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Three things we learned from Man City vs. Tottenham

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Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur played out an entertaining, dramatic, controversial 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

City were 2-0 up and flying early in the second half after mistakes from Hugo Lloris were punished by Leroy Sane and Kevin De Bruyne but Tottenham came roaring back as Dele Alli and Heung-Min Son scored to seal a comeback draw, and amongst all that a clear push on Raheem Sterling in the box went unpunished.

Here’s what we learned from a gripping encounter.


WASTEFUL CITY PUNISHED

Sure, Pep Guardiola and Manchester City will point to the horrendous referring decision moments before Tottenham’s equalizer but they only have themselves to blame for not beating Spurs.

With City leading 2-1, Raheem Sterling surged into the box and was pushed by last-man Kyle Walker when he was clean though on goal and about to shoot. No penalty kick was awarded by referee Andre Marriner and moments later Son equalized to deny City victory. Pep Guardiola was livid, and rightly so, as Sterling should’ve won a PK and Walker should have been sent off.

End of discussion.

Despite that inept moment from the officials, City didn’t help themselves in this game.

They led 2-0 early in the second half and City should have been up by a few goals at half time as Hugo Lloris saved from David Silva, plus Pablo Zabaleta drilled a shot wide, then Sergio Aguero had a header and left-footed shot saved by Lloris.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

It was a brave, energetic display from City who at times had four men in forward positions and forced Tottenham to ditch their 3-4-3 system midway through the first half. Such was City’s dominance, Spurs could’ve had no complaints had they trailed 4-0 before Dele Alli scored.

Guardiola looked devastated at the final whistle. After their humiliating defeat at Everton last time out, he knew his team missed a glorious opportunity to make up points on those teams around them after Liverpool and Manchester United dropped points on Saturday.

This was more like the City side we expected under Pep, but with much focus on their poor defending (goalkeeper Claudio Bravo has now conceded 16 goals from the last 24 shots on target he’s faced, by the way) this season it was once again their wastefulness in front of goal which cost them dear.


INJURY ISSUES PILE UP FOR SPURS

After losing Jan Vertonghen for at least the next six weeks, the last thing Mauricio Pochettino wanted to see was Toby Alderweireld limping off clutching his hamstring. That’s what happened on Saturday.

[ MORE: Spurs unveil stunning areas of new stadium ]

On Thursday I was chatting to a few Spurs officials at an event to promote the incredible features at their new stadium at White Hart Lane. It became clear that many people within the organization believe they’d be a lot closer than seven points off PL leaders Chelsea had injuries been kind to them this season.

When you look at it, they have a point.

Alderweireld missed a few months. Harry Kane too. Now Vertonghen. Erik Lamela is also out. Mousa Demble was banned for the opening month (that was his own fault due to a suspension) of the season and Dele Alli was nursing knocks in September.

Unlike many of their competitors for the title, Spurs have yet to have a run of games with a full fit starting XI. The fact that Vertonghen was missing on Saturday was a huge handicap as they needed him to be a key part of their three-man defense which has allowed Spurs to flourish in their six-game winning streak.

The fact that Spurs fought back from a 2-0 deficit to grab a point with both of their center backs missing, their ever reliable captain Lloris dropping two clangers, a tactical switch in the first half and another defender coming off at half time says it all.

Spurs stood tall through adversity and will no doubt be the happier team as they momentarily closed the gap to Chelsea to six points and sit in second place with 16 games to go. Pochettino won’t be happy, but he’ll take it.


CHELSEA THE BIG WINNERS

Antonio Conte and his Chelsea players will have a broad smile on their face on Saturday evening.

The Blues can move eight points clear of their closest rivals by the close of play on Sunday as Man City, Spurs, Liverpool and Man United all dropped points on Saturday.

There is no doubting that Chelsea was the big winners on Saturay without even kicking a ball. Now, if they can get Diego Costa focused and back among the goals then everything is set up for a season-defining stretch in 10 days time.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Chelsea face Liverpool on Jan. 31 at Anfield and four days later host Arsenal at Stamford Bridge. If results continue to go their way between now and the conclusion of that pivotal stretch, Conte’s boys may have the title wrapped up by the time April rolls around.

With Spurs’ injury issues in defense, Chelsea’s biggest rivals to their title challenge look like they will have to overcome severe adversity to hunt them down.

