Arsenal 1-1 Manchester City: Gunners fight-back thwarts Citizens title charge (video)

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LONDON — Arsenal and Manchester City drew 1-1 at the Emirates on Saturday, as a pulsating clash played out between two title hopefuls.

Given Chelsea’s defeat earlier in the day away at Crystal Palace, both sides knew a win in this clash would greatly enhance their chances of lifting the Premier League crown. Man City are the champions elect, and they started off in ominous fashion with David Silva putting the Citizens 1-0 up early on after he followed up Edin Dzeko’s shot that ricocheted off the post.

For most of the first half City dominated, as Arsenal’s faint title hopes seemed to be slipping away with a whimper. However after the break the Gunners got back into the match, as Mathieu Flamini finished superbly and Arsenal dominated vast swathes of the second half. Both sides pushed for a winner late on, but the closest either side came was when Lukas Podolski went clean through but Joe Hart made a superb save with his legs to keep the scores level.

With the draw Arsenal remain in fourth on 64 points, while Man City stay third on 67 points but are now just two points behind leaders Chelsea with two games in hand.

(MORE: Man City, Arsenal up for the fight but where will Premier League title go?)

Early on Man City took the game to the Gunners, as Pablo Zabaleta and Jesus Navas linked up well down City’s right to torment Kieran Gibbs, as the former pulled a cross back instead of shooting and then Navas flashed a shot just wide soon after.

After City’s bright start, Arsenal started to get a grasp in the game. Tomas Rosicky raced into the box and went down after contact from Zabaleta but referee Mike Dean waved away vociferous appeals from the home fans inside the Emirates Stadium.

In the 18th minute City took a deserved lead, as a break that started just inside their own half saw Dzeko smash a shot against the post and the rebound fell to Silva who tapped home from close range. The home fans tried to pick their team up, and Flamini did have the ball in the back of the net in the 20th minute but his header was ruled out for offside.

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A spirited second half fight back saw Arsenal push City all the way at the Emirates.

In the 30th minute Samir Nasri wriggled free on the edge of the box, but his long-range effort was easily gathered by Szczesny as the game settled down with half time approaching. Plenty of meaty challenges flew in from both teams as the first half closed out, as Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and David Silva were all shown yellows for City, while Rosicky was cautioned for the Gunners.

(MORE: Latest Premier League standings)

After the break Arsenal started much brighter, and within 10 minutes of the restart they were level, despite Per Mertesacker almost putting into his own net to double City’s lead. Seconds later Podolski was found on the left flank and his cross was met by an onrushing Flamini who slotted home to make it 1-1 and lift the roof off the Emirates. That goal was the first time City had conceded in over five-and-a-half PL matches, as Arsenal took the game to the visitors with renewed panache.

The Gunners were in the ascendancy, as the home crowd urged them on and in the 60th minute it looked like they were about to go ahead. A clever through ball found Podolski in the box and the German did everything right with his low shot, but Hart saved tremendously with his legs as City struggled to hold off Arsenal’s rampant attack.

(MORE: Premier League Roundup: Chelsea slip up, Man United respond, relegation drama)

City then fought back, as the game opened up, with Fernandinho’s rasping long-range effort tipped over by Szczesny in the 65th minute. Then up the other end, Flamini burst into the box once again but his rising shot just cleared the crossbar in a game that ebbed and flowed magnificently. In the final 15 minutes, City pinned Arsenal into their own half and brave defending from the Gunners thwarted Toure, Nasri and Dzeko in the 76th minute as massive scramble was eventually cleared to safety.

Late on both teams tried to push for the winner, but in a game where City dominated the opening half and Arsenal had the better of the second, a draw was a fair result.

LINEUPS

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Arteta, Rosicky, Flamini, Cazorla, Podolski (Oxlade-Chamberlain 79′), Giroud (Sanogo, 83′)

Goal: Flamini (53′)

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy, Fernandinho, Toure, Navas (Milner, 64), Silva, Nasri (Javi Garcia, 81′), Dzeko (Negredo, 83′)

Goal: Silva (18′)

Klopp hits out at Man United’s style of play

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Liverpool host Manchester United this Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as the Premier League leaders welcome their bitter rivals to Anfield.

This will be feisty, on and off the pitch, as United hope to put a spanner in the works of Liverpool’s procession towards the 2019-20 Premier League title.

These comments from Jurgen Klopp about Man United’s counter-attacking style of play could spice things up in the dugout too.

“It’s strange when you play against a high, high quality team as United still are, and they play the way they play,” Klopp said. “It makes life really difficult. We had it with Tottenham. That’s not normal, how can you expect that? On the other side the counter attacks are of the highest level in the world.

“I don’t say they only counter attack but it’s a main thing they do. People may want to see that as criticism, it’s not, but it’s just a description of the situation that makes life for us more difficult.”

With Liverpool 14 points clear at the top of the Premier League table, now is a good time for Klopp to tell other teams how they should be playing. That is what he is doing here.

Liverpool’s style is absorbing and easy on the eye. Their high-pressing and speedy attack sees them swarm over teams and totally involve their fans and it is fun to watch. Man United this weekend, and Spurs last weekend, know they can’t match Liverpool’s well-oiled, blood and thunder machine so they sit back and counter. And that can be almost as exciting when it’s right.

Can you blame opposing teams for playing this way against Liverpool? No. But what Klopp is trying to do here is suggest that the quality of players United and Spurs possess means they should be more ambitious and on the front foot rather than playing on the counter. What a rascal.

