Riyad Mahrez

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.

Sterling hat trick leads Man City blowout

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Manchester City began its Premier League challenge with a high quality away win, breaking down a disciplined West Ham United at the London Stadium to the tune of a 5-0 victory.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Raheem Sterling scored twice. Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero also scored, while Jesus and Sterling each had a goal disallowed by VAR in the win. Sterling’s second goal withstood VAR review thanks to the angle of the last defender’s hip.

City goes first with a plus-5 goal differential, and hosts Tottenham Hotspur next week. West Ham is off to Brighton and Hove Albion.


Three things we learned

1. VAR is imperfect, but it isn’t going anywhere so  we’ll have to accept the overturning of imperceptible real-time results like Sterling’s centimeter-offside shoulder in assisting Jesus’ would-be second for the hopes of what it will fix in big spots and big gaffes.

VAR also overturned Lukasz Fabianski‘s save of Sergio Aguero’s late penalty for encroachment. The Argentine scored on his second attempt.

One things for sure: “I’m the show” Mike Dean was not able to make himself as much of a story line because the cameras did some work for him.

[ MORE: Pep, Pellegrini react to VAR ]

2. If you’re one of the people (cough, like this writer) who predicted this is the season that Raheem Sterling will win Premier League Player of the Year, you’re feeling pretty good about the 24-year-old’s showing at the London Stadium.

Sterling scored thrice, had a fourth ruled out, and also had an assist (with a second overturned). He was everywhere, electric and smart, and looks every bit the player he promised upon debut for Liverpool.

3. West Ham is going to be a problem for a lot of teams this year, and Manuel Pellegrini has to be counting his blessings that his scouts spotted Issa Diop before last season and decided not to sell him this summer.

The towering 22-year-old from Toulouse didn’t look great on Jesus’ clever opener and conceded a late penalty when Riyad Mahrez made the most of a wayward foot, but was tested time and again by the probing runs and cutting through balls of City.

The man may be chiseled out of granite.

Man of the Match: Sterling.


[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The Irons predictably struggled to have much of the ball, but Manuel Pellegrini was had his men ready to play with their champion visitors.

Ederson made a pair of quickfire saves from close range in the 73rd minute, the second a flying slap of a header which kept the two-goal lead in tact.

Jesus was also quite good, starting over Sergio Aguero, and scoring when Diop’s sliding bid to divert a Kyle Walker cross only allowed a flick past Lukasz Fabianski.

Sterling scored all three of his goals after halftime, the first off a Kevin De Bruyne assist, the second coming via a delightful run to dink a shot inside the far post, and the third a run into the right of the box.

[ MORE: Premier League TV, streaming schedule | Predicting the PL table ]

Report: Mahrez could miss Man City’s first PL match

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Manchester City winger Riyad Mahrez has decided against having a summer break between the end of the Africa Cup of Nations and the start of the Premier League season, but he may not be able to take the field for his Premier League side anyway.

According to reports in England, Manchester City is awaiting clearance from doctors to ensure that Mahrez won’t be suspended and the club have a game forfeited should he take the field on Saturday against West Ham in the opening fixture of the 2019-2020 Premier League season. Mahrez reportedly took a substance to help with a sinus issue while in Algeria after his nation captured the 2019 AFCON title. However, it’s unclear what the substance was or whether it will come back positive after a drug test that players routinely have to take to prove they are clean of banned substances.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

The FA has reportedly approved Mahrez to play but it’s unclear whether the Premier League will also clear the former Leicester City star.

Following Man City’s win on penalty kicks over Liverpool in the Community Shield on Sunday, Man City manager Pep Guardiola said that he had hoped Mahrez would be cleared to play on Saturday. However, now, with the injury to Leroy Sane, Man City are a little short in top talent on the wing.

We could still see Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva set up out wide, and even Oleksandr Zinchenko can play wide left. But having no Mahrez even on the bench is a blow to Man City as it begins it’s latest title defense.

VIDEO: Mahrez sends Algeria to AFCON final with game’s last kick

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CAIRO (AP) Riyad Mahrez scored from a free kick in the fifth minute of injury time for Algeria to beat Nigeria 2-1 on Sunday and progress to the African Cup of Nations final against Senegal.

[ MORE: Wacky extra-time own goal sends Senegal to final ]

Mahrez thundered his left-footed shot into the top corner in effectively the last kick of the game to stunningly settle the semifinal at Cairo International Stadium.

Algeria led through an own-goal by William Troost-Ekong but was pegged back when Nigeria was given a penalty for handball after a long VAR referral by the referee, who initially didn’t award the spot-kick.

Nigeria took its opportunity – contentious as it was – to level at 1-1 from the spot through Odion Ighalo.

But Algeria captain Mahrez won it at the very death to send his team to its first final since it won its only African title nearly 30 years ago.

Senegal and Sadio Mane went through to the final earlier after beating Tunisia 1-0 in an extra-time thriller.