Armond pulls one back before Foden restores two-goal lead
Second-half goals from Leroy Sane and Phil Foden ended Newport County’s game effort for a shock defeat of Manchester City in FA Cup fifth round action at Rodney Parade on Saturday.
Sane hit a close-range shot off the nose of Exiles’ keeper Joe Day and into the goal, as City finally found a goal on the beat-up shared rugby pitch, and Foden hit a bounding shot past Day with just over a quarter-hour to play in the 4-1 win.
Newport County’s goal came when Padraig Armond hit a loose ball off Aymeric Laporte, over Ederson, and into the goal. But Foden completed his brace with a dribble and finish off the ensuing kickoff, and Mahrez blistered the back of the net with a stoppage time finish.
City moves onto the quarterfinals, where they’ll join Watford, Brighton and Hove Albion, and Millwall.
Newport was up for the challenge, at least early, and their rugged pitch certainly helped close the gap between the first- and fourth-tier English sides.
In fact, a terrific glove save from Ederson kept City level just after the quarter-hour mark. Mickey Demetriou’s long throw made its way to Tyreeq Bakinson, but the latter’s header was stymied by City’s Brazilian backstop.
A lively Riyad Mahrez was a consistent threat for City in the early stages, having one shot turned out for a corner and blazing a left-footed effort wide from atop the 18.
Despite the Algerian’s best efforts, Michael Flynn’s men took the match to halftime 0-0.
City broke through via Sane, whose tight-angled shot bloodied Joe Day’s nose on the way into the goal.
Gonzalo Higuain has been linked with a move to Chelsea almost all winter, and all signs point to a move away from the San Siro any day now. The 31-year-old striker was left out of the AC Milan squad to take on Genoa on Monday, the most recent sign of his imminent departure.
In his pre-match press conference, Milan manager Gennaro Gattuso spoke about the likely move, saying angrily, “I spoke in my office with Higuain and it is right to leave him out. We are still waiting on the move and there’s nothing completed but I want to see people who are mentally ready and available and if I don’t get that, I’ll go into battle with those who are more prepared.”
Chelsea has had trouble finding a productive striker of late, with Alvaro Morata benched for poor performance. With Olivier Giroud injured and inconsistent, Maurizio Sarri has utilized Eden Hazard as a false nine, and the result has been just five goals over the last six matches across all competitions.
Manchester City is reportedly looking to find a player to back up defensive midfielder Fernandinho, and the name mentioned is Schalke’s Sebastian Rudy.
The 28-year-old German arrived at Schalke from Bayern Munich this past summer, but has logged just 644 league minutes. While Rudy likely wouldn’t find the starting lineup more often at the Etihad, Pep Guardiola is known for his effective player rotation at Man City, and the club could tempt him with a title race.
Fernandinho has been one of the world’s best defensive midfielders over the past few years, but with the Brazilian on the sideline for two matches earlier this season, Manchester City dropped both games and slipped behind Liverpool in the title race. Center-back John Stones was utilized in the defensive midfield role in Fernandinho’s absence, but Crystal Palace and Leicester City scored a combined five goals.
According to multiple reports in England, a short-term loan would be effective in giving Fernandinho cover for the rest of the season as City looks to catch up with Liverpool and hold of Tottenham, Chelsea, and Arenal.
Arsenal fans were put on alert with Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti in attendance at the Emirates for Arsenal’s win over Chelsea. The French defender is currently injured, and with Barcelona playing on Sunday, Umtiti was able to make his way to England and watch his countrymates Laurent Koscielny and Alexandre Lacazette.
It would be highly unlikely for Umtiti to move this winter, as he is vitally important to the Barcelona squad and is out injured for another few weeks due to a long-term knee problem. It’s plausible Arsenal could make a play over the summer, but given how Barcelona’s defense has sagged in his absence, it’s unlikely the La Liga leaders would be willing to let him go. Umtiti’s contract with Barcelona runs through the summer of 2023, so he is under clear club control for the time being.
Rumblings in England have suggested that Tottenham defender and American international Cameron Carter-Vickers could leave Spurs this winter after the club has decided the 21-year-old will not break into the first team. According to a report by TeamTalk.com, Wigan Athletic could be in play for a permanent move for Carter-Vickers, who is currently on loan at Swansea City, but has struggled for playing time with the Championship club.
The American was also linked with Ipswich Town earlier this January, although that was mentioned as another loan. Either way, it sounds increasingly likely that Spurs could recall Carter-Vickers and look for a new club to deploy him at this winter.
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.
*record scratch* You’re probably wondering how I got here. Let me explain.
The first tweet above refers to a goal Jermaine Defoe scores for Sunderland (remember them?) on the opening day of the 2016/17 season. Manchester City won the game 2-1, but it wasn’t Stones’ best moment since arriving at Manchester City just four days prior. Jack Rodwell receives the ball about 23 yards from goal, and Stones steps to close him down, leaving acres of space behind him. Bacary Sagna (remember him?) does poorly to stay with his man Defoe, but the Sunderland poacher immediately occupies the space vacated by Stones and scores on the through-ball which the England defender fails to prevent.
Mistakes like this were all too common for Stones, who cost a heaping $64 million from Everton. He was still just 21 years old at the time, and looked completely lost. He was billed as a defender who could play with the ball at his feet and thus would fit perfectly into Pep Guardiola‘s system. Man City’s own club release announcing the signing referred to him as “one of the world’s most promising centre backs” and specifically mentioned “Stones has built a reputation as a ball-playing, 21st century defender, equally adept at neutralizing opposition attacks as launching the first key pass out of the defensive third.”
None of that was evident at the start. I jumped to conclusions.
Every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The middle features just two words: Pep Guardiola.
Every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The end of this story is not yet written, but there is an outline for sure. John Stones, the bumbling 21-year-old who made countless positional mistakes and looked hopelessly lost in Pep Guardiola’s system, is now one of the world’s best central defenders. No, that’s not a hyperbole. He’s a strong Team of the Season candidate and one of the first names on the teamsheet of one of the Premier League’s best-ever constructed squads. Adding to the resume, he was a critical member of England’s World Cup squad that made the semifinals.
Case in point, his performance against Liverpool, which was fabulous. First, the obvious: Stones completed 94/99 passes, was a perfect 9-of-9 clearing the ball, won both his aerial duels, was not dispossessed once, and helped keep Roberto Firmino to a generally minimal threat, with the Brazilian’s goal only coming while he was marked by Vincent Kompany.
To dig a little deeper, here’s just one more fine-tuned reason why Pep loves Stones. This astute find from Statsbomb writer Nico Morales shows how his vision has not just improved, but taken a leap of faith.
The line from Stones to Laporte is pretty telling. Salah did somewhat of a bad job shutting off the pass behind him and Stones is at least part god. https://t.co/zeXz6novwR
Nico is exactly right. Stones connected with left-back Aymeric Laporte seven times in the game, all switches of play from Stones at RCB to Laporte on the left flank. That pass is vital to Manchester City as they look to break Liverpool’s press. That pass is meant to be taken away by the high positioning of the striker (in this case, as Morales points out, Salah), but Stones managed to find it anyways. In addition, Stones found Leroy Sane on the left flank three times, an even more difficult alleyway to navigate.
In addition, Stones no longer makes the positional mistakes we became so numb to his freshman year at the Etihad. Last year during their dominant title run, Manchester City conceded a league-low 27 goals through the 38 matches, and while Stones struggled that campaign with injuries, he put in nine full-90 minute performances in Premier League play, six of which finished in clean sheets.
Stones’ most notable play of the Liverpool match was a perfect encapsulation of his career path at Manchester City. After being admittedly beaten by Sadio Mane, he put enough pressure on the Liverpool winger to (together with a charging Ederson) force him into hitting the post. Stones then attempted to clear the ball by clattering it straight into Ederson’s body, looping the ball towards his own net. He then rushed back to clear the ball off the line, literally millimeters (11 of them, to be exact) from the game’s first goal.
