Quick Six: Top stories from the Premier League weekend

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If Wednesday’s League Cup exit gave fans reason to doubt, Sunday’s win at St. Mary’s will be cause for belief. Against a Southampton side whose defensive prowess once vaulted them into the top four, Tottenham scored three times, and while Jos Hooiveld’s own goal boosted that mark, Tim Sherwood’s side showed a restored Emmanuel Adebayor (two goals), 4-4-2 formation, and midfield chosen with attacking intent might reverse Spurs’ fortunes. Their 3-2 win at Saints, their first League game since Villas-Boas’s departure, was their best win of the season.

There were a few other take homes, ones that undermine any premature Spurs reborn narrative. Southampton, who haven’t won since Nov. 9 (and haven’t beaten a team in the league’s top half since Sept. 29), were just as culpable for the result. Only two games into Sherwood’s stewardship, it’s still too early to draw conclusions about turned corners, though the collapse the team was experiencing under their former boss has stopped. Spurs may have steadied the ship, but it’s also too early to tell where it’s going.

Though many noted Villas-Boas’s virtues when he left, change for change’s sake may have been enough. At home to West Brom and Stoke over the week, the now seventh placed Spurs may have acted just in time. Sunday’s performance gives them reason to believe things are getting better, something that clearly wasn’t happening under their former manager.

[MORE: Southampton 2-3 Tottenham: Adebayor double gives Sherwood first Premier League win (video)]

2. First place: Liverpool

Nowhere in the world do they laud a temporary first like they do in England. Elsewhere, Liverpool reaching the top of the table would be reported while noting the match day’s not over, and in many places that cover the Premier League, they’re showing that kind of restraint. But with Arsenal hosting Chelsea on Monday, the Reds could finish Round 17 where they started: Second place.

Yet after their 3-1 win versus Cardiff City, Liverpool’s potentially fleeting position is being lauded as progress. And to a certain extent, it is, provided the right context can be applied. Luis Suárez continues to remind England what they’re in store for next summer, scoring his 18th and 19th goals of the season. An improving Reds defense only conceded once up three goals. In a league where only Manchester City seems to be hitting its stride, Liverpool’s form may be enough to keep them in the race. With questions having evolved from whether they’re Champions League contenders to doubts about their title credentials, the Reds have certainly earned their accolades.

[MORE: Liverpool 3-1 Cardiff City: Yet another side undone by Luis Suárez (video)]

That, instead of premature celebrations about first place, is Liverpool’s real progress. Most expected Brendan Rodgers’ team to move forward in 2013-14, but with Spurs having brought in so much new talent, few saw the Reds doing more than pestering the top five.

After 17 games, Liverpool has transcended those expectations, and although they may yet regress once the calendar turns, the ease of Saturday’s win highlights how far they’ve come.

3. Days and nights of Vincent Tan

The flip side of Saturday’s match at Anfield: the chaos that is Cardiff City. Had the Bluebirds lost to Liverpool under any other circumstances, the defeat would have been seen as an expected one. That it came after a fortnight where Malky Mackay declared the need for reinforcements, was publicly rebuked by ownership, and was asked to resign made the defeat into a plot point in a larger drama. How long until Mackay is written out?

Public perception has fallen in favor of Mackay, a sentiment with which I don’t necessarily disagree. There is, however, a scenario where Tan’s predilections make sense. If Mackay (and Ian Moody) really did drastically overspend this summer, Tan had reason to be concerned. Not only has Mackay not made good on that investment (Cardiff four points above the drop), but he’s show his truculence in the face of a fired Head of Recruitment. Now, asking for more money (and doing so through the media), it might be fair for Tan to ask whether another man can stick to budgets, not complain in the press, and produce a better product on the field. Didn’t Steve Clarke just become available?

It all depends on which side you believe. Of course, you can choose to believe neither and just see how things unfold. Regardless, the soap opera being directed by Vincent Tan is bound for another turn, even if Cardiff’s benefactor hopes to calm things down.

