Player ratings as City cruise to crucial win
Manchester City closed the gap at the top of the Premier League table to just three points with a 3-1 win over Aston Villa on Sunday.
First half goals from Rodri, Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez were enough for City despite a second half goal from Ollie Watkins.
Inside the opening four minutes, the home side took the lead through Rodri. The defensive midfielder rose highest at the near post to head home a Mahrez corner kick to make it 1-0.
Rodri almost turned provider a few minutes later, sliding a brilliant through ball into the path of fellow midfielder Ilkay Gundogan. The German however, was unable to best Emi Martinez with his subsequent side-footed effort on goal – seeing the strike well saved by the World Cup winner.
Gundogan did find the back of the net in the 13th minute, half-volleying into an empty net from the edge of the box. The goal was disallowed due to Erling Haaland clattering into Martinez in the build up play.
The German would find the net again near the end of the first half, only this time the goal would count. After Haaland capitalised on some confusion between Calum Chambers and Martinez at the back, the striker drilled the ball across goal and into the path of Gundogan, who made no mistake at the back post to make it 2-0.
In the final minute of the half, Man City made it three from the penalty spot after Jacob Ramsey clipped the heels of Jack Grealish inside the box. Mahrez stepped up to fire the resulting spot kick into the top left corner of the net.
The second half was similarly comfortable for Man City up until the 60th minute, when Villa surprisingly got back into the game. The goal came from Ollie Watkins after Douglas Luiz played the forward through on goal on the right of the penalty area. Watkins made no mistake with his resulting strike on goal, firing low past Ederson in the City net.
The concession of a goal sparked City into life at the other end, with substitute Julian Alvarez being denied a goal by a brilliant block from Ezri Konza after Grealish had chipped the ball to the back post.
In the final 10 minutes, Villa tried their best to find a second goal, bringing on Philippe Coutinho to try and do just that. The former Liverpool man came close to scoring one of the better goals of the season thus far in the 82nd minute, cutting in from the left flank and curling a brilliant effort goalward – an effort that was tipped over the crossbar by Ederson.
As Villa pushed forward, more and more gaps appeared at the back. Mahrez really should have taken advantage of those gaps in the 85th minute after finding himself clean through on goal, but could only balloon his resulting strike literally a million miles over the crossbar.
GK – Ederson – 6/10 – Could do nothing about the goal, but did a lot to deny Coutinho a goal late in the game.
CB – Kyle Walker – 6/10 – Looks better in a RCB role than he does as a right-back these days. Another composed performance.
CB – Ruben Dias – 6/10 – Made a brilliant tackle on Leon Bailey in the first half. Subbed off at half-time.
CB – Aymeric Laporte – 6/10 – Distribution was decent.
DM – Rodri – 8/10 – Made up for his recent underwhelming performances with an early goal.
DM – Bernardo Silva – 6/10 – Lost the ball in the lead up to Villa’s goal.
RM – Riyad Mahrez – 7/10 – Bagged an early assist and then scored a penalty before half-time.
AM – Kevin De Bruyne – 7/10 – His delivery into the box was as impeccable as ever.
AM – Ilkay Gundogan – 8/10 – The best player on the pitch. Gundogan bagged a goal and was at the heart of every attacking move.
LM – Jack Grealish – 6/10 – Lively on the left and won a penalty in the first half.
ST – Erling Haaland – 5/10 – An ok performance. Subbed off at half-time.
SUB – Julian Alvarez – 6/10 – Amazing he’s only coming off the bench.
SUB – Manuel Akanji – 4/10 – City’s defence were noticeably worse when he came on.
SUB – Phil Foden – N/A.
SUB – Nathan Ake – N/A.
Pep Guardiola – 6/10 – A bit of a bizarre team selection rounded off a bit of a bizarre week. Still, City had more than enough to quality to basically not play with a left-back.
GK – Emiliano Martinez – 4/10 – Didn’t cover himself in glory in the lead up to City’s second.
RB – Ashley Young – 2/10 – Asleep at the near post for the first goal, and then asleep at the back post for the second. Not great.
CB – Ezri Konza – 5/10 – Made a goal-saving block in the second half.
CB – Calum Chambers – 2/10 – As calamitous as you’d expect. Which is very calamitous.
LB – Lucas Digne – 4/10 – Didn’t get forward enough.
RM – Jacob Ramsey – 4/10 – Gifted Man City a penalty before half-time.
CM – Douglas Luiz – 6/10 – Set up Villa’s consolation goal.
CM – Boubacar Kamara – 3/10 – City’s midfielders ran rings around him.
LM – Emiliano Buendia – N/A – Honestly didn’t even know he was on the pitch.
ST – Leon Bailey – 3/10 – Needed to do a lot more than he did.
ST – Ollie Watkins – 6/10 – Took the one chance that was presented to him.
