Lukas Nmecha

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Preseason roundup: Arsenal clobbers PSG, Liverpool swamps Man United

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The preseason is in full swing for Premier League teams, with the start of the 2018/19 campaign less than two weeks away.

Almost all top PL clubs were in action on Saturday somewhere around the world, with the International Champions Cup continuing to pit top teams against each other all across the globe.

Earlier in the day, Arsenal stomped new manager Unai Emery’s old club PSG 5-1 in Singapore in a game that actually started out in the French club’s favor. American Tim Weah started the match and was instrumental as PSG began on the front foot, but it all went wrong when Mesut Ozil scored in the 13th minute on a 2-on-1 counter-attack. It was 1-0 until after halftime when Arsenal ran riot, as Alexandre Lacazette bagged a pair plus efforts from Rob Holding and Eddie Nketiah. Holding’s goal especially was a thing of beauty, an absolutely stunning header from a good distance out that looped perfectly into the top-left corner. Mesut Ozil, fresh off his controversial international retirement, had an inspired performance for Arsenal while wearing the captain’s armband.

Chelsea drew with Inter 1-1 with their only goal scored by Pedro inside the opening 10 minutes. Alvaro Morata picked a defender’s pocket on the end line and shot from a tight angle, and Samir Handanovic’s save fell to Pedro who poked into the open net. The Italian side drew level just after halftime as the Blues were punished for a bad giveaway in their own half and Roberto Gagliardini slid it past Willy Caballero for the equalizer.

Liverpool and Manchester United met at the Big House in Michigan, and unlike many of this summer’s ICC matches, it was an exciting affair with Jurgen Klopp‘s men winning 4-1. Right from the start, both teams were flying, and it produced plenty in front of net. Liverpool forced Manchester United goalkeeper Lee Grant into some early saves, while a fabulous Alexis Sanchez long-ball saw the ball in the net but ruled out for the offside flag. Just before the half-hour mark, Liverpool drew first blood as Mohamed Salah was fouled by 21-year-old Demetri Mitchell and Sadio Mane bagged the effort from the spot. Manchester United responded almost immediately as 22-year-old Andreas Pereira unleashed a spectacular free-kick from 30 yards out.

After halftime, the pace dropped a bit and Sanchez struggled to influence things as he did in the first half. Liverpool capitalized and took off. New Reds signing Xherdan Shaqiri came on and made a difference, teeing up Daniel Sturridge for their second. A third came from the spot as Sheyi Ojo slotted it home, and then Shaqiri marked his Liverpool debut with a stunning bicycle kick to cap things off.

Manchester City picked up an impressive comeback against German giants Bayern Munich in Miami, Florida in a 3-2 victory, their final ICC match of the preseason. Both teams fielded relatively weak teams, and it resulted in an exciting match. Bayern took a 2-0 lead before halftime behind goals from 19-year-old Meritan Shebani and veteran Arjen Robben. Despite the scoreline, City was impressive in patches before the break, and they snagged one back before the break on a low drive by Bernardo Silva, who is seeing plenty of playing time this preseason. After halftime, Phil Foden put one on frame that Sven Ulreich parried directly into the path of 19-year-old Lukas Nmecha who brought City back level. They would win it on a second from Bernardo Silva, who somehow got a shot off through a double-team and past Ulreich to put City on top with 20 minutes to go.

Outside the ICC, Leicester City fell to Italian club Udinese 2-1 in Austria, held without a goal until Kelechi Iheanacho grabbed a consolation with a minute remaining in the match. Claude Puel named a strong side, with Kasper Schmeichel the only international left out of the squad, but they struggled to keep up. Wes Morgan was done for the first Udinese goal just four minutes in, while the Italians added a second before the break, with it clear that the Foxes need Maguire – who did not see time – to return along the back line. Leicester takes on Valencia on Wednesday to round off its preseason fixtures.

Still to come:

Barcelona vs. Tottenham Hotspur (Pasadena, CA) — 11:05 p.m. ET

Player ratings: Salah, Mane shine with brilliant second-half showings

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NEW JERSEY — The stars weren’t fully aligned on the pitch during Wednesday’s INternational Champions Cup clash at MetLife Stadium, but the three big names that did appear in the second half made for quite the entertainment.

