Three things we learned from Man City’s win vs. West Ham

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LONDON — Manchester City put on an attacking clinic in their 4-0 win at West Ham United on Wednesday. 

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Gabriel Jesus lit up the game as City’s young attacking talent ran riot to put some pressure on Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur ahead of them in the table.

[ MORE: Man City’s future on show ]

Here’s what we learned from a masterclass in east London.


JESUS RULES SUPREME

Getting off the train in Stratford, east London, a few Man City fans were walking in front of me. Seeing their sky blue shirts, a couple of fans approached them.

“We are Brazilian,” they said, half whispering. “We are hear to watch Gabriel Jesus.”

They don’t need to whisper about it anymore. The kid is a star in the making.

After his impressive first start for City in the FA Cup win at Crystal Palace on Saturday, the 19-year-old carried that form on and delivered more magic.

From the first whistle Jesus looked on another level, cutting in from the right and dribbling past three West Ham defenders before clipping in a dangerous cross which was cleared. He was only just getting started.

For City’s first goal he surged forward in support of Kevin De Bruyne and played an inch-perfect ball back to KDB for the Belgian attacker to slot home without breaking stride. Before he scored his first goal in a City shirt to make it 3-0 he played a divine ball in-behind to Sterling which was put on a plate. He has everything.

The one area he also excels in is his work rate. Often he chases back but he has to watch the timing of his challenges as when on a yellow card (dished out for waving an imaginary card) he clattered in to a West Ham attacker and gave away a free kick in his own half.

With time he will learn and with time it seems he will develop into one of the best young strikers in the world. The $34 million City paid Palmeiras last summer for Jesus looks like an absolute bargain. They may will be ruing the fact that the deal only allowed him to join in January.


CITY’S FUTURE SECURE

When City’s third goal went in following a fluid move, the camera panned to Sergio Aguero’s face on the bench. He looked stunned. That’s because he knows now, more than ever, his place in Man City’s starting lineup is seriously under threat.

And that’s because it wasn’t just Jesus putting on a show on Wednesday. His partners in crime up front were just as dangerous with Raheem Sterling and especially Leroy Sane cutting West Ham’s pedestrian defense to shreds.

Sane, 21, is really finding his stride after a slow start to his first season in England. For City’s second goal he nutmegged Sam Byram in ridiculously easy fashion and then surged past Jose Fonte like he wasn’t there before finding David Silva at the back post to slot home. He then whipped in a cross which Jesus couldn’t quite reach early in the second half and was a constant pest.

Sterling, 22, was just as dangerous, drilling a shot just wide with the first attempt of the game, playing in Jesus for his goal and then winning a penalty kick for City’s fourth. Kevin de Bruyne buzzed around behind the front three of Sane, Jesus and Sterling and got a rest in the second half. Those four players are the future of City’s attack.

No wonder Aguero looked so shocked and concerned on the bench. City’s future is bright and the Argentine may struggle to be an integral part of it.

He isn’t on his own though. With Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta joining Aguero on the bench and Yaya Toure’s deal up in the summer, the changing of the guard at City has begun.


PAYET A DISTANT MEMORY, FOR NOW…

Outside West Ham’s new home at the London Stadium there used to be a mural to Dimitri Payet. That’s right, used to be.

In one one season he managed to become a god of London’s east end, worshiped by every single Hammers fans for his outrageous goals, flicks and assists.

In one day he whipped all of that away.

When Payet, 29, handed in a transfer request and refused to play for West Ham in early January, the entire fanbase turned against him. His manager Slaven Bilic came out in the press and hammered him for letting down the staff, his teammates and the fans.

Payet trained with the U-23 side for a few weeks and was eventually sold to Marseille the day before Deadline Day for $31.3 million. He took a pay cut to join his former club, who he left in the summer of 2015 to join West Ham, and it has also been revealed he wasn’t paid by the Hammers for January for his behavior.

West Ham’s owners lambasted Payet’s behavior but on his unveiling at Marseille he said he didn’t have to answer to anyone. He’s quite happy with his decision.

Bilic has suggested that over time Hammers fans may appreciate all of the magic moments Payet delivered in their seventh-place finish last season and be happy they saw him in his prime.

For now, though, the only physical reminder of Payet is a mural which has been painted over. Nothing more, nothing less.

Electricity restored at Maracana after some late bills paid

This Feb. 2, 2017 shows Maracana stadium with a dry field in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Stadium operators, the Rio state government, and Olympic organizers have fought over $1 million in unpaid electricity bills and management of the venue. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Rio’s electricity utility has turned the power back on at the famous Maracana stadium after it was shut off for almost a month in a dispute over $1 million in unpaid bills.

The utility on Thursday said power had been restored after the stadium operator paid 1.3 million reals ($430,000) in late bills from November through January. It was shut off on Jan. 26 in the dispute.

The utility said it is still negotiating for 1.8 million reals ($600,000) in unpaid bills from the organizing committee of last year’s Rio Olympics. Rio 2016 organizers still owe millions to companies which helped prepare the Olympics and Paralympics

The stadium has been vandalized over the last month with seats torn out, televisions stolen and the grass field left untended.

VIDEO: FC Dallas youngster Kellyn Acosta unleashes howitzer goal

Arabe Unido goalkeeper Miguel lloyd (1) reaches up to block a shot from FC Dallas as defender Rigoberto Nino (2) and FC Dallas' Kellyn Acosta (23) watch in the first half of a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals soccer match, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017 in Frisco, Texas (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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With FC Dallas taking on Panamanian club Aribe Unido in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League, 21-year-old Kellyn Acosta grabbed a second for the Major League Soccer club 10 minutes past halftime.

It wasn’t just any old goal. It was a STRIKE.

