John McGinn

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Euro qualifying: Hazard stars for Belgium, Wales grabs big win

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The early slate of Euro 2020 qualifiers on Saturday saw a few teams assure themselves of a playoff position as the qualifying cycle nears a close.

Wales was assured of at least a playoff spot after Sweden topped Romania yesterday, but they continued a push towards automatic qualification by topping Azerbaijan 2-0. Wigan striker Kieffer Moore opened the scoring 10 minutes in as Harry Wilson nearly bagged a stunning strike from outside the box, but his curler struck the underside of the bar, then the inside of the post, and came out. Moore was there to head home the rebound and Wales had the lead. They doubled that lead before halftime as Bournemouth’s Wilson would get his goal, and Wales saw out the rest of the match to move one point back of Hungary in an automatic qualifying position.

Belgium has already qualified for the finals, but Roberto Martinez’s side continued its good form with a romping 4-1 win over Russia behind a brace from Eden Hazard. Romelu Lukaku also scored in the match, while Thorgan Hazard bagged a goal as well. The win assured Belgium of the top spot in Group I, moving six points ahead of their opponents.

Scotland picked up a gutty road win at Cyprus 2-1 behind John McGinn‘s 53rd minute winner, jumping into third place in Group I, although they have already secured a playoff position thanks to their Nations League results. Ryan Christie and Georgios Efrem had cancelled each other out before Aston Villa’s McGinn poked home Greg Taylor’s cross from near the penalty area to put the visitors ahead for good in Nicosia.

Slovenia needs a miraculous comeback to qualify for the finals, but they stayed alive and in contention with a 1-0 win at Latvia behind an Igors Tarasovs own-goal in the 53rd minute. The victory pushed Slovenia to 14 points, two back of second-placed Austria in Group G and five behind Poland, but the top two teams in the group still have yet to play today and could both secure qualification wins.

Elsewhere, in a result with little effect on the qualification process, Kazakhstan topped San Marino 3-1 in a matchup of two eliminated teams.

PL AT HALF: Man City, Liverpool behind at the break

Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images
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The Premier League is very much dealing in unpredictability on Saturday, where Liverpool and Manchester City sit behind the 8-ball after 45 minutes of play.

[ MORE: Solskjaer reacts to loss ]

Elsewhere, Arsenal leads despite the visiting Wolves looking quite good, Newcastle has two and may well have had four at West Ham, while Sheffield United has a lead at Burnley.

Only one match remains 0-0.


Arsenal 1-0 Wolves – CNBC [STREAM]

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has another goal, and he found the finishing easy after some fine work from Alexandre Lacazette.

Aston Villa 1-0 Liverpool [STREAM]

Trezeguet collects a John McGinn free kick and beats Alisson Becker between the legs to open the scoring at Villa Park.

Brighton 0-0 Norwich –  [STREAM]

Nothing cooking at the Amex.

Sheffield United 3-0 Burnley[STREAM]

Fantasy darling John Lundstram is on the board twice for the Blades against Sean Dyche‘s visitors, with John Fleck adding a third.

West Ham United 0-2 Newcastle United[STREAM]

The center backs are on the board, as Newcastle has its first multi-goal game of the season through Ciaran Clark and Federico Fernandez.

Manchester City 0-1 Southampton – NBCSN [STREAM]

Stuart Armstrong‘s rain-soaked rip was fumbled by Ederson and James Ward-Prowse bundled home to give Saints a surprising lead

Man City ease by Aston Villa, close gap at the top

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Manchester City beat Aston Villa 3-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday as Pep Guardiola‘s side cut the gap to league leaders Liverpool to three points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The reigning Premier League champs scored three times in the second half as Villa were stubborn but barely threatened in attack. Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne (it looked like David Silva got the final touch) and Ilkay Gundogan grabbed the goals for City as they won with minimum fuss. Fernandinho was sent off for a second yellow card, which means he will miss the League Cup game against Southampton in midweek.

Man City now have 22 points from their opening 10 games of the season, while Villa remain on 11 points.


3 things we learned

1. Sterling’s incredible season continues: Sterling has scored 13 times in 14 appearances in all competitions so far this season. That is an amazing start for the winger. Sterling’s ability to finish chances has improved dramatically and he’s even angry at himself for not scoring or creating more. He is now so efficient in the final third and was so dangerous as Villa didn’t know what to do with him.

2. Man City put the pressure on Liverpool: A few weeks ago City were out of the title race and everyone was handing the trophy to Liverpool. If Jurgen Klopp‘s men slip up against Spurs on Sunday, their lead atop the table could be cut to three or four points. Man City look comfortable at being the hunters, just as they proved last season. It almost helps Guardiola’s men as they crank through the gears and there is extra intensity to their game. City would love to be leading the PL but after their shock defeat against Wolves they have responded well.

3. Villa will be top 10 contenders: They kept City out for 45 minutes but one lapse in concentration cost Aston Villa. Dean Smith will be disappointed with that but he knows that getting points against Man City this week and Liverpool next week would a be a bonus. The newly-promoted side look capable of taking care of business against teams in the bottom half of the table and Villa look set to challenge for a top 10 finish.

Man of the Match: Raheem Sterling – His incredible goalscoring exploits are backed up by his dangerous runs, passes and movement in the final third. He is in the form of his life and driving City on. Superb display.


Man City should have taken the lead as Sterling and David Silva set up the chance and Jesus fired a shot inches wide.

Sterling’s shot then deflected off Bjorn Engels arm and wide and although the home players appealed for a penalty kick, VAR checked and waved the calls away.

On the break Aston Villa almost took the lead as John McGinn curled a powerful shot towards the bottom corner which Ederson saved and on the rebound VAR was used as Douglas Luiz claimed he was taken down by a combination of Fernandinho and Joao Cancelo.

Villa then appealed for another penalty kick as Trezeguet’s was blocked by John Stones but nothing was given, and at the other end Sterling flicked a header just wide after good play from Benjamin Mendy and Silva.

David Silva went close just before the break as he somehow put his shot wide after Sterling’s trickery, as Villa left City frustrated.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

It took 30 seconds of the second half for City to take the lead as Ederson’s clearance was flicked on by Jesus and Sterling finished to make it 1-0. Easy.

Mendy then had a shot across goal deflected wide as City piled on the pressure, the Engels gave the ball away and Jesus’ shot was saved by Heaton then somehow cleared off the line by Mings.

Villa remained dangerous on the break but City wrapped up the win as De Bruyne’s cross seemed to flick off David Silva’s foot and after a lengthy VAR check with Sterling close to touching the ball from an offside position, the goal stood. 2-0.

Gundogan made it 3-0 soon after as KDB’s corner was kept alive by Fernandinho who whipped the ball across goal and the German midfielder finished in style. Game. Set. Match.

Late on Fernandinho was sent off for picking up a second yellow card, while substitute Phil Foden twice went close, Jesus hit the bar and McGinn hit the post in a wild finale.

Top Premier League storylines: Week 10

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Matchweek 10 of the 2019-20 Premier League season sees the games spread across three days

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

Below we take a look at the key storylines to keep an eye on across the PL this weekend.


Liverpool and Spurs meet in repeat of UCL final

  • Liverpool v. Tottenham, Sunday, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC

Since Liverpool’s narrow win against Tottenham in the UEFA Champions League final in Madrid in June these two teams have headed in very different directions. Spurs have been heading in a downward spiral since January, and heading into this clash Liverpool remain unbeaten this season and top of the PL table. But there have been a few cracks appearing for Jurgen Klopp‘s side as they drew with Man United last time out and have got the rub of the green in recent wins against Sheffield United and Leicester. Spurs haven’t had much luck with injuries, on the pitch and the fact that Mauricio Pochettino seems to be battling against a constant stream of negativity.

Much has been made about several stars soon being out of contract, with the futures of Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderwiereld and Danny Rose still up in the air. Spurs have shown signs of regaining their confidence and they’ve fared well against Liverpool in recent seasons. Harry Kane will need to be at his best in terms of finishing and creating, while Mohamed Salah being back for Liverpool is a big boost as their fluid front three was back to its best at Genk. These teams are heading in two different directions since the dour, tense final in Madrid four months ago. But we can expect a similarly tight encounter at Anfield this Sunday.


Man City hope to cut the gap to three points

  • Manchester City v. Aston Villa, Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

Liverpool’s main title rivals, once again, are Man City. The reigning champs showed plenty of grit to win 2-0 at Crystal Palace last time out and they have the chance to momentarily cut Liverpool’s lead atop the table to three points. They host Aston Villa on Saturday, an in-form and dangerous attacking team who have found their feet in the top-flight. Jack Grealish, Wesley and John McGinn will look to create danger for City’s makeshift defense, but we’re not sure how Pep Guardiola will line his defense up after yet another injury. Rodri, playing as an emergency center back, hobbled off in the midweek UCL win against Atalanta and Fernandinho and John Stones are likely to be the center back pairing against Villa. That was a shame as Rodri and Fernandinho had looked comfortable against Palace, albeit against a less than ambitious Palace attack, but whenever Stones or Nicolas Otamendi have played this season, City’s defense looks shaky. In truth, their attacking talents of Sterling, Aguero, De Bruyne and the Silva’s are in form and capable of ripping opponents apart. City will look to score early and break Villa’s resistance as they put a little more pressure on Liverpool ahead of their game against Spurs, and before they host Man City at Anfield on Nov. 10.


Arsenal aim to get back on track, but wary of away day specialists

  • Arsenal v. Crystal Palace, Sunday, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Unai Emery and Granit Xhaka have come out in support of Arsenal during the week as pundits (in particular Patrice Evra) have criticized their backbone away from home. The Gunners have won just three of their last 11 Premier League away games and at Sheffield United they were guilty of lacking creativity in attack, being outfought in midfield and showing hesitancy in defense. Not a great combo… The Gunners face a team who love playing away, with Crystal Palace picking up the third-highest number of points on the road since January. Wilfried Zaha is almost back to his best and Roy Hodgson‘s side relish the tag of being the underdog. That is something this Arsenal side first under Arsene Wenger and now under Emery have never seemed capable of grasping. Their star players Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Matteo Guendouzi are trying to hold things together as best as they can, but with criticism of Emery growing, the best way his players can support him is by getting a much-needed hefty win against Palace. Their narrow victories against Newcastle, Burnley and Bournemouth have been far from convincing and it’s time for this Arsenal team to put aside their egos and dig deep. We know they have the talent to be in the top four, but do they have the grit?


