What we learned in the Premier League

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Seven games took place in the Premier League on Saturday and we learned plenty at both ends of the table.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

Huddersfield and Fulham will both be frustrated as their bad luck continued, while Liverpool and Chelsea held their nerve and there were big wins for Watford, Southampton, Burnley and West Ham.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Here’s a look at the key takeaways from Saturday’s PL action.


Liverpool respond with gritty away win
It wasn’t pretty but Liverpool regained a seven-point lead atop the Premier League table as Mohamed Salah won and converted a penalty kick to beat Brighton 1-0. This was the kind of test Liverpool had to pass if they’re going to win the Premier League this season. After back-to-back defeats against Man City (in the Premier League) and Wolves (in the FA Cup), this was a big statement from Liverpool. Playing at a well-organized Brighton is always tough but Jurgen Klopp‘s side made relatively light work of it as their defensive injuries didn’t hamper their charge towards the Premier League title. Of course, there are bigger tests ahead but they don’t arrive for a while. The next time they play a top six side is the trip to Old Trafford to play Manchester United on Feb. 24. Between now and then there are plenty of tricky tests against teams they are supposed to beat sandwiched between their UEFA Champions League last 16 clashes against Bayern Munich. Liverpool were far from their best at Brighton, but they got the job done with minimal fuss as they were back to being ruthlessly efficient, and solid, just as they were at the start of the campaign. That is a very good sign for Klopp after the disappointment of the last week.


Emery’s Ozil problem not going away
Arsenal lost 1-0 at West Ham on Saturday and Unai Emery‘s post-game press conference was dominated by one person: Mesut Ozil. The German playmaker was not in Arsenal’s 18-man squad for the London derby and Emery said that was because “the players who were here are the players who deserved to be in this match.” That is yet another ominous statement from Emery for Ozil, as the highest-paid player in Arsenal’s history is the biggest headache Arsenal’s new manager has. The defending wasn’t as bad as it has been at times this season in the defeat at West Ham, but you could say that Ozil’s creativity would have been handy as Arsenal had plenty of the ball but couldn’t break down a stubborn West Ham defense. They are now six points off fourth-place Chelsea and could be overtaken by Manchester United in the next few weeks, and all of the momentum Emery had from that 22-game unbeaten run has evaporated with away defeats at Southampton, Liverpool and now West Ham, as they’ve had no victories in their last four PL away games. This poor away form is all getting very similar to Arsene Wenger‘s final season in charge…

Talking of Wenger, he oversaw Ozil, 30, signing a new bumper contract in January and he is guaranteed huge sums of cash. Ozil has only appeared in 16 games in all competitions this season and Emery clearly doesn’t trust him, as he’s said before, in away games against feisty, dedicated opponents. Ozil is a luxury player who is excellent, when given the chance, against lesser opponents at home but it doesn’t appear that the high-pressing, more defensive style Emery prefers can carry any passengers against more aggressive opponents. If Arsenal aren’t going to use Ozil, they have to loan him out or sell him in January. With his huge wages that will be tough and an argument can be made that Arsenal needed him at West Ham to unlock a defense and create chances in only the way he can. Emery’s issue with Ozil, on or off the pitch, has to be resolved one way or another as it threatens to derail their season.


Puel’s time at Leicester coming to an end
The boos rang out at the King Power Stadium as Leicester City lost 2-1 to Southampton, with Claude Puel‘s time in charge of the Foxes surely coming to an end soon. After their big wins against Chelsea, Man City and Everton over the festive period, all was well. But three-straight defeats to Cardiff, fourth-tier Newport County in the FA Cup and now an injury-hit Saints (who played over 55 minutes with 10-men) have cemented what many Leicester fans have been saying: Puel is not getting the best out of this team consistently. His decision to play three defensive midfielders against Saints was baffling, as the likes of Demarai Gray and Harvey Barnes sat on the bench and made a big difference in the second half. Leicester play extremely well against the big boys as they have less of the ball and their squad of players have perfected the art of counter-attacking. Against the teams they are supposed to beat they just aren’t able to break them down, as Puel’s belief in ball rotation, slow build-up and keeping possession doesn’t play to the strengths of this squad. After a testing year off the pitch for Leicester, Puel has brought some stability. He is a good, honest man who has brought plenty of Leicester’s young players to another level but it looks like he may get the hook soon. There is no chance of Leicester being relegated this season, so now is a good time to bring in a manager who can get the best out of this group and kick them on in their pursuit of Europa League qualification.