SUB – Alex Moreno – 6/10 – Lively when he came on. Much better than Digne.
SUB – Jhon Duran – 5/10 – Hit the crossbar late on.
SUB – John McGinn – 6/10 – Added some much needed grit to the Villa midfield.
SUB – Matty Cash – N/A.
SUB – Philippe Coutinho – 5/10 – Forced Ederson into a good save.
Unai Emery – 5/10 – There’s not a lot you can do when your side go a goal down inside five minutes against City. Decent second half showing that offers hope for the coming weeks.
Player of the Match – Ilkay Gundogan (Man City)
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Tottenham director Fabio Paratici banned from football worldwide by FIFA
Tottenham managing director of football Fabio Paratici has been banned from football worldwide after FIFA extended the punishment imposed in Italy following his involvement in Juventus’ penalised accounting practices.
In January, the Italian giants suffered a shock 15-point deduction after the club was deemed to have inflated player transfer values in swap deals among other financial offences.
Paratici joined the Juventus hierarchy in 2010 and was the club’s sporting director between November 2018 and the summer of 2021, before he took up a similar role at Tottenham. The investigation into Juve’s accounts scrutinised transactions between 2019 and 2021 – when Paratici was at the heart of the club’s dealings.
At the start of the year, Paratici was one of several former Juventus board members that were banned from football following the conclusion of the investigation by the Italian Football Federation. Initially, Paratici was handed a 30-month ban from just Italian football, although the threat of extending the scope of that punishment internationally always loomed.
On Wednesday, FIFA released a statement confirming that they had indeed taken up that option, extending the ban handed out to Paratici and the other Juventus board members – including former owner Andrea Agnelli – worldwide.
The statement read: “FIFA can confirm that following a request by the Italian FA (FIGC), the chairperson of FIFA disciplinary committee has decided to extend the sanctions imposed by FIGC on several football officials to have worldwide effect.”
Paratici was due to be in court this week for a a preliminary committal hearing regarding a portion of the charges levelled at Juve, but the date for those proceedings have been shunted back to 10 May. Juve appealed their 15-point penalty – which the prosecution only recommended as a nine-point punishment – and will hear the ruling of which on 19 April.
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Sir Alex Ferguson & Arsene Wenger inducted into Premier League Hall of Fame
Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger have become the first managers to be inducted into the Premier League Hall of Fame.
The duo won 16 Premier League titles between them across respective long-term spells with Manchester United and Arsenal.
With 13 of those championships, Ferguson is the most decorated manager in the history of the competition. He is the only coach to have won the Premier League three times in a row, doing so on two different occasions.
Ferguson said: “I’m truly delighted to be inducted into the Premier League Hall of Fame. It’s an honour when you receive recognition like this. However, it’s not just about me as a person. It’s about the job at Manchester United and the bond we had over many years, so I’m also proud for the club, the staff and my players.
“My job was to send the fans home happy. United’s history and my own expectations were the things that drove me, and I then had to try and develop all my players with the same expectations and make sure we could go out and achieve them.
“I feel Arsene is a very worthy inductee as he transformed Arsenal Football Club fantastically. They became a tough team to compete with and we both wanted to win, which motivated us further. Through the years since retirement, we’d go for dinner together in a little restaurant he knows well in Switzerland. He is a really interesting man and I enjoy his company, but it is still my job to pick the wine!”
Wenger arrived in England in 1996 as one of the Premier League’s first foreign coaches, and quickly proved sceptics wrong, transforming Arsenal into title winners and changing English football’s culture with his scouting and dietary expertise.
The Frenchman won three Premier League titles with Arsenal, including an unbeaten ‘Invincibles’ season in 2003/04.
Wenger said: “I am very grateful to have been selected for the Premier League Hall of Fame. We always wanted to give something special to the fans and when you have players capable of remarkable things, the most important thing for me is the obligation of perfection.
“I’d like to be known as someone who loved Arsenal, who respected the values of the club and left it in a position where it can grow and become even bigger.
“To share this with Sir Alex is a great honour for me. It’s like two boxers, you fight like mad and go the distance together. At the end of the day, you have respect and it will be a great opportunity to meet with him, share a good bottle of wine and memories of our old battles.”
In addition to Ferguson and Wenger, there are 16 other inductees in the Premier League Hall of Fame.
Alan Shearer and Thierry Henry were the first two people inducted when the Hall of Fame was created in 2021. They were followed later that year by Eric Cantona, Roy Keane, Frank Lampard, Dennis Bergkamp, Steven Gerrard and David Beckham.
In 2022, Wayne Rooney, Patrick Vieira, Sergio Aguero, Didier Drogba, Vincent Kompany, Peter Schmeichel, Paul Scholes and Ian Wright were inducted.
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