Gabriel Jesus scored a brace and Kevin De Bruyne made his Premier League return for the first time this calendar year as Manchester City comfortably swept aside 10-man Wolverhampton Wanderers, 2-0. After allowing an early goal, Wolves evening went from bad to worse when centerback Willy Boly was sent off in the 19th minute.
It was Wolves’ first red card of the season in any competition.
With the win, Manchester City moves to within four points of Liverpool’s lead at the top of the table, as the title race heats up this frosty January.
Controlling the tempo early, Manchester City showed that the club’s recent form, with 16 goals scored in the last two cup matches, could carry over into the Premier League. In the 10th minute, it only took three touches for Man City to go from the backline to the back of the net.
Aymeric Laporte split the Wolves backline with a brilliant pass down the left channel, right into the run of Leroy Sane. Sane played a one-time pass across the face of goal, providing Jesus with a perfect pass that he re-directed home sliding towards the goal.
While Wolves had a pair of half-chances following the goal, the match became just about out of hand in the 19th minute. Boly, in trying to win the ball off Bernardo Silva, slid in with his studs up, going through Silva in the process. Boly was quickly shown a red card, putting his team in a real hole.
Manchester City continued to attack in the first half as time went by, and in the 39th minute, the Cityzens got their just rewards. Silva played Sterling into the box, and after beating his defender, Ryan Bennett, the latter pulled down Sterling to set up a penalty kick. Jesus stepped up and sent Rui Patricio the wrong way for a 2-0 lead.
The second half was more of the same, with Man City dominating possession, holding the ball for 75 percent of the time while looking for another goal. Once de Bruyne was brought on for David Silva, a new attacking dimension was added. It ended up leading to Man City’s third goal of the night, as defender Conor Coady turned in a darting cross from de Bruyne in the 78th minute.
Man City obliterates Burton Albion 9-0 in Carabao Cup
A few Manchester City starters were rested, with Sergio Aguero not in the squad and Ederson, John Stones, and Raheem Sterling all on the bench, but de Bruyne, Walker, and Jesus all found the starting lineup as did David Silva and Ilkay Gundoguan, and the lower league minnows never had a chance.
De Bruyne scored just five minutes in to begin the onslaught, and Manchester City never looked back. Jesus opened his bursting account on the half-hour mark, and doubled his number four minutes later thanks to a great chip from Gundoguan.
Jesus had his hat-trick just before the hour mark, and bagged a fourth five minutes past it. Academy product Phil Foden also got in on the action in the 62nd minute as City scored four goals in a 13-minute second half span. Oleksandr Zinchenko also scored, and Mahrez’s messy effort trickled in with seven minutes remaining to complete the demolition.
After putting seven goals past Rotherham in early FA Cup action last time out, Manchester City becomes the first English club to record at least a combined 16 goals across two consecutive fixtures since they did it back in 1987 (source: Opta). Burton Albion had achieved much just to reach this point of the competition, having already defeated Premier League side Burnley back in the third round and taking down fellow Championship clubs Aston Villa, Nottingham Forest, and Middlesbrough on its way to the semifinals.
Manchester City takes its incredible goalscoring form back to the Premier League where they face newly-promoted Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday followed by a Sunday meeting with Huddersfield Town, before the second leg against Burton Albion which will be little more than a formality.
In their 21st game of the 2018-19 PL campaign, Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool lost for the first time this season and Pep Guardiola and Man City will now be smelling blood in the water as they hunt down the league leaders following a crucial victory.
Here’s what we learned from a pulsating encounter.
CITY’S OLD GUARD DELIVERS
Sergio Aguero delivered another big moment for Man City, as the Argentine has now scored in all seven of his home league games against Liverpool. Since the start of the 2011-12 season, Aguero has scored 37 Premier League goals for Man City in meetings between ‘big six’ clubs, which is 16 more than any other player. Mr. Clutch set them on their way with a wonderful finish and was a constant pest. But Aguero had help as the old guard stood tall and set the tone for the hunger and determination City showed throughout. Vincent Kompany made several crucial, well-timed tackles (aside from the lunge on Mohamed Salah in the first half). And Fernandinho was phenomenal in breaking up City’s attacks and setting up counters. When City needed them most, all three delivered colossal displays to drag them back into the title race. Leroy Sane scored a fine winner and Bernardo Silva was everywhere as he surprisingly launched into tackles, but it was the experienced trio who dug deep and inspired a wonderful City display as they overcame their defensive injuries and changes to secure a deserved victory.
LACKLUSTER LIVERPOOL NOW UNDER PRESSURE
From the first few minutes it was clear that Liverpool weren’t at the races. Alisson‘s shaky clearances out of play. Klopp screaming at Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino for their poor positioning. This wasn’t a Liverpool side in control. The only chance they had in the first half fell to Mane who hit the post and then John Stones somehow cleared, but in the second half they improved after Fabinho came on and a tactical switch saw Mohamed Salah pushed into a central position to support Firmino. Despite the latter pulling Liverpool level, they didn’t deserve to get anything from this game and now the pressure is on. Dejan Lovren switched off for City’s first goal as Aguero finished superbly, then Liverpool conceded the key goal just when they were on top as they committed too many men forward.
With their lead atop the table now down to just four points with 17 games to go, Liverpool’s nerves will be jangling. And they are now in a month where historically they’ve struggled under Klopp — they have lost 10 of the 25 games in January since his arrival — and this stat will feel Liverpool’s fans with dread.
Liverpool topped the Premier League table by seven points at the turn of the year, and no team in history has failed to win the English top-flight title with such a lead coming into the new year. Man City, and maybe Tottenham, will push Liverpool all the way this season and the title race is on.
THIS LIVED UP TO THE HYPE
Given the fact that a draw would have been a great result for Liverpool, Klopp’s defensive starting lineup was understandable. But it handed the initiative to Man City. A midfield three of James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum just didn’t work and handed City’s trio of Fernandinho, David Silva and Bernardo Silva the advantage in midfield. Guardiola was bold with his selection of Sane ands Sterling and he got his tactics spot on. Klopp didn’t and only when he introduced Fabinho did Liverpool have any control in this game. This game lived up to the hype in so many ways. City’s fans created a great atmosphere. Both sets of players launched themselves into tackles and there were huge saves, big misses and high levels of drama as Guardiola and Klopp went wild on the sidelines. This had it all and it was a wonderful advertisement for everything that is good about the Premier League.
Liverpool thought it had gone ahead after an incredible team play found Mohamed Salah putting Mane on goal, but the Senegalese player’s shot hit the post and City’s harried clearance was saved from own goal status by John Stones at the line.
How close was it? Both teams seemed to stall in progression as referee Anthony Taylor looked at his watch.
Dejan Lovren then went in the books with a professional foul to get in the way of a Sergio Aguero break. David Silva oversaw the free kick, but his lofted ball to Aguero found the Argentine offside.
Sterling cued up David Silva for a shot inside the Liverpool box, but the Spaniard needed an extra touch and saw his effort blocked by the Reds defense.
It was Aguero who would dent the scoreboard, racing to the corner flag for a celebratory kick moments after he thought he’d won a penalty off Virgil Van Dijk.
Bernardo Silva played Aguero’s near post run perfectly, and the Argentine had a yard from Lovren to blast past a slow-to-react-at-close-range Alisson Becker. 1-0, City.
City pushed for a second goal at the start of the second half, but Liverpool’s defenders proved stout.
Sterling saw a penalty appeal denied in the 52nd minute, as Anthony Taylor waved away the claim after Andrew Robertson blocked the Man City man from getting to his cutback.
Trent Alexander-Arnold was more adventurous as the game wore on, and blasted a shot into the outside of the goal.
A City error set Roberto Firmino up for an equalizer bid, but Vincent Kompany cleared the 63rd minute danger.
Firmino got the leveler within a minute, Alexander-Arnold crossing to fellow full back Robertson. The Scottish left back nodded across goal, and Firmino met the chance with his head for an easy-enough finish.
City went back ahead with a sensational finish by Sane, who took a pass from Sterling and carved out some room inside the 18 to drive a low pass off the far post and home. The angle was his only avenue into the goal.
Alisson bailed out his backs when Aguero was played 1v1 with him in the 83rd minute. And Ederson came close to meeting the quality of that stop with a flick of Salah’s bid to level the score in the 84th.
Bernardo Silva took the ball off Lovren and forced Alisson into another save, and Sterling rocketed his chance for a first goal against his former mates wide of the goal.
SAVEEEE! Alisson with a fantastic save to deny Sergio Aguero after the Argentine took the ball around him and looked certain to score. What a game this is!#MCFC 2-1 #LFC#MCILIV#PLonNBC
1) You can only save one Premier League memory from 2018. What do you choose?
Joe Prince-Wright: I am going with Liverpool’s 4-3 win against Man City at Anfield in January 2018. What a game between two teams going at it and playing very different ways to the highest possible level. It was a precursor for some epic Champions League battles between Liverpool and Man City.
