Mourinho slams “lucky” City as Guardiola digs deeper under his skin

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MANCHESTER — The defining moment of the soccer renaissance in Manchester arrived on Sunday.

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Manchester City won the battle, 2-1, and they’re clearly winning the war with Pep Guardiola not only leading a swashbuckling side towards the Premier League title at a canter, but also exposing the weaknesses of Manchester United and Jose Mourinho in the process.

Throughout the game City’s fans jeered long balls up to Romelu Lukaku by United as Mourinho’s side badly missed the dynamism of Paul Pogba in midfield.

“Park the bus, park the bus Man United! Playing football the Mourinho way!” was the chant from the City fans. They echoed the thoughts of those watching on across the globe.

Mourinho and Guardiola’s soccer ideologies are from different planets and City are currently in another world when it comes to their form in the Premier League following a record-breaking 14-straight win. Guardiola is running away with the head-to-head battle.

As expected, his old sparring partner didn’t take the defeat well as United lost for the first time at home in 24 Premier League games (their last defeat came against City last September) and also fell 11 points behind the Premier League leaders in the process.

Speaking to media outlets after the game, Mourinho admitted that United’s title hopes are “probably” over before hitting out at referee Michael Oliver about not awarding a penalty kick in the second half when Ander Herrera went down in the box and was booked for simulation.

“Manchester City are a very good team and they are protected by the luck, and the gods of football are behind them,” Mourinho told the BBC.

It was a case of clear deflection from Mourinho as Herrera clearly went down easily and was looking for the penalty kick.

After lambasting Man City for being lucky, Mourinho went into more depth in his press conference after the game about the decision to not award his team a penalty.

“It was like last season. Exactly the same,” Mourinho said. “We can speak about anything you want. You can bring any football theory, you can bring the stats, the possession, everything you want, but like last season it was a huge penalty in a crucial moment of the game. But I also say I feel sorry for Michael Oliver because I think he had a very good game with the intention to have the perfect work, which he almost did.”

Guardiola was having none of it.

City dominated possession, had 14 shots and were in total control of the game throughout. What did Guardiola make about Mourinho calling City “lucky” in their derby win?

“Last season was the same. We won because we were better in all departments. We were better,” Guardiola said. “I don’t know the plan for my opponent but we came here to try to win the game. We did it the same at Stamford Bridge and here again, on two big stages. At half time I said to my players, I am not going to talk about tactics, just the substitution. But we didn’t make any comments about the tactics… We came here like we did in Stamford Bridge and all the games since I came here, to try to win. I’m so happy. The people say in England you can’t play in that way in England, but we can play in that way as well.”

He’s right.

After his first full season in the Premier League in 2016-17, many scoffed at Guardiola, the soccer idealist who had been proved wrong with his supposed arrogance that he could blow the English top-flight apart playing champagne soccer. Yes, he’s been handed a huge amount of cash to overhaul his squad, but Mourinho hasn’t been short of funds at United either.

Both have improved their respective clubs dramatically over the past 18 months but Guardiola seems to be building something more sustainable and impressive than Mourinho.

As for this encounter, where United hung in there but never truly looked like beating City, did Mourinho feel his rivals dominated the 175th Manchester derby?

“It depends on how you analyze it,” Mourinho said. “It depends on what we want to let them do. But I think when you see Man City play you expect Man City to score great goals, not to score two disgraceful goals. Those are the last goals you expect to concede against a top quality team. Two very bad goals with one corner and one free kick with rebounds. Incredibly unlucky from the defending perspective. Yes, they had much more of the ball. Yes, they had that apparent control of the game, but the biggest save of the game is the double save by their goalkeeper and the biggest decision of the game is an unlucky decision of Michael [Oliver].”

Can United claw back the deficit?

“It is a significant distance,” Mourinho said. “I don’t know. I know we can win next Wednesday. Win, or lose, or draw. I know that we can win next Wednesday and we are going to work and fight for it, match after match,  and every match we are going to give everything with our qualities, with our problems, that is what we do all the time.”