Huddersfield, Fulham in danger of being cut adrift
The bad luck continued for two relegation battlers as Fulham scored two own goals to lose at Burnley and Huddersfield had a penalty kick awarded, then overturned at Cardiff. In two six-pointers they both came up short and all of a sudden Huddersfield are eight points from safety and Fulham are five points (basically six points, given their goal difference) from staying up. Given their respective schedules in the next few weeks as they play plenty of the big boys, they are likely to be cut adrift. David Wagner is doing all he can with limited resources at Huddersfield, while the jury is out as to whether Claudio Ranieri was ever the right hire for Fulham. Both teams have shown they can hang in games but the little things are going against them as Saturday proved. Their fortunes will have to change quickly if they’re going to drag themselves out of the relegation zone with 16 games to go. There is almost a resignation among the Huddersfield fans that they are doing down, while Fulham will be at that stage very quickly. 

The “other” Harry! Winks scores late for Spurs (video)

AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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  • Fulham strikes first
  • Dele finds equalizer
  • Winks gets winner
  • Babel lively in FFC debut
  • Spurs with 73 percent possession

Harry Winks‘ goal in the third minute of stoppage time led Tottenham Hotspur past Fulham 2-1 at Craven Cottage on Sunday.

It was Winks first goal since November 19, 2016 v. West Ham United.

Dele Alli scored and was injured in the win, which started with Fernando Llorente scoring an own goal.

Spurs are now nine points back of Liverpool, while Fulham has 14 points, seven behind 17th place Newcastle United.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Spurs had most of the ball in the first 10 minutes, but Fulham came alive in spurts. New addition Ryan Babel worked Davinson Sanchez to earn a corner kick, and Denis Odoi sliced a chance wide off the set piece.

Fulham went deservedly ahead five minutes later, when Llorente’s vision was obscured on a corner kick and his reaction only prodded the ball into his net.

Sergio Rico saved a Llorente chance at the other end in the 23rd minute, as Spurs angled for an equalizer.

Fulham appeared to have made it 2-0 when Aleksandar Mitrovic nodded a rebund over the line in the 41st minute, but the Serbian striker was ruled offside.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

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Spurs leveled the score off a flub from American center back Tim Ream in the 52nd minute, with Christian Eriksen flicking a cross to Dele for the headed finish.

Danny Rose had a shot deflected off a sliding Odoi and hit the bar near the hour mark.

Llorente missed turning Rose’s free kick into the goal from near-sitter range in the 82nd minute, and was denied a penalty shout as the match entered stoppage time.

Asian Cup: Lippi’s China comes from behind; Vietnam advances (video)

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AL AIN, United Arab Emirates (AP) China fought back from a goal down to beat Thailand 2-1 in the round of 16 of the Asian Cup on Sunday and avoid a potentially embarrassing upset.

Supachai Jaided put Thailand ahead in the 31st minute, turning and shooting despite being surrounded by three defenders, before Chinese striker Wu Lei missed a string of good chances.

World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi brought veteran Xiao Zhi off the bench in the 64th and three minutes later he scored the equalizer, knocking the ball into the net on the rebound from his own saved header.

[ MORE: Huddersfield Town 0-3 Man City ]

Gao Lin quickly added a second from the penalty spot after he was fouled by Chalermpong Kerdkaew. China goalkeeper Yun Junling averted extra time when he stopped Chalermpong’s fierce shot in stoppage time.

China will face either Iran or Oman in Thursday’s quarterfinal as it bids to end a 15-year absence from Asian Cup semifinals. China’s national team has often fallen short despite the country’s long-term ambitions of becoming a soccer superpower and the wealth of Chinese clubs. China has only qualified for the World Cup once, losing all its games in 2002, and lost its only Asian Cup final to Japan two years later.