[ MORE: Wing wizards Mahrez, Sane aim for Man City glory ]

Liverpool’s dynamic duo of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane completely altered the complexion of the match for the Reds, who went on to win the match 2-1 behind stellar performances from each man.

Salah’s ability to pick out the open spaces began to stretch the Citizens defensively, and the Egypt international created several dangerous chances, on top of his goal just moments after entering the match.

Meanwhile, Leroy Sane did well to introduce himself early in the second stanza, scoring 12 minutes after entering for Pep Guardiola‘s group.

Riyad Mahrez and Jack Harrison were among the tone-setters for City early on in the match, with Mahrez proving why the defending champions went out and spent significant funds on the Algerian.

Here are PST’s player ratings for Wednesday night’s all-PL ICC clash.

Manchester City

Claudio Bravo: 5
Jason Denayer: 5
Oleksandr Zinchenko: 5
Eric Garcia: 5
Cameron Humphreys: 5
Phil Foden: 5
Brahim Diaz: 4
Jack Harrison: 6
Riyad Mahrez: 6
Luke Bolton: 4
Lukas Nmecha: 5

Key Subs

Leroy Sane: 7


Loris Karius: 5
Andrew Robertson: 5
Virgil Van Dijk: 5
Joe Gomez: 5
Nathaniel Clyne: 5
Fabinho: 6
James Milner: 4
Georginio Wijnaldum: 5
Adam Lallana: 5
Curtis Jones: 5
Daniel Sturridge: 4

Key Subs

Sadio Mane: 7
Mohamed Salah: 8

Three things from Liverpool-Man City in ICC

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The Premier League season is just a few weeks away, and we got a slight glimpse of two of England’s heavyweights on Wednesday night in the International Champions Cup.

[ MORE: Mahrez, Sane eager for Man City glory ]

Liverpool topped Manchester City, 2-1, behind a late Sadio Mane penalty kick in second-half stoppage time, and there was a clear difference in the two sides after each manager made adjustments at halftime.

While both sides were without many of their notable players, Jurgen Klopp and the Reds fielded several familiar faces behind their front line, including defensively with Andrew Robertson and Virgil Van Dijk.

Meanwhile, the attention on the City side was drawn towards summer signing Riyad Mahrez, who looks to bring the reigning PL champions yet another threat heading into 2018/19.

Here are three key talking points from the Man City-Liverpool clash:

Klopp has treasures up front in Salah, Mane

Liverpool struggled to break down the City back line for much of the first half, which wasn’t entirely unexpected with many of the team’s reserves up front.

However, the brilliance of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane shone through in the second stanza.

Salah, who didn’t have the World Cup he had hoped for after returning from a shoulder injury, showed no ill effects from a long 2017/18 season at MetLife Stadium.

Just a minute after coming into the match, the Egyptian nodded home a header inside the six-yard box, before nearly scoring another header and striking post from distance on a third effort.

Meanwhile, Mane’s pace and vision continue to make Liverpool one of the biggest PL threats, and his combination play with Salah is something of pure genius.

While it’s unfair to assess Man City on the night due to its lack of many stars being in the team, Liverpool’s front men lived up to their end of the bargain as they prepare to dethrone the Citizens come next May.

Mahrez gives the Citizens another dimension

As if a team that scored 106 goals last season in England’s top flight needed another attacking figure, right?

Pep Guardiola‘s decision to go out and add Riyad Mahrez this summer has given Man City yet another key attacker to throw into his mixing bowl of talent, which already features Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne, Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus.

Albeit without much help offensively on Wednesday, Mahrez gave City a glimpse of just how dangerous he can be when linked up with the club’s first team.

The Algeria international found himself in several positions going forward that had Liverpool shaking in its boots, including an early first-half ball into Lukas Nmecha, that was nearly finished.

A glimpse of the title race

It’s difficult to ever take stock in preseason matches, but there’s little doubting the quality in both Man City and Liverpool’s squads heading into August.

While City’s move to acquire Mahrez dominated recent headlines, Liverpool made several great transfers of its own, bringing in Fabinho and Naby Keita to create an even more forceful midfield in 2018 and beyond.

Both clubs possess the best attacks in England, and possibly Europe, making them the heavy favorites to contend for the PL.