The only problem is, Sunday proved that Manchester City’s quality is far superior to Manchester United in all departments and there’s little Mourinho can do about it.

Just like in his Real Madrid days, he is being dominated by Guardiola who is, once again, managing a bitter rival.

The Special One is seething as he looks on enviously across Manchester with Guardiola’s brand of play revered across the globe while his is ridiculed by opposition fans and neutrals alike.

Nothing will get under Mourinho’s skin more.

Cruzeiro relegated from Brazilian top flight for first time

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Brazilian side Cruzeiro was relegated from the top flight for the first time in the club’s 98-year history following a 2-0 defeat to Palmeiras on the final day of the season.

Cruzeiro required victory and a loss by Ceara at Botafogo to stay safely in the Brazilian Serie A, but neither came to pass.

Palmeiras midfielder Ze Rafael scored in the 58th minute to send the visitors on their way, with fellow midfielder Dudu finished things off in the 84th minute. Referees ushered the players off the field immediately after the conclusion of the match as Cruzeiro fans rioted in the Mineirao stadium, ripping out seats, setting off smoke bombs, and clashing with police.

Cruzeiro finished 17th in the 20-team table, three points back of Ceara in 16th. In the Brazilian top flight, the bottom four teams are relegated. CSA, Chapecoense, and Avai were also relegated. Cruzeiro had won the Brazilian Serie A as recently as 2013 and 2014, winning four titles in its history. They also have six Copa do Brasil titles, most recently winning the league cup in 2017 and 2018.

Flamengo ran away with the championship, finishing on 90 points, 16 points clear of second-placed Santos and third-placed Palmeiras who both finished level on 74 points. Palmeiras had challenged for the title, but fell off at the end of the season with a five-match winless run through November.

Premier League Preview: West Ham United v. Arsenal

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Two struggling London sides meet Monday when West Ham United hosts Arsenal (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The sides might’ve expected they’d be within close proximity at this point on the fixture list, but two wildly disappointing seasons means the three points between the Gunners and Irons comes with the former in 11th and the latter 16th.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

It’s been nine matches since Arsenal beat someone, 11 since it happened in the Premier League. West Ham hasn’t been much better, winning once in its last 10.

Freddie Ljungberg has yet to win as Arsenal interim boss, while West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini could see his current stint in London end without more results like the Nov. 30 win at Chelsea.

Monday versus Arsenal would qualify.


Injuries/suspensions

West Ham United: OUT —  Jack Wilshere, Lukasz Fabianski, Manuel Lanzini, Winston Reid. QUESTIONABLE — Michail Antonio.

Arsenal: OUT — Dani Ceballos. QUESTIONABLE — Rob Holding.


Probable lineups

West Ham United: Martin; Cresswell, Ogbonna, Balbuena, Fredericks; Rice, Noble, Yarmolenko, Anderson, Snodgrass, Haller.

Arsenal: Leno; Kolasinac, Sokratis, Luiz, Bellerin, Xhaka, Torreira, Ozil, Pepe, Aubameyang, Lacazette.


What they’re saying

West Ham’s Antonio sees an opportunity: “The only three teams that are really performing are Liverpool, Leicester and Man City. Everyone else is getting beaten, and it means we’ve had a missed opportunity so far this season. We started the season off brightly, the best start we’ve had for four years, but then we’ve had a slump. Everyone’s having a slump and this is our slump. Now it’s time for us to start turning up. We’ve been in this situation before and we know how to dig in and pull ourselves up again.”

Arsenal’s Ljungberg on setting targets: “I don’t think we should stop talking about the top four, but for us it’s about concentrating on what we’re doing here now and not look up, down, sideways. We just need to work on our own game and our own confidence.”


Prediction

Really, you wouldn’t want to predict anything from these sides right now besides goals. We’ll give an edge in desperation to the hosts and a 2-2 draw.

