Manchester City 3-2 Aston Villa: Stunning finish sees City hold on after Guzan’s blunder

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Manchester City beat Aston Villa 3-2 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday as a breathtaking finale took some of the attention way from a horrendous goalkeeping blunder from Brad Guzan.

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City went 1-0 up as Guzan shanked the ball straight to Sergio Aguero to score and in the second half Aleksandar Kolarov whipped home a free kick to make it 2-0. To Villa’s credit they never stopped believing and were level after Tom Cleverley and Carlos Sanchez scored to make it 2-2 with five minutes to go. Then the game winning moment arrived as Fernandinho finished coolly in the 89th minute to sent City momentarily into second place.

With the win City move up to second on 67 points, while Villa remain in battle against relegation as they sit two points above the bottom three with four games to go.

[ RELATED: Latest PL standings ]

City took an early lead after Guzan’s horrendous mistake let in Aguero. The U.S. international goalkeeper recieved the ball back from Villa’s center back Ron Vlaar and as he went to play a pass out to his right with his left foot, the ball hit his standing feet and skewed right into the path of Aguero who couldn’t believe his luck before tapping home his 27th goal of the season. 1-0 to City, as Guzan’s name will join the pantheons of soccer gaffes.

The Illinois native continued his rough start to the match as he completely missed a cross moments later but Fernando failed to head home. Yaya Toure had a low drive which Guzan collected and 22 minutes in, Villa had still not woken up as Leandro Bacuna sent a terrible back pass toward his own goal which Aguero picked up and the move ended with Jesus Navas having a thunderous shot well blocked.

That effort seemed to finally wake the Villans from their slumber and in the 26th minute Benteke, who looked offside, was denied by a brilliant sprawling stop from City’s goalkeeper Joe Hart after the ball pinballed around the box and found Villa’s towering Belgian striker in acres of space. For the rest of the first half Villa gradually got into the game but couldn’t equalize before the break.

In the second half City eased into a 2-0 lead as Kolarov found a huge hole in Villa’s defensive wall from a free kick 25-yards out and the Serbian left back bent it through the gap and into the near post. 2-0 to City.

Just when you thought the Citizens were going to flip the switch to cruise control, Villa were handed a lifeline. A looping free kick from the left flank saw Hart come running out of his goal but the ball dropped to Benteke and as City’s defenders half cleared, Cleverley ran onto the loose ball and hammered it into the ground and into the net. 2-1.

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Hart rushed out again five minutes later to thwart an onrushing Charles N’Zogbia, but Villa kept coming at City and were level after 85 minutes when a corner from the right caught Hart in a crowd as he came to collect and Sanchez calmly volleyed home. 2-2 as City’s 2-0 lead had evaporated.

A poor giveaway from Martin Demichelis then looked to have let Villa in for what could have been a winner but Benteke, who looked to be onside, was flagged for offside as he was fouled by Hart. City then launched an attack which would see them win the game, as a corner from the left found its way through to Fernandinho at the back post who chested the ball and acrobatically finished in the 89th minute. 3-2 to the Citizens as Pellegrini breathed a huge sigh of relief.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Mangala, Kolarov, Fernando, Lampard (Milner, 57′), Navas, Yaya Toure (Fernandinho, 45′), Silva, Aguero (Bony, 83′)

Goals: Aguero (3′), Kolarov (66′), Fernandinho, (89′)

Aston Villa: Guzan, Bacuna (Lowton, 87′), Okore, Vlaar, Richardson, Sanchez, Westwood (N’Zogbia, 68′), Cleverley, Delph, Grealish, Benteke. Subs: Given, Weimann, Cole, Senderos, Cissokho, N’Zogbia, Lowton

Goals: Cleverley (68′), Sanchez (85′)

Chelsea admit they miss USMNT’s Pulisic

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LONDON — Since USMNT star Christian Pulisic was injured in training in the first week of January, Chelsea have lost against Newcastle, drawn with Arsenal and blown away Burnley.

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In the two games where they’ve dropped points they’ve missed Pulisic’s genius in the final third with both Willian and Callum Hudson-Odoi easily shackled by Arsenal in their London derby. Chelsea admitted as much when speaking after the 2-2 draw against Arsenal on Tuesday, an Arsenal side who played with 10 men for over 60 minutes of the game.

