Henrikh Mkhitaryan

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Sneaky good: Early “stars” of the Premier League

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I have a “smell test” for players who leap off the pitch when taking the eyeball test during Premier League play.

If, upon moving to advanced statistics sites for performance reviews, these players are still shining, then there’s a good chance they are as important to their club as it seems at first blush

[ MORE: Stats of Premier League wkend ]

Of course guys like Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Paul Pogba, Kevin De Bruyne, and Sergio Aguero are going to pass muster. But what about some guys a bit off the radar?

Are there names the numbers say we should be watching a bit more closely, so it’s not a surprise when guys like Idrissa Gana Gueye or Sam Clucas net surprising transfer fees or international acclaim?

It seems logical, and we’ve to a pair of sites which use different algorithms to rank Premier League players and saw who turned up high in both…

Lukasz Fabianski, Swansea City
WhoScored: 37th
Squawka: 1st

Paul Clement‘s side sits 14th with only two goals scored, which is possible when your backstop doesn’t allow much to beat him. Fabianski was outstanding as Swans held Spurs scoreless this weekend.

Ben Davies, Tottenham Hotspur
WhoScored: 15th
Squawka: 16th

The 24-year-old defender is averaged 3.3 key passes per game, better than everyone in the league not named Mesut Ozil, Cesc Fabregas, David Silva, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. They aren’t defenders.

Maya Yoshida, Southampton
WhoScored: 56th
Squawka: 14th

Playing behind Oriol Romeu — and without Virgil Van Dijk — Yoshida has a goal to go with his six clearances and 3.8 aerials won per game

Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Crystal Palace
WhoScored: 22nd
Squawka: 26th

The on-loan Chelsea man was wanted by Rafa Benitez at Newcastle and a number of other locations, and has thrived despite only appearing in three matches and being on a troubled team. He’s averaged 4.7 dribbles a game and has been fouled 4.3 times per match.

Christopher Schindler and Aaron Mooy, Huddersfield Town
WhoScored: 10th (CS), 14th (AM)
Squawka: 24th (CS), 37th (AM)

It’s possible that Town has just been an analytics darling, as Steve Mounie and Laurent Depoitre also have good marks, but the Terriers have conceded just three times this season in front of Jonas Lossl. These two are a big part of the limited chances faced by the keeper, and Mooy has been holding it down for a continent the last two years.

Nicolas Otamendi, Manchester City
WhoScored: 11th
Squawka: 4th

His goal this weekend shows his capacity in the final third, but Otamendi has been a steady part of the defense as Pep Guardiola sorted out mercurial youngster John Stones and dealt with the health of Vincent Kompany.

Jamaal Lascelles, Newcastle United
WhoScored: 35th
Squawka: 49th

His numbers may be tilted by a pair of match-winning goals for high-flying Newcastle, but the big man had to get in the box to get them.

Manchester United 4-0 Everton: Red Devils ruin Rooney return

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  • Lukaku goal, assist, celebration
  • Valencia scores stunner (video)
  • Toffees continue road woes
  • Martial, Mkhitaryan also score

Ex-Everton striker Romelu Lukaku helped ruin Wayne Rooney‘s return to Old Trafford, picking up a goal and an assist against his former team as Manchester United topped Everton 4-0 on Sunday.

Antonio Valencia, Anthony Martial, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored for United, which has the joint-most points in the league but sits behind Man City by alphabetical order alone.

Starting up top, Rooney provided several clearcut chances for Everton, but Lukaku had an assist before punching in an 89th minute goal and celebrating wildly at Old Trafford.

The ex-Toffees striker was also a threat, picking up a late assist, and will rue chipping a simple finish wide of the goal in the first half.

Everton is now winless in 11-straight away PL matches, a league-high, and remains 17th with four points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Jordan Pickford didn’t have much of a chance on Valencia’s wonderful opener. A quick free kick was played short to Nemanja Matic, who hit a ball across the arc of the 18 for Valencia to smash home.

Romelu Lukaku snapped into action against his former club as the match neared the 20-minute mark, just shades away from providing a goal or assist as United looked to build on its lead.

That’s when Rooney nearly tied it up. Playing up top, he cut Cuco Martina‘s pass across his body but wide of the far post.

Lukaku then let Everton off the hook when he opened up 1v1 with Pickford and shot it wide of the far post.

Tom Davies was rightly deemed offside on a 29th minute chance that ended up in the back of the goal.