4. MANCHESTER City wants all the goals

Four years ago, Chelsea set a record for goals in a Premier League season, scoring 102 times. After 17 rounds, Manchester City’s already halfway there. When James Milner’s 83rd minute score made it 4-2 at Craven Cottage, City had their 51st goal of the season, putting them on pace to score 114 times over 38 rounds.

[MORE: Fulham 2-4 Manchester City: Visitors proving they can win on the road (video)]

Odds are they’ll slow up a little, regression and all. Yet through 17 rounds, they’ve already built up a bit of a cushion. When they slow up, they’ll still have to creep far under Chelsea’s 2.68 goals per game to fall short of the Blues’ mark. After yesterday’s outburst on the Thames, City’s averaging an even three-per-match.

If anything, City is trending the other way. Over their last six matches, the Citizens have scored 19 times, putting up six against the likes of Tottenham and Arsenal. Though losing Sergio Agüero until late January could slow them down, an attack led by Edin Dzeko and Álvaro Negredo still scored four times at Fulham. And without Agüero in Munich, City managed three on Bayern.

Like others who changed managers this offseason, City has needed time to adjust. Unfortunately for the rest of England, that adjustment period seemed to be over. Though they’ll sit third come Monday evening, City is the best team in England. And if Arsenal loses, they’ll only be one point out.


Everton are improved at every level of the field. Even players like Tim Howard, Phil Jagielka, and Sylvain Distin — players who’ve been held over from David Moyes’ time at Goodison — are performing better this year. Forging the league’s best defense (16 goals allowed), Roberto Martínez’s team sits fourth in the Premier League, its 2-1 win over Swansea leaving the Toffees in a Champions League spot pending tomorrow’s result.

[MORE: Swansea 1-2 Everton: Stunners see visitors steal points with Barkley’s winner (video)]

In a World Cup year, however, it’s no surprise that a young Englishman has garnered much of the attention, though 20-year-old Ross Barkley is one of a litany of players who’ve fueled Everton’s rise. But as a long-discussed product of the team’s academy, the attacking midfielder is a natural source of speculation. Carrying the hopes of a local and national fan base, Barkley represents England’s latest Wilshere-esque conundrum: Is he really as good as the hype suggests?

On Sunday, however, Barkley’s impact was undeniable. With the match drawn in the 84th minute, the World Cup hopeful delivered a moment to match his manager’s superlatives – a free kick fired against the bottom of the crossbar and beyond the line, delivering all three points for Everton.

In Wales, Barkley lived up to the hype, something no player’s capably of doing on a regular basis. But with a few more performances like today’s (one that was excellent beyond the match-winner) Barkley will become the new Wilshere, even if the Everton product is only one year younger.

6. surge becomes baseline

Newcastle’s 3-0 win at Selhurst Park quelled any momentum the Eagles had built since Tony Pulis’s appointment. More than that, it affirmed the Magpies as more than mere upstarts. It’s one thing to get a team up for performances against Chelsea, Tottenham, and Manchester United, but it’s another for Newcastle to dominate games they can control. Ahead for 65 minutes on Saturday, Newcastle’s sixth win in eight was never in doubt, hinting at a level of control that goes beyond a mere hot streak.

[MORE: Crystal Palace 0-3 Newcastle United: Magpies flying-high after yet another win (video)]

Given the highs of this run (those wins over Chelsea, Spurs, and United) as well as the more mundane results (Saturday at Palace), can we say this is more than a surge? This doesn’t look like a team running on momentum or emotion, producing transcendent results. Even in their one loss in that stretch, a 3-0 defeat at Swansea, they looked fine. At what point do we say this is the real Newcastle, admitting the early season performances that had made Pardew’s job a point of speculation were probably the aberrations?

Perhaps, 17 games into the season, it’s too early to do that, but it’s worth considering: What does Newcastle have to do to prove themselves contenders for a (say) top-third spot? At some point we should answer that question, let the season play out, and stop doubting the Magpies if they happen to reach that mark.

La Liga roundup: Casemiro’s brace earns injury-riddled Real Madrid win (video)

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Casemiro’s heroic performance against Sevilla highlights La Liga’s Saturday action.