The various meetings between the sides last season in PL and Champions League play provided significant enjoyment for onlookers, and it’s hard to imagine this season will be any different.

Liverpool nips Man City in New Jersey

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Sadio Mane converted a Dominic Solanke-won stoppage time penalty as Liverpool beat Manchester City 2-1 in an International Champions Cup game in New Jersey on Wednesday.

Leroy Sane and Mohamed Salah traded goals early in the second half.

Man City started few familiar names, with Riyad Mahrez and Claudio Bravo the most experiences, while Liverpool used nine regulars from last season as well as new man Fabinho.

Second half subs included Sadio Mane and Dominic Solanke for Liverpool, while Pep Guardiola introduced Joe Hart, Bernardo Silva, Leroy Sane, and new signing Claudio Gomes.

[ MORE: Brighton breaks transfer record ]

Fabinho was fortunate to not give a penalty away to Lukas Nmecha within the first quarter hour. Riyad Mahrez found Nmecha in the box and Loris Karius put the rebound back to the player. Fabinho made contact with the back of Nmecha’s leg before the player popped the ball over a goal, but what followed was only a corner kick.

Fabinho then fouled former NYCFC midfielder Jack Harrison moments later.

Curtis Jones provided rare early danger for Liverpool, but Claudio Bravo had little trouble with the youngster’s shot.

Man City’s Riyad Mahrez was the bright spot of the first half hour for both teams.

Jones forced Bravo into another low save in the 33rd minute. He’d later be whistle for a perceived dive in the 43rd minute, but this was clearly a man not in the penalty-giving mood.

Liverpool made plenty of halftime changes, and Sadio Mane nearly scored in the 48th minute.

Caoimhin Kelleher stopped a Leroy Sane effort in the 53rd minute. At the other end, Solanke had a goal pulled back for offside.

That’s when Sane scored a beautiful goal, using his speed to get behind the Liverpool back line before hammering a shot inside the far post that bounded into the top of the goal.

Salah subbed into the game, and scored a headed goal moments later. He was offside, but the fans were pleased and the linesman didn’t spot it.

Salah could’ve made it two had a back post header not been cleared wide by Cameron Humphreys-Grant.

Liverpool was the better money for a goal over the rest of the match, Mane and Salah giving the American crowd plenty of reason to ooh and aah.

Solanke was taken down in stoppage time with a body check from Tosin Adarabioyo.

Pep pumped up as kids get away win

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Pep Guardiola says don’t even think about a quadruple — “Forget about it. That is not going to happen.” — but the fact remains a double is nearly on the doorstep.

Already unbeaten in league play with an 11-point lead on the field, Manchester City is now two round wins from a League Cup title following a quarterfinal win over Leicester City in penalty kicks.

[ RECAP: Leicester 1-1 (3-4 PKs) Man City ]

City did the job despite starting a bunch of kids and subbing in a few more. Oleksandr Zinchenko was impressive in the midfield, one of a few irregular starters including Tosin Adarabioyo, Brahim Diaz, and Phil Foden. Tom Dele-Bashiru and Lukas Nmecha subbed into the match, with the latter converting a penalty.

It’s all about trusting the kids — along with some steely vets in Yaya Toure and Ilkay Gundogan — and those youngsters probably should’ve won in regulation. Referee Bobby Madley gave a penalty to Demarai Gray for a very soft run-in with Kyle Walker in the sixth of eight minutes of stoppage time (in a 1-0 game where the goal came in the first half!).

Guardiola loved it, dancing on the field and gesticulating toward the visiting support. The kids had done it on the road.

From the BBC:

“I’m so happy. A lot of young players played. I’m so happy for all the players. The way we had to react was not easy, we were tired, we had a lot of young players, Danilo was playing at centre-back for the first time in his life. It’s not easy because Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez were there.

“What I liked the most is how we reacted and overcame that situation. It’s a good indication for the future. They showed me very good things. How you react is important and there were no complaints from the players in extra time about how it was unfair that they had scored a late goal.”

The Danilo comment shows another wise play by Guardiola who, in an emergency, has now taken another player and earned him experience against good competition at multiple positions.

It’s hard not to glow about Man City right now. Even those who want to rip Guardiola for only coaching big budget teams can’t say much about a win like Tuesday’s at the King Power Stadium.