PL roundup: Man City, Spurs capitalize on dropped points-a-plenty

Leave a comment

What Saturday’s feature fixture left viewers desperately wanting, the rest of the Premier League’s big boys provided in spades… for better and for worse.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Manchester City scored seven all by themselves, Chelsea and Arsenal each fell away from home in London derbies, and then you have a somewhat forgotten Tottenham Hotspur side which finally got its first home win of the season and climbed into the top-three.


Manchester City 7-2 Stoke CityRECAP

It’s time for the rest of the PL to face a very sobering fact: there might not be any stopping this edition of Man City. Pep Guardiola‘s side might score 125 goals this season (currently on pace for 123). Only three sides have cracked the century mark since the turn of the millennium — Man City (103) and Liverpool (102) in 2013-14, and Chelsea (103) in 2009-10. The goals come from everywhere (six different scorers on Saturday), just as the assists do (five different assisters).

Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 BournemouthRECAP

They needed four tries to do it, but Tottenham have won their first PL game at Wembley Stadium this season. Considering Mauricio Pochettino‘s side’s struggles at their temporary home, it’s shocking to see them already four points clear of Chelsea, the defending champions (and the only side to beat Spurs through eight games), and Arsenal in the table. Spurs’ 100-percent away record won’t last forever, making points at home all the more important going forward, even if they’re won by grinding out 1-0 victories over relegation-threatened sides like Bournemouth.

Crystal Palace 2-1 ChelseaRECAP

First goal of the season: check. First point: check. First win: check. Saturday was a big day for Roy Hodgson’s Palace, who shocked the world by knocking off Chelsea at Selhurst Park, courtesy of goals scored by Cesar Azpilicueta (own goal) and Wilfried Zaha (deployed as a striker, alongside fellow winger Andros Townsend). Just like that, the Eagles are within four points of safety, though at some point they’ll need to do some serious work on that -16 goal differential.

Watford 2-1 ArsenalRECAP

Arsenal took a 1-0 lead into the final 20 minutes of Saturday’s clash at Vicarage Road, and walked away without a single point to show for their efforts. Troy Deeney equalized from the penalty spot in the 71st minute and Tom Cleverley slammed home a rebound in the 91st to push the Hornets into fourth place in the league table. You could say Marco Silva‘s first season at the club is going quite well.

Liverpool 0-0 Man UnitedRECAP

Jose Mourinho showed he’s still go it, assuming “it” means the ability to play for a 0-0 draw and fail to entertain anyone in his side’s biggest game of the season thus far. While the Red Devils looked most every bit City’s equals through seven games, this might have been the day it all became clear: City simply have another gear (or two, who knows) that not even their neighbors can call upon.

Swansea City 2-0 HuddersfieldRECAP

The start to life in the PL was brilliant for Huddersfield (two wins from their first two games), but the season-long reality has quickly set in for David Wagner‘s side, as they’ve gone winless in their last six games, including a 2-0 humbling at the Liberty Stadium. Chelsea’s on-loan striker Tammy Abraham scored both Swans goals (his third and fourth this season) to push Paul Clement‘s side all the way up to 13th.

Burnley 1-1 West Ham UnitedRECAP

With West Ham leading 1-0 after 19 minutes, Andy Carroll took it upon himself to bring Burnley right back into the game, by way of two nearly identical yellow cards in the span of two minutes (25th and 27th). The Hammers held on for quite some time, but Chris Wood, the Clarets’ late-game hero, struck again in the 85th minute. Burnley currently sit seventh, ahead of Liverpool on goal differential. West Ham are 14th.

Nani scores twice as Orlando City thrashes FC Cincinnati

Leave a comment

Nani may not be the star he once was while he played for Manchester United, but he’s still making a powerful impact in MLS.

The Portuguese international scored his sixth and seventh goals of the season as Orlando City ran circles expansion side FC Cincinnati, winning 5-1. Along with Nani, Tesho Akindele scored a brace and Dom Dwyer came off the bench and scored a header in the win.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Aside from having a chance to record a big win over a struggling side, Orlando City may have been ultra motivated on Sunday. Orlando City manager James O’Connor has history with FC Cincinnati from his time at Louisville City, with intense rivalry matches taking place as well as arguments between O’Connor and former FC Cincinnati coach Alan Koch on the sidelines.

FC Cincinnati actually went up early with a Darren Mattocks finish past Brian Rowe, but it didn’t take long for Orlando City to respond. Akindele fired home from 20-yards out in the 37th minute to make it 1-1. Early in the second half, Nani scored on a penalty kick rebound to make it 2-1 to the hosts, and then he added a second off a cross from the right to blast the game wide open.

With the win, Orlando City moved just one point outside of a playoff place, while Cincinnati remains in the basement of the Eastern Conference. However, Orlando City has a difficult road ahead, with matches against the LA Galaxy, Montreal Impact and D.C. United to come.

Serie A: Napoli rout Inter, leaving UCL race wide open heading into final week

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The race for the third and four places in Serie A, and with it, a berth in the UEFA Champions League next season, remain open heading into the final week of the season, thanks to a stellar performance from Napoli.

Playing at home in the Stadio San Paolo, Napoli thrashed Inter Milan, 4-1, to keep Inter in fourth place in the table on 66 points. That’s just one point ahead of AC Milan in fifth place, which jumped up after a 2-0 win over Frosinone, and three points ahead of AS Roma, which succumbed to a scoreless draw with Sassuolo this weekend. Atalanta meanwhile came ten minutes from beating Juventus in Turin, and even with a point in a 1-1 draw, Atalanta is still only in third place by 66 points.

[READ: Bayern Munich still too good for the rest this season]

Piotr Zielinski made a statement with a 30-yard blast past Samir Handanovic in the 16th minute to put Napoli up 1-0 and then Dries Mertens and a pair of goals from Fabian Ruiz gave the Neapolitans a massive lead, while leaving Inter in a precarious position. Mauro Icardi scored late to give Inter a small reprieve, but the defeat was set and it leaves Inter essentially needing to win in the final week of the season to secure a place in the Champions League next year.

Elsewhere, Josip Ilicic scored his 12th league goal of the season as Atalanta took Juventus down to the wire in Juve’s final home match of the season. Juventus fans serenaded Andrea Barzagli, playing his final game for the Bianconeri, and even had a message of support for Daniele De Rossi.

Gianluigi Buffon was even in attendance.

Also in action in Serie A, Parma beat Fiorentina, 1-0 and Empoli defeated Torino, 4-1.

Report: Former Chelsea great Clarke set to be new Scotland manager

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Scotland FA is set to appoint a former Chelsea star as its new men’s national team manager.

Former Chelsea midfielder, and West Bromwich Albion and Reading manager Steve Clark is reportedly in talks with the Scotland FA to take over the national team. Clark has a difficult job ahead, with Scotland already having lost, 3-0, at Kazakhstan in UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

 

Although Scotland finished top of their group in Level C of the UEFA Nations League and earning promotion to League B, the team’s play was very up and down under Alex McLeish, back in the job after a one-year spell in 2017. McLeish eventually lost the federation’s support after the 3-0 defeat at Kazakhstan, ranked then 117th in the world, made Scotland look like Europe’s whipping boy. Though Scotland saved some face with a 2-0 win over San Marino, the damage was done.

Clarke, after disappointing tenures at West Bromwich and Reading in his first full managerial roles, has since found success in Scotland. He’s led Kilmarnock this season to third place in the table and a spot in the Europa League, an impressive feat considering the club’s budget is dwarfed by Celtic and Rangers. Hibernians and Hearts of Midlothain have also recently spent big on new signings, yet Kilmarnock finished above them this season.

Clarke, who only played a half dozen times for Scotland during his playing career, will now have to galvanize the squad ahead of two crucial qualifications in June and quickly imprint his tactical ideas and plan in a short amount of time. During his time at Chelsea, Clarke won the FA Cup, League Cup, and UEFA Cup Winners Cup between 1987 and 1998.