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Real Madrid 2-1 Sevilla

Real Madrid’s goalscoring hero on Saturday wasn’t Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard, or even Sergio Ramos.

With two crucial goals in the second half, Casemiro single-handedly earned three points at the Santiago Bernabeu, days removed from cathartic Spanish Super Cup win against arch rivals Atletico Madrid.

With Bale, Hazard, Ramos injured, Benzema on the bench far from match-fit, and Federico Valverde suspended, Los Blancos were in dire need of someone to lead the way, and place pressure on struggling co-leaders Barcelona, who are now under Quique Setien’s tutelage.

By the time the first 45 minutes came to a close, the overall impression was that it would take a miracle for the home side to earn much-needed three points.

That all quickly changed in the second half as the Brazilian midfielder chipped Tomas Vaclik after a picture-perfect backheel from Luka Jovic. Madrid were edging Julen Lopetegui’s side, and Casemiro foreshadowed what was to come.

With the score level, the Brazilian leaped inside the box and headed home a lofting ball from the right flank, catching Sevilla’s defense completely off guard.

Casemiro’s brace came just five minutes after Luuk De Jong‘s left-footed goal in the 64th minute.

League leaders with 43 points, Madrid prepares for their Copa del Rey bout against third-division side Unionistas midweek. Sevilla, on the other hand, host Levante in the same tournament.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Eibar 2-0 Atletico Madrid

Osasuna 0-0 Real Valladolid

Levante 0-1 Alaves

16-year-old Cherki scores 2 as Lyon advances in French Cup

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PARIS (AP) Two goals and two assists from 16-year-old forward Rayan Cherki helped Lyon win 4-3 at Nantes and reach the last 16 of the French Cup on Saturday.

But the run of Reunion Islanders JS Saint-Pierroise ended with a 1-0 loss away to Epinal, which scored deep into extra time.

Cherki put Lyon ahead in the first minute, deftly rounding goalkeeper Alban Lafont and then clipping the ball beyond a defender. He made it 2-0 in the ninth, slotting the ball through Lafont’s legs after being set up by right winger Bertrand Traore.

New signing Renaud Emond headed in Moses Simon’s cross from the left to pull a goal back for Nantes in the 16th. Cherki then showed great awareness to release forward Martin Terrier with a fine pass from midfield in the 37th for 3-1.

Cherki shaved the crossbar with a shot in the 60th and won a penalty in the 67th after robbing the ball off Thomas Basila. He generously allowed striker Moussa Dembele to take it, but Lafont saved Dembele’s attempt.

Two minuter later, Cherki threaded the ball down the right to Dembele, who slotted in, and the irrepressible Cherki set up another chance for Terrier.

Lyon’s defense remains vulnerable and Simon set up Imran Louza’s goal before heading in late on to ensure a tense finish.

Saint-Pierroise had caused an upset in the previous round by knocking out second-division Niort and the players again traveled 6,000 miles (around 9,700 kilometers) from the small island in the Indian Ocean, located off the east coast of Africa.

Saint-Pierroise, the former club of France midfielder Dimitri Payet, was looking to become the first club from the Reunion Islands to reach the last 16 and almost forced a penalty shootout, despite having forward Jean-Michel Fontaine sent off in the 15th minute.

But substitute Adel Berkane rifled home a half-volley for fourth-tier Epinal with two minutes left in extra time.

Also, there were wins for first-division sides Nice, Lille, Saint-Etienne and Strasbourg.

Lille won 2-0 at fifth-division Gonfreville thanks to goals from forwards Loic Remy and Victor Osimhen, while coach Patrick Vieira’s Nice side held on to beat third-tier Red Star 2-1.

Saint-Etienne won 3-2 at Paris FC, a team fighting relegation in the second division.

Paris FC led 2-1 with goals from former Paris Saint-Germain forward Jeremy Menez and ex-Rennes winger Jonathan Pitroipa. Teen forward Charles Abi equalized for Saint-Etienne with 20 minutes left before veteran right back Mathieu Debuchy netted the winner.

