Kevin De Bruyne’s dazzling solo effort was enough to secure a potentially title-winning three points as Man City beat Chelsea at the Etihad to open up a 13-point gap at the top(1-0).
Even without a recognised striker for much of the campaign, Man City have still averaged at least three goals at the Etihad in the Premier League and, with Chelsea having only kept two clean sheets in 11 league matches, goals were expected.
However, clear-cut chances were few and far between in a chess match-like first half.
Easily the game’s best opportunity for either side in a cagey opening period came five minutes before HT, when Mateo Kovačić’s misplaced pass sent Jack Grealish through on goal one-on-one with Kepa Arrizabalaga.
The Englishman, though, deployed as part of a fluid front three, failed to capitalise, with his placed finish being turned around the post for a corner by the onrushing Spaniard.
Pep Guardiola has lost eight games as a manager against Chelsea, more than against any other club, but his relentless crop took the lead on 69 minutes after a marauding run through the heart of the Blues’ defence by City captain De Bruyne, who sumptuously bent a right-footed effort beyond Arrizabalaga into the bottom corner.
It was a goal that ignited the touch paper as the game opened up, with substitutes Callum Hudson-Odoi and Timo Werner stationed alongside a previously isolated Romelu Lukaku.
But Thomas Tuchel’s changes came too late for Chelsea, who failed to fashion any sustained form of pressure on Ederson’s goal.
This was just the second-ever Premier League meeting between Man City and Chelsea as the top two sides in the division and, now City have recorded their 12th consecutive Premier League win, with only Preston North End and Liverpool winning 11 or more games in succession and not going on to win the top-flight title, Guardiola’s cohort look to be champions elect.
Egypt vs Sudan: Pharaohs banish Sudan to secure spot in last-16
A hard-earned 1-0 victory ensured passage into the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) last 16 for Egypt, with Mohamed Abdelmonem’s 35th minute header sinking a resilient Sudan and extending a run of eight unbeaten matchday three fixtures at AFCON to nine.
Given that Sudan were without a win in any of their previous 11 competitive matches and had lost 5-0 to Egypt as recently as December in the Arab Cup, the underdogs faced a mountainous uphill battle to cause an upset.
Egypt dominated possession in the opening 20 minutes, but Burhan Tia’s side remained well-drilled, keeping a narrow shape and tackling with physicality to keep out any early goals.
Egypt seemed to target Sudan’s defending at the front post on several occasions, sending in fast crosses to cause a panic.
Sudan struggled immensely to read the game aerially and Mostafa Mohamed almost capitalised from a corner after half an hour, seeing his free header saved smartly by Mohamed Mustafa.
They made it 1-0 from the resulting corner, however, when Abdelmonem knocked in yet another free header. Sudan weren’t entirely deterred at HT, however, and had positives to work with if they could move the ball with greater composure.
Sudan were dealt a huge blow ahead of the second half, with goalkeeper Mustafa forced off due to an injury he had initially tried to play through.
The ‘Falcons of Jediane’ started the half brightly, but lacked enough quality and cohesion to sustain their attacks.
The ‘Pharaohs’ were comfortable out of possession, understandable from a side who haven’t conceded more than 1 goal in a game since November, and were able to move the ball into attacking areas much quicker than their opponents.
Mohamed Salah’s impact had been limited to set piece deliveries, but came close when he latched onto a loose ball, only for his effort to be saved.
Energy levels faded as the game came to a close and while Sudan put in a valiant effort, Egypt’s quality showed as they advanced from the group stages in positive fashion.
Guinea-Bissau vs Nigeria: Eagles continue streak and hit peak thanks to Sadiq
Nigeria completed their Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) Group D campaign with a third successive win to secure top spot, with Umar Sadiq’s second-half strike setting the ‘Super-Eagles’ on their way to a 2-0 victory over Guinea-Bissau.
Half an hour into the game and the highlight was undoubtedly a small number of spectators doing the conga throughout the stands – there really wasn’t that much by way of viewing on the pitch.
Kelechi Iheanacho must’ve seen what was happening off the pitch and decided to provide some much-needed entertainment, as he connected with a bicycle kick from a corner but could do no more than sting the palms of Maurice Gomis in the Guinea-Bissau goal.
Only a win would do for Guinea-Bissau if they were to have any chance of progressing to the knockout stages, but the early signs pointed to an equally early exit.
Nigeria had been relatively quiet in the first half – perhaps because they already knew their safe passage to the last 16 was secured, but they were full of life in the opening stages of the second half and reaped their reward.
Iheanacho’s sumptuous outside-of-the-foot pass laid the ball on a plate for Sadiq, who simply couldn’t miss from six yards to score his maiden international goal.
A swift VAR check confirmed the goal, but to the bemusement of Sadiq, he was instantly hooked by Augustine Eguavoen.
The ‘Super Eagles’ wrapped the game up 10 minutes from time when Moses Simon tricked his way into the area and when his shot crashed back off the upright, William Troost-Ekong was on hand to tap home the rebound.
Not only have Guinea-Bissau never won an AFCON tournament game, they have now become the first team in history to go seven consecutive games in AFCON history without scoring a single goal.
Source: via Nigeria Football News
Liverpool vs Arsenal: False positivity for Reds as Arsenal battle to draw
With tonight’s match having been initially rescheduled due to a reported batch of false positive COVID-19 tests, there was nothing controversial about this result, as a valiant Arsenal held Liverpool to a goalless draw, ending a run of eight successive wins at Anfield for the ‘Reds’.
The 17th League Cup meeting between the sides is a record in the competition, and under Jürgen Klopp, Liverpool have scored more goals against Arsenal than any other opponent.
So it was unsurprising that the game started at a thrilling tempo, as the hosts threatened the Arsenal goal, with numerous full-blooded challenges and nervy passes providing a backdrop to the opening stages.
The early panic finally got the better of the ‘Gunners’ as Granit Xhaka’s clumsy challenge on Diogo Jota, who was bearing down on goal, saw him receive his marching orders.
The subsequent defensive introductions made by Mikel Arteta did little to stem the waves of red, but Arsenal remained resolute, and actually looked the more likely to score throughout most of the second half.
There were no shots on target registered as the game ticked past the hour mark – the ‘Reds’ struggling to find their gear, with little sign of a matchup that has seen 28 goals in their last five H2H’s against Arsenal.
The first shot on target actually fell to Bukayo Saka, who saw his effort from six-yards out wonderfully saved by Alisson.
With just minutes remaining, and Liverpool pushing frantically for a winner, Takumi Minamino blazed a glorious chance over the bar, as Arsenal secured what could prove to be a vital draw, after a courageous defensive display.
The draw won’t fill Klopp’s men with confidence heading to the Emirates next week, but they have now only lost two of their last 19 encounters with Arsenal.
Meanwhile, Arteta will be happy to see the character displayed by his young players after seeing his side knocked out of the FA Cup by Nottingham Forest last Sunday.
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