Roma 0-2 Manchester City: Heroic Citizens qualify for knockout round

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Against all the odds, the reigning Premier League Champions did it.

Manchester City beat AS Roma 2-0 in the final game of Group E of the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday, sealing their passage in the last 16 of the tournament in the process.

Samir Nasri’s unstoppable second half strike was added to by Pablo Zabaleta’s late on, as City knocked out Roma and advanced to the knockout rounds for the second-straight season and just the second time in club history.

[ RELATED: UCL standings ]

Their qualification was made all the more impressive given the fact that City failed to win any of their opening four matches in Group E, however wins against Bayern Munich and Roma in their last two matches proved to be enough.

Without the likes of Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure for their biggest game of the season, Manuel Pellegrini rotated his squad masterfully as the Citizens recorded their sixth-straight win in all competitions to silence the partisan home crowd and seal their route into the last 16.

Early on Roma pinned City back as Jose Holebas was denied by Joe Hart and his defense held firm under intense pressure. City had a few surges forward as James Milner had an effort well-saved and City’s attackers looked to feed Edin Dzeko whenever possible.

[ RELATED: PL title race back on? ]

However Gervinho slammed just wide of Hart’s far post midway through the half. Jesus Navas and Nasri combined to set up Dzeko but his shot went over and Navas then slotted through an inch-perfect ball for James Milner but the Englishman could not beat De Sanctis, as the teams went in level at the break with a spot in the last 16 still on the line.

As the game went on City began to grow in confidence, but missing Aguero and Kompany through injury and without the suspended Toure, it was always going to be a tall order to get a positive result in Rome.

But that did not deter them, as the Citizens went ahead in the 60th minute as Nasri smashed in an unstoppable drive off the post and into the net as City’s players rushed to celebrate with their fans. 1-0 to City. Roma tried to get back into the game as Ljajic fired over and then Manolas hit the post with a header as the Italian giants cranked up the pressure. Martin Demichelis then scrambled an effort off the line for City, as Roma chucked everything they had at the English champions.

Despite all of that pressure City added a second late on through Zabaleta, as Pellegrini’s side celebrated with their huge band of away fans who will party long into the night in Rome. City are through to the last 16 of the UCL for just the second time in club history.

LINEUPS

Roma: De Sanctis, Yanga-Mbiwa, Nainggolan, Ljajic (Iturbe, 67′), Totti (Destro, 70′), Maicon (Florenzi, 79′), Pjanic, Keita, Holebas, Gervinho, Manolas

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Mangala, Clichy, Fernandinho, Fernando, Navas (Silva, 67′), Nasri (Kolarov, 89′), Milner, Dzeko (Jovetic, 78′)

Goals: Nasri (60′), Zabaleta (85′)

Lacazette gives Arsenal first leg at Olympiacos

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Alexandre Lacazette scored the lone goal as Arsenal beat hosts Olympiacos 1-0 in the first leg of a Europa League Round of 32 tie on Thursday.

The second leg is Feb. 27 at the Emirates Stadium, four days after the Gunners host Carlo Ancelotti and Everton in Premier League play.

Lacazette now has eight goals in 24 appearances for Arsenal this season.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Lacazette missed a big early chance from close range, Gabriel Martinelli deprived of a near-certain assist.

Fortunately for Lacazette, he got a second bite at the apple and smashed it home with a vengeance. Bukayo Saka continued his impressive debut season by assisting the goal.

It was an even match, as Olympiacos continued its habit of steady defense but was unable to produce any attack. The Greeks weren’t credited with the creation of any big chances.

Bernd Leno made three saves and was very good in distribution on the day, with Saka, David Luiz, Shkrodan Mustafi, and Sokratis Papastathopoulus continuing steady defense under Mikel Arteta.

Wolves clobber Espanyol, Neves scores another magnificent volley

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Diogo Jota had a hat trick and Ruben Neves scored a very Ruben Neves goal as Wolves took a 4-0 lead over Espanyol on Thursday after one leg of Europa League Round of 32 action.

Raul Jimenez, Joao Moutinho, and Matt Doherty recorded assists for Wolves, who will visit the Portuguese side on Feb. 27.

Espanyol had 57 percent of the ball and put four shots on target to Wolves’ five.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Wolves came out of the gates with a show of strength, taking six shots to Espanyol’s zero over the first 25 minutes.

The goal came off an Adama Traore-won corner, Raul Jimenez flicking on to Jota.

Neves’ goal came straight from his area of expertise, a beautiful bit of control with his chest before smashing home from distance.

The 23-year-old Jota scored the first, third, and fourth goals of the contest to give him two Europa League hat tricks this season. He has 12 goals and five assists in 33 appearances across all competitions this season.

Solskjaer, Mata react to Man Utd draw: ‘We can play better’

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Manchester United got an away goal in a 1-1 first leg draw with Europa League foes Club Brugge in Belgium on Thursday.

The goals were pretty individual, a big chip of Sergio Romero followed by Anthony Martial’s powerful dribble to equalize for the Red Devils.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

United outshot the hosts 16-10, but fell short in big chances created by a 3-1 margin.

Here’s Red Devils manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, via the BBC:

“It was a game with difficult conditions out there. It was almost like an astroturf. The ball was very quick and lively,” Solskjaer said. “We got the away goal. It was a very good individual goal, worked hard to win the ball and finish so we are happy with that but we know we can play better.”

The second leg is Feb. 27 at Old Trafford, four days after a Premier League encounter with Watford in the same building.

United midfielder Juan Mata had a busy day, winning the majority of his tackles and creating one key pass. He expected better from his team but sees the game for what it is.

Here is Mata, from The Manchester Evening News:

“They scored a goal we shouldn’t concede. We scored a goal from their mistake. we wanted to win, obviously, 1-1 is not a very bad result, but we always want to win,” Mata said. “We just couldn’t find spaces, they defended very well with five plus four. We tried to play a few times through the middle, which we didn’t succeed to do that. Then we scored that goal and from then we played a bit better.”

Solskjaer kept Bruno Fernandes, Fred, Daniel James, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka on the bench to start the match. Fernandes and Fred came on late.

FC Cincinnati adds Ajax midfielder Siem de Jong

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FC Cincinnati got a much-needed bit of good news toward the end of a rough week in Southern Ohio.

Longtime Ajax attacker Siem De Jong has joined a talented FCC attack ahead of the club’s second MLS season.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

De Jong, 31, came up through Ajax’s vaunted academy before transferring to Newcastle United, where he suffered through a series of miserable injuries including two collapsed lungs in 18 months.

He’s been capped six times with two goals for the Netherlands in his career and will join a revitalized Cincinnati attack with Jurgen Locadia and Yuya Kubo.

“The system they want to play is quite similar to the Dutch system, and yeah, Ajax is probably one of the team’s that perfected it,” de Jong said. “Over the years I played there, I’ve learned a lot about this similar philosophy and trying to build up from the back in the Dutch style of play. That was one of the reasons why FC Cincinnati was a good fit for me. Hopefully I can help with the experience I’ve had over the years playing this style of football.”

De Jong scored three times in nine matches this season for Ajax, all of the goals coming in a cup match against third-tier Spakenburg. His other eight matches combined for just 118 minutes.

He may not be with FCC when the season starts as he waits on visa approval.