Germany: Below-par Bayern Munich still too good for the rest

AP Photo/Matthias Schrader
1 Comment

BERLIN (AP) Even a below-par Bayern Munich side was just too good for the rest.

Bayern’s record-extending seventh consecutive Bundesliga title confirmed the distance between the Bavarian powerhouse and its rivals after a season in which it failed to impress as before.

[ MORE: Kompany finds new/old club ]

For the first time in ten years the title race went to the last day of the season, with Niko Kovac’s side missing the chance to wrap it up a week earlier after being held to a goalless draw in Leipzig. His team wasn’t going to miss another chance as it routed Eintracht Frankfurt 5-1 to clinch a 29th German championship on Saturday.

In the end, Bayern’s 5-0 win at home over Borussia Dortmund, its closest and only challenger, on April 4 illustrated the gulf in class between the sides and effectively decided the league outcome. Bayern should have won by more after racing into a 4-0 half-time lead, but Kovac’s team eased off in the second half with Dortmund in damage-control mode.

It proved to be the title that Dortmund gave away. Lucien Favre’s side had a nine-point lead over Bayern at one stage, but buckled under the pressure of a title challenge and gave away points in games it should have won.

Dortmund developed an unfortunate tendency to concede late goals, and was frustrated in successive draws against Eintracht Frankfurt, Hoffenheim and lowly Nuremberg, which was relegated at the end of the season.

Bayern President Uli Hoeness had suggested in February that Bayern could “sacrifice the championship for one year” to give veteran players like Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Rafinha a worthy farewell.

“I have won more than 50 titles in my lifetime, so one or another doesn’t matter,” Hoeness said at the time.

Hoeness needn’t have worried. On Saturday, he was able to give the players a perfect sendoff, with Robben and Ribery both coming on as substitutes to score in their final Bundesliga appearances.

Beer flowed among the tears and confetti and the Bayern veterans bade their farewells and celebrated another championship – for Ribery it was a record ninth league title in 12 years at the club.

It was a happy end to a difficult season. The 36-year-old Ribery made no secret of his wish to stay at Bayern and will have heard how the 40-year-old Claudio Pizarro, who also scored Saturday, agreed a one-year extension to his contract at Werder Bremen the same day.

Kovac has had to endure ongoing speculation over his future after ambiguous comments from his superiors.

“We’ll see,” sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic said to repeated questions over Kovac’s future recently, while chairman Karl-Heinz-Rummenigge could only say he has “no problem” with Kovac.

Kovac himself said on Saturday that he was sure he would remain after receiving first-hand information from those responsible, but the lack of public endorsement from the club has done little to stop the speculation.

Even a win over Leipzig in the German Cup final next Saturday might not be enough for Kovac, who has fans’ backing but has struggled for authority at the club since Bayern went four games without a win in late September-early October.

The club lashed out at the media on Oct. 19 for “derogatory, slanderous reporting” of its poor form, while Hoeness was booed and whistled at the club’s AGM in November for the first time over sponsorship deals with Qatar, his railing against the media, and personal tirades against former players and coaches.

Amid the squabbling, Bayern has lost its aura of invincibility. The side’s meek Champions League exit to Liverpool after a 3-1 defeat at home highlighted the need to refresh the squad.

The process is already underway with World Cup winners Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard arriving from Atletico Madrid and Stuttgart, respectively, to shore up the defense. The 23-year-old Hernandez is costing a Bundesliga-record 80 million euros ($90 million) while Pavard is joining from Stuttgart for a reported 35 million ($40 million).

Bayern is also reportedly interested in Germany striker Timo Werner, while Hoeness has hinted at a host of other signings.

After strengthening in the summer, Bayern is likely to be even harder to catch for Dortmund and the rest next season.

“I know the chance was huge this season,” Dortmund captain Marco Reus said.

More AP German soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/Bundesliga and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Ciaran Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP