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Arsenal 1-3 Man United: Lukaku shines as Sanchez haunts old club

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Alexis Sanchez opened the scoring against his former club, Romelu Lukaku reprised the right-wing role he found success at for his country at the World Cup this summer, and Manchester United eased by Arsenal in the FA Cup 4th round by a 3-1 scoreline.

Arsenal’s injury woes deepened as Sokratis came down from an aerial challenge awkwardly on his ankle inside the opening 20 minutes, and while he tried to stay on after lengthy treatment, he was eventually forced off, replaced by Shkodran Mustafi.

After the forced change, Manchester United seemed to hold much of the meaningful possession, and the visitors took advantage of an Arsenal mistake at the back. Lukaku received the ball at the top of the box, and no fewer than four Arsenal defenders stepped to challenge him on the ball. That left acres of space behind the stepping defenders, which Sanchez filled with a perfectly timed run, allowing Lukaku to feed him with a through-ball

Just moments later, Manchester United struck with the second barrel, as Jesse Lingard doubled the lead. On the break, Laurent Koscielny attempted to catch Lukaku offside down the right flank, but his trap was late and it sprung the Belgian down the wing. Triggering a three-on-two break, Lukaku cut across to Lingard standing all alone at the penalty spot, and the England international finished cooly for a 2-0 lead.

Arsenal found a way back just before halftime as Aaron Ramsey barged into the United box and tapped across the face of goal. The ball was out of reach of Alexandre Lacazette, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was on hand at the far post to poke it in past Sergio Romero. Just seconds after the break, Arsenal nearly equalized but Aaron Ramsey’s header was acrobatically tipped over the bar by a great Romero save.

Past the hour mark, as Arsenal pushed hard for an equalizer, the Gunners lost yet another defender as Koscielny went down and required lengthy treatment before coming off. Ole Gunner Solskjaer made tactical changes of his own for the stretch run, taking off Lukaku and Sanchez in favor of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial.

Manchester United weathered the storm and put the game away in the 82nd minute on the break. Paul Pogba picked Arsenal’s pocket in the middle third and broke at pace the other direction. Despite a pair of options open on either flank, Pogba shot on Petr Cech‘s net, with the Czech parrying the effort. He pushed it right into the path of Martial, and the substitute bagged the decisive goal.

The match nearly boiled over in the final minutes as Sead Kolasinac and Marcus Rashford went head-to-head, but neither did enough to earn a sending-off, with both given yellows. After a lengthy stoppage time, the win for Manchester United gave Solskjaer his eighth win in succession across all competitions to start his Red Devils tenure. For Arsenal, after winning the FA Cup two years ago, they’ve not been eliminated early in each of the last two seasons, falling last year in the 3rd round to Nottingham Forest, with this year’s defeat coming in the 4th round.

Juventus “could tell something wasn’t switched on” in Lyon

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Juventus’ obsession with winning another European Cup has the club on edge after a 1-0 first leg loss to Lyon on Wednesday in the first leg of the Round of 16.

Stalwart defender Leonardo Bonucci, defender Danilo, and manager Maurizio Sarri were less than pleased with the performance.

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Bonucci was spotted yelling at substitute midfielder Blaise Matuidi in warm-ups, and that was a prelude to a poor performance from most of the team.

“I didn’t tell Matuidi off, I told him the team includes those who are on the bench and we must all be ready to contribute,” Bonucci said, via Football-Italia. “I could tell something wasn’t switched on with the XI starters either. We’ve got to sort this out, as these are the things that make the difference.”

Sarri, the system man, is quite upset with his players after what he said was a lightning-fast training session on Tuesday.

“I don’t know why, I cannot get the players to understand the importance of moving the ball quickly,” said the flummoxed ex-Chelsea man. “This is fundamental, we’ll keep working on it and sooner or later this concept will get into their heads.”

Sarri was happier with the ball movement in the second half, and will expect Juve to do the same in its home second leg.

Danilo had a decent day in the loss. He didn’t sugar coat the performance.

“We cannot just gift the first half to the opposition in such an important tournament. We are aware that we did that and need to work harder,” Danilo said.

Guardiola “so proud” of Man City comeback; KDB, Jesus react to tactics

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Pep Guardiola was grinning widely after his tactical moves set up Manchester City in a 2-1 comeback win over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.

“I’m so proud,” Guardiola said. “This is the first step. It’s not over. We can enjoy the moment.”

Why wouldn’t he be smiling? Guardiola became the first manager to win Champions League games at the Bernabeu with two different teams, and did it during one of the most controversial periods in club history.

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What was different? Well, Guardiola played Kevin De Bruyne as a sort of second striker and took center forward Gabriel Jesus and deployed him as a left-sided midfielder.

“In the four years we are here with Pep, sometimes there are some surprises,” De Bruyne said. “Even the players don’t really know before the game starts what we need to do. Some were good. We had some lesser moments but in a quality game like this you’re gonna struggle but we fought really well together.”

Jesus had it even weirder, playing as a sort of left midfielder or even wingback with plenty of responsibility going back and forward.

The Brazilian said he has some experience playing wide, but — again — you have to be ready for the full Pep Guardiola experience.

“I can remember my time in the Palmeiras academy and I play like a winger and then become a striker,” he said. “But I go to the pitch to help my team-mates. It doesn’t matter if I have to run back or forwards. I have to help my team-mates. We are learning a lot. We have to play different positions sometimes.”

Guardiola knows the second leg is going to be tough, as Real will put everything into attack.

“When we were better, we conceded a goal,” Guardiola said, via the BBC. “When they were better, we scored a goal. That’s football. I remember the quarterfinal a few seasons ago at Anfield when we played incredibly well and they scored all their shots on target.”

Real will be without center back Sergio Ramos, who was sent off late, while Man City could be missing its best center back. Aymeric Laporte subbed off in the first half.

Three things we learned: Real Madrid v. Man City

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Man City beat Real Madrid 2-1 in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg in the Santiago Bernabeu as Pep Guardiola‘s tactical masterclass left Zinedine Zidane scratching his head.

After Isco gave Real an undeserved lead, Gabriel Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne struck late on to make it 2-1 as the reigning Premier League champions take a crucial lead back to Manchester for the second leg.

Here’s a look at what we learned from a superb away display from Man City as they sealed their first-ever win against Real Madrid.


GUARDIOLA’S BOLD CHOICE PAYS OFF

Sometimes it seems like Pep Guardiola is too smart for his own good but this is why they pay him the big bucks. Man City’s manager left the experienced trio of Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Fernandinho on the bench alongside the fit-again Raheem Sterling and everyone was left scratching their heads with his team selection. Pep’s bold choice paid off. Kevin de Bruyne and Bernardo Silva operated as two false nines centrally, while Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus played out wide and did plenty of tracking back as they pinned back Real’s wingers and full backs.

Mahrez and Jesus would make runs in-behind Real’s defense whenever KDB and Bernardo got on the ball and it worked a treat. The only problem was that Mahrez and Jesus only took one of the big chances they were handed because they could have scored four or five. Guardiola’s side conceded after being undone by a sloppy defensive error which epitomizes their 2019-20 campaign but Pep’s bold choice paid off. Man City were the better, and more dangerous, team for vast swathes of this game and got the away win his ingenuity deserved. The decision to sacrifice the positioning of his two best playmakers in Bernardo and De Bruyne worked a treat as the displays of Mahrez and Jesus justified leaving Aguero and Sterling on the bench. Man City’s master tactician risked being ridiculed and labelled as an over-thinker once again. It was a risk which paid off.


REAL’S ATTACK ONE-DIMENSIONAL

Zinedine Zidane was without the injured Eden Hazard, while Gareth Bale started on the bench and there was a severe lack of creativity in the attacking third of the pitch. Karim Benzema lead the line and had one header on target in the first half but that was about it as he had 18 touches in the entire game. 18. Vinicius and Isco both failed to get the better of the Kyle Walker and Mendy respectively and without that extra spark Hazard or Bale could provide at the drop of a hat, Zidane’s side were predictable.

Real caused their own problems as Casemiro was the spare man and precision passing isn’t his best trait as City were dangerous on the counter. Real Madrid were timid and rigid and that isn’t something you’d expect from a Zinedine Zidane-side on a big European night like this. Zidane has made Real more pragmatic this season and Vinicius and Isco did make the most of a Man City defensive error to put the Spanish giants ahead before two late goals from Jesus and De Bruyne gave Man City the edge heading into the second leg. Real will need to take more chances at the Etihad and as their defensive display showed on Wednesday, they are not capable of shutting down City’s attack and Sergio Ramos will not play in the second leg due to his red card. Real are in big trouble and for once their failure to go all-out for the win cost them dear. That is very unlike Real.


DE BRUYNE LEADS DEFIANT CITY

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Kevin de Bruyne wore the captains armband with class in the Bernabeu and he was the beating heart and pulsating brain of this composed, yet brave, victory.

“We are only halfway there,” De Bruyne said afterwards.

With Aguero, David Silva and Raheem Sterling left on the bench, all eyes were on KDB and he delivered. He played as a false nine but instead of shrugging his shoulders playing in an unfamiliar role he embraced it and could be seen cajoling his teammates and demanding more in key moments.

De Bruyne’s display summed up his season so far: Brilliant.

His mood also summed up the defiance in Man City’s display as they lost Aymeric Laporte to injury and Fernandinho stepped in and made key blocks, while Ederson was also at his best as City’s defense only slipped up once. With a two-season European ban looming large, this City squad know this could be their last chance to win the European Cup until the summer 2023 when many of them won’t be around. Kevin de Bruyne would be coming up to 32 years of age then, if he is still at City. The defiance he and City’s squad played with proved they want to win the Champions League right now and put the UEFA ban to one side as their appeal is heard in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in the coming months.

 

Lyon scores memorable win over misfiring Juventus

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Lucas Tousart’s first-half goal led Lyon to a 1-0 defeat of visitors Juventus in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie. (video)

Juve had 14 shots but failed to put one on target in the loss.

The second leg is March 17 in Turin.

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Tousart opened the scoring when he leapt to smack a Houssem Aouar cross past Wojciech Szczesny in the 31st.

Karl Toko Ekambi blazed a shot over the bar later in the half to let Juve off the hook.

As the match passed the hour mark, it was going according to Lyon’s plan. Juve had 62 percent of the ball but Lyon had double its visitors’ chances (12-6). None of Juve’s efforts were on target.

The Old Lady was much better in the latter stages, but Lyon still managed to hold Cristiano Ronaldo without a shot on target. Lyon was whistled for four fouls against the Portuguese.

Juve had a goal late, but the flag was up.