Asked by Pro Soccer Talk about Pulisic’s adductor injury and if they missed him during the draw against Arsenal, downbeat Chelsea boss Frank Lampard noted that Pulisic, 21, was “playing really well” before his injury.

“Yeah, a game like today could have been a good where he would have been helpful for us because he was playing well for a patch. But other people have to stand up in those situations,” Lampard said.

When will Pulisic be back?

Lampard confirmed he is making good progress but will not be fit until after the mid-season player break in February, which means he will miss their FA Cup trip to Hull City this Saturday and their clash at Leicester City on Feb. 1. He may not be back until Feb. 17 when they host Manchester United in the Premier League, which means in total he will have been out for a period of six weeks.

“In terms of when he’s back, it is not going to be a week, it is probably be the other end of the early February break but he is getting better and he isn’t far away,” Lampard said.

Speaking to Pro Soccer Talk pitch-side at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta, who scored their late second goal which looked like being the winner, lavished praise on Pulisic when asked about his absence over the last week.

“Christian is a magnificent player. Since he joined us in the summer he has shown us his potential and we know that he can make the difference at any time. Whenever a player is injured it is not good for a team because we lose potential and I hope to have him back soon,” Azpilicueta said.

Chelsea’s skipper is expecting big things from Pulisic when he does return to fitness, as the fourth-place Blues now have just a six-point cushion to those outside of the top four and have played a game more.

It seems like everyone at Chelsea hopes the USMNT star can rejuvenate their attack in the final months of the season.

“After coming to Europe as a young boy to Germany, he came to Chelsea and it is one step forward, playing for Chelsea every game, fighting to win and fighting for trophies,” Azpilicueta said. “In my role I’ve tried to help in settle into the city and the club. He has a brilliant attitude. Always trying to improve. I am sure he will become bigger and bigger.”

Arteta, Xhaka: Arsenal “showed big character” in comeback at Chelsea

Granit Xhaka says Arsenal has big character
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Granit Xhaka was a center back for the day after David Luiz was sent off in Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

The Swiss midfielder’s tumultuous season is most certainly in heady territory since Mikel Arteta was hired in December.

Xhaka was ebullient after the Gunners twice came back following Luiz’s red card, which preceded a Jorginho penalty.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]  

“We played very well after the red card,” Xhaka beamed. “So difficult, but we showed great team spirit.”

Arteta agreed.

“I am proud,” the manager said. “I said to them I believe they can get back in the game and I’m very pleased. … Tonight is going to be a great experience for (the young players) as in football anything can happen.”

He went on to discuss the Gunners oft-debated character, as the 10th place Gunners sit 10 points behind fourth place Chelsea and will finish the match week at least four points off fifth.

“After this game nobody will have to speak about us: We showed big character,” Xhaka said. “A lot of people say we have no character in the team, so after this game we showed we have.”

[ MORE: JPW’s 3 things learned ]

Arsenal visits Bournemouth this weekend in the FA Cup, and will like the look of their next two Premier League fixtures at Burnley and home to Newcastle.

The Top Four is a longshot, but you wouldn’t bet against the Gunners’ attack surging them into or near fifth. Baby steps.

Three things learned: Chelsea v. Arsenal

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LONDON — 10-man Arsenal fought back twice to draw 2-2 at London rivals Chelsea on Tuesday in a wild encounter at Stamford Bridge.

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Jorginho gave Chelsea the lead from the penalty spot after David Luiz was sent off but Gabriel Martinelli made it 1-1, then Cesar Azpilicueta put Chelsea back ahead and late on Hector Bellerin drew Arsenal level again in dramatic fashion.

With the point Arsenal are on 30 points and sit in 10th place, while Chelsea are on 40 points in fourth.


3 things we learned

1. Gutsy Arsenal pass a huge test: This was brilliant from Arteta‘s Arsenal, who were down to 10 men for over an hour. Bellerin didn’t stop running. Saka was superb at left back. Xhaka played brilliant at center back after a red card for Luiz. This was a landmark moment for Arsenal in their rebuild under Arteta. With all the players they were missing (Chambers, Sokratis, Aubameyang and Kolasinac to name a few) they showed true guts to come back and grab a draw in a London derby. They are 10 points behind Chelsea in the table but Arteta has them playing with an intensity which suggests they are trending in the right direction.

2. Chelsea miss Pulisic: The Blues had plenty of the ball but lacked creativity in the final third. I’m going to say it. They are missing USMNT playmaker Christian Pulisic who is out injured for the next few games. Willian and Hudson-Odoi were handled easily by Arsenal, while Frank Lampard‘s youngsters just ran out of ideas as Tammy Abraham missed a sitter and Chelsea, at times, looked like they were playing with 10 men. Pulisic’s trickery would have caused Arsenal problems and he would have run at the heart of Arsenal’s defense. Once again Chelsea slipped up at home and their top four hopes are in danger. Pulisic’s stock has risen without doing anything.

3. Martinelli ready for the big time: He is 18 years old and he’s now scored three goals in his five PL starts. His goal was a beauty as he put Kante under pressure and slotted home after running half the pitch. His composure is brilliant and with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang suspended, Martinelli has staked his claim that he is ready for the big time week in, week out. How can Arteta leave him out now?

Man of the Match: Hector Bellerin – Wore the captains armband with pride and marshalled the defense superbly, then cut in from the right late on to score an equalizer. After his injury nightmare in recent years, that was a lovely moment and Bellerin deserved it for his hard work.


Chelsea came flying out of the traps as Mateo Kovacic had a shot well blocked and then Andreas Christensen headed a corner wide after he got free at the back post.

Tammy Abraham then sent a header straight at Bernd Leno then Callum Hudson-Odoi whipped a cross onto the top of the bar as the Blues dominated with Mikel Arteta screaming at his team from the dugout.

A massive moment then arrived as Shkodran Mustafi‘s awful back pass set free Abraham and he rounded Leno but David Luiz took him out to concede a penalty kick and he was also sent off.

Jorginho calmly slotted home the penalty kick to make it 1-0 and Chelsea had Arsenal on the ropes as Leno then denied Callum Hudson-Odoi.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

At the start of the second half Chelsea dominate with Cesar Azpilicueta popping up in the box and causing problems while Abraham made a nuisance of himself.

But then disaster struck for the Blues, N’Golo Kante slipped at a crucial moment and Martinelli ran in on goal from the halfway line as the Brazilian teenager kept his cool to slot home and make it 1-1. Cue scenes in the away end.

Moments later Lacazette offside lashed home but he was clearly offside as the 10 men of Arsenal took the game to Chelsea.

Chelsea finally put Arsenal under pressure late on as Ross Barkley flicked Jorginho’s long ball goalwards but Leno saved superbly down low.

In the final five minutes all hell broke loose as first Apzilicueta flicked home a short corner to make it 2-1 but moments later Arsenal were level again.

Bellerin cut in from the right and sent a low curling shot into the far corner to send the away fans wild as Chelsea’s supporters couldn’t believe it.

Michy Batshuayi almost grabbed a win for Chelsea but he couldn’t get on the end of a low cross as a wild game ended level.

Newcastle reacts after must-watch bicycle kick inspires stoppage time draw

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Newcastle United did it again.

Three days after scoring an unlikely stoppage-time win over Chelsea, the Magpies claimed a point at Everton via two stoppage-time goals in a 2-2 draw at Goodison Park.

Both came from center back Florian Lejeune — who had not scored in 41 Premier League appearances — and one of them was a bicycle kick. Shoulder shrug emoji.

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The goals came in the third and fourth minutes of stoppage time in a match Everton absolutely dominated in building a 2-0 lead.

Really, this is improbable stuff. Here’s Steve Bruce, via the BBC:

“When we scored Mike Dean said there are 40 seconds left and you’re thinking ‘Can we score in 40 seconds?’ We rode our luck certainly but they never gave up,” Bruce said, later adding, “It’s a wacky game that’s for sure, but it’s great. It just shows you shouldn’t leave a game early.”

Magpies captain Jamaal Lascelles admitted that Everton deserved a win on the day, calling it “probably one of the weirdest game I’ve been involved in.”

Given Newcastle’s xG- and logic-defying year, he shoould substitue “season” for “game” there.

By the way, here’s Lejeune’s incredible first goal. Remember, he’s a center back with no PL goals when this happens.