The Texas native trailed the play, and with Roland Lamah shut off in the box by solid man-marking on the ball, Acosta was there to provide an outlet, and he blasted a vicious strike into the top-left corner. The find by Lamah was a smart one with a host of defenders closing in, and his calm demeanor was rewarded as his teammate launched a rocket into the back of the net.

The goal is a fodder for those who believe Acosta, who has played full-back for much of his career, should be a midfielder instead. His positioning and ability to trail the play with deadly accuracy is what makes this goal so special.

Acosta would bag a third in the dying minutes of the game, giving FC Dallas a 3-0 lead to take on the road as they travel to Panama for the second leg on March 1st.

Top Premier League Storylines – Week 26

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 08:  Claudio Ranieri, manager of Leicester City speaks with his players during the break in extra-time in the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round replay match between Leicester City and Derby City at The King Power Stadium on February 8, 2017 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
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Well. This weekend’s return of Premier League action was already slated to be an exciting one, but now with today’s enormous bit of breaking news, it has become even more intriguing.

[ WATCH: Previewing every match in Week 26 ]

There’s plenty to discuss at the top of the Premier League table, as Arsenal and Spurs look to heal their European wounds, but it’s what’s at the bottom that has everyone talking today.

How will Leicester City react after the firing of Claudio Ranieri?

Leicester City vs. Liverpool —  3:00 p.m. EDT Monday on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Well. The Foxes had their work cut out for them coming into this match already, but now it has a whole new flavor. Claudio Ranieri has been dismissed just nine months after winning the Premier League title, and sitting just a point off the drop coming into the weekend (and inside the relegation zone coming into the match?) Leicester City will be lead into King Power Stadium by Assistant Manager Craig Shakespeare and First Team Coach Mike Stowell.

Liverpool stopped a five-match winless streak last time out with a quality 2-0 win over Tottenham, but the Reds defense has been leaky all season, and if Leicester is to break its horrid 610-minute goalless streak, it would be here. The Foxes are without a win in five and have not scored a Premier League goal in all of the 2017 calendar year. Can they respond and begin to play for themselves rather than their former manager?

Can Dele Alli and Tottenham bounce back?

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Stoke City — 8:30 a.m. EDT Sunday on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Spurs looked like they had rediscovered their Champions League form with a comprehensive smothering of Championship side Fulham in the FA Cup. Then, they welcomed KAA Gent to Wembley and promptly lost their heads. Dele Alli was sent off for one of the worst challenges you’ll see, and Spurs were vulnerable as a result, crashing out of the Europa League.

Now, Mauricio Pochettino must regroup the squad and get them ready to host Stoke, a team they clobbered 4-0 in the third match of the season. The squad is still healthy, and the loss of European play may actually help them in the long run. Here, however, it provides them with negative form and a short prep time. They need this one badly to solidify a top four place moving forward, can Poch turn it around?

Can Sunderland get a result against surging Everton?

Everton vs. Sunderland — 10:00 a.m. EDT Saturday on NBCSports.com

Hull City hosts Burnley. Crystal Palace welcomes Middlesbrough. With those two fellow occupants of the relegation zone playing at home against lower-half sides, the spotlight is squarely on Sunderland. The Black Cats have a tough matchup, on the road at Everton.

The Toffees haven’t lost a Premier League match since falling to Liverpool in mid-December, and have scored 19 goals in the eight matches since that blemish. With that in mind, Sunderland must get some kind of a result to pull off the bottom of the Premier League table. Can they snatch points at Goodison Park?

EFL Cup final could leave Chelsea well out in front

Chelsea vs. Swansea City — 10:00 a.m. EDT Saturday on NBCSports.com

Chelsea is already eight points ahead of the pack and looks to be the clear favorite to win the Premier League title. It could get even clearer after this week. Manchester United is off, Manchester City is off, and Arsenal is off. Couple that with Tottenham struggling and Liverpool facing a desperate Leicester City side, and it’s entirely conceivable that a win for Chelsea over Swansea City could leave the Blues as far as 11 points clear at the top of the table, albeit a game ahead of some. That would all but wrap things up, wouldn’t it?

Mario Balotelli handed 2-match ban for abusing referee

FILE- In this Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016 file photo, Nice's forward Mario Balotelli, of Italy, reacts during the Europa League group I soccer match between OGC Nice and FC Salzburg, in Nice stadium, southeastern France. Nice striker Mario Balotelli’s teammate Alassane Pleas has confirmed he heard Bastia supporters racially abusing Balotelli with monkey chants during the league match on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Claude Paris, File)
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After being sent off for referee abuse in last weekend’s Ligue 1 win over FC Lorient, Nice striker Mario Balotelli has been handed a two-match ban.

Balotelli earned his second red card of the season in the 69th minute of a 1-0 win that kept Nice within striking distance of the leaders Monaco. It was his second straight red and third sending-off of the season, having already been dismissed in reverse fixture against Lorient after a pair of yellows in the final three minutes of the game.

After the mercurial Italian’s hot start to the season, he has just one goal in the last two months, the third in a 3-1 win over Guingamp. He has not scored a point-winning goal since bagging both in a 2-1 win over Dijon back on December 18th.

Balotelli’s agent, the well-known Mino Raiola, was so frustrated with his client’s continual dismissal problems that he told French media conglomerate RMC Sport that the solution to Balotelli’s problems is to “cut out his tongue.”

“I have already found the solution: you have to cut out his tongue,” Raiola said bluntly. “To play soccer, there is no need for language! In all seriousness, he knows he made a big mistake and he has no excuse. He knows he needs to improve that. He is very sad for him, for the team.”

The suspension leaves Balotelli on the sidelines for tomorrow’s match against 11th placed Montpellier and then on March 4th at 17th placed Dijon. Nice sits in third, level on points with 2nd placed PSG and three back of leaders Monaco.