Manchester City back on top, David de Gea costs Manchester United once more

Manchester City's Sergio Aguero, left, celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Burnley and Manchester City at Turf Moor in Burnley. (AP)
Updated 28 April 2019

Manchester City back on top, David de Gea costs Manchester United once more

  • Manchester City moved back ahead of Liverpool to the top of the Premier League
  • United halted a run of seven defeats in nine games, but failed to capitalize

MANCHESTER: Manchester City moved back ahead of Liverpool to the top of the Premier League with a 1-0 win at Burnley, while Chelsea consolidated their place in the top four thanks to another error from Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea in a 1-1 draw on Sunday.
Arsenal’s 3-0 defeat to Leicester means Chelsea now hold a two-point lead over the Gunners in the chase for Champions League football next season with United a further point back in sixth with just two games remaining.
In contrast to the faltering form of all four contenders for third and fourth, as Tottenham also lost at home to West Ham on Saturday, the top two continue to cede no ground in the title race.
City extended their winning run to 12 straight Premier League games and now just need to win their final two at home to Leicester and away to Brighton to retain their title and stretch Liverpool’s long wait to win the league to at least 30 years.
Pep Guardiola cut a frustrated figure as City labored for the first 45 minutes at Turf Moor.
However, they clicked into gear after the break and wave upon wave of attack on the Burnley goal was finally rewarded after the hour mark when Sergio Aguero’s shot squeezed just 29 millimeters over the line before Matt Lowton hacked the ball clear.
The goal was Aguero’s 20th in the Premier League this season.
“We could have won by more distance, I’m so happy for the victory and now we have a week to prepare and hopefully we arrive at Brighton with the chance to be champions,” said Guardiola.
United halted a run of seven defeats in nine games, but failed to capitalize on Tottenham and Arsenal’s defeats as De Gea, so often his side’s savior in recent seasons, was at fault again to hand Chelsea a share of the points at Old Trafford.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had made five changes to his starting line-up and was rewarded with a bright start as United scored for the first time from open play in just short of nine hours of football through Juan Mata.
However, two minutes before the break De Gea spilled Antonio Rudiger’s speculative long-range effort and Marcos Alonso levelled on the rebound.
De Gea was also at fault for goals in United’s previous three games in defeat to Barcelona, Everton and City.
“David is unquestionable for me,” said Mata of his compatriot. “His level has been fantastic for this club. The amount of points he has saved us is incredible.
“We all have good and bad moments in our careers but the important thing is how we react.”
Arsenal’s top four challenge has collapsed over the past week, conceding three times in three straight league defeats for the first time since 1967.
The Gunners were dominated from start to finish by Brendan Rodgers’s Leicester, although the visitors were not helped by a 36th-minute red card for Ainsley Maitland-Niles at the King Power.
Leicester were unlucky not to lead long before then, but made the extra man advantage count as Youri Tielemans opened the scoring and Jamie Vardy struck twice late on.
“The second yellow card gave us a lot of problems to control our gameplan and be efficient,” said Arsenal boss Unai Emery.
“We continued with one player less but knowing it was going to be difficult. That has conditioned the result a lot.”
Victory keeps the Foxes in the hunt for seventh, which could reap a place in the Europa League next season if City win the FA Cup.


Juventus coach Sarri: Cristiano is in another class

Updated 20 January 2020

Juventus coach Sarri: Cristiano is in another class

  • The 38-year-old is the only player to have scored at least league 15 goals in each of the last 14 seasons

MILAN: Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to form has coincided with Juventus taking a firm grip on Serie A.

Ronaldo did not score at all in November, but he scored twice as Juventus beat Parma 2-1 on Sunday to take his tally to 11 in his last seven league matches.

The win also put Juventus on course for a record-extending ninth straight Serie A title as the Bianconeri moved four points above Inter Milan. They were two points behind the Nerazzurri a month and a half ago.

Ronaldo has struggled with injury this season and missed three Serie A matches, playing through pain in others.

The 38-year-old Portugal forward has nevertheless scored 16 goals in 17 matches, becoming the first Juventus player to have that many goals after 20 matches since Omar Sivori in 1960.

Ronaldo is also the only player to have scored at least 15 goals in one of Europe’s top five leagues in each of the last 14 seasons.

“Cristiano is in another class,” Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri said. “Sometimes he poses you a little bit of a problem but he will solve 100 others for you.”

While Juventus managed to grind out results in November when Ronaldo wasn’t scoring, Inter struggle when their top scorers are not on form.

There have been three matches since December where neither Romelu Lukaku nor Lautaro Martínez have managed to find the back of the net. All three ended in draws.

The latest was a surprise 1-1 result at relegation-threatened Lecce on Sunday.

That is also down to a general drop in pace in the team as, prior to that, Inter had managed to win the previous four matches where Lukaku and Martínez didn’t score.

“The final result stems from the fact that we’re a team that needs to go at 200 kph. We cannot afford to be off the pace,” Inter coach Antonio Conte said. “It’s evident that if we go at an average pace, if we go into cruise speed, we become a normal team and aren’t able to get a result.”

Substitute

Mario Balotelli’s match lasted only seven minutes on Sunday and he could now find himself with even less playing time in the coming weeks.

Balotelli came on as a substitute in the 74th minute of Brescia’s 2-2 draw against Cagliari but shortly afterward was shown a yellow card for a high tackle and then immediately shown a second after repeatedly swearing at the referee.

Depending on what referee Antonio Giua writes in his report, Balotelli could be suspended for several matches.

The forward will certainly miss Brescia’s next match, against former team AC Milan.

“I think the yellow card was too harsh. Mario didn’t feel it was right, and his protests didn’t seem excessive to me,” Brescia coach Eugenio Corini said. “It’s a pity because he came on with the desire to make us win the match.”

Balotelli was banned for the first four matches of the Serie A season following a red card in his last match with Marseille last season.

“It’s incredible how one episode can always drastically change from too negative or too positive everyone’s opinion on the character or professionalism of a person,” Balotelli wrote on his Instagram story after the match. “I will continue with my daily work this time, too. It’s not a problem. You can continue to judge me as you wish.”