Riyad Mahrez

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Manchester City handles pesky Dinamo Zagreb

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Dominant Manchester City had to work for its Raheem Sterling-finished breakthrough in a 2-0 defeat of Dinamo Zagreb in UEFA Champions League play on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Sterling scored and assisted Phil Foden‘s stoppage time goal, as City took 1,025 touches to the visitors’ 392. Dinamo Zagreb completed just 53 percent of their passes, were out shot 20-2, and had just 19 percent possession.

City now has six points, and has beaten both of the teams in the group who boast wins. A pair of matches with winless Atalanta are next.


Three things we learned

1. Zagreb frustrates with five (plus) at the back: City had more than 80 percent of the ball and almost all of the shot attempts, but the persistent and well-drilled visitors proved difficult to break down.

2. Rodri and Gundogan rule the roost: While Man City’s forwards to their time to find footing, Rodri and Ilkay Gundogan were very strong in the midfield. Gundogan completed 113 of his 120 passes, while Rodri converted 116 of 126 passes (92 percent) including a sensational “hockey assist” on Sterling’s opener.

Again, let’s do the math: 229 completed passes between two midfielders. Outstanding.

3. Super sub Sterling supplies breakthrough: The winner was very much a team goal, as Sterling had been in the game for less than 10 minutes when he took a pass from Riyad Mahrez to make it 1-0.

And to combine points Nos. 2 and 3, how about that scything pass from Rodri

Man of the Match: Rodri — He looks the absolute correct piece for City’s midfield puzzle (which was already pretty darn good).


Gundogan cranked a shot off the woodwork, and City later had a goal taken off the board due to Sergio Aguero handling in the build-up.

Dinamo goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic made two first half saves including a very promising opportunity for Aguero.

The frustrations of only producing a single goal despite myriad chances got to Pep Guardiola, who was shown a yellow card for dissent.

Joao Cancelo was a particularly bright spot for City, whipping in crosses and zipping about the right side.

Sterling’s goal came when Rodri fed Mahrez, a relative bright spot, into the left of the box. A cut back was blasted home by the England winger.

Foden subbed into the game and scored inside of the four minutes stoppage time.

Guardiola: ‘We want to go for this league and try to win it again’

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It never hurts for Pep Guardiola to be candid about Manchester City’s ambitions this season, especially after a hard-fought 3-1 win at Goodison Park in which Riyad Mahrez oozed class.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Guardiola – the defending champion and serial title winner that he is – used his time in front of cameras, microphones and voice recorders on Saturday night to praise Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson nous, Mahrez’s quality and to send a clear message to his dressing room and Liverpool, who are forecasted to make it difficult for City to reach the podium for a third consecutive year. From the BBC:

“It’s always difficult here. First half we started incredible the first 20-25 minutes, then we had problems to control Gylfi Sigurdsson in that position.

“But we created from wide areas in the second half and we had the quality of Riyad Mahrez for the goal.

“Everton have fast players, they caused a lot of problems at the back, so I’m delighted because we want to go for this league and try to win it again,” he added.

Sure, Guardiola and company suffered a pair of setbacks earlier this season – with the historic loss against Norwich City headlining the bunch – but these type of nested comments are nothing short of advanced managerial strategy. With the tough feat of trying to surpass Liverpool – who are six points up on City after seven matches this campaign – ahead of them, the Spaniard was left with no choice than to start drilling “the champion mindset”  in his player’s minds.

But it’s not all about hitting the button, however. It’s about knowing when to hit it and why. A convincing victory in late September was the appropriate time for Guardiola to do so, apparently. But it makes sense – the pressure and anxiety levels are still relatively low at the Etihad, Saturday night’s match wasn’t a marquee matchup, City are in true winning form after loosing to Norwich, and the list goes on.

Will the likes of Mahrez, Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, etc. listen and execute his message? Or will Guardiola have to repeat himself time and time again? Surely, that will be the grey cloud following City for as long as “leaders” doesn’t get referenced before the name of the club.

