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Thursday, February 27, 2020

Premier League round-up: City kick-off title defence with 5-0 win, Sheffield United grab point on return

Manchester City kicked off their title defence in ominous fashion on Saturday as Raheem Sterling scored a hat-trick in a 5-0 thrashing of West Ham, while Burnley and Brighton enjoyed impressive wins.

By: Reuters | Updated: August 11, 2019 12:19:03 am
Manchester City made a hugely convincing start to their title defence with a 5-0 win at West Ham United. (Source: Twitter/ManCity)

Raheem Sterling scored a hat-trick as champions Manchester City made a hugely convincing start to their title defence with a 5-0 win at West Ham United on Saturday, in a game which saw heavy use of video review.

Brazilian Gabriel Jesus, preferred by Pep Guardiola to Sergio Aguero in attack, opened the scoring in the 25th minute with a deft close-range finish after a scorching burst and low cross from Kyle Walker.

Sterling made it 2-0, six minutes after the interval, with a cool finish after Kevin De Bruyne had burst from midfield and fed the England forward. Jesus then became the first player to have a goal disallowed by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in the Premier League when, in the 53rd minute, he finished off Sterling’s pass following a fine move. However, the VAR adjudged that Sterling was marginally offside as he ran into the box.

VAR, making its debut this season, was used again to review and eventually validate Sterling’s second, when he collected a lofted ball into the box and lobbed West Ham keeper Lukasz Fabianski.

The video staff were busy again in the 84th minute when City were awarded a penalty for Issa Diop’s foul on Riyad Mahrez. Substitute Aguero’s penalty soft penalty was saved but VAR ruled that Declan Rice was encroaching into the box and referee Mike Dean ordered a re-take — which the Argentine scored before Sterling completed his hat-trick in stoppage time.

After last season’s runners-up Liverpool began their campaign with a 4-1 win over Norwich City at Anfield on Friday, City’s emphatic victory was another sign that there could be a repeat neck-and-neck battle between the leading pair.

The result was City’s eighth successive win in competitive matches against West Ham, in which time they have scored 28 goals and conceded four. Guardiola was pleased with his team’s second half display but had some critical words for their performance in the opening 45 minutes.

“The rhythm was not there but that’s normal for the first game. In the second half we were better, we were more calm, we played extra passes. After we went 3-0 up the game was over,” said the Spaniard.

“But I cannot deny it, I’m delighted to win 5-0 away from home in the first game. We finished last season by winning 14 games in a row. It’s 15 now unbeaten so it’s good.”

Guardiola said the VAR decisions were a reminder of the need for a team to keep their cool in what are still unusual situations.

“You have to be mentally strong when VAR is not on your side. You think at 0-3 the game is almost over but at 0-2, the game is completely different. You have to be calm and be strong, it is going to change the dynamic not just for the team but for the spectators,” he said.

Sharp goal earns Sheffield United point at Bournemouth

Talismanic Sheffield United striker Billy Sharp came off the bench to give his side a share of the spoils in their first Premier League games since 2007 as they earned a 1-1 draw at Bournemouth on Saturday.

With the visitors showing no sign of nerves despite their lack of Premier League experience, the game was played at a blistering pace, with David McGoldrick fluffing a chance to put Sheffield United ahead in the opening minute.

After finishing 14th last season, Bournemouth made their Premier League experience tell with a well-worked free kick in the second half, defender Chris Mepham firing home as the Blades defence failed to clear.

With eight minutes left to play coach Chris Wilder summoned Sharp from the bench and the striker, who was United’s top scorer in the Championship last season with 23 goals, stabbed home the equaliser in the 88th minute.

Ryan Fraser had a chance to win it in stoppage time for the home side, but he missed the target with his free kick.

Andone, Maupay strike as Brighton stun Watford 3-0

An own goal by Watford midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure and second-half strikes by forwards Florin Andone and Neal Maupay gave Brighton & Hove Albion a superb 3-0 victory in their Premier League opener at Vicarage Road on Saturday.

Brighton went ahead in the 28th minute after pouncing on a weak headed clearance by Watford’s Jose Holebas. Midfielder Pascal Gross volleyed a pass into the box which Doucoure diverted into his own net. They doubled their lead 20 minutes into the second half when substitute Andone tucked in past goalkeeper Ben Foster after a neat cross from the right by midfielder Davy Propper.

Brighton defender Lewis Dunk then produced a fine through-ball from distance that Frenchman Maupay ran onto and converted from a difficult angle with his left foot to seal the victory with 13 minutes left.

The result meant Brighton boss Graham Potter made a winning start to life as a top-flight manager, having taken charge of the ambitious south-coast club following the departure of Chris Hughton after they narrowly avoided relegation last season.

Brighton host West Ham United in their next match while Watford are at former manager Marco Silva’s Everton.

