Manuel Pellegrini named ‘Manager of the Month’ in the Premier League

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Manchester City’s dominant form throughout the month of December assured Manuel Pellegrini ‘Manager of the Month’ honors in the Premier League.

It was the first time the Chilean has secured the award since his move to the Etihad to replace Roberto Mancini last summer.

Over a seven match stretch Pellegrini’s side went unbeaten registering six wins and one draw.

A 3-0 victory over Swansea City on December 1st started the month brightly for the Citizens and three days later they picked up three more points with a hard-fought 3-2 win at West Bromwich Albion.

City’s sole draw came against Southampton on December 7th when Dani Osvaldo’s exquisite strike cancelled out Sergio Aguero’s opener to end the match 1-1. The match at St. Mary’s proved a mere blip on the radar, however, as Pellegrini had his men firing once again when Arsenal came to town on the 14th. A six goal deluge handed City a 6-3 victory convincing many pundits that the 2011-12 champions are once again favorites.

On the 21st City disposed of a pesky Fulham side, 4-2, at Craven Cottage before returning home on Boxing Day to beat Liverpool 2-1 in one of the matches of the season. Two days later, Pellegrini’s squad finished their month-long dominance by inching past Crystal Palace, 1-0.

The 60-year-old snapped up the award ahead of Manchester United’s David Moyes, Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho and Everton manager Roberto Martinez. City travel to Newcastle this Sunday where a victory could see them leapfrog Arsenal into first place.

VIDEO: Tunisia equalizes on controversial penalty kick

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England centerback Kyle Walker put his arm up to halt the forward progress of Fakhreddine Ben Youssef. Unfortunately for Walker, Ben Youssef was in the box and Walker’s elbow caught Ben Youssef’s face.

Referee Wilmar Roldan quickly whistled for a penalty kick and despite the protests from a half-dozen of England players and a check from the VAR, the called stood. Ferjani Sassi’stepped up to the spot and found the lower-left corner, just barely beating Jordan Pickford to tie the game in the 35th minute.

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How will England respond?

VIDEO: Captain Kane puts England on the board early

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It may be the easiest goal-scoring opportunity Harry Kane‘s ever had in an international competition, and he finished it as easy as you’d like.

Kane side-footed home after Tunisia goalkeeper Mouez Hassen made a terrific save on John Stone’s header off a corner, but the save was directed right into a wide-open Kane who was standing ready inside the six yard box. The 11th minute goal will surely settle some of the Three Lions’ nerves as they open their World Cup bid in Russia.

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After slow start, Belgium takes care of business against feisty Panama

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All it took was one goal to bring Belgium to life.

Following a frustrating first 45 minutes, in which Belgium put a pair of shots into the side netting and forced saves from Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, Dries Mertens 47th minute goal opened the floodgates, as Belgium went on to defeat Panama, 3-0, Monday afternoon in Sochi.

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But Panama never made it easy for the Belgians. From the opening whistle the CONCACAF nation showed its incredible spirit, chasing down Belgium all across the field and making life incredibly difficult for Belgium attackers Romelu Lukaku, Mertens and Eden Hazard. Hazard was hacked down all over the field, and while he did earn fouls and a few yellow cards were issued to Panamanian players, it was enough to get in Hazard’s head.

Two minutes into the second half, everything changed. A wonderstrike from Mertens opened the game, and forced Panama to attack and try and tie the match, which gave Hazard, de Bruyne and Lukaku more space to operate.

In the heat and humidity of the Sochi summer, Panama’s veteran defense began to tire, allowing de Bruyne the space to deliver a terrific assist to Lukaku in the box, putting Belgium up 2-0 in the 69th minute.

 

Six minutes later, Lukaku was put through on the break, chipping over Penedo to confirm the victory.

With the win, Belgium moves to the top of Group G. Up next for Belgium is Tunisia on Saturday, while Panama takes on England on Sunday.

VIDEO: de Bruyne delivers gorgeous assist on Lukaku goal

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It took a little bit of patience, but Romelu Lukaku finally got on the scoresheet at the 2018 World Cup, thanks to a delicious assist from crosstown club rival Kevin De Bruyne.

The Manchester City playmaker delivered a spectacular outside-of-the-boot cross into the box, where Lukaku’s head met it and guided it towards the far post for Belgium’s second goal of the day.

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