Ederson, Mahrez outstanding as Man City endures Everton challenge

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Riyad Mahrez scored an incredible free kick and Ederson thwarted a late Everton charge as Manchester City plucked a 2-1 win from Goodison Park on Saturday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Gabriel Jesus and Dominic Calvert-Lewin traded first half goals to set up a grandstand second half.

City restores the five-point gap between itself and first place Liverpool, while Everton sits two points above the drop zone in 15th.


Three things we learned

1. Algerian wizard brings 90 minutes worth of magic: Riyad Mahrez was magic from Moment No. 1. He forced a save out of Jordan Pickford in the first minute, and had a number of incredible moments en route to his spinning free kick around the wall in the 72nd minute. The goal was his fifth shot on target to go with four key passes (and a hockey assist on Jesus’ goal). Nice luxury to have when you want to rest Bernardo Silva and David Silva for the Champions League.

2. Capable Everton shows up: Marco Silva‘s men have the talent to beat anyone on any given day, but have been maddeningly inconsistent in a fairly easy set of fixtures to start the season. They’ve lost 2-0 to a pair of newly-promoted sides.

So of course they were going to go toe-to-toe with an absolutely stacked Man City, right? On another day, with another goalkeeping performance for the visitors, Everton easily nabs a point (Ederson was on… his…. game).

The match probably stirred plenty of pride in the hearts of the Toffee faithful, but also had to infuriate those who know Everton should’ve entered the match with a similar point total to their visitors. With Burnley, Brighton, and West Ham next, can the Toffees start to stack some wins?

3. Fierce emotions and razor-thin margins: Perhaps no moment showcased the game like Morgan Schneiderlin‘s studs-up challenge on a counterattacking De Bruyne. It was a yellow card and might’ve been worse with another referee on the case.

Man of the Match: Mahrez


Riyad Mahrez forced Jordan Pickford into a two-fisted save in the first minute, as Yerry Mina allowed a long dribble into the heart of the pitch.

A scary injury to Theo Walcott halted the proceedings for the next five minutes, as the winger caught a cross to the side of the head and stayed down for treatment.

Gundogan looked set to make it 1-0 in the 11th minute but he smashed Mahrez’s cross to the back post off the cross bar.

Mahrez led another foray down the right to help produce the opener, which was all about Kevin De Bruyne‘s immaculate first touch cross. It beat Michael Keane and Jesus stooped to power it past Pickford, who was caught off guard and splayed high to miss the low effort.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

After 2-3 chances to level the score, Everton got its goal through Iwobi’s hard work forcing the ball past Fernandinho and a mess of attackers.

The ball squirted to Seamus Coleman, who chipped the ball to the line and Calvert-Lewin headed it into the back of the goal for emphasis.

Pickford made a nice save on Walker to close out the half.

Everton was very bright at the start of the second half, and Ederson had to make a phenomenal save on Mina’s in-tight header in the 55th.

Sterling made a great run in the 60th minute, but couldn’t turn a Mahrez pass past Pickford and inside the post.

City took its lead through Mahrez’s wonderful free kick, and Everton’s hopes of a quickfire answer were denied by Ederson’s sliding tip of a Calvert-Lewin shot.

Sterling put it to bed with a Goal Decision System aided call in the 85th, smashing a shot off the bottom of the bar and over the line. Set up by Aguero and Mahrez, Pickford was hung to dry by Seamus Coleman and Tom Davies.

WATCH: Man City scores five times in first 18 minutes

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What a start. Emphasize it, bold it, underline it.

Manchester City scored five goals in the first 18 minutes of play on Saturday at the Etihad Stadium, relegating Watford to also-ran status before the match was a quarter finished.

[ STREAM: Man City v. Watford ]

It took 54 seconds for De Bruyne to assist David Silva with an outstanding opener, but Gerard Deulofeu nearly answered when he danced around Nicolas Otamendi to force a conceded corner out of Ederson.

Silva, marked for Inter Miami in a mid-week report, was the finisher for the 55th time in his Premier League career and 72nd for his club.

