Benjamin Mendy

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Champions League wrap: Ronaldo leads Madrid; Besiktas posts big W

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Four terrific goals at Wembley Stadium were met by plenty more around the continent as the second batch of UEFA Champions League groups kicked off play on Wednesday.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]


Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Borussia DortmundRECAP

Son started the scoring with a terrific solo run down the left flank, turning the corner on Sokratis and then blasting a shot over the shoulder of Roman Burki.

Yarmolenko looked an able addition with a wonderful curling rip from atop the 18 to make it 1-1.

That’s when Kane gave the match its third goal within the first 15 minutes, and Burki was again victimized short side. Kane’s shot swept around Burki and may’ve even just kissed the post on its way to Spurs’ 2-1 lead. He’d add a second later.

Feyenoord 0-4 Manchester CityRECAP

A John Stones brace? Why not?

This one was supposed to be a tougher ask for City, but Pep’s men have pulled into a controlling position through Stones’ second minute marker and a Sergio Aguero goal off a Kyle Walker cross in the 10th.

Gabriel Jesus deposited a rebound to make it 3-0 after ex-Liverpool man Brad Jones pushed Benjamin Mendy‘s shot back away from goal. Stones nabbed the club’s fourth goal in the second half, nodding a David Silva cross home.

Liverpool 2-2 SevillaRECAP

Sevilla’s attack was always going to ask questions of the Reds’ defense, and it’s Wissam Bin Yedder’s fifth minute goal that has Liverpool trailing at Anfield.

Predictably, Liverpool had an answer, and it was Roberto Firmino who knotted the score line with a 21st answer goal. Then Mohamed Salah, no stranger to European competition, did some work of his own to make it 2-1 before the break.

It looked set for 3-1, but a Sadio Mane-won penalty was put off the post by Firmino. That would come back to haunt the Reds, as Joaquin Correa was given acres of space to level the score in the 72nd minute.

Porto 1-3 Besiktas

Anderson Talisca, Cenk Tosun, and ex-Liverpool man Ryan Babel scored as Turkey’s powers opened their bid for a winnable group. It won’t be easy, and Dusko Tosic’s own goal briefly had it level in Portugal.

Real Madrid 3-0 APOEL Nicosia

Cristiano Ronaldo is okay when it comes to this UEFA Champions League thing, you know? The Portuguese 32-year-old scored two on the day, the second a penalty kick.

Sergio Ramos added to the fun with an overhead goal, as the reigning champs twice-over look fine at home.

Shakhtar Donetsk 2-1 Napoli

Raise your hand if you had Napoli down early in Ukraine. Those with ’em up have Taison to thank for the 15th minute opener, and feel downright psychic thanks to Facundo Ferreyra‘s second-half insurance goal. Arkadiusz Milik pulled one back for the visitors with a 71st minute penalty kick.

RB Leipzig 1-1 Monaco

Emil Forsberg scored for the hosts just after the half-hour mark at Germany’s Red Bull Arena, with Youri Tielemans not needing long to answer for the 2017 semifinalists.

Maribor 1-1 Spartak Moscow

Alexander Samedov, Russia’s lone goal scorer against Mexico at this summer’s Confederations Cup, scored Spartak’s goal at the Ljudski Vrt, but the hosts’ Damjan Bohar netted in the 85th minute to split the points.

Pep: Man City’s attacking away win is huge

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Spirits are high in Manchester City camp after Pep Guardiola‘s corps of backs helped the team to a 4-0 away win versus Feyenoord in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.

John Stones scored twice, and both Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker had assists in the win, prompting Mendy to call out Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus (who also scored in the win).

[ RECAP: Feyenoord 0-4 Man City ]

As for the architect, Pep Guardiola pointed out that the road victory is a huge step for the club after going winless away from the Etihad Stadium last campaign.

And he pointed out that folks who were critical of his splashing cash on Mendy, Walker, Bernardo Silva, Danilo, and Ederson this summer just saw why City keeps spending big.

“We have made a huge effort to buy five players to make that step forward, like all the big teams have done in Europe. It’s important to see if we can go away and play with an attacking mentality, not conceding counter-attacks.”

Most expected City to pick up a win on Wednesday, but this sort of decisive victory with so many new faces on the road staked a claim to the group.

UCL AT HALF: Man City routing in Rotterdam; Spurs, Reds up 2-1 (video)

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We’ve had three terrific goals at Wembley Stadium and plenty more around the continent as the second batch of UEFA Champions League groups kicked off play on Wednesday.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]


Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Borussia Dortmund

Son started the scoring with a terrific solo run down the left flank, turning the corner on Sokratis and then blasting a shot over the shoulder of Roman Burki. The BVB goalkeeper will not pleased with conceding near post, but the shot still looked great.

