Kyle Walker

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Walker, Mendy react to wild GK day; Pep updates Ederson status

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With both goalkeepers out of the match, Manchester City goalkeeper defender Kyle Walker drew the short straw and went between the sticks in a 1-1 draw with Atalanta in Bergamo, Italy, on Wednesday.

Ederson was injured at halftime — he’s a doubt for Sunday’s visit to Liverpool — and Claudio Bravo was sent off for DOGSO foul on Josip Ilicic after an Ilkay Gundogan giveaway.

[ RECAP: Man City 1-1 Atalanta ]

First clad in a black warm-up top before being forced into a pink “C. Bravo 1” shirt, Walker made two saves to preserve the point.

From the Manchester Evening News:

“I try and sometimes wind up the keepers in training telling them to catch it and stuff but as I found tonight sometimes you have to take two touches.”

City fullback Benjamin Mendy offered thanks to Walker for the saves and the point, which have the Group C leaders five points ahead of chasing Dinamo Zagreb and Shakhtar Donetsk with two matches to play.

“Yeah I think tonight was a very tough game, we know it before the game and how we fight until the end to not keep a score, I say again thank you Kyle,” Mendy said. “Because it’s very not easy to take this responsibility to be a goalkeeper and save the free-kick and it’s one game we’re going to remember it for when we go forward in the cup.”

[ WATCH: Walker saves free kick ]

Pep Guardiola said he does not know whether Ederson will be fit for Sunday’s huge match at Anfield.

“It’s a muscular [thigh] problem,” he told The Manchester Evening News. “It was not big but to avoid risk. He didn’t feel comfortable in the last minutes and that’s why we decided to make a substitution.”

City has big games before their remaining two UCL fixtures, and may not be able to front load its lineup for at least one. Chelsea, itself in UCL uncertainty, visits the Etihad on Nov. 23 before Man City hosts Shakhtar Donetsk in the UCL. And City hosts the Manchester Derby before its final group stage match at Dinamo Zagreb.

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.

[ MORE: Premier League Player Power Rankings ]

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.

WATCH: Kyle Walker stops free kick after Bravo sent off

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Manchester City backup goalkeeper Claudio Bravo has been sent off the pitch in Atalanta, some 35 minutes after starter Ederson left the match with injury.

A poor back pass from Ilkay Gundogan sent Josip Ilicic 1v1 with Bravo, who raced out to meet him with the score 1-1 in Bergamo.

Ilicic pushed the ball past the Chilean and leapt over him, hitting the turf when his trail leg was caught by the sliding keeper.

Kyle Walker entered the match in a “C. Bravo 1” jersey, and would have to face a free kick from 10 yards outside the box.

Walker bobbled but rescued the ensuing free kick, plenty successful given the scenario.

Man City comes back to beat Southampton

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Sergio Aguero and Kyle Walker scored in the final 20 minutes to rescue a 2-1 home win over Southampton on Saturday at a rain-soaked Etihad Stadium.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

James Ward-Prowse scored early for Saints, who looked better fit for battle. They remain in the drop zone with 8 points.

City’s 25 points are still six points back of Liverpool, who grabbed a stoppage time winner at Aston Villa.


Three things we learned

1. Ederson not perfect: It took plenty of rain for it to happen, but Man City goalkeeper Ederson made a rare error to put his team down early. Stuart Armstrong‘s bounding shot from distance didn’t have a ton of venom, but enough to provide a rebound for a prowling James Ward-Prowse to deposit.

2. Trailing, Guardiola turns to Aguero and Jesus: The Man City mastermind rarely plays Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero at the same time, but felt it was time when his side trailed at the break. Their lack of time together was evident as Aguero tried to set up Jesus in the 59th, and the Brazilian didn’t recognize the signal. Aguero, of course, got the equalizer.

3. Stout Saints make cliche count… for a while: It’s hard to beat the same team twice in a row, and Southampton will made their supporters plenty proud over 180 minutes versus the champs, minutes that followed a 9-0 home drubbing against Leicester City. The aforementioned cliche a saying often uttered in sports circles and an illogical tag we’ll have to put on City’s first 70 minutes. But there was an air of inevitability to Man City finding the winner, which came from a cross despite much success coming via standard Guardiola-inspired incisiveness.

Man of the Match: Aguero, if only for his refusal to quit after producing and missing so many chances. Notable nods to Kevin De Bruyne, Jannik Vestergaard, and Kyle Walker.


Sergio Aguero just missed heading a promising Kevin De Bruyne free kick on target in the 12th minute.

But Saints took the lead when Redmond set up Stuart Armstrong for a low drive which Ederson fumbled in the rain, allowing Ward-Prowse to knife home from in-tight.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg conceded a second dangerous free kick to City, and this 19th minute effort from De Bruyne was blocked by the wall.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Saints held firm against City’s controlling possession, watching Ilkay Gundogan‘s effort bound wide in the 65th as it remained 1-0 to the visitors.

Aguero couldn’t get high enough to push Bernardo Silva’s under the bar in the 67th, and was center stage to rifle a De Bruyne cross between Alex McCarthy‘s legs less than five minutes later.