Strasbourg won 5-1 at fourth-tier Angouleme.

On Sunday, Rennes plays at fifth-tier Athletico Marseille and PSG travels to face second division league leader Lorient.

Rennes beats PSG in last year’s final.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

‘I’m very happy for this’: Jimenez becomes Wolves all-time leading PL goalscorer

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Raul Jimenez has carved his name in Wolverhampton Wanderers’ history books.

“I want to say thank you to all my teammates, to the staff, to the coach, because without all of them, I can’t achieve this goal,” Jimenez said following Wolves’ come-from-behind 3-2 victory against Southampton on Saturday.

Just minutes earlier, in front of a fervent stand of Wolves supporters at St. Mary’s Stadium, Jimenez scored his 23rd Premier League goal for Midlands side, becoming the club’s all-time leading scorer in the Premier League era. The Mexican surpasses Steven Fletcher‘s record of 22 goals, which stood since 2012.

“I’m very happy for this, and I want to keep scoring,” he added.

With Wolves disputing Europa League qualifying matches in August, the 28-year-old began to build early on what is now a monstrous campaign – 19 goals and 9 assist in throughout all competitions. Half a year down the road, there are no signs of Jimenez’s magic running out. In fact, his brace against the Saints is clearest indicator of why that’s the case.

With his divine hold up play, well-calculated pressing and hunger for redemption, Jimenez emotionally inspired Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side comeback. And in the 65th minute, his trademark penalty overturned a two-goal deficit, turning emotional to physical inspiration.

“[Coming back] was very important for us after a very bad first half,” he told Wolves reporters following the match.

Jimenez was full of praise for his team’s collective grit. He lauded his team’s “fantastic” second half – full of pressing and chances created. The tactic alterations implemented by Nuno Espirito Santo influenced Adama Traore’s run that led to Jimenez’s third and winning goal.

“In the end, we know that it depends on us – what we want to do, what we want to achieve. So, we need to keep going until the last minute. Keep trying to score, keep going with our football that makes us Wolves.”

We now know that Jimenez is Wolves’ all-time Premier League goalscorer, too.

Lampard calls for Chelsea to finish chances: ‘We know where we need to strengthen’

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Chelsea’s dramatic last-gasp loss to Newcastle United was, in a way, a blessing in disguise for Frank Lampard and company.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The Blues conceded their first first loss since Boxing Day, dropping crucial points in the league’s top-four race. With plenty of chances to score at hand, the visit to St. James’ Park is one of sheer frustration.

But at the same time, the London side learned an invaluable lesson: Chelsea are in dire need of a new striker before the January transfer window comes to a close. Chelsea registered 19 shots (4 on target) on Saturday but squandered most, while Newcastle’s netminder Martin Dúbravka did his job and saved a few.

“We know we have problems at the top of the pitch in terms of we don’t get enough goals,” Lampard said following his team’s 1-0 loss, via the BBC.
“If you don’t score you are always liable for a sucker punch and they got it.”

“If we are looking for people to bring in to the areas to win games when you are controlling it, it is scoring goals.”

From RB Leipzig’s Timo Werner to Lyon’s Moussa Dembele, Chelsea has been linked to a striker all winter long. With Olivier Giroud a signature away from sealing a move to Inter Milan, a replacement is necessary.

Sure, Tammy Abraham‘s return to Stamford Bridge is an outright success – 13 goals and two assists in 22 league appearances – but rotation is visibly needed. Michy Batshuayi replaced Abraham, but failed to show any promising signs. The 26-year-old has scored just once in 13 matches this season.

“We can’t work anymore in training on finishing,” the 41-year-old manager added. “You need to have that killer instinct in front of goal. We need to score more goals from front-line areas if we are going to get to where we want to be.”

Lampard gave no indicator that his side are on the brink of landing a new goalscorer up top. With the transfer window open for just 13 days, however, Chelsea are going to have to get intentional on their search.

“It’s quite clear from what I am saying now that we know where we need to strengthen but we shall see.”