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Four things learned: Man City v. Spurs

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Manchester City and Tottenham played out a dramatic 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, as Kevin De Bruyne impressed but Spurs pegged the reigning champions back and late VAR drama stole the show as Gabriel Jesus‘ strike was ruled out.

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Just like their clashes in the Premier League and UEFA Champions League last season, this was appointment viewing as Sergio Aguero and Pep Guardiola went at it on the sidelines and Spurs rode their luck with Jesus’ goal in stoppage time ruled out for handball.

Here’s what we learned from a heavyweight battle between two title contenders.


JUST LIKE UCL CLASH, VAR DECISION BURNS CITY

Gabriel Jesus thought he had won it in stoppage time as he curled home a beauty to make it 3-2, but VAR was used correctly and it was another dagger deep into the heart of Guardiola and City.

Aymeric Laporte flicked the ball off his arm towards Jesus and VAR quickly cleared up that it was a handball in the box. Incredible drama for the second time in three games for Spurs at Man City, and Guardiola, one of the biggest advocates for VAR, has been burned by it twice in damaging fashion.

Man City fans will point to Fernando Llorente’s handball in their UCL quarterfinal victory last season and why that wasn’t ruled out and that is a valid point. But under the PL’s laws with handballs in the box, Laporte handling the ball pushed it into the path of Jesus and without that knock off his arm, City don’t score. It is as simple as that.


CITY’S SHAKY DEFENSE WILL HOLD THEM BACK

There is a Vincent Kompany sized hole at the heart of Man City’s defense and Spurs made the most of it. Tottenham had two shots on target and scored with both, as Man City looked shaky with both Otamendi and Zinchenko caught out of position. Fernandinho‘s absence was also felt as Ilkay Gundogan and Rodri failed to stop Spurs’ counter attacks, especially in the second half.

City tried to sign Harry Maguire this summer and Virgil Van Dijk in the past and it is clear that Guardiola isn’t happy with John Stones, Otamendi and Laporte as his three first-choice center backs. City made live to regret not paying a little extra for Maguire this summer. It was an area they clearly needed to upgrade and they didn’t.


KEVIN DE BRUYNE RAN THE SHOW

Kevin de Bruyne’s return to full fitness is a massive boost for Man City this season. He grabbed two assists in the first half and absolutely ran the show with two moments of real quality.

The Belgian wizard had last season interrupted with two serious knee injuries, but he’s eager to make up for lost time after grabbing two assists last weekend and another two in Matchweek 2. De Bruyne’s pass to Sterling for the opener was brilliant but his cross for Aguero to double the lead was a thing of beauty.

De Bruyne’s precision was spot on, as usual, and he is coolness personified. The way he strokes the ball around is majestic.

It is absurd that Man City won three domestic trophies and racked up 98 points last season with De Bruyne only playing 19 PL games. Imagine what they can do, alongside David Silva, Bernando Silva, Raheem Sterling and Aguero, if he’s fit for the entire campaign.


SPURS FAIL TO FEED Harry Kane, AS AGUERO, GUARDIOLA FALL OUT

Christian Eriksen, Tanguy Ndombele and Erik Lamela failed to feed Harry Kane and their entire attacking unit faltered because in central midfield they were completely overrun. Harry Winks did his best to put out fires, but not having a true holding midfielder in the engine room hurts Spurs badly. Victor Wanyama, Eric Dier and even Moussa Sissoko aren’t the flashiest of players, but the balance of Spurs’ midfield was off and Kane was isolated for most of the game.

As for Man City’s top goalscorer and star striker, he may not be around for much longer. Aguero clashed with Guardiola as he was subbed off in the second half and there was a heated exchange between the two as they had to be separated.

You love to see the passion from both the manager and star striker, but with tension bubbling under the surface for years over Aguero’s playing style in a Pep side, this looked a lot more personal. In the coming weeks we will find out just how damaging this public spat will be for both Guardiola and Aguero.

What we learned from opening PL Saturday

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LONDON — The new Premier League campaign is off and running and we learned so much from the opening Saturday of the season.

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Hot takes: Aston Villa are probably going to finish in the top 10. Man City may well score 150 Premier League goals this season. Harry Kane will win the Golden Boot. And maybe we were all a little too hasty to write off the likes of Sheffield United, Brighton and Burnley before a ball was kicked…

What did we learn from the opening Saturday of the season?


VAR WORKED VERY, VERY WELL

This was the first weekend VAR was used across the Premier League and, all in all, it went very smoothly. In what was probably the most high-profile use of the new system, it was used to order a retake of a penalty kick which Sergio Aguero missed at West Ham. After two Hammers defenders encroached into the box, and were then able to get to the ball first after Fabianski’s save, they became active and VAR was used correctly.

From offside decisions to possible red cards, VAR was used quickly and efficiently and if you want a primer about how it’s going to work this season, click here. If the first week of VAR is anything to go by, the PL’s decision to wait to use this system has been proved correct.