Saints goalkeeper Alex McCarthy handled a pass back in his box to set up a prime chance for City, but De Bruyne curled wide of the goal.

Aguero couldn’t turn one home in the 83rd, and an ensuing corner turned into another.

Given how often you’ve seen the Argentine’s name in this recap, it was all the more surprising when Walker arrived at the back post to lash home a winner that was far from straight-forward.

England struck by poor club form in qualifying blip

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What do you do as a national team manager when the best players in your group are struggling at the club level?

That’s the issue currently facing Gareth Southgate, and it’s spilled over into Euro 2020 qualification as England fell to the Czech Republic 2-1 on Friday, its first Euro qualifying defeat in ten years.

While its obvious England has a massive talent imbalance between offense and defense, the poor form plague has also struck, leaving Southgate with a host of difficult choices both up front and at the back. It has become such a pestilence that Southgate was left with no choice but to admit it after the match.

“In terms of the players, I think there are players who are not playing well for their clubs, but that is the situation we are in at the moment, certainly in a couple of positions,” admitted Southgate in the post-match press conference. “We collectively have to accept the result, but of course, as the manager, then I have got to accept that as well, absolutely.”

The England boss has some serious pondering to do up and down the pitch. Marcus Rashford has become a problem for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the suddenly stagnant Manchester United attack, and he gave way in the England starting lineup to young Jadon Sancho, who was unable to lift England on the day. In midfield, a now-broken Dele Alli was a guaranteed starter at the World Cup two years ago but was left out entirely this international break as Tottenham continues to flounder, while fellow Spur Harry Winks was relegated to the bench. Harry Maguire in defense has begun his Red Devils career well, but beside him was Michael Keane who has been downright poor at Everton thus far. Ross Barkley has lost his place at Chelsea and was left among the substitutes in Prague as well in favor of the in-form teammate Mason Mount, but with England misfiring Barkley was unable to change the tide off the bench.

The problem for Southgate is two-fold, and he’s damned no matter what. In the case of players like Alli, Rashford, and Winks, the England boss chose to replace them with less experienced players, which clearly upset the balance and cohesion within the squad. Yet he chose to stick with Keane, who has started every Euro qualifier thus far, in favor of a younger Joe Gomez and that backfired as well, as Keane toiled ineffectively in Prague. Gomez himself has lost his place at Liverpool to Joel Matip, and would have been another questionable option.

Injuries also played their part no doubt. Key players in Aaron Wan-Bissaka, John Stones, and James Maddison were axed due to injuries or illness, while Callum Hudson-Odoi was not selected as he recently returned from a long-term problem himself. Still, Wan-Bissaka’s absence left Southgate with no choice but to select a replacement, choosing Kieran Trippier on the edge of the back line, who has seen an up-and-down start to his Atletico Madrid career. Even Stones had dipped in form at Manchester City, falling completely out of the matchday squad in favor of Aymeric Laporte and Nicolas Otamendi before succumbing to an unspecified muscle injury.

These problems caused issues tactically for a squad that suddenly had to deal with a deviation from the norm. Southgate deployed a 4-2-3-1 with Mount in the central creative role, but according to Yahoo’s Kieran Canning, the national team has not played in such a formation in two years. Southgate mentioned multiple times in his post-match press conference how displeased he was with England’s off-ball structure and movement, a direct product of mixing and matching. “We tried something [in the second half] to make ourselves a bit more solid without the ball, and that didn’t happen,” he said. “We didn’t look any more solid, and we were poor at using the ball in the first half. That said, at 1-1, at half time, we were able to change that. I think we were better in the second half and we created chances to win the game.”

To make matters worse, the few players in good club form didn’t live up to standards on the international stage. Declan Rice, maybe West Ham’s best player so far this season, was miserable in a pivot with Jordan Henderson and hauled off in the second half. The Mirror says between the midfield pair, they made just one successful tackle through the entire match and completed just 11 passes in the opening 20 minutes of the game. Trent Alexander-Arnold, who has been one of many fantastic Liverpool players this season, was bafflingly left on the bench in favor of Trippier.

The issues facing Southgate are a stark reminder how long two years truly is. This England squad felt far more solid and secure with depth as it reached the semifinals of the World Cup just two year ago. Now, there are glaring holes and numerous questions at a host of different positions. With the starters floundering in Prague, Southgate’s choices off the bench have thinned considerably, and Rashford’s injection of quality off the bench two years ago in Russia 2018 is no longer to be found as he came on with 17 minutes to go on Friday. The rock solid World Cup back-three of Stones, Maguire, and Kyle Walker is nowhere to be found despite the presence of all three in the setup.

Little has changed personnel wise for England, and yet two years on after a promising World Cup run with a host of players in their prime, the squad now feels in flux again as key individuals are forced to fight for their places. Gareth Southgate does not sit in an envious position, looking for answers while keeping faith in some key squad members while making necessary changes elsewhere hoping not to upset the squad chemistry. A visit to Bulgaria on Monday represents a quick turnaround between two road matches, an opportunity to right the ship amid the necessary distraction of travel. Anything less than a convincing performance will allow lingering questions to fester for another month, plenty of time for the sudden dysfunction to become even more chronic.