September 14, 2016

FREE KICKS: City the far better team in Manchester

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

A Manchester derby that was supposed to be a clash of the Titans turned out to be more like Gods vs. men. And it wasn’t pretty for the team that has the historic claim to a deity-like title.

It was Manchester City that thoroughly dominated its crosstown rival, at Old Trafford, no less. The first half was a clinic in possession for the visitors, working around the Red Devils without much trouble at all.

Pep Guardiola got the better of longtime rival Jose Mourinho in what many would’ve thought would be a masterclass in strategy.

Mourinho’s decision to start both Jesse Lingard and Henrikh Mkhitaryan backfired horribly, as neither did much with the ball or in defence. It was no surprise to see them both hauled off at halftime in favour of Ander Herrera and Marcus Rashford, the latter  especially injecting some decent attacking opportunities into the game for his side.

But it was all for naught, as even a couple of amateurish errors from Claudio Bravo couldn’t be jumped on by United. And this was after Zlatan Ibrahimovic potted United’s only goal after an awful gaffe by the keeper.

If this was supposed to be a game that will tell us the fortunes of these two title contenders for the rest of the season, it looks like Manchester will be painted blue come May while United will have to settle for a return to the Champions League.

Keeping in mind that with Leroy Sane’s City debut in the derby and Ilkay Gundogan’s still to come, the Sky Blues will only be getting better.

And to think, it actually could’ve been worse for Mourinho’s boys: Could you imagine if Sergio Aguero wasn’t suspended?


When you score three goals in 11 minutes, you’re pretty much a shoo-in for our player of the week award.

That’s what Romelu Lukaku did to open his account for the season in spectacular fashion.

His opening goal for Everton was, in fact, his first goal scored in 1,139 minutes of competitive play.

And his hat trick puts him up to 121 goals at the tender age of just 23. That’s more than Cristiano Ronaldo (110), Luis Suarez (107) and Wayne Rooney (100) had at this point of their careers. So, could this guy could turn out to be legend, or just the best poacher the world has ever seen?


Want an idea of how big the money is in English soccer? The second-tier

League Championship spent more in the transfer window (215M pounds) than French Ligue 1 (165M pounds) – you know, the league in which money bags PSG and Monaco play in.


Cheers, to Hull City’s Mike Phelan for being named manager of the month. That’s pretty good considering he’s just a caretaker manager and likely won’t remain on the job for long. You have to wonder how the players will feel about replacing him, though … Raheem Sterling’s resurgence under Guardiola has obviously caught a few people’s eyes: He was named player of the month with two goals and two assists in August … Laurent Koscielny scored an early goal of the season candidate with his incredible overhead kick against Southampton. When a defender does something that skillful, it’s even more eye-popping … Man, was Simon Mignolet beaten up. By the end of the game, he was bleeding above his eye, his nose was plugged with kleenex and he had to change his shirt at least once. Can’t question his toughness, but you can question his talent … Looks like Christian Benteke is giving Crystal Palace the shot in the arm in attack that it sorely needed. The Eagles had just one goal on the season before netting two against Middlesbrough, whose defence isn’t half bad … What got into Watford? Did not expect to see four goals from it on the road … Dimitri Payet is back doing Dimitri Payet things. If West Ham’s struggles continue, it may be forced to sell him in January … Spurs hammered Stoke City to put the Potters firmly on the bottom of the table. A minus-8 goal differential will be difficult to dig out from … Jamie Vardy’s goal against Liverpool might’ve been the easiest one anybody has ever scored. Lucas gave him that pass right in front of the empty net to break the Reds’ hopes of a clean sheet. At least he had a sense of humour about after the game, saying it was his “first assist in years.”


Is Leicester City in some deep trouble already?

We’re four games into the season and the reigning champions have just four points. Of course, the Foxes have had a couple of tough opponents so far in Liverpool and Arsenal, but this is a team that was completely demolished this weekend.

Leicester got by last year by using a strong defence and a counter-attacking style to hit teams on the break. Tactically, it should’ve matched up well with a Liverpool team that will come right at you. Instead, the Foxes’ defence didn’t hold and the floodgates opened.

The loss of N’Golo Kante in the midfield is apparent and it was always going to be tough for Riyad Mahrez and Vardy to repeat last year’s heroics.

When you factor in the likes of Mahrez, Islam Slimani, Ahmed Musa and Jeffrey Schlupp will be headed to the African Cup of Nations in January, it’s going to be hard to expect this side to be anything better than a mid-table team at this point.

Of course, manager Claudio Raneiri has proven us wrong before, but right now, the Foxes might challenge last year’s Chelsea side for the worst title defence ever.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

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