Klopp isn’t quite stirring things up but from a position of strength he is lending his view on the tactics of other teams and what he would do if he was in charge of them.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer won’t change his plan against Liverpool. Everybody wants to play like Liverpool but Man United have a different style and that worked well to nullify Liverpool’s threat in their 1-1 draw at Old Trafford earlier this season. With Marcus Rashford a major doubt that will be tough to replicate on Sunday but as Klopp’s Liverpool go all out for the win, United will happy to sit back and counter.

Watch Live: Watford v. Tottenham

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Watford host Tottenham Hotspur at Vicarage Road on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as the Hornet aim to stay red hot and out of the relegation zone.

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New manager Nigel Pearson has won four of his first six games in charge of Watford, including the last three on the trot, and they have dragged themselves out of the bottom three for the first time this season.

As for Spurs and Jose Mourinho, he’d love form like that as they continue to struggled without the injured Harry Kane and have gone three games without a win in the Premier League. Tottenham are nine points off the top four heading into this game.

In team news Watford are unchanged from the win at Bournemouth.

Spurs start Erik Lamela, Giovani Lo Celso and Heung-Min Son in support of Lucas Moura, while Japhet Tanganga starts once again. New signing Gedson Fernandes is on the bench.

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Pearson: ‘I was semi-retired’ before Watford came calling

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Nigel Pearson had come to terms with the fact he would never again manage in the Premier League — or any league, perhaps — before Watford came calling out of sheer desperation last month.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s Lampard prepared to go without January signings ]

“I was semi-retired, more or less,” Pearson admitted on Friday. He had been out of work for nearly 10 months following an 18-month spell at Belgian side Leuven. That came on the heels of a disastrous five months at EFL Championship side Derby, where he compiled a win percentage of just 21.4 percent — quotes from the Guardian:

“I wouldn’t have been thinking it was possible, of course I wouldn’t. It really is a situation that’s come out of nothing. I was semi-retired, more or less.”

“I’ve been asked whether I was worried about getting a reputation as a ‘firefighter’ and it doesn’t bother me. If that’s how people want to look at it, fine. From my own perspective, coming into a situation like this, it’s just a good opportunity to work back in a league I didn’t think I’d be working in again. In terms of risk to my reputation or anything like that, I’m not bothered about those things. I wouldn’t have taken on the challenge if I didn’t think we had a realistic chance of succeeding.

“It’s just one of those situations where clearly there was a need for something different. So far it’s going OK. I’m pleased with how we’ve started to turn things around but I’m also experienced enough to know that it’s still going to be a tough job to maintain the standards we’ve set and push on again.”

Now at Watford, and back in the PL for the first time since 2015 (Leicester City), Pearson has guided the Hornets to four wins in his first seven games, including five straight without a defeat, and a 17th-place standing ahead of the weekend’s round of fixtures. When he took over, Watford sat 20th out of 20 teams with eight points from 15 games. Less than a month later, they sit a point outside the relegation zone with 22 to their name.

USWNT: Olympic qualifying roster minus five from World Cup team

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The United States’ roster for the upcoming CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament will look very similar to the one that won the Women’s World Cup in France, with notable exceptions.

Alex Morgan, Mallory Pugh, Allie Long, Morgan Brian and Tierna Davidson were on the title team but were left off the 20-player CONCACAF tournament roster announced Friday.

Morgan is expecting her first child with husband Servando Carrasco. Coach Vlatko Andonovski said that Davidson is still recovering from an ankle injury that sidelined her during January camp.

Pugh, a young forward who has shown promise, was one of the most surprising omissions. Andonovski said she has been invited to train with the team even though she didn’t make the roster.

“It was competitive and she did well,” Andonovski said. “But there were other players that I believe that performed better than Mal. Now, I just want to be clear that she is very good, very talented player and she performed well. She has a big future in front of her. So I’m really sure that if she keeps on developing going forward, she will be on this roster.”

The roster includes 18 players who were on the World Cup squad. Newcomers include midfielder Andi Sullivan and forward Lynn Williams.

Sullivan, a former standout at Stanford who plays for the Washington Spirit of the National Women’s Soccer League, has 13 appearances with the national team. Williams, who plays for reigning NWSL champion North Carolina, has made 21 appearances with the national team since 2016, scoring six goals.

Carli Lloyd, who will turn 38 before the Tokyo Games, is the oldest player on the roster. Lloyd scored three goals in the 2015 World Cup final against Japan, but last year in France started in just one game as she took on more of a reserve role.

Andonovski, who was named coach of the team last October after Jill Ellis stepped down, praised Lloyd’s work ethic and said that if she continues to play well, he sees “no reason for her not to be a starter.”

Andonovski said Megan Rapinoe, the Ballon d’Or winner who scored six goals in the World Cup, was also nursing minor injuries during January camp.

“In the end, the ones that I believe will give it the best chance to be successful, that will give us the best chance to win the games and qualify for the Olympics, are the ones that made the roster,” he said.

The United States opens qualifying on Jan. 28 in Houston with a match against Haiti. The top two finishers in the eight-team tournament’s two groups advance to the semifinals in Carson, California, on Feb. 7. The final is in Carson on Feb. 9.

Two berths in the Tokyo Games this summer are up for grabs. The United States has made the field for every Olympic tournament since women’s soccer was added to the Games in 1996 and has won four gold medals.

FULL USWNT ROSTER

Goalkeepers: Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars).

Defenders: Abby Dahlkemper (North Carolina Courage), Crystal Dunn (North Carolina Courage), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), Kelley O’Hara (Utah Royals), Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals), Emily Sonnett (Orlando Pride).

Midfielders: Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit), Samantha Mewis (North Carolina Courage), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit).

Forwards: Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns), Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue), Jessica McDonald (North Carolina Courage), Christen Press (Utah Royals), Megan Rapinoe (Reign), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage).