Manchester City returned to the top of the Premier League for the first time since December with a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Everton on Wednesday
A walkover it was not, but Manchester City still got what they wanted.
For the first time in two months, the champions are on top of the Premier League, there courtesy of a hard-fought, but ultimately deserved, victory at Everton.
Aymeric Laporte’s header in first-half stoppage time did the trick, and Gabriel Jesus came off the bench to repeat the trick at the end of the second period. Not pretty, but pretty important.
“Terrible,” was Pep Guardiola’s description of City’s February schedule, but it has started well for his side. Arsenal and now Everton have been seen off, with Liverpool’s advantage eaten up in the space of four days. Suddenly, it is the men from Anfield who must find a response.
This was hardly vintage City, with Guardiola’s men opting for efficiency over outright style. For the 15th time this season, they scored with their first shot on target in a game. Unlike at Newcastle a week ago, it was enough, though as ever they will feel they could and should have been more clinical thereafter. The nervy finish was unnecessary.
Guardiola would never say it – maybe he doesn’t even believe it – but this was a night when only the bottom line mattered. Liverpool’s stutter against West Ham, and before that Leicester, has opened the door and City have pushed more than just their noses through it. With a dozen games remaining, they’re the new bookmakers’ favourites.
Jurgen Klopp’s men still have a game in hand, of course, but it comes at Old Trafford, where they have not won in five years. Klopp will know there needs to be a serious improvement, given his side’s recent performances.
As for City, they can reflect on an odd eight days, punctuated by sloppiness at Newcastle and professionalism at Everton. It’s hard work, retaining the Premier League, but if any team should be capable it’s this one.
The pre-match suggestion here was that City would simply be handed the three points, with Everton desperate to see their Merseyside neighbours denied the title.
Goodison, we were told, would be warm and accommodating, with home fans unsure if they even wanted their side to put up a fight. After a run of three league wins in 12 games, many doubted whether Everton could trouble the champions, whatever the atmosphere.
The reality was different, with Marco Silva’s side full of desire and heart, if not quality. Silva left big players on the bench, including his two leading goalscorers in Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson, but the Toffees’ replacements put a shift in for their manager and their fans. The Premier League’s integrity cannot be questioned.
Unfortunately, Everton’s defending from set-pieces can be, and it was that which cost them here, Laporte left unmarked to meet David Silva’s left-wing free-kick, just as half-time loomed into vision.
It was the 12th goal Everton have conceded from dead balls in the league this season, their 17th overall. You don’t have to look hard to find their Achilles heel.
City were worth their advantage; Laporte had already missed one headed chance, Leroy Sane had gone close and Ilkay Gundogan had hit the bar before they found a way through.
With Everton grafting but crafting very little, it felt like one goal could be enough. The only surprise, in truth, was that the visitors did not put the game to bed long before substitute Jesus headed home in the seventh minute of added time at the end of the second half.
That prompted wild celebrations among the away supporters, who know what a vital win this was. ‘Campione’, they sang, before a chorus of ‘Jurgen’s cracking up’ for good measure.
They should know better. If recent weeks have shown anything, it is that there will be more twists and turns before the end of this race. But as we head to the championship rounds in the Premier League slug-fest, City are on their feet swinging.
Chelsea confirm deal for 20-year-old striker
Chelsea have confirmed a new long-term deal for 20-year-old striker, Armando Broja.
The new deal will see Broja remain at Chelsea until 2026.
Chelsea disclosed this in a statement via their website on Sunday.
The statement read, “Armando Broja has signed a new long-term contract at Chelsea FC that commits him to Stamford Bridge until at least the summer of 2026.
“The young striker, who will turn 20 in September, spent last season on loan in the Eredivisie with Vitesse Arnhem, where he made 34 appearances.”
Reacting, Broja said: “I’m really excited to be signing a new contract with Chelsea.
“Having come through the Academy here it was a special moment for me to make my first-team debut last year, before gaining further experience on loan at Vitesse last season.
“I want to build on these foundations and I’m really looking forward to progressing and making an impact.”
Saliba breaks silence after leaving Arsenal on loan to Marseille
William Saliba has said he is joining “one of the great French clubs” in Marseille after sealing his latest loan spell away from Arsenal.
The 20-year-old was signed by the Gunners for £27m in 2019.
But Saliba is yet to make a single appearance for the Premier League club and is now beginning his third loan move away from north London.
He was immediately loaned back to Saint-Etienne after signing for Arsenal, before spending the second half of last season at Nice.
Saliba has now signed up for the 2021/2022 campaign with Marseille.
“I am very proud to join one of the best French clubs.
“I cannot wait to be on the Orange Vélodrome pitch. Where I am from, in Paris, lots of those close to me are for Marseille, I am proud to wear this shirt,” Saliba told Marseille’s official website.
England vs Italy: UEFA receives petitions to replay Euro 2020 final
Some England fans have started a petition, asking that UEFA order a replay of the Euro 2020 final.
They feel the defeat to Italy on penalties was “unfair”, according to the Daily Mail.
Italy have been accused of playing “dirty”, after their captain Giorgio Chiellini pulled on Bukayo Saka’s collar, dragging him onto the pitch in the latter stages of the game.
While some fans have taken to social media to insist he deserved a red card for the move, he eventually got away with a yellow.
The refereeing decisions have been widely disputed since and a number of England fans have taken it upon themselves to start up petitions.
One petition, in its description, outlines: “Bukayo Saka was mistreated during the match between England and Italy as he was dragged down by his shirt by Giorgio Cheiellini and given a yellow card when it CLEARLY should’ve been a red card. I do strongly believe that the referee was biased and in favour of Italy.”
Another argues Chiellini should have been given a red card, and that a rematch should take place with a “non-biased referee”.
Currently, there are several petitions that exist, but they are struggling to gain any substantial traction.
Of the five petitions so far, one is approaching 1,500 signatures, while the others have meagre numbers.
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