Conte and Co. will sleep well ahead of their clash against Hull City on Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Watch Live: Liverpool vs. Swansea City (Lineups, Stream)

SWANSEA, WALES - MARCH 16:  Kyle Naughton of Swansea City is closed down by Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Liverpool at Liberty Stadium on March 16, 2015 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
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Liverpool host Swansea City to Anfield on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with the Reds aiming to stretch their unbeaten run at home in the Premier League to 18 games.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE

Jurgen Klopp is a little concerned with the number of games his team have had to play over the past few weeks, but a victory against the struggling Swans would momentarily move his side just four points behind leaders Chelsea who play on Sunday.

As for Swansea, new manager Paul Clement knows a win would take his team out of the relegation zone and with new signings arriving that would be a massive boost. It would also be a massive ask for the Welsh side to get anything at Anfield but this may be a good time to play Liveprool after their midweek trip to Plymouth in the FA Cup and the EFL Cup semifinal second leg against Southampton coming up on Wednesday.

In team news Liverpool start with Philippe Coutinho once again, while Joel Matip is on the bench after the Reds finally settled the dispute with Cameroon. Swansea hand debuts to new signings Martin Olsson and Tom Carroll.

LINEUPS

Liverpool: Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Klavan, Milner; Can, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Lallana, Coutinho, Firmino. Subs: Karius, Sturridge, Moreno, Lucas, Origi, Matip, Woodburn

Swansea City: Fabianski; Olsson, Mawson, Fernandez, Naughton; Cork, Carroll, Fer; Sigurdsson, Llorente, Routledge. Subs: Nordfeldt, Rangel, Amat, Fulton, Dyer, Borja, McBurnie

Strange Fonte situation nears end as West Ham close in

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26:  Jose Fonte of Southampton celebrates as he scores their third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Arsenal at St Mary's Stadium on December 26, 2015 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)
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Jose Fonte was linked with moves to Manchester United and Liverpool throughout the summer transfer window and for most of the January window.

Now a move to West Ham or West Bromwich Albion seems more likely.

[ MORE: Vertonghen injury update ]

Multiple outlets are reporting that Fonte, 33, has agreed terms with the two Premier League clubs, while West Ham are believed to be in the driving seat for Southampton’s skipper who they will pay $11 million for.

Fonte, who has been with Saints since 2010, handed in a transfer request earlier this month and is unavailable for selection until he is either sold by Southampton or the transfer window closes without him leaving.

The latter does not look likely, even if West Ham manager Slaven Bilic refused to comment specifically on Fonte in his press conference on Thursday. If the move to the Hammers does go through then it would end a strange, and sad, final chapter in Fonte’s career at St Mary’s.

He joined Saints in the third-tier in January 2010 and the center back is the only player remaining from their League One days. In seven years he has risen with Southampton and has become one of the most reliable center backs in the PL, plus got his chance with the Portuguese national team and started every game in the knockout stage as Portugal won EURO 2016 this summer.

After that triumph Fonte’s head seemed to have been turned and with his new agent Jorge Mendes (the same “super agent” who looks after Fonte’s compatriots Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho) he seemed to be eyeing a move away.

[ LONGFORM: Jose Fonte, baby ]

I was at a preseason game for Saints against Espanyol in August where Fonte turned up late (he had arrived late for preseason after his summer exploits with Portugal) and all of Southampton’s fans stood on their feet to applaud him for his success with Portugal at EURO 2016 and chanted for him to stay at St Mary’s. He rather sheepishly gave a wave but it all looked rather staged. It just didn’t feel right and there was no real surprise that the rumors about him leaving didn’t end until the end of the summer transfer window.

No clubs seemed too interested in taking him from Saints and anyway he had 18 months to run on his current, plus Southampton offered him a one-year extension and a pay raise without him even asking.

Fonte, for some reason, declined that offer and ever since then then there have been reports about him being a negative influence in the locker room and despite his play on the field not dropping dramatically he has put out cryptic message on Instagram, plus he didn’t play a single second of Southampton’s landmark UEFA Europa League group stage campaign for unknown reasons.

This situation is really nothing to do with current manager Claude Puel. He is caught in the middle and Executive director of football Les Reed finally came out and spoke about Fonte’s future two weeks ago as he revealed the Portuguese defender wanted out.