He’s not the sexiest player on the field. In the win over Liverpool, Bernardo Silva got plenty of (deserved) plaudits for running his absolute socks off (he ran the furthest distance of any player in any Premier League match this season). Sergio Aguero scored a ridiculous(ly important) goal. Leroy Sane’s winner came from a moment of far-post ingenuity. Even Vincent Kompany was lauded for his hard work, his clearing ability, and his physical tenacity that nearly netted him a sending off. Stones, on the other hand, plods along doing the little things that help the Man City Machine continue to churn. It’s not even dirty work – which often earns recognition in its own right (see: Silva, Bernardo) – it’s just plain old work.
While many consider Raheem Sterling‘s development as Pep Guardiola’s most impressive individual coaching job at Manchester City – and there’s a good argument to be made there – it is of this writer’s belief that Guardiola’s crowning achievement thus far at City is the building of The Stones Wall. From 21-year-old project (a “poor buy” as one nameless dope put it) to 24-year-old superstar, John Stones has truly developed into one of the world’s best central defenders, and there’s still room to grow.
MANCHESTER — As the final whistle blew at the Etihad Stadium, the roars of delight into the crisp, clear night sky proved that new life had been breathed into the Premier League title race.
The 90 minutes of action between Manchester City and Liverpool was of the highest quality and was one of the most gripping encounters in recent memory.
The atmosphere crackled throughout and it felt like a cup final. Pep Guardiola said afterwards that “it was a final for us because lose and it was almost over. Now it is tight again.” His team showed incredible hunger, something they haven’t had week in, week out this season, and outworked Liverpool to secure victory.
The pace was incredible. Players set new records for distance covered this season. Managers clashed with officials on the sidelines. The tension was palpable. So much was on the line, especially for City, that every miscue, every chance, was jeered and cheered in equal measure.
All of this happened after a gruelling set of festive fixtures over the past two weeks. It was utterly gladiatorial and was unquestionably the Premier League at its very best.
Manchester City beat Liverpool 2-1 to handle the latter their first defeat of the league season and with 17 games remaining City are now just four points behind the current leaders.
Game on for the rest of the season. And this game lived up to the hype.
These two teams are clearly the best two teams in the Premier League. Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp are master tacticians who have created winning machines. Guardiola and Klopp lavished praised on each other before this game and both teams went out to win, and could have, in an intense, beautiful battle.
“We reduce the gap, still four points is enough points to be calm but it is a good moment to congratulate and say thank you to these incredible players,” Guardiola said afterwards. “Today they show how good they are, they play against an incredible team. It was a good spectacle and both teams play to win.”
Something had to give. In the end, it was the posts at one of end the pitch which blew this title race open.
Sadio Mane‘s first half shot hit the post and was hacked off the line by John Stones. Leroy Sane’s shot hit the other post late on and pinged into the other corner of the net to hand City victory.
“Pretty intense, eh?” smiled Klopp. “It had wild moments, both teams obviously have a lot of respect for each other and yeah, we played better games but we took the intensity today and I thought at the end City had more situations where they controlled the game but we had these moments as well. Not as long or often as City, but it is an away game so that is absolutely okay. At the end you can say the post in or post out can make a massive difference.”
Vincent Kompany could well have seen red in the first half for his lunging tackle on Mohamed Salah. City took the lead after a moment of brilliance from Sergio Aguero. We had Stones’ amazing clearance with a slither of the ball not over the line. Fernandinho crunching into tackles. Bernardo Silva covering every blade of grass. Amazing saves and poor decisions from both Ederson and Alisson. Late goalmouth scrambles as Liverpool pushed for a killer equalizer. Rapid City counters as they tried to seal the win.
It was the Premier League at is breathtaking, dizzying best and the best thing about a Man City win was this: we will now get to see both teams involved in massive games between now and May knowing any slip-up will render their previous efforts pointless.
The title race is well and truly on and we are all the big winners from Man City’s deserved, encapsulating win.