Palace hold dominant 10-man Everton to 0-0 draw

Everton missed a string of chances to start their Premier League campaign on a winning note after they were held 0-0 at Crystal Palace on Saturday. The visitors dominated possession and were denied by some desperate Palace defending, with goalkeeper Vicente Guaita pulling off a series of good saves in the first half.

Everton missed their best opportunity in the 14th minute, when Richarlison’s shot was cleared off the line by the home side’s towering striker Christian Benteke. Palace sprung to life after the break and came close twice inside a minute when Everton and England keeper Jordan Pickford kept out a Jordan Ayew sitter and then produced a fine reflex save with his foot to deny Max Meyer.

Pickford was pleased with the outcome after Everton were forced on the defensive in the closing stages.

“We could have created a couple more chances but we got the clean sheet,” Pickford told the BBC. “There was a lot of wind, but we came away and didn’t get beat, so we can build some momentum for next week. We went down to 10 men and played well, managed the game. We knew Palace would come at us a bit more but we dealt well with it as a defensive unit.”

Palace lacked bite up front after manager Roy Hodgson left want-away forward Wilfried Zaha, who was denied a move to Everton during the summer transfer window, on the bench.

Zaha made little impact after coming on as a second-half substitute and Richarlison came close for the visitors again before they had Morgan Schneiderlin sent off in the 76th minute for a reckless tackle on Luka Milivojevic.

Benteke rued his side’s inability to capitalise on their numerical advantage in the second half.

“First half, they had some great chances but we came back in the second and deserved a goal,” said the Belgian. “We played a great side… we were sharper and stronger in the second half.”

Barnes strikes twice as Burnley sink sorry Saints

Ashley Barnes struck twice as Burnley beat Southampton 3-0 in a meeting of two of last season’s Premier League strugglers at a wet and windswept Turf Moor on Saturday. It was a typically robust display from Sean Dyche’s Burnley but a worrying performance from a Southampton side who have had to fight against the drop in the past two seasons. Three goals inside 12 minutes in the second half turned a game which had been even until Barnes opened the scoring in the 63rd minute

“We lost it completely,” said Saints manager Ralph Hasenhuttl. “We lost it for 12 minutes and now this game is gone. Three-nil down, no chance to come back. We knew it would be difficult here. We knew it is not easy here. We did it ok for 60 minutes and then it is not good enough,” added the Austrian.

Hasenhuttl suffered a blow before the game with defender Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg restricted to the bench after suffering a pre-match illness but the Saints started well.

New signing Che Adams went close early, sliding in at the back post to meet a dangerous cross from Yan Valery but the 15 million-pound ($18 million) signing from Birmingham City couldn’t find the target.

Burnley, who left their own close season signing Jay Rodriguez on the bench against his former club, had the ball in the net through Chris Wood in the 16th minute but provider Barnes was flagged offside and a Video Assistant Referee review backed the decision.

In driving rain and swirling winds, there were few moments of quality — Burnley winger Johann Berg Gudmundsson drove just wide of Angus Gunn’s post while Nick Pope, making his first league start in the Burnley goal for 15 months, made a fine save from a rasping Nathan Redmond drive.

The breakthrough came when Saints defender Jannik Vestergaard misjudged a hopeful long ball forward from Erik Pieters and Barnes latched on to it before firing home.

The pair combined again for the Clarets’ second seven minutes later with Dutch debutant Pieters’ cross from deep met superbly on the volley by Barnes. Icelander Gudmundsson made it 3-0 in the 75th, winning a challenge with Ryan Bertrand and bursting goalward before beating goalkeeper Angus Gunn with a precise finish.

“Really good start, really pleasing start,” said Dyche.

“The players have got their reward for a really pleasing pre-season. There has been a strong desire and super fitness levels. I think there is an intent about the group,” he said, adding particular praise for the 29-year-old Barnes. “His finishes were excellent. He continues to learn about himself and the game. He is certainly a very effective player,” Dyche said.

Kane scores late double to give Spurs win over Villa

Harry Kane struck two late goals as Tottenham Hotspur recovered from an early setback to beat promoted Aston Villa 3-1 in their opening match of the Premier League season on Saturday.

Villa, back in the top flight after three seasons away, stunned the home faithful in the ninth minute when John McGinn scored with their first attack.

It seemed Dean Smith’s side would mark their return with a notable victory as they hung on tenaciously until the 73rd minute.

Tottenham were laboured in a disappointing first half but were relentless after the break and record signing Tanguy Ndombele finally broke Villa’s resistance when he fired home from the edge of the area.

Kane struck in the 86th minute after a mistake by Jack Grealish and the England captain rubbed salt into Villa’s wounds by stroking home his second in the 90th minute.

It was cruel on a disciplined Villa side as Tottenham celebrated their first home opening fixture for eight seasons with three hard-earned points.

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