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Ligue 1 roundup: PSG grab late win to open early 6-point lead

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PARIS (AP) On a frustrating day for the world’s two most expensive players, and with the club’s top scorer rested, it was unheralded defender Thomas Meunier who got Paris Saint-Germain’s goals in a 2-1 win at Dijon on Saturday.

Neymar and Kylian Mbappe cost PSG a combined $478 million when they joined in the offseason. They had an off day, although Mbappe made some amends by setting up Meunier’s winner in the second minute of injury time.

It was the attack-minded right back’s fourth goal in four games, including one for Belgium last weekend in a World Cup qualifier.

“I always try and follow things up, that’s my style,” Meunier said. “I love bringing something to the attack.”

The win moved French league leader PSG six points clear of defending champion Monaco, which lost at Lyon 3-2 on Friday.

PSG was without Edinson Cavani — left out after playing for Uruguay in World Cup qualifying this week — but carved out enough chances to win easily.

PSG was coasting to victory until the 87th minute, when Dijon launched a hopeful ball up the field, forcing PSG center half Marquinhos to hack clear. The looping ball fell to forward Benjamin Jeannot some 35 yards out and he hit a tremendous left-footed volley over the head of goalkeeper Alphonse Areola.

Then Mbappe’s cross fell to Meunier on the edge of the area, and his low shot squeezed through the legs of defender Oussama Haddadi and over the line.

“We fought hard the whole game and showed that we could stand up to PSG,” Dijon goalkeeper Baptiste Reynet said. “We got back into the game in an incredible way, so it’s a pity to concede that goal the way we did. We lost a bit of concentration.”

Dijon played with a high energy and harried PSG all over the pitch, forcing mistakes.

PSG’s frustration showed when Neymar was shown a yellow card for a cheap foul on Dijon defender Cedric Varrault.

Reynet made a stunning reflex save to push away Mbappe’s low volley and saved again moments later from Neymar’s strike, but could not recover in time to stop Meunier’s low shot slipping under his body in the 70th.

Saint-Etienne scored three late goals to beat Metz 3-1 and move up to third place, while Caen dropped down to eighth spot after losing 2-0 at home to Angers.

Guingamp moved up to ninth with a 2-0 home win over Rennes, but Lille’s struggles continued as it conceded an injury-time goal in a 2-2 home draw with Troyes.

Striker Andy Delort’s first-half goal sealed mid-table Toulouse a 1-0 home win against Amiens.


PARIS (AP) Montpellier continued its habit of troubling the leading teams by beating Nice 2-0 in the French league on Sunday.

Montpellier is unbeaten so far against the top three from last season. It has drawn against defending champion Monaco and runner-up Paris Saint-Germain and comfortably beaten Nice in successive games.

Benin attacking midfielder Stephane Sessegnon and Belgium forward Isaac Mbenza scored in the second half with their first goals of the campaign.

Sessegnon was once considered among the biggest talents in the French league when he joined Paris Saint-Germain in 2008, but his career never really took off despite several years in the English Premier League with Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion.

The 33-year-old Sessegnon showed a glimpse of his ability, however, with a ferocious strike from 25 meters (yards) that flew into the top right corner in the 55th minute.

The win moved Montpellier up to mid-table, while Nice drops down to a miserable 14th place after its fifth defeat so far.

Nice offered little threat, with Mario Balotelli well contained by the home defense. When the former Inter Milan and Manchester City striker did get a chance in the first half, he was thwarted by goalkeeper Benjamin Lecomte’s sprawling save.

Nantes is resolute, well organized, opportunist and tough to beat under coach Claudio Ranieri.

Sound familiar? So was unheralded Leicester when Ranieri guided it to the Premier League title in 2015-16 in one of the greatest upsets in soccer history.

Ranieri has little hope of winning the French title this season, however, faced with the attacking power of Paris Saint-Germain.

After losing the first two league games, Ranieri’s side is unbeaten in seven and sits comfortably in fourth place following Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Bordeaux.

Silva’s sensational goal highlights Man City win over Palace

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Manchester City scored twice in two first half minutes to dispatch hosts Crystal Palace in a 2-0 win with plenty of flash points at Selhurst Park on Saturday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

David Silva and Gabriel Jesus scored the goals and Ederson made a number of stylish saves in the victory, with Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva supplying assists.