Yarmolenko, the all-time Ukrainian leading scorer bought soon after BVB sold Ousmane Dembele to Barcelona, looked an able replacement with his wonderful curling rip from atop the 18. The left-footed strike left Hugo Lloris grasping for air, and it was 1-1.

That’s when Kane gave the match its third goal within the first 15 minutes, and Burki was again victimized short side. Kane’s shot swept around Burki and may’ve even just kissed the post on its way to Spurs’ 2-1 lead.

Feyenoord 0-3 Manchester City

This one was supposed to be a tougher ask for City, but Pep’s men have pulled into a controlling positiong through John Stones‘ second minute marker and a Sergio Aguero goal off a Kyle Walker cross in the 10th.

Gabriel Jesus deposited a rebound to make it 3-0 after ex-Liverpool man Brad Jones pushed Benjamin Mendy‘s shot back away from goal.

Liverpool 2-1 Sevilla

Sevilla’s attack was always going to ask questions of the Reds’ defense, and it’s Wissam Bin Yedder’s fifth minute goal that has Liverpool trailing at Anfield.

Predictably, Liverpool had an answer, and it was Roberto Firmino who knotted the score line with a 21st answer goal. Then Mohamed Salah, no stranger to European competition, did some work of his own to make it 2-1 before the break.

It looked set for 3-1, but a Sadio Mane-won penalty was put off the post by Firmino.

Porto 1-2 Besiktas

Anderson Talisca has the early goal here and Cenk Tosun has also scored as Turkey’s powers bid for a winnable group. It won’t be easy, and Dusko Tosic’s own goal briefly had it level in Portugal.

Real Madrid 1-0 APOEL Nicosia

Cristiano Ronaldo is okay when it comes to this UEFA Champions League thing, you know?

Shakhtar Donetsk 1-0 Napoli

Raise your hand if you had Napoli down early in Ukraine. Those with ’em up have Taison to thank for the 15th minute opener.

RB Leipzig 1-1 Monaco

Emil Forsberg scored for the hosts just after the half-hour mark at Germany’s Red Bull Arena, with Youri Tielemans not needing long to answer for the 2017 semifinalists.

Maribor 0-0 Spartak Moscow

Nothing cooking at the Ljudski Vrt.

Latest Premier League player Power Rankings

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It is time to reflect on where we are at during the 2017-18 Premier League season and rank the players who stood tall in Week 4.

[ MORE: Power Rankings archive ]

Players from Tottenham, Manchester City and Chelsea dominate the list as their good form continues, while a few Man United players slip down the list as stars from Liverpool and Arsenalslide out of the top 20.

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League.

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections of the top 20 players in the PL right now.


  1. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) – New entry
  2. Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur) – New entry
  3. Alvaro Morata (Chelsea) – Up 1
  4. Pascal Gross (Brighton & Hove Albion) – New entry
  5. Jack Butland (Stoke City) – New entry
  6. Cesar Azpcilicueta (Chelsea) – New entry
  7. Willian (Chelsea) – Up 2
  8. Gabriel Jesus (Man City) – New entry
  9. Romelu Lukaku (Man United) – New entry
  10. Christian Eriksen (Tottenham) – New entry
  11. Paul Pogba (Man United) – Down 9
  12. Erik Maxim Choupo-Moting (Stoke City) – New entry
  13. Nemanja Matic (Man United) – Down 1
  14. Dele Alli (Tottenham) – Up 2
  15. David Silva (Man City) – Down 5
  16. Benjamin Mendy (Man City) – New entry
  17. Marcos Alonso (Chelsea) – Down 4
  18. Pedro (Chelsea) – New entry
  19. Michail Antonio (West Ham) – New entry
  20. Andy Carroll (West Ham) – New entry

PL Playback: Mane’s red masks Liverpool’s real problems

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MANE RED MASKS LIVERPOOL ISSUES

Sadio Mane‘s red card in the 36th minute was the main talking point from Liverpool’s 5-0 defeat at Manchester City on Saturday.

It was a big moment but in no way should it have masked the bigger problem Liverpool have failed to address over the offseason: their defense.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

Jurgen Klopp was scathing after Mane’s red for a high challenge on Man City goalkeeper Ederson. Told to calm down on the sidelines by officials, perhaps Klopp was so incensed because he had seen his team go 1-0 down after a poor piece of defending, plus miss glorious chances via Mohamed Salah to compound Mane’s sending off.

[ MORE: Klopp vs. Guardiola antithesis

Speaking to the media afterward, Klopp stood up for Mane as Guardiola also believed it was an accident but that the action was dangerous.

“It was an accident. A very unlucky situation. I think everybody knows Sadio didn’t see the goalie. He just wanted to get the ball as soon as possible… and then it was a red card. We cannot change that anymore,” Klopp said. “Hopefully the goalie isn’t seriously injured. At the first moment when the people were on the pitch it looked like this, but after the game he was running around the dugout. Hopefully it was not too serious.”

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Ederson did not break anything but had some nasty cuts on his face and will be feeling the impact of that reckless challenge from Mane, which deserved a red, for quite some time.

Klopp was also asked if Liverpool would appeal against Mane’s three-game ban, and reports have since suggested they could do: “It would be another waste of time. Like the game today,” Klopp said.

Yet, the game wasn’t a complete waste of time.

We learnt an awful lot about Liverpool’s defensive deficiencies and the usually charismatic Klopp seem distracted as he mumbled through his answers in his post-game press conference.

He admitted it was far too easy for Man City’s midfielders, the brilliant David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne in particular, to turn and hurt his defense but that he “will try, with the boys, to forget the result. Not the mistakes, but the result” as Liverpool were torn apart time and time again.

“We have four in defense and six in midfield and in these situations, yes, we could have done better. We could have done better with the ball in the second half. You don’t lose 5-0 when a lot of things are right. It is not that I am concerned in the long-term,” Klopp explained. “I think if City takes too much confidence from this game today it is a mistake, if we lose too much confidence from this game we will also make a mistake.”

Analyzing Liverpool’s defensive display before and after Mane was sent off will draw a similar conclusion: gaping holes. Not just among the defenders because that is an easy target. But in midfield, which player is the true holding midfielder to provide a shield? Jordan Henderson isn’t and Emre Can and Georginio Wijnaldum lack discipline defensively. Even club-record signing Naby Keita, who will arrive next summer, is a two-way player who chips in with goals and assists.

City’s balanced midfield of Fernandinho behind Silva and De Bruyne is what Liverpool should aim for if their extreme attacking side is going to challenge for trophies.

Liverpool’s young right back Trent Alexander-Arnold was targeted too easily and the center back duo of Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan (who was preferred to Dejan Lovren) didn’t know whether to step up or hold with Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus buzzing around them. Every time City put the ball in the box it looked like they would score and they had two more goals ruled out for offside. Yes, Liverpool aren’t a team who are ever going to set back but when you’re 2-0 down at Man City at half time and a man down, surely Klopp didn’t expect the defensive capitulation he witnessed.

Even if Mane hadn’t been sent off, it would be tough for Man City not to have won that game.

Liverpool went all-in on center back Virgil Van Dijk this summer and they didn’t get their man. They didn’t seem to have a Plan B about strengthening their defense, which is undoubtedly their Achilles heel. Until they defend better, they will not win the title or challenge in Europe. Simple.

Klopp tried to mask the issues with Mane’s red card but you felt that, like Liverpool’s defensive display, it was halfhearted.

“After the international break, one man down, young players on the pitch in different positions. It was hard for the boys, I know, but we don’t look for excuses. It [the red card] changed the game today, we know it,” Klopp said. “What would have happened if we played 11v11? But I don’t have the chance to watch this game.”


DE BOER UNLUCKY

Quite why Crystal Palace hired Frank De Boer in the first place is mind-boggling.

It is admirable that for the second time in 12 months Steve Parish and Palace’s U.S. owners Josh Harris and David Blizter want to change the playing style of the south London club to an attractive, possession-based side, but now on both occasions it has failed. Miserably.

Palace now have to be brave and stick with what they want to be. Substance over style is okay. If you’re going to do it, just own it. And give it longer than four games.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Frank de Boer was nothing more than a victim of Palace’s ongoing identity crisis. They have now replaced Alan Pardew‘s experiment with a more attacking side with the pragmatism of Sam Allardyce and after the de Boer experiment went horribly wrong they are reportedly going back to basics with Roy Hodgson lined up to take charge as a horror run of games is on the horizon with Man City, Man United and Chelsea all in their next four PL games.

Sacked just four Premier League games into the season, FDB lasted 77 days and set a new record for the fewest PL games managed by a permanent boss. This comes after his disastrous 85-day spell in charge of Inter Milan last season as the Dutchman will do well to rebuild his coaching reputation following his four-straight Dutch titles with Ajax.

He was given some funds to strengthen and loanees Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Timothy Fosu-Mensah looked okay, but Mamadou Sakho never played due to injury and Jairo Riedewald also suffered on the sidelines. The players are partly to blame, particularly with their poor finishing and shambolic defending, but without a complete squad overhaul these systematic changes were doomed from the start.