Ben Foster then gave away a useless penalty when he slapped a through ball out of bounds before felling Riyad Mahrez for an easy penalty. Aguero stepped to the spot calm as you like and dispatched the No. 2 to the scoreboard.

That was hardly the end to Watford’s woes, as Mahrez dazzled with a dribble through the heart of the field to earn a free kick atop the 18. There was only one destination, given the series of events. 3-0.

Bernardo Silva then got in on the act, when Otamendi nodded a De Bruyne corner to the back post for a prone finish and 4-0.

Not to be outdone, Otamendi was back post for a finish of his own, giving City its fifth goal off an Aguero assist.

Premier League Numbers Nerd: Week 1

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Small sample sizes can make for terrible science, but they’re delightful for stat hounds and simple amusements.

For example, the Premier League’s opening weekend saw a hat trick for Raheem Sterling and braces for Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, and Ashley Barnes.

[ MORE: USSF promotes Stewart, hires USWNT GM ]

Who was the top dog of the week in terms of match rating, though? Man City’s Riyad Mahrez, who was nearly perfect with two assists, 83.3 percent passing despite his placement in low success areas of the pitch, four tackles, two interceptions, and four key passes.

Here are our favorite numbers, notes, and names from Week 1 (Stats via WhoScored):

Two (2) assists is the current top total in the league. It won’t surprise you to see Mahrez and Paul Pogba on that figure, but the third player to do it is… Burnley’s Erik Pieters!

Four (4) players won eight or more aerial duels: League-leader Christian Benteke (9) of Crystal Palace, as well as Newcastle’s Joelinton, Burnley’s Ben Mee, and Brighton’s Shane Duffy.

Under five: Three players in the Premier League played 90 minutes and couldn’t register higher than a 5.0 on WhoScored’s rating system. Kurt Zouma of Chelsea (4.86) could not come close to replicating his stalwart play with Everton last season and conceded a penalty and four goals. West Ham star Issa Diop (4.93) had the sort of statistical day a lot of players do against Man City, and two of his back line teammates joined him in the Bottom Six. And Grant Hanley of Norwich City posted a 4.99, dinged largely by an own goal despite completing 92.3 percent of his passes against Liverpool.

Five (5) –> Villa fans will want this to be six, as Tyrone Mings couldn’t stop Tanguy Ndombele‘s equalizer, but no player in the Premier League blocked as many shots as the former Bournemouth man. And we’re not done with him yet.

(Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Five is also the league-best number of key passes recorded, by Chelsea’s Pedro. Perhaps Frank Lampard‘s feeling about his team’s play in a 4-0 loss to Manchester United will make sense over time.

And five is also the most fouls drawn by anyone in Week 1, with Villa’s Jack Grealish and Palace’s Jordan Ayew needing some time in an ice bath.

Finally, five is the number of players who completed more than 80 passes on Opening Day. Leicester’s Ben Chilwell led the way with 85, followed by Granit Xhaka (Arsenal), Toby Alderweireld (Spurs), Harry Winks (Spurs), and Jonny Evans (Leicester).

Seven (7) interceptions were made by Newcastle’s Fabian Schar, the most in the league. Seven is also the amount of fouls committed by Crystal Palace’s Luka Milivojevic against Everton, three more than anyone else (Yes, he saw yellow).

Eight (8): The amount of shots taken by Harry Kane, double the amount of anyone else in the Premier League.

Eight is also the most successful tackles won by a single player this weekend, done by Liverpool’s Fabinho and Aston Villa’s John McGinn?

Seventeen (17): This would also be more appropriately read as “Seven-(expletive)-teen!” Aston Villa’s Mings cleared danger 17 times against Spurs, almost double the No. 2 man, Palace’s Martin Kelly.

100%: Only one field player in the league played more than a half-hour and completed all of his passes, and that was… Christian Pulisic of Chelsea and these United States of America. He was 12-for-12, but here’s the bad news: That came as part of a statistically miserable 6.09 showing.