Liga: Barca win to maintain lead, but Valencia won’t go away

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Barcelona regained a four-point cushion atop the Spanish league with a ho-hum 2-0 win over visiting Malaga and surging Valencia dismissed Sevilla 4-0 at home on Saturday.

Barcelona faced last-placed Malaga in the closing match of the day, with added pressure from second-placed Valencia, which has won five in a row.

Barcelona is unbeaten after starting with seven straight wins and drawing with Atletico Madrid last week.

Seldom-used Gerard Deulofeu opened the scoring for Barcelona after just two minutes, and Andres Iniesta celebrated his first of the season in the second half thanks to a brilliant assist by Lionel Messi.

Defending champion Real Madrid hosts Eibar on Sunday.

Barcelona benefited from a flagrant referee misjudgment to get its go-ahead goal against Malaga. Left back Lucas Digne was allowed to center the ball after it clearly crossed the byline, and Deulofeu acrobatically back-footed it inside the net.

Despite the blow, the visitors got back up and managed to neutralize Barcelona for most of the first half, but lost striker Diego Rolan just before the second period. The Uruguayan import was forced off by injury.

Without Rolan, Malaga lacked bite in its pressure of the home backline, and Barcelona was able to polish ball circulation and find Messi with more frequency.

Messi received a clean pass from defender Javier Mascherano, drew the defense, and dropped a perfect pass for Iniesta, whose shot was deflected by defender Roberto Rosales on its way to the upper left corner.

Malaga surrendered and Barcelona dominated the rest of the way.


Gonzalo Guedes opened the scoring for Valencia near halftime with a majestic strike from outside the box after deftly outmaneuvering two defenders on the chase.

Simone Zaza added his eighth league goal after the break with a spin and low cross shot. Santi Mina came off the bench and scored the third with just five minutes to go, finishing off a speedy counterattack for the hosts.

But the show was all Guedes, and the Portuguese midfielder rounded off his great game with the closer, subtly poking the ball over goalkeeper Sergio Rico in added time.

Sevilla has lost three in a row in all competitions. Managed by Eduardo Berizzo, the team started off red-hot in La Liga but has floundered lately, ranking fifth.

 

Serie A: Napoli’s perfect season ends after draw with Inter

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MILAN (AP) Napoli’s perfect start to Serie A finally came to an end on Saturday in an enthralling 0-0 home draw with Inter Milan, the only other unbeaten side in the Italian top flight.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup | Sunday preview — Spurs vs. Liverpool ]

There were plenty of chances at the San Paolo, and Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic was kept busier than his Napoli counterpart Pepe Reina.

It was the first time since April and a 2-2 draw at Sassuolo that Napoli has failed to win in Serie A.

Napoli remained top of the standings, two points above Inter and six above Juventus and Lazio, which face Udinese and Cagliari respectively on Sunday.

[ TACTICS SESSION: Inside the brilliant mind of Kevin De Bruyne ]

Napoli was looking for a ninth successive league win. It was boosted by Lorenzo Insigne passing fit to start after injuring a thigh on Tuesday in the Champions League defeat at Manchester City.

Inter was full of confidence after Mauro Icardi’s hat trick helped it win last week’s derby against AC Milan, but it hadn’t won in Naples in 20 years.

Napoli almost went in front but Handanovic pulled off a stunning double save to deny first Jose Callejon and then keep out Dries Mertens’ rebound attempt from point-blank range.

Handanovic then kept out an effort from Insigne following a great ball over the top from Marek Hamsik.

[ MORE: Mourinho — “We deserved the punishment of defeat” to Huddersfield ]

Inter went close shortly before halftime but Reina did well to fingertip Borja Valero’s close-range attempt over the bar.

Insigne had more chances after the break, going closest with a curling effort just past the right post.

Hamsik also fired narrowly wide, and Handanovic parried a powerful shot from substitute Piotr Zielinski.

Mertens should have won the match for Napoli in the final minute but Handanovic was again on hand to keep out his close-range volley.

Tactics Session: Inside the mind of Kevin De Bruyne

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If not for Harry Kane‘s prolific scoring of goals during the early days of this season, Kevin De Bruyne would almost certainly be the early runaway favorite for 2017-18 Premier League Player of the Season.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup | Sunday preview — Spurs vs. Liverpool ]

Alas, Kane, the one-season wonder that he is, seems hellbent on cracking the century mark in the PL this season, rather than waiting until 2018-19. This sets up what should be a thoroughly exhilarating seven-month battle between two polar opposite players — Kane, the goalscorer; and De Bruyne, the assist machine.

On Saturday, NBC Sports’ Robbie Earle delved into the mind of De Bruyne (above video) in light of last weekend’s 7-2 thrashing of Stoke City, during which De Bruyne notched another pair of assists to take season tally to five through eight games. Later on Saturday, De Bruyne added another in Man City’s 3-0 victory over Burnley.

[ MORE: Matchday experience — behind the scenes at Southampton ]

The first thing pointed out by Earle is the recovery — though deployed as more of a central midfielder on the day, De Bruyne sits wide with City in possession high up the field, just waiting for the opportune moment to surge forward and join the likes of Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and Sergio Aguero (now that he’s back from injury). When Jesus’ ball is too lightly weighted, De Bruyne reacts quickest to make the recovery.

From there, his head is up and scanning the entire field. One touch forward, and he’s already accounted for the positioning of each of his teammates, as well as the Stoke defenders, and every pocket of space into which he’ll either carry or play the ball. He knows the precise spot on the field he must get to in order to pull the defense to him, thus opening the necessary space (and time) for the final man — Sane, in this instance — to make his run in behind.

[ MORE: Mourinho — “We deserved the punishment of defeat” to Huddersfield ]

This is the part of De Bruyne’s game which he does better than anyone else in the world right now; no one can hold a candle KDB’s timing and vision — not Henrikh Mkhitaryan, not Isco, not Mesut Ozil, not even his brilliant teammate (and fellow six-assist man) David Silva. He’s almost operating at peak-Andres Iniesta level right now, which makes KDB and Co. appointment viewing every weekend.

Even now, after creating the passing lane and providing Sane the extra half-second to get level with his man before accelerating past in the blink of an eye. Even then, having seen the pass he has to play, there’s still the (major) matter of threading the needle through and around four defenders. On this occasion, the perfect pass is nearly 15 yards in front of Sane, and far less than that distance in front of the goalkeeper. An inch or two too short, it’s cleared by the right back; and inch or two too long, and the goalkeeper collects it easily.

As usual, no player in the world comes close to matching De Bruyne’s genius.