The way this has ended is messy for everyone involved but what more can Saints do?

They have a player who is adored by the fans after rising with them from the lower leagues to a sixth-place finish and European action. He is the captain of the club but is refusing to sign a new deal and has told them he wants to leave. Out of respect for Fonte, Saints will let any reasonable offer take him away from St Mary’s. Yet, it didn’t have to end like this.

If Fonte does go to West Ham, he may get an increase in his wages for the final few years of his career but then what? He would’ve had a job for life at Southampton had he played out the remaining 18 months of his current deal or then extended it for another season to take him towards the age of 36.

This whole situation seems very strange and for everyone involved some sort of explanation would help with wading through the mess if Fonte does leave Southampton, as expected, in the coming days. It is unlikely Fonte had West Ham or West Brom near the top of his ideal destinations when he made it clear he wanted to leave Saints. Now, those are the options awaiting him. Maybe he saw so many of his former teammates leave Saints and go on to better things (look at Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Morgan Schneiderlin, Sadio Mane et al.) and fancied some of that following his success with Portugal in the summer.

No disrespect to Fonte but a veteran center back from Saints is hardly as enticing as the likes of Lallana and Mane were in summers gone by.

Amid the current situations regarding Dimitri Payet and Diego Costa in the Premier League, this one involving Fonte and Southampton has somewhat flown under the radar. It shouldn’t have. Serious questions need to be asked about what the heck has been going on.

Everton 4-0 Manchester City: Toffees counter hammers leaky City

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 15:  Romelu Lukaku #10 of Everton celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Premier League match between Everton and Manchester City at Goodison Park on January 15, 2017 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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  • Lukaku opened scoring
  • Mirallas made it 2-0 straight out of half
  • 18-year-old hits Everton’s third

After Everton’s second goal, Pep Guardiola was shown with a gloomy expression, staring straight into the ground without even watching as the game continued on. It was a fitting expression as Everton’s cutting edge on the counter-attack downed a leaky Manchester City 4-0 at Goodison Park.

On a day of Manchester vs. Liverpool, the latter struck the first blow, leaving Manchester City a whopping 10 points adrift of the league’s top spot as Everton’s counter-attack was ruthless, a stark contrast to the toothless visitors. The Toffees picked up four shots on target on the day, and Claudio Bravo came up empty-handed on all four.

Everton looked early on for the long ball to Romelu Lukaku, while City maintained possession with little result. On the break, Everton had the ball in the net through Kevin Mirallas, but it was ruled out as Seamus Coleman was offside. Following a cagey first 10 minutes, the game sprung open.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

City had its own early chance, also on the break, as Kevin De Bruyne sprung down the left and fed Raheem Sterling one-on-one with Leighton Baines in the box. Joel Robles came out of the net and smothered the ball, taking down Sterling as well with no call from referee Mark Clattenburg. They had another on 25 minutes as de Bruyne again from the left sent a spectacular ball to the far post where David Silva was waiting all alone, but Robles was again there to smother it before Silva could get a good shot off.

Everton had fewer chances, but took the one big one it had. After Gael Clichy gave the ball away in midfield, 18-year-old Tom Davies threaded a perfect through-ball to Mirallas, and his square pass across the box to Lukaku allowed the Belgian to simply touch home.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings

After going down, City continued to pummel the Everton goal. Sterling unleashed a vicious one from outside the box that went just wide on 38 minutes. Manchester City finished with a massive 71% possession, but nothing to show for it.

Out of halftime, Everton stunned the visitors straight away. Yaya Toure gave the ball away this time, and Ross Barkley fed Mirallas who hit into the far corner just past a sliding John Stones, just 62 seconds into the second half, leaving Pep Guardiola staring straight into the ground.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Changes were rung past the hour mark, as Guardiola replaced Pablo Zabaleta with striker Kelechi Iheanacho, while Ronald Koeman brought on Morgan Schneiderlin for his Everton debut, but it was another first that put an exclamation mark on the game as the 18-year-old Davies picked up his first Premier League goal with a smart finish dinked over a charging Claudio Bravo.