Thailand, which got out of the Asian Cup group stage for the first time in 47 years, had caretaker coach Sirisak Yodyadthai in charge after firing Milovan Rajevac following its opening group-stage 4-1 loss to India.

Earlier Sunday, Vietnam surprised an on-form Jordan team on penalties to reach the quarterfinals.

The 20-year-old midfielder Bui Tien Dung stroked the winning penalty into the bottom-left corner as Vietnam won the shootout 4-2 after the game finished 1-1 following extra time. Vietnam took the initiative in the shootout after Jordan’s Baha Seif hammered a penalty onto the crossbar and Vietnam’s Russian-born keeper Dang Van Lam leapt to palm away Ahmed Salah’s shot.

Despite being nine places higher in the world rankings, Vietnam was something of an underdog given it had only once before played an Asian Cup knockout game and Jordan had beaten reigning champion Australia in the group stage.

Jordan took the lead in the 39th minute after referee Alireza Faghani gave a rare indirect free kick inside the penalty area for a high foot. After the slightest of touches from a teammate, Baha Abdel-Rahman blasted the ball into the net from a tight angle.

After struggling to create chances in the first half, Vietnam was more incisive after halftime. In the 51st, Nguyen Cong Phuong flicked teammate Nguyen Trong Hoang’s cross high into the net. Shortly after, a Jordan defensive blunder nearly gave Vietnam the lead but Anas Bani Yaseen rushed back to clear the ball off the line.

Vietnam will play either Japan or Saudi Arabia in its first Asian Cup quarterfinal since 2007.

It’s the first time the Asian Cup has had a last-16 round after expanding to 24 teams.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Guardiola: Man City “has to demand more from ourselves”

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Sunday’s 3-0 win at Huddersfield Town did not see Manchester City at its best, and the match didn’t require it, but manager Pep Guardiola was visibly perturbed by his side’s showing at the John Smith’s Stadium.

[ RECAP: Huddersfield 0-3 Man City ]

City led 1-0 at the break on a deflected Danilo strike but came to life with an improved second frame that saw them score in the 54th and 56th minutes.

They got what they earned, says Guardiola. That’s not a compliment. From the BBC:

“The way we played we didn’t deserve more than three goals. We will improve in the future. We have to demand more from ourselves in every game and do our best, but sometimes it’s difficult. They defended deep and man to man.

“What we have done so far has been incredible, in the league and the Carabao Cup. We have an incredible number of points. But this game can teach us and show what we have to do to improve.”

Opening scorer Danilo admitted that City didn’t have the right intensity in the first half, while Leroy Sane said Pep put them right at halftime.

“He always tries to give us the solution and he did it again,” said Sane, who had a goal and an assist. “I think everyone could see in the second half it was much better.”

City starts a three-match week on Wednesday with the second leg of the League Cup semifinal at Burton Albion (City leads 9-0). It’s home to Burnley in the FA Cup on Saturday before visiting Newcastle on Jan. 29.

Sane stars, Man City cruises at Huddersfield Town (video)

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  • City back within four of Liverpool
  • Sane stars in win
  • Terriers 10 points back of safety

Leroy Sane scored a goal and added an assist as Manchester City cruised past Huddersfield Town 3-0 on Sunday at the John Smith’s Stadium.

City stays four points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool, while Huddersfield Town caretaker manager Mark Hudson sees his side 10 points back of 17th place.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Raheem Sterling was not given a penalty in the 13th minute after a clumsy tackle in the box, one of a couple early shouts for Man City.

Danilo‘s goal came when his long distance rip was blocked by Christoph Schindler, the Terrier’s header bounding off the turf and wrong-footing Jonas Lossl.

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Sterling started a move outside the 18, then drifted inside the meet Leroy Sane’s cross with a pounded header to make it 2-0 in the 54th.

Then, pure brilliance, as City turned a Terriers turnover into the goal in four total touches. Danilo to Aguero to Sane for a settle and finish.

Town wasn’t without its chances, Steve Mounie lashing wide of the far post in the 79th minute and just missing a goal with the final kick of the game.