three things

Four things learned: Man City v. Spurs

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Manchester City and Tottenham played out a dramatic 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, as Kevin De Bruyne impressed but Spurs pegged the reigning champions back and late VAR drama stole the show as Gabriel Jesus‘ strike was ruled out.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Just like their clashes in the Premier League and UEFA Champions League last season, this was appointment viewing as Sergio Aguero and Pep Guardiola went at it on the sidelines and Spurs rode their luck with Jesus’ goal in stoppage time ruled out for handball.

Here’s what we learned from a heavyweight battle between two title contenders.


JUST LIKE UCL CLASH, VAR DECISION BURNS CITY

Gabriel Jesus thought he had won it in stoppage time as he curled home a beauty to make it 3-2, but VAR was used correctly and it was another dagger deep into the heart of Guardiola and City.

Aymeric Laporte flicked the ball off his arm towards Jesus and VAR quickly cleared up that it was a handball in the box. Incredible drama for the second time in three games for Spurs at Man City, and Guardiola, one of the biggest advocates for VAR, has been burned by it twice in damaging fashion.

Man City fans will point to Fernando Llorente’s handball in their UCL quarterfinal victory last season and why that wasn’t ruled out and that is a valid point. But under the PL’s laws with handballs in the box, Laporte handling the ball pushed it into the path of Jesus and without that knock off his arm, City don’t score. It is as simple as that.


CITY’S SHAKY DEFENSE WILL HOLD THEM BACK

There is a Vincent Kompany sized hole at the heart of Man City’s defense and Spurs made the most of it. Tottenham had two shots on target and scored with both, as Man City looked shaky with both Otamendi and Zinchenko caught out of position. Fernandinho‘s absence was also felt as Ilkay Gundogan and Rodri failed to stop Spurs’ counter attacks, especially in the second half.

City tried to sign Harry Maguire this summer and Virgil Van Dijk in the past and it is clear that Guardiola isn’t happy with John Stones, Otamendi and Laporte as his three first-choice center backs. City made live to regret not paying a little extra for Maguire this summer. It was an area they clearly needed to upgrade and they didn’t.


KEVIN DE BRUYNE RAN THE SHOW

Kevin de Bruyne’s return to full fitness is a massive boost for Man City this season. He grabbed two assists in the first half and absolutely ran the show with two moments of real quality.

The Belgian wizard had last season interrupted with two serious knee injuries, but he’s eager to make up for lost time after grabbing two assists last weekend and another two in Matchweek 2. De Bruyne’s pass to Sterling for the opener was brilliant but his cross for Aguero to double the lead was a thing of beauty.

De Bruyne’s precision was spot on, as usual, and he is coolness personified. The way he strokes the ball around is majestic.

It is absurd that Man City won three domestic trophies and racked up 98 points last season with De Bruyne only playing 19 PL games. Imagine what they can do, alongside David Silva, Bernando Silva, Raheem Sterling and Aguero, if he’s fit for the entire campaign.


SPURS FAIL TO FEED Harry Kane, AS AGUERO, GUARDIOLA FALL OUT

Christian Eriksen, Tanguy Ndombele and Erik Lamela failed to feed Harry Kane and their entire attacking unit faltered because in central midfield they were completely overrun. Harry Winks did his best to put out fires, but not having a true holding midfielder in the engine room hurts Spurs badly. Victor Wanyama, Eric Dier and even Moussa Sissoko aren’t the flashiest of players, but the balance of Spurs’ midfield was off and Kane was isolated for most of the game.

As for Man City’s top goalscorer and star striker, he may not be around for much longer. Aguero clashed with Guardiola as he was subbed off in the second half and there was a heated exchange between the two as they had to be separated.

You love to see the passion from both the manager and star striker, but with tension bubbling under the surface for years over Aguero’s playing style in a Pep side, this looked a lot more personal. In the coming weeks we will find out just how damaging this public spat will be for both Guardiola and Aguero.

Three things learned: Man United v. Chelsea

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MANCHESTER — Manchester United eased to a 4-0 victory against Chelsea at Old Trafford on Saturday, but that didn’t tell the whole story.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Marcus Rashford scored in each half and Anthony Martial and Daniel James both scored in the second half, but Chelsea hit the woodwork twice in the first half and new manager Frank Lampard will be scratching his head after a proper thumping.

[ MORE: How did Pulisic perform on debut? ]

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s name reverberated around Old Trafford as this new-look United side dug deep, rode their luck and showed there may be good times ahead.

Here’s what we learned from Old Trafford.


UNITED’S NEW BOYS SETTLE IN QUICKLY

Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka were both making their home debuts as Manchester United players and both had their name sung loud and proud by the Stretford End. They snapped into tackles, looked calm defensively and even though Chelsea caused United problems defensively, it was more so down to Luke Shaw and Victor Lindelof being caught out of position or sloppy passes in midfield.

Daniel James then jumped off the bench to score on his Premier League debut to make it 4-0 as the Welsh winger proved he can be a real menace as an impact player. All three of United’s new boys made a positive impact on their debut and Solskjaer will hope that Maguire and AWB continue as they’ve started off. With those two in defense, they look a much better defensive unit.