They’d get a fourth in laughable fashion, through 19-year-old Ademola Lookman on his Premier League debut. John Stones, in an attempt to clear the ball, fired it against Seamus Coleman. The ball caromed back into the box straight into the path of Lookman, who hit through the legs of Claudio Bravo and into the back of the net.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score

The Everton win brings them up to 33 points, although the gap between their 7th place and Manchester United in 6th is still a large six points with the Red Devils still yet to play. Manchester City, meanwhile, drops a full 10 points behind leaders Chelsea, while they remain outside the top four, two back of both Liverpool and Arsenal.

PL Saturday roundup: Spurs, Arsenal win big; Costa-less Chelsea get back on track

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 14: Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur (R) scores his sides fourth goal during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion at White Hart Lane on January 14, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Both ends of the table continue to provide intrigue after another busy day around the Premier League, including the division’s top three sides each picking up convincing victories.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

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

Tottenham 4-0 West Bromwich Albion — RECAP

Mauricio Pochettino‘s side is hitting its stride at the right time, and now Spurs find themselves all the way up to second in the PL. Harry Kane‘s hat-trick helped guide Tottenham to an easy home win over West Brom on Saturday at White Hart Lane as Spurs picked up their sixth-straight victory. The Baggies have now lost three of their last five matches despite sitting in the top 10.

Swansea City 0-4 Arsenal — RECAP

Swansea’s struggles continued on Saturday despite a lively start from the hosts. Once again though, the Gunners proved that they can punish any team in the blink of an eye if given the opportunity. Goals from Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez, as well as two own goals, helped guide Arsenal up to third in the table as the top of the league remains congested. Meanwhile, the Swans still sit at the bottom of the PL on 15 points.

Leicester City 0-3 Chelsea — RECAP

No Diego Costa, no problem. While speculation over the Spaniard’s future continues to swirl, the Blues got back on track against the reigning top-flight champions. A brace from Marcos Alonso and a third from Pedro helped give Chelsea all three points and a tentative seven-point advantage over Spurs at the top of the PL. The Foxes once again fell short on Saturday for their ninth loss of the campaign, after having fallen just three times a season ago. Claudio Ranieri‘s men are now just five points above the bottom three with 17 matches remaining.

Burnley 1-0 Southampton — RECAP

The Clarets continued their impressive home record this season with another home victory. Joey Barton‘s first goal since returning to Burnley helped push the hosts up to 10th in the standings after the midfielder came on as substitute. All eight of Burnley’s victories have come at home this season, while 25 of the team’s 26 points have been picked up at the Turf Moor.

HULL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 14: Tom Huddlestone of Hull City (C) celebrates his side third goal with his Hull City team mates during the Premier League match between Hull City and AFC Bournemouth at KCOM Stadium on January 14, 2017 in Hull, England. (Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)
Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Hull City 3-1 Bournemouth — RECAP

Marco Silva received everything he could have wished for on his PL debut for the Tigers. Despite going down early after Junior Stanislas converted from the penalty spot, it was all Hull the rest of the way. An Abel Hernandez double helped put Hull out in front against the Cherries, while a Tyrone Mings own goal sealed the fate of the visitors on Saturday. Hull now has four wins on the season, moving the Tigers up to 18th in the table.

Sunderland 1-3 Stoke City — RECAP

Marko Arnautovic and Peter Crouch both scored for the visitors as Stoke City rose to ninth on Saturday against the Black Cats. While Jermain Defoe continues to keep Sunderland in the hunt to climb out of the relegation zone, the Englishman lacks a supporting cast up front. Sunderland remains in the bottom three on 15 points, although the Black Cats are just one point behind 17th place Crystal Palace.

Watford 0-0 Middlesbrough — RECAP

Both sides remain above the drop zone despite an uneventful encounter at Vicarage Road. Middlesbrough failed to record a shot on target on Saturday, however, the visitors came the closest to finding an opener when Cristhian Stuani knocked home a flicked ball from Alvaro Negredo. Unfortunately for Boro, the finish was called back for offsides.

West Ham 3-0 Crystal Palace — RECAP

The Hammers remain in fine form as of late courtesy of Michail Antonio‘s three assists against the Eagles at the Olympic Stadium. Manuel Lanzini, Sofiane Feghouli and Andy Carroll all punched their names on the scoresheet for West Ham, who now move up to 12th in the league. None were better than Carroll’s bicycle kick strike which put an exclamation on the match. Palace, however, have fallen all the way to 17th after failing to win in their last seven matches.