MAN CITY OUTDO LIVERPOOL

Liverpool scored four, so Man City had to score five, didn’t they? After Liverpool’s first half blitz against Norwich led to a 4-1 win at Anfield on Friday, Man City destroyed West Ham 5-0 at the London Stadium on Saturday. Pep Guardiola‘s men stepped on the accelerator in the second half and with Sergio Aguero, Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan on the bench, plus Joao Cancelo, their strength in-depth is ridiculous. Raheem Sterling‘s hat trick was a thing of clinical beauty and Man City are in midseason form.

There are plenty of twists and turns ahead in the Premier League title race and it is clear, especially after the opening weekend, that Liverpool and Man City can beat most teams without getting out of second gear. City looked fresh and with Alisson going down injured against Norwich, you’d have to say it is advantage Man City after the opening weekend. One down, 37 to go…


NEW SEASON, SAME HARRY KANE

Harry Kane looked fit, sharp and hungry as Tottenham fought back to beat Aston Villa 3-1. Spurs didn’t start well but when they equalized through debutant Tanguy Ndombele, there was only one winner. Christian Eriksen‘s arrival off the bench made a massive difference and Kane pounced twice to finish clinically.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned

He missed two chances in the first half he would usually have scored, and even though he rarely scores in August, he grabbed two crucial late goals to send Spurs’ fans wild. Without Jan Vertonghen, Heung-Min Son and Dele Alli, Kane stood tall to lead Spurs to victory. Now he has had an entire summer to relax and recover, England’s star striker and everyone connected with Spurs will be hoping he can shake off his ankle injuries to lead them on a title push with Liverpool and Man City. Spurs have so many attacking options with the arrival of Giovani Lo Celso, plus Lucas Moura and Erik Lamela around, but Kane remains their biggest hope of silverware.


ASTON VILLA WILL BE DANGEROUS

As we are about to discuss below, the opening weekend usually springs a few surprises. Aston Villa looked like they would spring one of those at Tottenham. With 12 summer signings, it was difficult to know how Villa would line up but Dean Smith’s side put in a near-perfect away display. The last five minutes saw Harry Kane score twice and they lost 3-1. They scored early, sat back and soaked up pressure and looked dangerous on the counter as they built off Wesley‘s knockdowns. Jack Grealish was a beast in midfield, Tyrone Mings held things together at the back and Tom Heaton made a string of fine saves in the second half.

The team from England’s second city have a huge fanbase and the former European champions are a Premier League club. It is as a simple as that. With John Terry‘s influence on their defense obvious, the flair of Smith’s side is led by Grealish and there was a decent balance to Villa in the first 60 minutes before they ran out of steam. I’m not saying they’re going to be better than Wolves were last season, but a top 10 finish isn’t out of the question in 2019-20.


OPENING WEEKEND STAYS WEIRD

Burnley beating Southampton 3-0? Brighton winning 3-0 away at Watford? Yeah, I told you in this Matchweek 1 preview video to beware of upsets during the opening weekend and it didn’t disappoint. Burnley battered Saints in the second half as Ashley Barnes morphed into a clinical battering ram, and the Clarets were back to their gritty best in defense.

Brighton’s new boss Graham Potter caught everyone by surprise as the Seagulls grabbed their first win in 10 PL games, with that run stretching back to March. Everyone questioning the dismissal of Chris Hughton will now be served up a plate of humble pie as Brighton’s attacking masterclass (with pretty much exactly the same lineup Hughton was using last season) was hammered home by subs Florin Andone and club-record signing Neal Maupay who both scored.

Player ratings: Liverpool v Man City

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LONDON — Manchester City beat Liverpool 5-4 on penalty kicks to win the Community Shield, after an intense game between the Premier League’s top two teams from last season.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned

How did the players get on, out of 10?

Below we reveal our ratings from Wembley.


Liverpool

Alisson: 5 – Could have done better with Sterling’s goal and looked a little shaky.

Trent Alexander-Arnold: 6 – Rattled into some challenges but far from his usual marauding display.

Joe Gomez: 5 – Caught in possession a few times at center back and them moved out to right back.

Virgil Van Dijk: 7 – Stood tall and set up the equalizer. Classy player who grew into the game.

Andrew Robertson: 6 – Given a tough time by Bernardo Silva, but stood up to the challenge.

Jordan Henderson: 5 – Struggled to get going and took a knock in the second half.

Fabinho: 5 – Couldn’t stop City gliding through Liverpool’s defense.

Georginio Wijnaldum: 5 – Really struggled. Few loose touches and only player to miss a penalty.

Mohamed Salah: 7 – Could have scored three in the second half alone. Dangerous but didn’t score.

Roberto Firmino: 6 – One superb effort in the first half and decent movement, as always.

Divock Origi: 4 – His teammates couldn’t find his runs out wide. Ineffective.

Subs
Joel Matip on for Trent Alexander-Arnold (67′): 7 – Headed home the equalizer.
Naby Keita on for Fabinho (67′): 6 – Provided some surging runs. Good shot saved.
Adam Lallana on for Jordan Henderson (79′): N/A
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on for Divock Origi (79′): N/A
Xherdan Shaqiri on for Roberto Firmino (79′): N/A


Man City

Claudio Bravo: 7 – A few dodgy moments in the second half but saved the crucial spot kick. A very good back-up goalkeeper.

Kyle Walker: 6 – Dug deep defensively but rarely threatened going forward.

John Stones: 7 – Calm on the ball and did his best to hold City’s defense together.

Nicolas Otamendi: 6 – Dragged out of position quite a lot but made some great last-ditch interventions.

Oleksandr Zinchenko: 6 – Tough outing against Salah but kept plugging away. Scored his pen.

Rodri: 5 – Caught on the ball so many times. Has to get use to the pace of the game in England. Fast.

David Silva: 7 – Proper magician. Glides around the pitch with ease and set up Sterling’s goal.

Kevin De Bruyne: 8 – Constant threat, even though his final pass or shot was a little off.

Leroy Sane: 4 – Injured early on, which is a big shame. Last minutes in a Man City shirt?

Raheem Sterling: 8 – Scored one, but should have scored a few more. Superb pace, but poor finishing.

Bernando Silva: 7 – Another classy and tireless display. Criminally underrated.

Subs
Gabriel Jesus on for Leroy Sane (14′): 6 – Scored the winning penalty kick and put himself about.
Ilkay Gundogan on for David Silva (61′): 3 – One of the worst sub displays ever. Gave the ball away countless times. Scored his penalty kick though.
Phil Foden on for Kevin de Bruyne (89′): N/A

Guardiola labels Foden ‘the most talented player I’ve ever seen’

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Phil Foden may be just 19 years old, but not only has he forced his way into the Manchester City first-team squad, he’s also drawn spectacular praise from one of the world’s most renowned managers.

Speaking from Japan ahead of Manchester City’s friendly against J-League side Yokohama FM, Pep Guardiola called Foden “the most talented player I have ever seen,” quite high praise from a manager who has the likes of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Robert Lewandowski, Gerard Pique, and Manuel Neuer among others on his managerial resume over the course of his career.

In fact, Guardiola said the only person standing in Foden’s way at the moment is himself.

“He is the most talented player I have ever seen,” Guardiola said during his pre-match press conference. “His problem is sometimes his manager doesn’t put him in starting XI. He deserves all the minutes. He works incredibly. He knows I’m here to help him.”

Guardiola’s position is understandable given the talent in the squad at the attacking midfield position. Manchester City boasts Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan, and the departing David Silva all in a similar position, yet Foden saw 13 Premier League appearances last season and scored in his first start of the year, a massive goal in the 1-0 win over Spurs down the stretch of the title run.

“I am lucky to be part of it,” the 19-year-old said of the Man City squad while sitting alongside Guardiola in the pre-match press conference. “It is a special team. The success comes from the depth of the squad. Anyone who plays will put a shift in and play well.”

City’s match against Yokohama is their final preseason game, after which they will return to England to prepare for the Community Shield on August 4 against Liverpool followed by their first Premier League match against West Ham six days later.

Asia Trophy: Wolves top Man City on penalties

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The 2019 Premier League Asia Trophy wrapped up on Saturday, as four PL sides took the field in Shanghai, China…

[ MORE: Borussia Dortmund tops Liverpool 3-2 at Notre Dame ]

Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-0 (3-2 PKs) Man City

Wolves turned in a fantastic defensive display against the two-time reigning PL champions, indicating that Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side is very much ready for the start of the season. Man City had plenty of the ball in dangerous areas, but Wolves were quick to close off the passages when City typically dominate.

Wolves captain Conor Coady was part of the stellar defensive performance and he lauded some of the young players who entered the game as second-half substitutes and saw the game out to 0-0.

“To beat City at any point is a great accomplishment for us,” he said after the game. “We rode our luck at times but I thought the young boys were outstanding”

David Silva had perhaps the game’s best scoring chance in the 78th minute, but Rui Patricio made a top-drawer save to deny the Spaniard’s curling effort at the last possible moment.

Silva and Ilkay Gundogan began the penalty shootout with back-to-back efforts saved by Patricio. 20-year-old forward Lukas Nmecha was also denied on City’s fifth and final attempt.

Newcastle United 1-0 West Ham United

Newly appointed head coach Steve Bruce watched as an observer, due to “the terms of his visa,” as his Newcastle side beat Manuel Pellegrini‘s West Ham 1-0 in the third-place playoff.

Yoshinori Muto bagged the game’s only goal in the 34th minute. Jamie Sterry whipped in a cross from the right wing that curled around a pair of defenders at the near post and presented itself to Muto, still with plenty of work to do, for a first-time finish.