CHELSEA’S DEFENDING WILL BE A WORRY

Kurt Zouma may well have been Man United’s best player on Sunday. That’s a tad harsh, but he gave away a penalty kick, looked all over the place positionally and the pace of Marcus Rashford was too much for him to handle. David Luiz has been sold, N’Golo Kante didn’t start due to injury and Antonio Rudiger is still out, so this Chelsea defensive unit will look a lot different when it is fully fit.

That said, the way Chelsea capitulated in the second half will be a worry for Lampard and even when Rudiger and Kante are fully fit, who starts at center back? On this showing neither Zouma or Christensen did themselves any favors.


BEST AND WORST OF POGBA ARRIVES

In the first half Paul Pogba‘s display summed up the vacuum present in United’s midfield. He and Scott McTominay couldn’t get on the ball and when they did, they lost it. Pogba’s second half was superb. He pinged over a pinpoint ball to Rashford to make it 3-0, then surged towards goal and slotted in Daniel James for the fourth.

We saw the best and worst of Pogba on Sunday and that is the main problem.

That is why fans are so divided when it comes to his worth at United and don’t forget, he could still move on to Juventus or Real Madrid later this summer when their transfer windows close. He was booed and cheered when his name was read out over the PA announcer. That sums up the feeling towards him right now. He is infuriatingly inconsistent.

Pogba played like he wanted to be at United, but only in the second half. If he can become more consistent, United can really challenge for a top four finish this season.

3 things we learned: Spurs-Aston Villa

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LONDON — Tottenham Hotspur fought back to beat Aston Villa 3-1 in north London on Saturday, with John McGinn‘s early goal cancelled out by Tanguy Ndombele‘s debut goal and then Harry Kane popped up twice late on to seal the victory for Spurs.

[ MORE: Match recap | Kane reacts ]

Mauricio Pochettino will not be content with the general performance from his team, while Dean Smith and Villa will be happy enough with the display but disappointed they couldn’t grind out a point.

Here’s what we learned from an intriguing, dramatic clash in north London on Saturday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]


HARRY KANE TO THE RESCUE, AGAIN

Normal service is resumed. Harry Kane is fit, sharp and scored twice late on to play the hero, once again. Kane has had a full preseason and has shaken off the ankle issues which plagued him last season. The England captain just does it season after season, game after game. He is ruthless and kept plugging away when his teammates were struggling to get the ball to him.

Kane missed two chances in the first half, dragging a shot wide and putting a header over the bar and he should have had a hat trick. He will probably be disappointed he didn’t score more on Saturday and that is exactly the Harry Kane Spurs’ fans know and love. His second goal was a typical Kane finish, curling home from the edge of the box into the far corner to send his adoring fans wild in the South Stand. New season, same Kane.


SPURS MISSED DELE, ERIKSEN

Tanguy Ndombele scored and showed flashes of brilliance in the final third on his Tottenham debut. His clever flicked pass to Harry Kane in the first half was majestic and he curled home a beautiful equalizer. But too often Spurs’ new club-record signing wasn’t given the ball around the box. With Christian Eriksen on the bench and Dele Alli out with an injured hamstring, they were badly missed. Lucas Moura and Erik Lamela are very similar players. They are speedsters who prefer to operate out wide and as soon as they tried to cut inside, Villa’s defensive unit got settled back in very quickly.

The creativity and genius of Dele and Eriksen was badly missed and as the game wore on Harry Kane found himself out on the wings 50 yards from goal. Eriksen’s arrival off the bench made a huge difference and proved he still has a huge part to play, if he signs a new deal and stays at Tottenham. Ndombele has all the skills to succeed, but Spurs shouldn’t move away from Dele and Eriksen as their main men. Eriksen was superb in the final 20 minutes which was Spurs the game.


EXCELLENT GREALISH PUNISHED RUTHLESSLY

“Super, Super Jack, Super Jacky Grealish!” sang the Aston Villa fans in the away end during the game. They may not be singing that after the game. Jack Grealish oozed class in Aston Villa’s midfield with the club captain and local hero showing Tottenham what they could have had if he had signed for them last summer. But then he made his only mistake of the game at a pivotal moment, dallying on the ball as Lamela robbed him of possession and Kane made it 2-1.

The 24-year-old is at the heart of Villa’s new-look team in the Premier League, as six new permanent signings started on Saturday. Along with with John McGinn and Conor Hourihane in midfield, Greliash showed them what it means to be a Villa player. He launched counters, put his foot on the ball when he was able to and launched into tackles and truly led by example. That one mistake cost his team but Grealish will dig Villa out of plenty of holes this season.

Three things we learned: USA v. Netherlands

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The USWNT beat the Netherlands to win their second-straight World Cup title, as the U.S. women’s national team dominated from start to finish.

[ MORE: Latest 2019 World Cup news ]

Goals from Megan Rapinoe and Rose Lavelle did the damage against a dogged Dutch side, as it was far from a classic final but the U.S. will not care about that at all as they once again outworked their opponents and broke them down.

