Three things we learned from West Ham vs. Manchester City

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LONDON — West Ham United and Manchester City played out an entertaining 2-2 draw at Upton Park on Saturday as the Hammers twice let leads slip against title-chasing Manchester City’s.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Doubles from Enner Valencia and Sergio Aguero evened things up as City never found top gear in east London.

Here’s what we learned.

PAYET HOLDS THE KEY TO HAMMERS SUCCESS

His name was cheered louder than any other West Ham player when it was read out on the PA before the game and during it Dimitri Payet delivered.

The French playmaker oozed class every time he got on the ball and the home crowd adore him. Just before half time his elegant, dipping free kick was spectacularly tipped wide by Joe Hart as he always look to make something happen. Payet, 28, has so far failed to break into Didier Deschamps national team on a regular basis but if the man from the tiny French island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean continues to play like this, there’s no way Les Bleus can ignore him in the upcoming friendlies ahead of EURO 2016. In the same mold as Paolo Di Canio and Joe Cole in years gone by, Payet adds a sprinkling of class to West Ham’s attacks and unlocks defenses with his shimmies and poise.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings

Payet was out injured from early November until early January and in that two-month period West Ham won just once in seven outings and sorely missed his influence and vision in the center of the pitch. With his temperament questioned in the past, Slaven Bilic took a chance on Payet and at $15 million he seems like an absolute steal. With an away win against Man City, plus victories at Liverpool and Arsenal, the Hammers have moved up into the upper echelons of the PL this season. Earlier this week co-owner David Sullivan claimed that with the move to the 54,000 capacity Olympic Stadium coming up next season and a squad which has talents such as Valencia, Diafra Sakho and Aaron Cresswell, the Hammers are “on the verge of big time.” By that he means competing in the UEFA Champions League. If West Ham can keep Payet fit, they have every chance. He holds the key to their success.

CONSISTENCY CONTINUES TO EVADE CITY

It may have gone unnoticed but Man City have failed to win back-to-back Premier League games since Oct. 17 and grinding out wins continues to evade Manuel Pellegrini‘s side, especially on the road where they only have four victories all season long. They battled back from going behind twice on Saturday with Aguero showing his class. The Argentine striker scored from the penalty spot and then grabbed an equalizer 10 minutes from time and before making it 1-1 he had an audacious attempt bounce back off the post after controlling with his right and then delicately lobbing Adrian from an impossible angle.

Without skipper Vincent Kompany they once again looked shaky at the back (the video above shows how one long-throw ripped them open far too easily for Valencia’s second goal) but a ray of light was Nigerian youngster Kelechi Iheanacho jumping off the bench to provide pace and power which led to Aguero’s second equalizer to grab City a point. On the face of things, grabbing a point away at West Ham isn’t a terrible result but City will be striving to string together consecutive wins and with their next four games against Sunderland, Leicester, Tottenham and Newcastle, they have a good chance to do just that. But only if Aguero stays fit and Kompany can accelerate his return from yet another calf injury. .

UPTON PARK UNDER THE LIGHTS A RAW GEM

Strolling along Green Street as you jump off the tube at Upton Park station, I think most West Ham fans would agree that it isn’t the most salubrious of areas London has to offer. But it’s home. An hour or so before kick off you can feel, smell and hear the atmosphere begin to crackle from bars, street merchants and food stalls as you walk down the road towards West Ham’s famous home, the Boleyn Ground.

This is their final season in the stadium they’ve called home since 1904 and with a move to London’s shiny Olympic Stadium looming large, big things lay on the horizon for the Hammers. That said, when you look at the shot I snapped during a break in the second half I think you’ll agree that English soccer will be losing a gem when Upton Park plays host to its final game on May 7.

As new stadiums continue to replace historic homes throughout the PL we should pause for a moment and gaze in the wonder of  stadium which has seen West Ham greats such as Sir Bobby Moore and Sir Trevor Brooking call it home. With the high rise apartment blocks towering over one end of the stadium and a view over the industrial East End of London from high up in the West Stand, it’s hard not to look out and imagine scenes of years gone by. With historic stadiums such as Anfield and Old Trafford getting revamps, plus the likes of White Hart Lane and Stamford Bridge set to be totally demolished and rebuilt, it will be tough to see venues likes this. In a world where we always seem to value what is next, let’s enjoy the past and present and enjoy a slice of English soccer history while we can.

VIDEO: Martial scores for Man United v. Club Brugge

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Anthony Martial scored once again for Man United and his goal in the Europa League Round of 32 first leg against Club Brugge was a beauty.

The Frenchman is standing tall in the absence of Marcus Rashford through injury as he has now scored in back-to-back games away from home.

Martial, 24, made the most of a slight defensive mistake from Club Brugge as he powered towards goal and kept his cool to slot home, while he also hit the post in the first half after Simon Mignolet got a slight touch on his curling effort.

When he’s on form he’s a joy to watch and after his towering header against Chelsea on Monday, Martial has done it again a few days later in Belgium. It is the third time this season he has scored in back-to-back games and he has now scored 14 goals in 30 appearances for the Red Devils, his best return since he scored 17 in his opening season at United in 2015-16.

Here is Martial’s goal at Club Brugge, as United need him to kick on and take this tally for the season to at least 20 goals if they are going to be successful.

LIVE, Europa League: Arsenal, Man United, Wolves in action

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The knockout rounds of the 2019-20 UEFA Europa League campaign is here and three Premier League teams are in action on Thursday.

Everything is set up for an epic day of first legs in the Round of 32.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores  ]

Arsenal travel to Olympiakos who dropped down from the Champions League, while Wolves host La Liga strugglers Espanyol and Man United travel to Club Brugge who exited the UCL at the group stage after some impressive displays.

With a Champions League spot for next season up for grabs for the Europa League winners, there is always a little extra spice in this tournament from here on out, especially as plenty of giants have dropped out of the Champions League and joined the Europa League for the Round of 32.

Glasgow Celtic and Rangers both face tricky tests as Steven Gerrard‘s side face Braga and Neil Lennon’s Celtic head to Copenhagen.

Elsewhere there are plenty of mouthwatering ties at Jesse Marsch’s RB Salzburg drop into the Europa League and travel to Eintracht Frankfurt. Antonio Conte‘s Inter Milan head to Ludogorets, while Ajax travel to Getafe after narrowly missing out on reaching the Champions League last 16.

Below is the schedule in full for Thursday’s games, while you can click on the link above to follow all the action as it happens.


Full Europa League schedule

12:55 p.m. ET
Club Brugge v. Manchester United
Ludogorets v. Inter Milan
Copenhagen v. Celtic
Eintracht Frankfurt v. RB Salzburg
CFR Cluj v. Sevilla
Sporting Lisbon v. Istanbul Basaksehir
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Benfica
Getafe v. Ajax

3 p.m. ET
Rangers v. Braga
Wolves v. Espanyol
Olympiacos v. Arsenal
Bayer Leverkusen v. FC Porto
AZ Alkmaar v. LASK
Roma v. Gent
APOEL Nicosia v. FC Basel
Wolfsburg v. Malmo

VIDEO: Henry’s Montreal debut ends with dramatic collapse

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Thierry Henry’s first game in charge of the Montreal Impact started well but ended in a dramatic collapse. The legendary Frenchman probably has CCL fever right about now.

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Montreal drew 2-2 at Deportivo Saprissa in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League last 16 game on Wednesday as Orji Okwonkwo and Romell Quioto put them 2-0 up inside the first 22 minutes but Saprissa struck twice in the final 10 minutes to draw level. Both of Montreal’s goalscorers went off injured and after a tough preseason a late collapse

Johan Venegas pulled one back for the Costa Rican side in the 80th minute and Ariel Rodriguez equalized in the 90th minute to set up an intriguing second leg at the Olympic Stadium next Wednesday as the winner will face the Seattle Sounders or C.D. Olimpia in the quarterfinals.

Henry’s first official game in charge of the Major League Soccer franchise will have taught him a lot about his team and in truth they were pretty lucky to grab a draw as Saprissa outshot them 22-7 and had 72 percent of the possession.

Via MLSsoccer.com, the Arsenal and France legend was happy with the spirit his young side showed after a tough offseason which saw them lose four of their five preseason games amid plenty of turnover in the squad.

“We tried to compete, it was always going to be a difficult second half, but overall, I cannot say anything to my team,” Henry said. “Obviously there are some things that we need to work on, on how we conceded the goals, but you could see how it was difficult at times to cover each other. But at the end of the day, as a coach, when you see your team fighting like that up until the end you can only be proud. Obviously there’s some stuff that we can work on, don’t get it twisted, but I have to be proud about how they played. Especially how we arrived there in the situation that we are in.”

Going away to Costa Rica to play an experience team like Saprissa was never going to be easy and Henry’s side are at least level for the return game but Montreal’s squad is looking pretty young and replacing the creativity and goals of Ignacio Piatti is going to be tough.

Check out the highlights of the dramatic Saprissa comeback in the video above.

Premier League player Power Rankings

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Our latest Premier League player Power Rankings are here and there are some familiar faces sticking around the upper echelons.

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Stars from Premier League giants Liverpool, Man United, Arsenal and Tottenham dominate our power rankings after some impressive performances and there are plenty of new entries and plenty of players from the same teams as these rankings are based on the seven games played over the last seven days due to the second half of the Premier League’s winter break kicking in.

[ MORE: Club Power Rankings

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League. If they didn’t play in the last matchweek, they aren’t getting in this list!

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.


1. Heung-Min Son (Tottenham) – Up 2
2. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool) – Up 2
3. Jordan Henderson (Liverpool) – Up 2
4. Dani Ceballos (Arsenal) – New entry
5. Bukayo Saka (Arsenal) – New entry
6. Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Man United) – New entry
7. Richarlison (Everton) – Up 8
8. Harry Maguire (Man United) – New entry
9. Jack Grealish (Aston Villa) – New entry
10. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – New entry
11. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) – New entry
12. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) –  Down 11
13. Nicolas Pepe (Arsenal) – New entry
14. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – Down 3
15. Hugo Lloris (Tottenham) – Down 7
16. Bruno Fernandes (Man United) – New entry
17. Nick Pope (Burnley) – Even
18. Steven Bergwijn (Tottenham) – Down 5
19. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) – New entry
20. Pepe Reina (Aston Villa) – New entry