City moves back into second place with 19 points, five behind leaders Liverpool who visit Manchester United on Sunday.

Palace will finish the weekend sixth on 14 points.


Three things we learned

1. Fits and starts for odd CB pairing: Pep Guardiola was without an injured Nicolas Otamendi and perhaps not ready to put 90 minutes on returning John Stones, so he deployed center mids Rodri and Fernandinho at center back. There were several dicey moments for the pair, who also did well at times in the clean sheet, but perhaps most glaring was Rodri’s absence from the midfield. He’d go there for the final 10 minutes when Stones subbed into the match. If you doubted that Pep would make his employers open the checkbook in January, this lineup may have settled that for you.

2. VAR is so weird: Wilfried Zaha shoved Kevin De Bruyne to turf with two hands, turning the playmaker on his route to the turf. Anthony Taylor didn’t see it, but hey, that’s why we have VAR, correct? Incorrect. VAR backed up the ref on the field and Palace remained in the match. Truly head-scratching on a bad day for the system.

3. Zaha not all there but shows flashes of brilliance: Crystal Palace’s Ivorian star wants out of South London, and it’s affecting his play. The winger disputes every touch from the opposition — he is fouled a lot — who knows they can get to him. He’s produced just one assist this season, and he simply doesn’t have the right desire to get things done for Roy Hodgson.

But, my, when he’s ready to roar. Zaha had several mazy dribbles in the final third and was denied a smashing goal by a flying Ederson in the 89th minute. It wasn’t enough to offset the headaches, like when he followed referee Anthony Taylor around the pitch begging for a yellow card following a tactical foul.

Man of the Match: Sterling — A killer at both ends, even if he missed a would-be third goal in the 87th.


[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

City flew out of the gates, and Palace’s heads were spinning over the first 10 minutes despite the reigning champions’ lack of finish.

Palace’s business was in the counter, and Wilfried Zaha raced down the pitch for a chance only to see Fernandinho intervene and cut out the danger in the 19th.

Raheem Sterling made an incredible recovery run to track Zaha after Rodri slipped to the pitch just inside his own half and allowed the Ivorian a path toward glory.

City’s breakthrough came before halftime, as Jesus dove to turn a header off the post and into the goal from a Bernardo Silva cross.

And it was 2-0 within a couple of minutes in marvelous fashion, Sterling scooping a pass over the defense and David Silva spotting the ball in front of him to lash home.

This is sensational stuff.

Joao Cancelo had one of his better performance since joining City from Juventus, and played a 1-2 with Jesus which ended with an amazing save from Wayne Hennesey.

Palace had a vivid spell of possession and nearly pulled one back off a Christian Benteke header which Ederson flew to slap off the crossbar.

At the other end, it should’ve been put to bed when Gabriel Jesus had the ball at the near post and Kevin De Bruyne raced into space for an easy tap-in. Jesus shot instead and was saved.

De Bruyne headed an Ilkay Gundogan pass off the far post with 10 minutes to play.

Zaha saw a rip saved by Ederson, who was fantastic, as time dwindled in South London.

Analyzing a day of VAR drama in the Premier League

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VAR had its most eventful day in the Premier League, so far, as the new technology introduced for this season is still settling in.

My word, the VAR control center at Stockley Park close to Heathrow Airport was busy on Saturday.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Multiple PL games had game-changing moments reviewed by VAR, and there are plenty of players, managers and fans feeling aggrieved, or lucky, as they head home.

Below we take a look at the key moments which shaped the outcome of the Premier League action.


Wolverhampton Wanderers v. Southampton – RECAP

This clash at Molineux had the most VAR decisions of the day, as Raul Jimenez had two goals chalked off in the first half. Both of those decisions were correct, as the first was a handball by Jimenez and the second saw Patrick Cutrone in an offside position. So, VAR was working well. But after Southampton had gone 1-0 up a huge moment arrived and cost them three points. Matt Doherty danced into the box and as he was off balance trying to get his shot off, he fell over with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Maya Yoshida close by. A penalty kick was awarded by the referee on the pitch, Peter Bankes, but the decision then went to VAR with many expecting it to not be awarded. But it was and Jimenez scored to secure a 1-1 draw for Wolves. Southampton were not happy at all with the decision, and you can understand why.


