Three things we learned from Man City’s win v. Liverpool

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MANCHESTER — One moment helped to swing the game in Manchester City’s favor, but in truth they were too good for Liverpool on Saturday.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

A goal from Sergio Aguero set Man City on their way and then two goals from Gabriel Jesus, after Sadio Mane‘s straight-red, either side of half time sealed the win for City with substitute Leroy Sane adding another two late on to rub salt in the wounds.

With the 5-0 win Pep Guardiola‘s men momentarily moved top of the Premier League table with 10 points from their opening four games, while Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool (who suffered their heaviest defeat since he took charge) remain on seven points after their first defeat of the campaign.

Here’s a look at what we learned from a one-sided encounter at the Etihad Stadium.


MANE’S RED CARD CORRECT

There is only one place to start. Yes, it was a red card.

Sadio Mane was sent off in the 37th minute (see video above) with Liverpool already 1-0 down. Sure, they may have already been trailing and Man City were clicking through the gears, but any hope Liverpool had of getting back in the game was dashed by Mane’s ridiculously rash challenge.

A day after he was named the Premier League’s Player of the Month for August after scoring in each of the first three games, Mane was the villain.

The margins were close but he had time to pull out of a high challenge with his foot raised.

As the ball was clipped over the top he raced clear but Ederson too raced off his line and got their first. Mane could have pulled out of the challenge or continued with his head. He wasn’t brave enough and paid the price for having his foot shoulder high. Yes, Ederson did bring his head down but not enough to warrant Mane’s foot being that high.

Mane was in on goal but his exuberance got the better of him. It may not have been deliberate but it was clearly reckless. With Ederson stretchered off the pitch in a neck brace the contact was heavy and Mane, when he looks at it again, can have no real complaints with the decision.

After the red card Liverpool collapsed with their fragile defense (which saw Ragnar Klavan come in for Dejan Lovren) caving in as Jesus, Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne ran riot. Jurgen Klopp’s side will have to lick their wounds after suffering a first defeat of the season (and the heaviest since their 6-1 pummeling by Stoke City at the end of the 2014-15 season) but they can be comforted by the fact that they created good chances in the first half which Mohamed Salah should have done better with.

This was a reality check for Liverpool after they blitzed Arsenal before the international break and perhaps points to the madness of Klopp not strengthening his defense, Virgil Van Dijk aside, in the final days of the transfer window.


MAN CITY FLUID, BALANCED IN 3-5-2 LED BY KDB

Man City look so much better in a 3-5-2 formation. With Pep Guardiola spending big on two attacking full backs over the summer in Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy (particularly superb with his crosses from the left) this system gives them balance and allows the likes of Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva to roam free. And that they did.

De Bruyne was particularly superb, grabbing wonderful assists on City’s opening two goals and then launching the attack for the third.

Just over 12 months into the gig Guardiola has finally found his best team with KDB pulling the strings in a central role.

John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi still have their moments in defense, especially without Vincent Kompany around on Saturday to steady the ship, but Ederson, until his injury appears to give City’s defense confidence.

With Aguero and Gabriel Jesus combining menacingly in attack, it will be difficult to understand why Pep, who has been a master tinkerer in his time so far at City, would deviate far from this system and these players. Last season City’s big problem was beating the teams around them in the top six. They has just two wins versus the top six last season in 10 games, with only Arsenal below them in the top six “mini-league” in 2016-17. Just as everyone thought they would (thanks largely to a record summer spending spree) they are figuring things out.

Guardiola’s side have quietly gone 12 games without defeat in the Premier League, dating back to last season, and have also lost just once (at champions Chelsea) in their past 24 PL games. If that’s the kind of form they’ve had while they figure things out, then we are in for a treat now everything appears to be slotting into place.


AGUERO’S CLASS CONSTANT

Kevin de Bruyne didn’t really need to lift his head up as the ball dropped to him in midfield. He already knew where Aguero was heading to.

With his 124th Premier League the Argentine, 29, became the highest-scoring non-European in Premier League history. The way he nonchalantly rolled around Simon Mignolet and slotted home oozed class. You get the sense that Guardiola finally trusts in Aguero after spells of leaving him on the bench, even at the start of this season.

Starting up front with Gabriel Jesus the duo were distant early on, too stretched and too easy to mark. Pep Guardiola then signaled to Jesus to get closer to Aguero, moving past and underneath him. Within 60 seconds City went 1-0 up with Aguero’s goal.

Jesus scored twice, and had one disallowed for offside, while Aguero had another chalked off for a correct offside call. They ran riot.

The way Aguero then raced free in the second half but instead of rounding Mignolet, as he could have easily done, he squared to Jesus to slot home and make it 3-0.

Aguero has been greedy over the years. Which top striker hasn’t? But he is showing Pep, most importantly, that he is now more of well-rounded team player who can still score the goals City need.

Jozy Altidore calls out Toronto FC president Bill Manning in scathing postgame comments

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It was supposed to be a happy postgame. Toronto FC topped Minnesota United 4-3 in a wild game that saw Jozy Altidore assist the game-winning goal scored 79th minute, pushing them within a point of the Eastern Conference lead with a game in hand.

For Altidore, though, it was the perfect opportunity to air some dirty laundry.

The United States international sought out reporters in the mixed zone after the game and told the public how unhappy he was at certain decisions made at the club this offseason, particularly regarding the training staff. Altidore singled out team president Bill Manning and criticized the club executive for firing someone he believed was helping the striker off the field.

[ MORE: Toronto FC tops Minnesota United 4-3 ]

“It’s bittersweet because this could’ve been avoided,” Altidore said of the firing of Italian trainer Giuseppe Gueli who was let go after the sale of Sebastian Giovinco this offseason. “You’ll have to ask Bill Manning why it’s not avoided, it’s just disappointing. We had a trainer here the last three years who’s been helping me with muscle injuries, but because he was attached to Seba, he’s not allowed in the club, which I think is ridiculous. And so now this is what I’m faced with, games of egos, and that thing. Hopefully he can put his ego aside and I can get the guy who’s kept me healthy, kept Michael [Bradley] healthy, kept a bunch of the guys healthy, and we can make things move forward.”

“To run a club you’ve got to be able to put your ego aside and put the players first, so hopefully that’ll change,” Altidore said. “I was trying to get through it, I was having trouble all week, but again, like I said, the person I was working with the past three and a half, four years, is not allowed in the building, and it’s just— you give everything for your city, you give everything on the field, you give everything for your teammates, and because of a little whatever, misunderstanding with a guy, the players gotta pay the price. I just think that’s ridiculous.”

Altidore then went after Manning for his lack of accessibility for the players, as Altidore insinuated he made attempts to handle the issue internally but was unable to do so. “You can ask him,” Altidore said when asked if he received an explanation from Manning on the personnel decision. “He’s not here, he’s not around, so you can’t find him. You go to his office, he’s not there, he’s traveling, he’s this and that. I wish I knew, but I don’t know.”

As far as the public has been aware, Altidore and Manning have had a decent working relationship. Local media reported that a sit-down between the two in February helped push through a new contract for Altidore after talks had hit the skids. “I saw the hunger in his eyes and how much he loved it here,” Manning said of Altidore once the contract extension was announced. “And he was willing to work with us. And once we kind of talked that through, we were able to create a contract that made sense for us and made sense for him.”

After Altidore brought Michael Bradley into the mix by mentioning the Toronto FC captain by name, Bradley was asked about the situation, and he confirmed there were internal issues that needed to be taken care of but downplayed the severity of the issue. “There’s a lot going on behind the scenes in terms of trying to make sure that we can have the right medical staff in place,” Bradley said, “and obviously Greg [Vanney], Jim Liston, Ali [Curtis], Bill [Manning], they’re all working hard to try to make sure that as players we have everything we need. Jozy is a guy who feels like at this point in his career he knows exactly what he needs to do day in and day out to keep himself healthy and fit and ready to play at the highest level. I’m hopeful there’s a solution here because I think a lot of us certainly feel strongly, again making sure that the staff behind the scenes is in place and is right.”