Here’s what we learned from a tight, tense final in Lyon which burst into life in a few second half minutes.


VAR DOES ITS JOB

The pivotal moment of the game arrive in the 61st minute as Alex Morgan went down in the box under a challenge from Stefanie van der Gragt and VAR was used to correctly award the USA a penalty kick. It was the right call and that is why VAR is around.

The Netherlands dug deep to try and put the USWNT off their game, with plenty of late tackles and forceful moments from the European champions. But it wasn’t enough as Rapinoe scored her third penalty kick in a tournament dominated by VAR penalty kicks. In the end, whatever you think about VAR, it did its job in the final.


USWNT PRAGMATIC, PUNISHING

Sure, we’d all like to see the USWNT score more goals and play a more attractive style but you can’t argue with the way they have completely dominated this World Cup. Ellis set this team up to be solid in midfield as Rose Lavelle, Sam Mewis and Julie Ertz totally shut down Dutch playmaker Danielle van de Donk, with Lavelle’s runs from central areas caused the Netherlands plenty of problems.

For all of their attacking weapons, as the stat above suggests, the play of the USWNT’s full backs, center backs and defensive-minded central midfielders stole the show in the final and in the knockout round wins against France and England.

The 13-0 win against Thailand somewhat blurred the amount of goals the U.S. scored in France, but this was a totally composed and balanced World Cup performance throughout as Ellis had her tactics questioned but she got all of the big calls correct. The U.S. weren’t beautiful to watch but they got the job done with minimum fuss as their strong squad was rotated expertly by Ellis.


BEST WORLD CUP EVER

Amid TV viewing audiences breaking records across the globe, there’s no doubt this was the best women’s World Cup in history. It has captured the imagination of millions across the world and with FIFA stating its plans to expand the tournament to 32 teams in the future, as well as promising to double the prize money, this tournament will only get bigger and better.

The USWNT were the deserved champions this summer. But all of women’s soccer won after a fine tournament which proved that the level of play is improving rapidly in Europe and other areas of the globe.

Most importantly interest levels have increased exponentially, as talking points were plentiful as Rapinoe and Co. will be seen as true pioneers.

Three things from USMNT’s win v. Guyana

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Injuries, early inefficiency, and a newcomer making a statement were the biggest talking points of the United States men’s national team’s first match of the 2019 Gold Cup.

[ MORE: Match recap ]

Christian Pulisic was back, but not on the score sheet, and was able to be rested over the final half hour or so, and the USMNT scored its 1000th goal in program history.

[ MORE: Player ratings ]

Beyond that, here’s what we’re thinking after the 4-0 win.

Ouch, ouch, stop that, ouch: Injury worries

Weston McKennie started slow but eventually played a series of sensational passes en route to an assist on the night.

His industry moving forward and backward were remarkable on the night, but Schalke’s Swiss army knife had to leave the match with a leg injury with a quarter hour to play.

That’s a problem for a side which also saw Tyler Boyd pull up following his bid for a hat trick and is also without Tyler Adams, Sebastian Lletget, and Duane Holmes in the midfield alone.

John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin are also missing from a U.S. side hoping to make a serious bid for another final at the Gold Cup.

Berhalter said the injury that cost McKennie the final 16 minutes was a cramp. Let’s hope so.

Tyler Boyd shoots his shot

No, he’s not the Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver.

Yes, he’s inspiring a bit of hope for the American Outlaws.

The New Zealand-born 24-year-old likes to shoot, and boy did he in bagging a brace on Wednesday.

Capped five times by New Zealand but now cap-tied to the USMNT by participating in this match, Boyd scored twice and could’ve probably scored two or three more on the day.

The son of an Kiwi father and American mother, Boyd delivered the goods in front of both of them in Minnesota.

“It’s for my family,” Boyd said on Fox after the game. “I’m really proud to be able to represent this country. To do it on this stage is an honor and a blessing. Just a dream come true. It’s been years and years and years of work. It’s been my dream since (I was) a kid. I don’t have the words to describe it.”

Boyd was injured — more on that later — but it looked like it could’ve been minor. His creativity and desire for the ball will be needed moving forward, as he was a fine complement to Paul Arriola in industry and desire.

It still wasn’t good enough

Do not forget that Guyana is the 177th ranked team in the FIFA rankings  — a lofty 166th in EloRatings — and the Yanks simply didn’t have the quality or understanding to pile up the goals.

The Guyanese held the U.S. in check for the first half hour before Weston McKennie and Paul Arriola teamed up for a classy goal, and Bradley’s link up with Tyler Boyd for the second was even better.

But Zardes’ goal was a blocked shot that unknowingly pinged off his pace to the point that the American striker appeared dazed for the duration of the celebration. And Boyd’s good-looking second goal took a turn off a Guyanese defender on the way into the net.

As it stands, this looks like a team that wouldn’t beat Panama and might struggle against anyone should Pulisic go down (and especially if McKennie stays down).