Aston Villa v. Brighton – RECAP

In the end, Aston Villa beat 10-man Brighton 2-1 in stoppage time so this may be forgotten about quickly. But Dean Smith was livid after the game as Conor Hourihane‘s fine strike was ruled out in the first half. With Wesley challenging for the ball in front of the goal, Brighton’s goalkeeper Mat Ryan seemed to run into him when trying to catch the ball. Played went on and after Hourihane’s goal was scored and Villa Park had celebrated, VAR ruled that Wesley had fouled Ryan and the goal was chalked off. It was a baffling decision checked and checked again with a long delay. It was a huge shock that this goal wasn’t allowed to stand after being reviewed.


Tottenham Hotspur v. Watford – RECAP

Okay, this was wildddddddd. In the first half, with Watford 1-0 up, Gerard Deulofeu dribbled into the box and with Jan Vertonghen sliding in, the Spurs defender clearly made contact with Deulofeu. No penalty was awarded by referee Chris Kavanagh but VAR reviewed the supposed foul and gave nothing. How was that not a “clear and obvious error” as contact was clearly made? Spurs got away with another VAR call late on too, as Dele Alli looked to have handled in the box before scoring the equalizer. VAR reviewed the goal and although the referee signalled the goal was fine to stand, which in itself was shocking as the replays showed the ball hitting the top of Alli’s arm, on the big screens at Spurs’ stadium a “No Goal” signal flashed up. It has since been stated that it was a mistake in the system for the screen to show that message, but there was so much confusion and Watford’s players and manager Quique Sanchez Flores were upset the goal stood. Dele Alli was sheepish when asked about the goal after the game, as VAR got two out of two huge goals incorrect in Spurs’ draw with Watford.


Leicester City v. Burnley – RECAP

Now, describing Sean Dyche as being apoplectic with rage is something we do quite often during a PL season. But he and his staff were beyond that as Burnley’s late goal was ruled out at Leicester. Chris Wood thought he had made it 2-2 after bundling home his second of the game, but VAR ruled out the goal for a slight touch on Johnny Evans by Wood. It was a faint clip and coming together between the Burnley striker and Leicester defender with the ball already going in, and the Foxes knew they had got away with one. Dyche was trying to be as diplomatic as he could be after the game but this was a harsh call against Burnley who should have grabbed a point.

Lampard ‘pleased for Pulisic,’ praises subs in Chelsea win

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Frank Lampard‘s fired up on-field response to Chelsea’s resilient 1-0 win over Newcastle United on Saturday carried over to the post-match press conference.

The manager’s subs enabled the Blues to claim all three points, as Mateo Kovacic and Christian Pulisic changed the midfield and helped prod Marcos Alonso‘s second-half winner.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 1-0 Newcastle ]

“Saw a spirit and energy of the team, keep picking up the wins and take nothing for granted,” he said.

“We had a problem in the game, but solved it. Kovacic was outstanding and Christian got at people. I am pleased, we have to play like that. We got our way.”

Lampard was asked specifically about Pulisic, and said the atmosphere around the American star needs to calm down a little bit.

[ MORE: Pulisic Watch ]

“I am really pleased for him,” Lampard said. “He is a hot topic. Everyone has got a little carried away. To see him play that way (was good).”

Chelsea will finish the weekend in the Top Five and its favorable run of fixtures continue after the Champions League midweek. The Blues next see Burnley, Watford, and Crystal Palace before its next top-end tilt with Man City.

LIVE — MLS Cup Playoffs begin; Atlanta, Seattle at home

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Reigning champs Atlanta United kick off a four-match docket as the MLS Cup Playoffs begin Saturday around North America.

[ FOLLOW: MLS Cup Playoffs live, box scores, stats ]

Pity Martinez starts on the bench for the Five Stripes, who are without injured USMNT back Miles Robinson.

Two other recent cup champions, Toronto and Seattle, are home later in the day, while Utah is the scene for the final match of the night.

Schedule

Atlanta United v. New England Revolution — 1 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders v. FC Dallas — 3:30 p.m. ET
Toronto FC v. DC United — 6 p.m. ET
Real Salt Lake v. Portland Timbers — 10 p.m. ET

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