Chelsea’s youngsters aim to stay humble

  • Burnley v. Chelsea, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC

Frank Lampard‘s youngsters are flying high after six wins on the trot in all competitions and their best win to date came away at Ajax on Wednesday. Inspired by Christian Pulisic and Michy Batshuayi who combined for the latter to score the win and put them on course to reach the UCL last 16, this young Blues side is showing plenty of grit. They will need all of that, and then some, if they’re going to extend their winning run at Turf Moor on Saturday. What you see is what you get from the Clarets. They work hard, Sean Dyche has them solid defensively and Chris Wood will bully you and win balls in the air to score or create goalscoring chances. Jorginho has been impressive in breaking up play, with and without N’Golo Kante, and he will need to plenty of the dirty work before helping the Blues launch searing counters for Callum Hudson-Odoi, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham to make the most of. Lampard’s youngsters have taken a while to find their stride but that was inevitable. Now they’re in full flow, they look the most likely to finish third. The season is still early and picking up a win at Burnley would underline this young Chelsea side are growing up fast. Lampard has urged caution and wants the Blues to stay humble.

Early Euro qualifiers: Belgium, Netherlands, Russia all win

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In the early slate of Sunday’s Euro 2020 qualifiers, there were little surprises as Belgium, Russia, Hungary, the Netherlands, and Scotland all found the winner’s column.

Liverpool midfielder Giorginio Wijnaldum bagged a first-half brace, including an absolute rocket, as the Netherlands held on for a 2-1 win over Belarus. BATE Borisov midfielder Stanislav Dragun grabbed one back for Belarus soon after halftime, but the visitors held on in Minsk.

[ WATCH: Wijnaldum scores ripper for Netherlands ]

Virgil Van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt partnered in defense yet again, as they have for 17 of the last 19 Netherlands games, conceding just 17 goals in those 17 matches. Thanks in part to that stellar partnership, Jasper Cillessen had little to do, with Dragun’s headed goal the only shot on target for Belarus in the match, while the Netherlands put seven of their 21 shots on frame.

Michy Batshuayi and Thomas Meunier both found the back of the net as Belgium topped Kazakhstan 2-0 in Astana to remain perfect in qualifying action and keep pace with Russia in Group I. Batshuayi was filling in for an injured Romelu Lukaku, and he latched onto a low back-post cross from Dennis Praet for the opener 21 minutes in. Meunier’s 53rd minute poke came off an absolutely stunning long delivery from Eden Hazard to the far post placed perfectly over the head of the defender. Belgium held 66% possession throughout the match, and while they were only able to put three shots on target, they scored on two of them and held the hosts to just one. Belgium has now scored 30 goals in Euro qualification while conceding just one.

Russia also continued to surge ahead in Group I play one game back of Belgium with a 5-0 demolition of Cyprus in Nicosia. Denis Cheryshev struck nine minutes in to put Russia ahead as he pilfered the ball off the Cyprus back line. The hosts lost Standard Liege defender Konstantinos Laifis to a straight red card, and the rest was elementary. Magomed Ozdoev, Artem Dzyuba, and Aleksandr Golovin all found the back of the net before Cheryshev finished it off with his second of the game in stoppage time. Russia and Belgium have both qualified for the finals, with Russia sitting in second three points behind the perfect group leaders.

Hungary scored 10 minutes in and hung on for a 1-0 victory at home over Azerbaijan. 30-year-old Mihaly Korhut struck a long-distance ripper from well outside the box that appeared to catch goalkeeper Emil Balayev off guard, and the Hungary defense did the rest. RB Leipzig captain Willi Orban and Sporting Kansas City defender Botond Barath held Azerbaijan to just four total shots, including two on target. Meanwhile, despite splitting the possession nearly halfway, Hungary ripped off 23 shots, putting six on target.

Scotland hammered San Marino at home 6-0 behind a first-half hat-trick from Aston Villa midfielder John McGinn. In the pouring rain in Glasgow, McGinn opened the scoring 12 minutes in for his second international goal on a simple cutback and shot from Ryan Christie which clipped McGinn on its way inside the far post. He hit for a second just before the half-hour mark as he poked home a cross by Scott McTominay that was saved into no-man’s land by a diving San Marino goalkeeper Aldo Junior Simoncini. The third featured the highest degree of difficulty as a set-piece delivery into the box was headed by Stuart Findlay towards the far post and McGinn ripped it home on the doorstep under pressure. Lawrence Shankland, Findlay, and Stuart Armstrong finished off the scoreline in the second half, although Scotland has still long been eliminated from qualification in the top-heavy Group I.