Obviously, this seems like – at its base level – a minor problem not to be aired in public, but Altidore is someone who has suffered from numerous muscle problems in the past, and if he is nervous about not receiving the proper medical attention off the field, it could be affecting his mindset or performance. Players who are tentative on the field because of past medical issues can either lose form or actually exacerbate the issue further, so it would be in Toronto’s best interest to cater to Altidore’s requests. At the very least, if a veteran leader is frustrated by a lack of communication from the front office, that in and of itself is a concern the club will want to address as soon as possible.

Toronto FC pulls within a point of East lead with win over Minnesota

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Toronto FC snatched all three points in a wild finish at BMO Field, taking the spoils 4-3 over Minnesota United thanks to a pair of goals each from Alejandro Pozuelo and Jordan Hamilton.

Minnesota struck first through Darwin Quintero in the 17th minute, but Toronto swung back in front on a quickfire double from Pozuelo, striking twice in two minutes right on the half-hour mark. His first was a beauty, carrying the ball all the way down the attacking half himself before a couple stepovers preempted a rifle into the top corner.

Two minutes later he found space in the box, and taking a feed from Justin Morrow, he powered the ball home above Vito Mannone. With that, Toronto went into the halftime break with the lead, and Pozuelo grabbed a club record for fastest brace with just 110 seconds between goals.

Out of the break, it was Minnesota’s turn to swing back into the lead as Angelo Rodriguez bagged a header to the far post as two Toronto defenders misjudged a cross from Romain Metanire. Quintero then hit for the second time in the 70th minute, this time from the spot after Chris Mavinga fouled Rodriguez in the area.

With wild status officially achieved and Minnesota ahead, Toronto snagged control of the match in front of the home fans. Hamilton, who came on in the 73rd minute, had an instant impact, scoring the equalizer just four minutes after entering play. Jonathan Osorio fed him a perfect through-ball between defenders, and Hamilton finished expertly with a chip over a charging Mannone. Hamilton gave Toronto the lead in the 79th minute, although this time the Minnesota defense will want to burn the tape. Jozy Altidore popped the ball over a defender right in front of the goal mouth, and while Michael Boxall had position to clear the ball off the line, Hamilton jumped it and tipped it into the back of the net.

After that, Minnesota melted down. Jan Gregus was shown a straight red card in the 89th minute, and Minnesota was reduced to nine men minutes later after Francisco Calvo earned his second yellow card. The win sent Toronto to second in the Eastern Conference on 13 points, one behind D.C. United for the lead with a game in hand.

Premier League preview: Newcastle v. Southampton

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  • Southampton have won 3 of their last 4 PL games
  • Newcastle has beaten Southampton just once in last 9 meetings
  • Shane Long has scored in his last 2 matches – has never scored in 3

Both Newcastle and Southampton have the chance to all but secure Premier League safety with a win on Saturday as the Saints travel to St. James Park, live on NBC at 12:30 p.m. ET or live online at NBCSports.com.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE HERE

Southampton has turned a corner under Ralph Hassenhuttl, with eight wins in his first 18 games in charge – as many as the previous two managers put together in 52 league matches. The Saints now sit five points above the relegation zone, and with Cardiff City taking on Liverpool on Sunday, the time is ripe for Southampton to pull away. A victory over Newcastle and a Cardiff City loss would put the Saints eight points clear of the drop, leaving their magic point total for safety at just one over the last three matches.

