Manchester City snap Liverpool winning streak to reignite title race

Leroy Sane scored the winner in a breathtaking clash at the Etihad. (AFP)
Updated 04 January 2019
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Manchester City snap Liverpool winning streak to reignite title race

  • Leroy Sane’s winner 18 minutes from time ensured City close the gap between the sides to just four points
  • A run of nine straight league wins had given Liverpool a commanding lead at the top of the table

MANCHESTER, UK: Manchester City inflicted Liverpool’s first Premier League defeat of the season to breathe new life into their title defense with a 2-1 victory at the Etihad on Thursday.
City now trail Jurgen Klopp’s men by just four points thanks to Leroy Sane’s winner 18 minutes from time after Roberto Firmino had canceled out Sergio Aguero’s first-half opener for the hosts.
A run of nine straight league wins had given Liverpool a commanding lead at the top of the table as they edged toward a first top flight title since 1989/90, particularly after City suffered back-to-back shock defeats to Crystal Palace and Leicester to begin the festive season.
With no more league meetings between the sides to come, Liverpool’s destiny is still in their own hands, but they will now have the pressure of having a City side that romped to the title with a record 100 points last season on their tails.
Jurgen Klopp had predicted a “thunderstorm” of a start from the champions to match the Champions League quarter-final second leg between the sides last season when City roared into an early lead before Liverpool fought back to win 2-1 on the night and 5-1 on aggregate.
However, despite City’s dominance of possession, it was Liverpool who looked the more assured in the early stages.
And only the finest of margins denied the visitors the lead on 19 minutes when Sadio Mane burst onto Mohamed Salah’s pass and saw his shot come back off the inside of the post.
John Stones then smacked his panicked clearance into City goalkeeper Ederson but the England international redeemed himself by clearing just before all of the ball had crossed the line.
City were also handed a reprieve by referee Anthony Taylor when captain Vincent Kompany only saw a yellow card for a wild two-footed lunge on Salah.
At the other end Virgil van Dijk was again justifying his tag as the world’s most expensive defender to keep City’s array of attacking talent quiet with he Dutchman standing tall to block David Silva’s effort.
However, a Liverpool defense that had not conceded twice in the same game all season in the league before kick-off was breached when City managed to free Aguero from Van Dijk’s shackles.
Sane threatened first with a pacey burst down the left and rising drive that Alisson Becker parried.
But City recycled possession and Aguero beat Dejan Lovren to Bernardo Silva’s cross before firing into the roof of the net to score for the seventh time in seven home league games against Liverpool.
Despite a combination of nerves and fatigue at the end of a gruelling festive period, the game truly came to life in a pulsating second-half.
City had claims for a penalty waived away when Raheem Sterling tumbled under a challenge from Andy Robertson before the Scot was to play a vital part Liverpool’s equalizer.
One Liverpool full-back picked out another as Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross was met perfectly by Robertson to square for Firmino to head into an empty net.
Pep Guardiola had his head in his hands when a slack pass from Sane set Liverpool free on the counter-attack moments later, but within seconds the German showed what he is capable of as he latched on Sterling’s pass before firing in off the far post.
Alisson demonstrated why Liverpool spent a then world record £67 million for a goalkeeper in July to bolster their title chances with a brilliant save from Aguero as the Argentine tried to round him at the end of a blistering City counter-attack.
Seconds later it was the turn of his understudy in the Brazil side to make a huge save as Ederson denied Salah as tempers flared with Guardiola furious a free-kick wasn’t awarded City’s way before the Egyptian broke clear.
Sterling then wasted a great chance to ensure City didn’t have to see out a tense five minutes of stoppage time, but the hosts held out to put the title back up for grabs.


Godolphin happy with Thunder Snow ahead of Dubai World Cup defense

Updated 25 March 2019
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Godolphin happy with Thunder Snow ahead of Dubai World Cup defense

  • Five-year old bidding to become first horse to win back-to-back Dubai World Cups.
  • $12 million race takes place at Meydan on Saturday.

LONDON: Thunder Snow is preparing well as he bids to become the first horse to win back-to-back Dubai World Cups, according to Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor.
The five-year-old memorably won the showcase $12 million race at Meydan by five and three-quarter lengths, winning in a track record time last year. He returned to the track on Super Saturday two weeks ago, finishing second in the Group 1 Al-Maktoum Challenge Round Three.
And Godolphin are expecting big things from him in the famous race. Bin Suroor, the most successful handler in the history of the 2000m dirt feature with eight winners to his name, is feeling confident.
“He did his final serious piece of work on Saturday and went very well indeed,” the Godolphin trainer said. “He needed his Super Saturday outing — his first run since November — badly and has come on a lot for it. We expect him to run a big race under conditions we know suit him, but obviously it is a good race.”
Thunder Snow has already made history as the only horse to win both the Group 2 UAE Derby and Group 1 Dubai World Cup, but if he is to win this Saturday then he will be revered for years to come.
One of his big rivals in the race will be Yoshida. Trained by Bill Mott he arrived in Dubai on March 19 in preparation for the cash-rich race. The Japanese-bred son of Heart’s Cry landed in the Emirate off a sixth-place finish in the inaugural Group 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational at Gulfstream Park.
He won the Turf Classic at Churchill Downs, as well as the prestigious Woodward at Saratoga last year and Riley Mott, assistant to his father Bob, said Yoshida is looking good ahead of the big race.
“He’s settled in really well,” he said. “He traveled great and we’re very happy with him. The facilities here are top class. This is my seventh time over here and we’re treated very well.”
Yoshida went out just after 7:00 a.m. in Monday to stretch his legs over the famous dirt track.
“He just had a routine gallop this morning and we let him stand in the gate. Nothing too serious,” Mott said.
Jose Ortiz, who has piloted Yoshida though his last two starts and was aboard for the Grade 1 score at Churchill Downs, will make his first appearance in Dubai. Mott said he expects Ortiz, who guided Yoshida to a closing fourth-place effort in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, will have plenty of options in the 2000m race.
“It sounds like there’s a lot of pace from the local horses, but we have a horse that’s pretty versatile in the way he runs,” Mott said. “He’s able to adapt to the pace scenario. It’s just a matter of how the race develops in front of him.”