Josip Ilicic

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10-man Man City fails in bid to clinch Champions League group

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An injury and red card meant Manchester City defender Kyle Walker finished the day in goal for the 10-man visitors in a 1-1 UEFA Champions League draw with Atalanta at Atleti Azzurri d’Italia on Wednesday.

Raheem Sterling scored in the 7th minute of Wednesday’s match in Bergamo, the sort of dispiriting perfect team goal which can make an opposition close up shop.

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But Atalanta did not do that, drawing level through Chelsea loanee Mario Pasalic and having a huge opportunity to take all three points when Claudio Bravo, on the pitch because Ederson was injured, was sent off for a DOGSO foul.

City is still sitting pretty with a five-point lead on both Dinamo Zagreb and Shakhtar Donestk, but will rue not killing off both sides’ chances of winning the group.

Three things we learned

1. First mission accomplished of season delayed: A win in Atalanta would have clinched a seeded place in the knockout rounds, but City just didn’t have their A or B game in Bergamo. Give plenty of credit to Atalanta, who started the group stage 0-3 and was humiliated by City in Manchester, but Guardiola won’t be happy with the knowledge that a 3-3 draw between 10-man sides Dinamo Zagreb and Shakhtar Donetsk opened the door to the possibility of not needing to pay any attention to the final two group stage matches.

2. Kyle Walker can catch: Guardiola took off Ederson at halftime, and Man City almost immediately handed an equalizer to the hosts when Pasalic beat Bravo.

City was not good on the day, and their poor day was further dramatized when Ilkay Gundogan‘s bad giveaway allowed Ilicic 1v1 with Bravo. The referee had little choice but to give the Chilean a red card for a sliding challenge on Ilicic, and Walker entered the fray after a long delay.

Wearing a C. Bravo 1 jersey, Walker bobbled but saved the ensuing free kick and caught the only other shot put in his direction over the final few minutes.

3. Sterling continues Serie A mastery: Sterling played a role in all five of Manchester City’s goals when Atalanta visited the Etihad Stadium the last UEFA Champions League match day, so it’s no surprise he’s brought that form to Italy.

Man of the Match: The answer is Pasalic, who was very good, but you’re nuts if you think we’re not putting this award directly into the hands of Kyle “C. Bravo 1” Walker.


Coming on the heels of his 3-goal, 2-assist performance in Manchester against the Serie A side, Atalanta will be seeing ghosts after Sterling stayed patient with a run into the 18 to fire home.

Sterling knew Gabriel Jesus‘ clever back heel was coming after Bernardo Silva’s incisive pass into the 18, and City will have a commanding five-point lead atop the group is the day’s results hold firm.

And more importantly, a couple more early goals could allow Guardiola to pull Sterling and a few other stars ahead of Sunday’s big match at Liverpool.

That certainly did not happen. Man City’s Gabriel Jesus missed a penalty kick before halftime, and Atalanta tightened up and was probably unfortunate not to find a winner.

Full credit to City for dealing with Walker’s absence, keeping the ball in the corner for most of the final moments of the match.

UEFA World Cup Qualifying: Home favorites including England, Germany dominate

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It was a good day to be on home soil as home teams won eight of the nine UEFA World Cup qualifiers on Monday afternoon. Most teams were expected to win handily, and that they did, with two four-goal margins of victory, two three-goal margins, and one six-goal margin.

England 2-1 Slovakia

Marcus Rashford shook off a poor start to score a fabulous winning goal, bursting into the attacking third and finishing expertly into the top corner as England moved five points clear at the top of Group F with a big 2-1 victory over 2nd place Slovakia.

The home side went down in just the third minute, as Rashford inadvisably tried to dribble out of his own half, instead dispossessed, and a wonderful ball over the top saw Stanislav Lobotka score around a poor Joe Hart. England fought back, however, as they would level things up before halftime with Eric Dier heading in a corner from a tight angle. Then Rashford’s goal on the hour mark signaled the winning touch.

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Germany 6-0 Norway

The defending World Cup champions rolled from start to finish as they trounced Norway to move closer to mathematical qualification. Timo Werner scored twice and goals from Mesut Ozil, Julian Draxler, Leon Goretzka, and Mario Gomez rounded out the match.

The win keeps Germany five points clear of Northern Ireland, with everyone else in the group eliminated.

Northern Ireland 2-0 Czech Republic

Northern Ireland kept its automatic qualification hopes alive with a smooth 2-0 win over the Czech Republic. Jonny Evans scored a diving header from a tight angle to start things off, and Chris Brunt dispatched a bouncing free-kick just before halftime. The win is the fifth in a row for Northern Ireland in UEFA qualification.

Poland 3-0 Kazakhstan

A trio of strikes from Arkadiusz Milik, Kamil Glik, and Robert Lewandowski saw Poland ease by Group E minnows Kazakhstan. Milik hit a diving header similar to Evans’ 11 minutes in, and as Poland pummeled David Loria’s net all game, they would eventually grab a second in the 74th minute with Glik delivering a powerful header off a corner. Lewandowski finished things off from the spot with four minutes remaining.

Poland’s position is still in question as they sit just three points above both Montenegro and Denmark in Group E.

Scotland 2-0 Malta

Christophe Berra and Leigh Griffiths gave Scotland a comprehensive win over point-less Malta. The win keeps Scotland alive in crowded Group F, even on points with Slovenia at 14 and a point back of 2nd place Slovakia.

Armenia 1-4 Denmark

Denmark got a quick scare as lowly Armenia scored just six minutes in, but they righted the ship not long later and cruised to a 4-1 victory. After Ruslan Koryan’s opener, Thomas Delaney scored not 10 minutes later with his head to level things back up, with the assist coming from a deep Henrik Dalsgaard cross. Christian Eriksen provided the eventual winner in the 29th minute via a free-kick, but the day was Delaney’s. He scored his second on an impressive left-footed drive from outside the box, and picked up his hat-trick in stoppage time heading in off a corner.

Just Friday, Delaney had picked up his first goal for Denmark in his 18th cap, and the hat-trick makes this a memorable international break for the Werder Bremen midfielder.

Montenegro 1-0 Romania

Stevan Jovetic grabbed the game’s only goal in the 75th minute as Montenegro picked up all three points to keep pace with Denmark. The former Manchester City man headed in a cross from Lazio winger Adam Marusic to secure the vital win. The game featured plenty of wastefulness from both sides, with the teams combining for 27 shots, but just five of them on target.

Slovenia 4-0 Lithuania

Slovenia kept in stride with Slovakia as they downed eliminated Lithuania on a pair from Atalanta attacker Josip Ilicic, plus late goals from Benjamin Verbic and Valter Birsa. The brace doubled Ilicic’s international goal tally in his 45th cap, and keeps Slovenia even with Scotland on points and just one back of Slovakia, with all three countries trailing England in Group F.

Azerbaijan 5-1 San Marino

Azerbaijan may be eliminated, but they showed strength as they brushed aside Group C minnows San Marino. Afran Ismayilov hit twice while Araz Abdullayev and Rasad Sadiqov each added to the goal tally which was rounded off by an own-goal.