Hassenhuttl could be without regular defender Jannik Vestergaard who has a groin injury, but otherwise the injury news is light. Midfielder Mario Lemina may not be ready to go from his abdominal injury, having missed all of 2019 so far, but the other injured players in Alex McCarthy, Matt Targett and Charlie Austin are all reportedly ready to go.

Newcastle, on the other hand, can mathematically secure its safety with a win and a Liverpool result, and even a draw will put the hosts in a fantastic position. Sitting two points above Southampton and seven above the drop, there’s plenty of uncertainty surrounding manager Rafa Benitez, but they look set to earn Premier League play next season. The Magpies saw their three-match winless run come to an end last time out with a win over Leicester City, but still they have limped down the stretch with just seven points in six Premier League matches since the beginning of March. They too have good injury news, with just the long-term injuries to Florian Lejune and Sean Longstaff the only players struggling coming into the match.

What they’re saying

Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez on Newcastle’s relegation battle: “I said 38 points [would be enough] a long time ago. Cardiff have won a couple of games [since then], and now it’s even more important for us to win another game, be sure everything is fine and then we can start thinking about how high we can go.”

Southampton manager Ralph Hassenhuttl on Southampton’s relegation battle: “We have been speaking about the 40 points and therefore we need four more. The good thing is I don’t have the feeling my team is leaning back, they stay focused. Although it is a long season so far, I have a feeling they are very hungry, they want to hunt and take more points. That is a good signal for me.”

Prediction

Home field advantage is massive in these games, and Newcastle will relish having the backing of the home fans. Southampton, however, comes into this game in better form, and will be more motivated to earn points to build the gap. The Saints should come away with a 2-0 win in an exciting game between two scrappy teams.

Preview: Man City v. Tottenham

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  • Man City go top with a win
  • Spurs sit in third
  • VAR drama in UCL quarterfinal second leg

“More of the same please, lads.”

That will be the message from neutrals everywhere as Manchester City host Tottenham on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), less than 72 hours after Spurs got past City at the Etihad Stadium in one of the most dramatic games in UEFA Champions League history.

VAR drama on both Fernando Llorente’s goal which sent Spurs through to the Champions League semifinals and a late strike for Raheem Sterling which seemed to have rescued City caused chaos, but we won’t have VAR this weekend. Next season is a difference case.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE

Pep Guardiola‘s Man City must pick themselves up and now focus on winning their final five games of the season to win the Premier League title, while Spurs and Mauricio Pochettino need to win to keep their hopes of finishing in the top four alive. That said, Spurs may rest several first team players with their injury-hit squad creaking and the north London side focused on being ready for their UCL semifinals against Ajax coming up.

In team news City could have Fernandinho back, while Zinchenko will be assessed. Spurs are without Harry Kane, Harry Winks and Serge Aurier and youngsters Juan Foyth, Oliver Skipp and Kyle Walker-Peters could all play with injuries hitting Pochettino’s side hard.

What they’re saying…

Guardiola philosophical on late winner denied by VAR v. Tottenham: “VAR appeared to help try and cut out mistakes. The referees can take time, seconds, minutes to see the images and different angles. If we make a lot of mistakes with VAR then I wouldn’t agree with it. We have to take one minute, two minutes, five minutes, until the right decision is made. But I support it, from the first time and well before. If the goal from Raheem in the last minute, which was offside, ends up being a goal and Tottenham go out because of one offside, is not right. It’s so tough on them and I don’t like that.”

Pochettino on Spurs making the UCL semifinals: “This is a massive example for us – how important it is never to give up, to always have faith and believe in yourself, your teammates, the club, the fans. All our decisions we take are to help the club and this amazing history we are writing today will be a massive example for us in the future.”

Prediction

City will be determined to put Wednesday right, and even though their dreams of a quadruple are over, they can still win the domestic treble. Spurs will be emotionally exhausted after the 4-3 defeat at City which sealed their path through to the Champions League semifinals on away goals, and City have a bigger squad which they can rotate. 3-1 win to Man City.