La Liga: Sevilla held at Osasuna, Getafe maintains UCL fight

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Sevilla was held to a 1-1 draw at 10-man Osasuna on Sunday, giving both Real Madrid and Barcelona space at the top of the La Liga table.

Munir El Haddadi put the visitors 1-0 up just 11 minutes in, but Ezequiel Avila struck just before halftime to share the points. Sevilla was held to just two total shots through the opening 45 minutes, and despite Osasuna defender Oier Olazabal being shown a second yellow card with 29 minutes to go, Sevilla still managed just 11 total efforts through the 90 minutes, with four on target.

Getafe continued its battle for a top four spot as they won 1-0 on the road at Eibar. Angel Rodriguez bagged his eighth goal of the season to secure the win, cropping up in the 67th minute to finally put Getafe through. They had been turning the screw for some time, forcing Marko Dmitrovic into a pair of big saves just before the opener which came from an absurdly tight angle after Angel had rounded the goalkeeper. The win leaves them fourth, level with Real Sociedad on 27 points.

They were allowed to close the gap after Real Sociedad was held scoreless in a 0-0 draw at 14th placed Real Valladolid. The visitors put just two of their 14 shots on net, and dropped to fifth thanks to Getafe holding the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Athletic Club also fell back in the race for a top four spot, dropping a 3-2 decision on the road at Real Betis. Joaquin scored a first-half hat-trick, with all three goals coming in the opening 20 minutes to give him five in his last three games. Inaki Williams brought Athletic Bilbao one back before halftime from the spot, and Yuri Berchiche made things interesting with a minute to go, but that was all they could muster as the visitors fell to sixth on 26 points, above Atletico Madrid on goal differential with the two yet to play head-to-head.

Celta Vigo made it interesting as Iago Aspas scored a man-down goal, but Leganes held on for a 3-2 win over the 10-man visitors. Oscar Rodriguez had a first-half brace to help the hosts to a 3-0 lead, but Nestor Araujo and Aspas helped Celta Vigo make things interesting. Still, a 71st minute second yellow card for halftime substitute Gabriel Fernandez hampered the visitors in their efforts for a comeback, leaving Celta Vigo in the relegation zone, a point back of safety, with Leganes is four points behind them in 19th.

Gerrard reacts to Rangers’ Old Firm heartbreak in final

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Steven Gerrard lined his Rangers side up for success, but fate was cruel to the Liverpool legend.

Rangers lost the League Cup Final to their Old Firm rivals on Sunday despite out-shooting the Bhoys by a 16-5 margin, winning a penalty, and playing almost a half-hour up a man.

[ RECAP: Rangers 0-1 Celtic ]

“To a man we were very good … by much the better side,” Gerrard said. “But unfortunately that’s not what gets you a trophy.”

But Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster stopped Alfredo Morelos’ penalty, three minutes after goal scorer Christopher Jullien was offside on the lone goal of the game.

Scotland doesn’t yet use VAR, and Gerrard doesn’t love VAR but he likes it more than he likes Scottish officials.

“There were three Celtic players standing in offside positions but unfortunately we play in a country where there is no VAR,” he said, via the BBC. “I’d be a liar if I said I was 100% in favour of it, but the one thing I do know is that officials up here need support.”

Now he has the task of getting his men to rebound ahead of its biggest non-derby in ages, as Rangers need at least a draw against Young Boys at home on Thursday to advance to the Europa League knockout rounds

“It’s a bit raw right now… It’s up to me to pick the players up. One thing I will say is I’ll stay with these players on the evidence of today because they gave me absolutely everything. We might have to suffer a bit short-term. I need to pick them up a bit physically and mentally for Thursday which is huge but our day will come on the evidence of today.”

Gerrard has done a very good job with Rangers, who are two points back of Celtic in a two-horse race for the Scottish top flight title. Celtic has won eight-straight titles to improve their total to 50, four less than the Rangers.