With all the focus on Lukaku, it was another former Toffee who nearly made it 2-0 when Marouane Fellaini challenged Pickford for a 50-50 ball but saw his effort miss the mark.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Rooney almost bulled his way to an equalizer in the second half’s first minute, sliding to win a shot that De Gea blocked with his right leg.

A Pickford giveaway led United to a free kick and Ashley Williams to a yellow card when the defender shouldered Juan Mata to turf in the 63rd minute.

Mata’s left-footed free kick wrapped around the wall to clank off the post, and United couldn’t do anything with the ensuing corner.

Left back Ashley Young set Jesse Lingard up for a left-footed chance, but the attacker’s shot was rushed by Ashley Williams and skied over the frame.

Williams stopped Lingard from getting full purchase on a point blank shot in the 78th minute, but no penalty call arrived after Pickford stooped to collect the tame effort.

Mkhitaryan provided the much-sought equalizer in the 84th minute with Williams giving the ball away to Lukaku, who cued up the ex-BVB man for a finish past Pickford.

That’s when Lukaku scored, continuing United’s penchant for piling on late goals. And Morgan Schneiderlin gave away a penalty to Anthony Martial that the Frenchman finished to make it 4-0.

Three things we learned from Tottenham vs. Dortmund

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WEMBLEY — Tottenham Hotspur against Borussia Dortmund was one of the most eagerly anticipated games in the UEFA Champions League group stage.

It delivered. Big time.

[ RECAP: Spurs 3-1 BVB ]

Three stunning goals were scored inside the opening 15 minutes with Heung-Min Son and Harry Kane netting after driving runs, then Andriy Yarmolenko curling in a beauty at the other end. Dortmund had a goal incorrectly chalked out for offside and then Kane grabbed a second and Tottenham’s third in the second half to finish off the German side as Spurs won 3-1.

USMNT youngster Christian Pulisic caused havoc on Dortmund’s left and might have had a goal before half time but it was ruled out for offside, somewhat controversially.

These two teams epitomize the value of bringing through young, hungry players in a high-pressing system and the result was a pulsating clash.

Here’s what we learned at a lively Wembley.


KANE’S POWER UNSTOPPABLE

Harry Kane was at his very best on Wednesday as he scored twice to fire Spurs to victory, their first this season at Wembley as they got their UCL campaign off to a flier.

Kane, 24, has only played in four UEFA Champions League games in his career but he has now scored four goals as the England international proved he belongs on Europe’s biggest stage.

He epitomized Spurs’ endeavor to put right last seasons Champions League exit at the group stage as he chased, bullied and battered Dortmund’s makeshift backline.

Kane smelt blood and his first goal summed up his display. He bundled over two Dortmund players when the odds were stacked against him, then raced through on goal and hammered home at the near post.

His penchant to score goals of any kind saw him then calmly drill home with his left foot in the second half to seal victory and Kane is well and truly up and running in September with six goals in four appearances for club and country. He could have had a hat trick as he dragged another effort but the local lad was given a standing ovation late on as he was substituted.

The reigning two-time Premier League Golden Boot winner looks hungrier than ever.


ABSORBING, ATTRACTIVE ENCOUNTER

The only other time Tottenham and Borussia Dortmund have played one another was back in 2016 as Spurs were demolished 5-1 on aggregate in the Europa League Round of 16.

Spurs were completely outclassed on that occasion but Wednesday’s win proved how far they have come.

Since then Spurs have largely kept all of their important players plus invested wisely in the likes of Davinson Sanchez, Serge Aurier and Heung-min Son, while Dortmund have lost stars such as Ousmane Dembele, Mats Hummels, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Ilkay Gundogan.

It showed, but Dortmund were well in this game up until the 60th minute when Kane made it 3-1.

As you can see from above, the first 45 minutes was largely dominated by Dortmund as they possessed the ball and forced Spurs to sit back. Mauricio Pochettino‘s men were patient and showed maturity to allow Dortmund to have the ball and were dangerous on the break. There really wasn’t much in this game.

Dortmund scored a perfectly legitimate equalizer through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang just before Spurs made it 3-1 and had they made it 2-2, Spurs could hardly have complained.

This was an energetic, pulsating clash to watch as two of Europe’s most exciting teams collided.

With Real Madrid in Group H alongside them they will likely battle it out for second spot. With Dortmund having several defensive injuries for this game, the return leg in November at the Westfalenstadion will be a similarly lively, even and absorbing encounter.


PULISIC DOES EVERYTHING BUT SCORE

The kid just always has a way of making you shake your head in disbelief.

In the first half Christian Pulisic, just a week shy of his 19th birthday, tore Tottenham apart on multiple occasions as he found space between Serge Aurier and Toby Alderweireld.

Cutting in off the left the USMNT star produced a strong display, creating a chance for Aubameyang which was brilliantly cleared and then Pulisic couldn’t quite get on the end of a cross from Aubameyang to score himself.

He did score right on the break but it was disallowed for offside and he was a constant menace on the left flank. In the second half Aurier got more of a grip on him and Pulisic’s crosses were a little off but he was still dangerous.

With Ousmane Dembele sold to Barcelona, Pulisic now has a regular starting spot in Dortmund’s team and he is playing like a seasoned pro despite the fact this is only at the start of his second full season as a first-team player.

The Pulisic hype train left the station a long, long time ago but it continues to gather momentum, and passengers, each time he steps up to the big occasion. He did himself proud, once again, even though Dortmund lost.

Stoke City 2-2 Man United: Thriller in the Potteries

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  • Stoke unbeaten at home v United since 2013
  • Potters have 1 defeat in last 6 PL games v United
  • Choupo-Moting scores twice
  • United drop first points of season

Stoke City and Manchester United drew 2-2 in an entertaining clash at the bet365 Stadium on Saturday.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Geoff Cameron injured ]

The Potters took the look through Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting but United came roaring back with Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku scoring either side of half time to put them 2-1 up. However, Choupo-Moting nodded home to level things up once again and Stoke held on for a point against the Red Devils.

Jose Mourinho’s United remain top of the Premier League table and are unbeaten, but they only sit above Man City on goal difference. As for Stoke, they now have five points from their opening four games.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 

Early on United dominated possession but failed to create a decent chance as Stoke, in their solid 3-4-3 formation, looked to hit the Red Devils on the break.

The first big chance of the game arrived when Eric Bailly played a wonderful long ball forward which found Marcus Rashford who forced Jack Butland into a smart save at his near post.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Stoke grew into the game as the first half wore on with Xherdan Shaqiri forcing David De Gea into two saves after the Potters grew in confidence.

The hosts weathered plenty of United attacks and then took the lead two minutes before half time. Mame Biram Diouf’s cross from the right was knocked home by Chopou-Moting and the Cameroon international scored his first goal for the Potters as United conceded for the first time this season. 1-0 to Stoke.

Stoke’s lead did not last for long with a corner from the left in the first minute of first half stoppage time flicked on by Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba‘s header hit Rashford on the back of the head and then went in. 1-1.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

USMNT star Geoff Cameron was subbed off at half time after suffering what looked like a hamstring injury and Stoke did not look comfortable at the back.

Lukaku raced clear after a fine through ball from Henrikh Mkhitaryan and after Butland saved his initial attempt brilliantly the Belgian tidied up to put United 2-1 up.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ] 

Less than six minutes later Stoke were level. First Jese forced David de Gea into a fine save but from the resulting corner Choupo-Moting rose above Phil Jones at the back post and nodded home his and Stoke’s second of the game. 2-2.

Game on.

Antonio Valencia surged forward and smashed a low effort just past the post as United pushed for a winner late on and Lukaku knocked an effort over after a fine cross from Anthony Martial.

Butland made one final superb stop in stoppage time as a corner for United caused havoc. The ball hit Kurt Zouma and bounced towards his own goal but Butland was their to claw the ball away as Stoke held on for a big point.

STREAM: Manchester United aims to stay top at Stoke (Lineups, Link)

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Manchester United brings its perfect start to Stoke City for a match-up with one of its legendary strikers in Potters boss Mark Hughes (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

[ LIVE: Stoke City-Man Utd ]

Marcus Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will look to keep up their hot play for United, while Romelu Lukaku again leads the line.

As for Stoke, USMNT man Geoff Cameron is in a back three with Kurt Zouma and Kevin Wimmer.

LINEUPS

Stoke City: Butland; Cameron, Zouma, Wimmer; Diouf, Fletcher, Allen, Pieters; Shaqiri, Jese; Choupo-Moting. Subs: Grant, Berahino, Tymon, Martins Indi, Adam, Crouch, Ramadan.

Manchester United: De Gea, Valencia, Bailly, Jones, Darmian; Matic, Pogba, Herrera, Mkhitaryan, Rashford, Lukaku. Subs: Romero, Blind, Smalling, Carrick, Mata, Lingard, Martial.