Kyle Bonn: Has to be Manchester City’s dominance and Pep Guardiola’s juggernaut. I absolutely loved watching that team, especially given how much of a mess it was when Pep first got there. He turned around so many players, namely John Stones and Raheem Sterling, and that’s always something special.
Dan Karell: It was from last January but it’s got to be Liverpool 4-3 Manchester City. Man City wrapped up the title early and recorded a record amount of goals and points, but this was arguably the game of the season. Terrific action for all 90 minutes.
2) Remember the World Cup? That was just this summer! What was your favorite part of the tournament? How about the USMNT’s efforts in it?
Joe Prince-Wright: I obviously enjoyed England’s run to the World Cup semi-finals and I honestly believe they would have matched up very well against France and would have had a great chance of winning it all. The way Gareth Southgate’s young side made an entire nation believe again and changed the mood around the Three Lions completely was truly remarkable to see. Also, LOL about the USMNT. What a debacle that should never be repeated. Simple.
Nicholas Mendola: Not the Lionel Messi sub plot, as even his fine performances couldn’t overcome the hype about whether it was enough for his legacy. Also, not Serbia getting the short end of the officiating stick on multiple occasions.
There were some great matches! The final was special, as was France 4-3 Argentina in the Round of 16. But Belgium and Japan turning a 0-0 halftime into a 2-0 Japanese lead en route to a 3-2 Belgium win, with Nacer Chadli scoring in stoppage? Holy smoke what a game.
Kyle Bonn: I think my favorite part of the tournament was appreciating the parity that came along with it. Germany bombed out in the group stages, Argentina looked pedestrian, and Spain looked fallible, all while Croatia built a juggernaut, Peru looked competitive, and Sweden won a group. This was the world’s World Cup and that was fascinating.
Also, the USMNT didn’t lose a single game all tournament, so I’ll give them an A-
Dan Karell: Ugh, stop! I think England’s run to the semifinals was a lot of fun, along with Croatia’s constant wins in penalty kick shootouts and them overcoming the odds again and again. Ultimately, France was too talented to be stopped, and Didier Deschamps did a masterful job keeping them tight defensively and letting his side’s speed and counter-attacking ability steal the show.
3) Which player do you hold in higher esteem than you did entering 2018? Who’s much lower?
Joe Prince-Wright: David Silva. I always knew he was good. But I didn’t quite appreciate how good. He is essential to Pep Guardiola’s style and will probably go down as one of City’s best-ever players, if not the best.
Lower… I am going with Daniel Sturridge. Perhaps a little harsh, but I thought he would be able to work his way into this Liverpool attack as the first back-up. He hasn’t achieved that at all.
Nicholas Mendola: I knew Christian Pulisic was good before Jan. 1, 2018, but how much of a factor he’s become in every match is beyond compare on an American level. There’s Clint Dempsey in 2011-12 at Fulham for the gold standard of Americans Abroad, and the question of whether he matches it, improves on it, or does it again and again.
As for lower, and I know this is heavy territory, but pretty much the way everyone associated with Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus dealt with the rape accusations against him. Allegations are allegations until proven true, but showing a modicum of class to the victim (and all victims) would’ve been nice.
Kyle Bonn: If this is possible…Mohamed Salah. I always love seeing players go from one-hit wonder to actually good player, and while only the ultimate of cynics believe the Liverpool star would ultimately fade as just a flash in the pan, I enjoyed seeing it proven on the field.
Less, I have to go with Alvaro Morata. I thought he would be a slam dunk at Chelsea, and his disastrous tenure has led to rumors of a quick exit. I am quite disappointed in his performances there and his inability to find the scoresheet despite a wealth of talent around him. It’s a shame, because he showed so much promise at Real Madrid, and I hope he finds success either with a second chance at Chelsea or someone else who gives him an opportunity after Stamford Bridge.
Dan Karell: Anthony Martial. His second half of 2018 has been tremendous compared to his previous 18 months in Manchester, which all led to him missing out on the World Cup. A player who’s stock has dropped for me is his teammate, Alexis Sanchez. After joining Man United in January. Sanchez has been invisible this season and it’s unclear if Man United will ever recoup its investment in Sanchez.
4) Who is the soccer world’s person of 2018?
Joe Prince-Wright: Luka Modric. What he managed to achieve with both Real Madrid and Croatia, plus win multiple top awards as the best player on the planet, was exceptional. The Croatian midfielder was a total team player and made his teammates better due to his hard work, vision and delivering in clutch moments. His role to lead Croatia to the World Cup final was reminiscent of Diego Maradona and Pele leading their respective nations to glory in the past. Modric was Croatia’s talisman as they just came up short by losing to France in the final.
Nicholas Mendola: Kylian Mbappe. At the age of 20, with club turmoil caused by Neymar and Edinson Cavani and the pressure of an entire country, Mbappe led France to a World Cup title and Paris Saint-Germain to plenty of wins. But even better than that is the example he sets at such a young age, donating his World Cup winnings to charity and admitting that footballers are paid an “indecent” wage.
Kyle Bonn: Great – and tough – question. So many good options. Jurgen Klopp has to be my choice though, as he’s finally seeing his Liverpool project come to fruition. The Reds made the 2018 Champions League final and have shaken their inability to perform against bottom sides in Premier League play. It’s always fun to see a years-long project not only committed to, but completed. The Reds are a scary team to play for anyone in the world, and that’s down to the revolutionary tactics and recruitment of Jurgen Klopp.
Dan Karell: If it’s a manager, it’s got to be a tie between Didier Deschamps and Pep Guardiola for everything they succeeded. Perhaps it’s even Zinedine Zidane, who took the bold move to resign as Real Madrid manager after a third-successive Champions League title.
5) What topic are you extremely happy to leave in 2018: the USMNT coaching search, Jose Mourinho at Manchester United, or a third option?
Joe Prince-Wright: USMNT coaching search definitely. Quite why that took so long was outrageous. Berhalter could have been appointed months sooner than he was to start building the identity of the team. That would have been a smarter move. Southampton’s 2018 was also woeful, so I am happy to leave that there as the squad they have should be pushing for a top 10 finish, not battling against relegation for a second-straight season. I actually think that history will be kind to Jose Mourinho’s reign at Manchester United, but it just became so boring and predictable towards the end and we have already seen the gloom has lifted at Old Trafford. It worked out well for everyone, even Mourinho.
Nicholas Mendola: The USMNT coaching search. At some point we were speculating on David Moyes taking the job because he was on the train to a friendly. Cool. Real cool.
Kyle Bonn: I was happy to see the USMNT coaching search finally come to an end, but disappointed in the result. I was glad to see Jose Mourinho leave Manchester United for the health of the club, but not for those of us covering the team (what a ride!). Honestly, I’m happiest to see the World Cup cycle leave, because the USMNT gets to start from scratch looking forward to 2022. While many have predictions and reservations about the US National Team at this juncture, it will be for the team to prove on the field, and Gregg Berhalter has a chance to lead an emotional redemption for the group.
Dan Karell: Jose Mourinho for sure. The constant moaning to the media, throwing players under the bus, and holding his players back got really old, really fast. Yes, the opposition in the last couple of games isn’t as good, but you can see that the Man United players have the shackles removed and are starting to look as if they enjoy their profession again.
6) Free skate: Any other thoughts about 2018?
Joe Prince-Wright: Watching Man City’s record breaking season up close was amazing. They made history and have set the bar incredibly high for the rest of the Premier League.
It was a reflective year for many Premier League teams who took steps towards long-term progression. Liverpool finally bought world-class defensive players, Man United sacked their manager, Arsene Wenger left Arsenal and Chelsea moved on with an exciting tactical project. Man City have leveled off a little but are still incredible to watch, while Mauricio Pochettino and Tottenham are still defying the odds and will actually move into their new stadium soon. The top six have been fascinating to watch in 2018, and given four of them are in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League, it seems like English soccer has had a real resurgence on the European stage too.
Nicholas Mendola: I don’t want to be a downer and I know Leicester City happened just a few years ago, but it seems like it’s the end of non-giants making charges toward the Top Four. It’s not Liverpool’s fault for joining Real Madrid, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, and Man City in spending ungodly amounts of dough. It’s not just about the money, because those arguments are also annoying and look at Everton and West Ham, but it is frustrating.
Kyle Bonn: 2018 was a great year of soccer, but the failures of the USMNT certainly bring it down from our perspective. There needs to be growth there moving forward, or it will be tough to build on the growing fanbase in this country.
Dan Karell: Regarding the U.S. men’s national team, it was an empty year that should have had a World Cup appearance to go with it. We saw a lot of new players make their debuts and other youngsters receive more minutes, but the team felt like the Israelites wandering for 40 years searching for the Land of Israel, with no direction. Hopefully now, with Gregg Berhalter (Moses?) in charge, the USMNT can find the promised land.
Another note: Atlanta United’s incredible success can’t go unnoted. To create a title-winning team in two years is incredible difficult, and the organization has raised the bar for MLS even higher. 2018 was a huge step for the league. Let’s see what 2019 brings.