This squad flourished under the direct approach of Allardyce last season and was now expected to play expansive, flowing soccer from the back.

Yet, this isn’t really about de Boer. Sure, he wanted to bring his expansive style of soccer to Selhurst Park, but that’s what Parish and others wanted too. And although you could accuse Palace of making horrendous defensive mistakes as they tried to keep the ball, they mixed it up and played long balls and got in crosses against both Liverpool and Burnley where they could have picked up points.

But they didn’t and they lost all four opening games without scoring a goal and the killer-blow was that three of those defeats came against Huddersfield, Swansea and Burnley who are all likely to be relegation rivals.

With 54 points from their last 63 games, Palace have racked up the second-lowest points total out of the 92 professional teams in England in that period. They have been scrapping away and fighting with themselves for so long now. Do they try to create a different identity or do they play it safe and aim for 40 points each PL season? The financial implications of relegation, plus the impending arrival of Hodgson, suggest the latter.

This is no longer de Boer’s problem to sort out.


DE BRUYNE OTHER-WORLDLY

Kevin de Bruyne provided two wonderful assists for Manchester City on Saturday in their demolition of Liverpool and the Belgian wizard finally seems to have found his spot in the team.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Under Pep Guardiola last season he was played in a deeper role and he flourished, grabbing 18 assists in the Premier League (more than any other player)

This season he is again lining up centrally rather than out wide and it giving City extra balance to their play with a 3-5-2 system allowing Jesus and Aguero to start up top, plus wing backs Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker to bomb forward.

De Bruyne, 26, spoke to the media in the tunnel area at the Etihad Stadium with a smile on his face as he discussed his match-winning display like it was a kickaround with his mates in the schoolyard.

“I just do whatever I need to do. I’d prefer to get zero goals and zero assists and win the league. Obviously it is a little bit different. I will try to do my thing and the coach is very happy with the way I am playing since the beginning of the season. I feel sharp. It always depends, but think where I am playing right now is the position which is best for me. Obviously every game is a little bit different, higher, lower, but it is small margins.”

Those small margins are what Guardiola and City are all about and De Bruyne believes they are hungrier than ever to win silverware this season after a barren spell in Pep’s first campaign.

“Everybody wants to win,” De Bruyne explained. “Obviously we have a couple of years where we don’t win a lot so there’s maybe more urgency to win something between the players. I have a good feeling about this season but you never know. We started well.”

And if those trophies arrive with him playing in a deeper role and not scoring as many goals?

“If it happens, it happens. If we win at the end of the season you will see a very happy Kevin.”


USMNT UPDATE: CAMERON OUT; EPB ON THE WAY?

Couple of U.S. national team notes to catch up on from around the Premier League.

Pro Soccer Talk understands Stoke City’s Geoff Cameron will be out for up to two weeks after injuring his hamstring just before half time in the Potters’ 2-2 draw against Manchester United.

Cameron, 32, started at center back but hobbled off after pulling up as he tracked back Romelu Lukaku. The experienced defender will now face a race against time to get back to full fitness before the USMNT’s final two World Cup qualifiers against Panama and Trinidad & Tobago with a trip to the 2018 tournament in Russia on the line.

A younger USMNT center back has also been in the news with reports stating that Sporting Kansas City’s Erik Palmer-Brown will join Manchester City.

EPB, 20, has been a star for the U.S. youth national teams and his coach as SKC, Peter Vermes, has confirmed he will move on at the end of the 2017 MLS season when his contract expires.

Pro Soccer Talk understand there is interest from Man City and that any deal will be sealed for him to join at the start of 2018. A versatile defender who can also play in midfield, EPB will likely join City’s development squad and then be loaned out.


INTRIGUING GOLDEN-BOOT RACE

We are only four weeks into the Premier League season but the Golden Boot race already seems like an intriguing one.

Harry Kane, the reigning two-time top scorer in the PL, is off the mark (because it is September) with two goals, while he has a little catching up to do as Romelu Lukaku has four goals, while Alvaro Morata and Gabriel Jesus have three goals each.

[ MORE: Premier League stats

There’s no doubt Sergio Aguero and Alexandre Lacazette (both on two goals) will also be up there all season long, but this could well be a three-horse race between Kane, Lukaku and Morata.

All three are the main-men up top for their teams and will likely start every single game. They are also very similar players who are comfortable with scoring in the air, holding the ball up and able to score all kinds of goals.

Let the best man win. And by win, I mean score a bucket load of goals.


Premier League Playback comes out every week as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here