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Can Manchester City Win the Quadruple?

Chaos and Drama as VAR Makes History in English Football

Referee Craig Pawson consults the VAR system before awarding Liverpool a penalty during The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round match between Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion at Anfield. (Getty)

by Yasin Izzi

With no premier league fixtures in action last weekend, the FA cup fourth-round returned with some interesting results. Manchester United travelled to the South West region of the country to face Yeovil Town from League two. An easy and comfortable 4-0 win with no surprises for Mourinho’s men put them through to the next round with the new signing ‘Alexis Sanchez’ making his debut and taking part in two goals out of the four.

Moving on to Newport County, the home of the modest 140 year- old Rodney Parade stadium, Tottenham Hotspur was on the edge of exiting the competition before Harry Kane saved the team with a late equalizer in the 82nd minute which lead the match to a 1-1 draw and kept Spurs’ hopes of winning a trophy they have won eight times still alive.

Mauricio Pochettino was not satisfied with team’s performance. After the match, he stated, “the team didn’t really show they want to go next stage of the FA Cup. That is what has disappointed us.” He added, “the theory is to win trophies, and it’s easy to talk about that. But I think we missed a massive opportunity to show we really want to win a trophy.” As a result, a replay match will take place at Wembley Stadium in the week commencing February 5.

No surprises in South-West London, precisely at Stamford Bridge. The Belgian youngster, Michy Batshuayi, who appeared in a limited number of matches under Antonio Conte, scored twice as Chelsea secured a 3-0 comfortable win over Newcastle United. Marcos Alonso added the third goal with a superb free kick in the second half to send Chelsea through to the fifth round of the competition.

With goals from Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City displayed a solid performance and secured a 2-0 win over Cardiff City away in Wales. The dream of winning the “Quadruple” continues for Pep Guardiola’s men. After the match, Pep displayed his satisfaction by stating, “there are no words to describe my pride about my players and my team after so many games with no rest and because of injuries.” However, he was frustrated and demanded that referees give more protection to the players after winger Leroy Sane was injured and ruled out for six weeks. He stated, “please protect the players. Not the Manchester City players, [all] the players. The only thing they can do is that: protect the players. Or it will happen again.”

VAR CAUSES CHAOS

At Anfield Stadium, VAR or (Video Assistant Referee) dominated the extraordinary clash between Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion. Jay Rodriguez scored two out of three goals that Liverpool conceded to end the match 3-2 to the Albions and send them through to the FA cup fifth round. Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah scored the two goals for Liverpool. This is the second loss in a row for Jurgen Klopp’s men since they defeated Manchester City in the league which made everyone think that Liverpool is on the right path. Since then, Liverpool have lost twice, to Swansea away in the league, and now to West Bromwich Albion at home in the FA Cup. This match saw a historic moment as it was the first time ever that a referee in English football had referred to VAR for a final decision.

Two controversial decisions took place in the match. The first one saw an Albion’s goal being disallowed for an offside, and minutes later, referee Craig Pawson awarding a penalty to Mohamed Salah after running down to the sideline to review the situation from the monitor. Both decisions created chaos around the stadium and at the same time, created history.

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring their third goal (Reuters)

THE PREMIER LEAGUE AS IT HAPPENED

Moving on to the Premier League, Arsenal travelled on Tuesday night to Swansea City and suffered a 3-1 embarrassing defeat to a team who is bottom of the Premier League table. The Gunners continued their bad run away from home after only winning three out of their thirteen away matches in the league this season. The match saw a horrible mistake by Peter Cech which gave Jordan Ayew the chance to double up the score after Sam Clucas’ first goal. A fabulous performance by Swansea City saw them bounce up from the relegation zone for the first time since November. The match also saw a farewell to Olivier Giroud who played his last minutes with an Arsenal shirt.

After signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang this week, Arsenal is hoping to bounce back and start winning matches, but the problem really is far bigger than that. Arsenal’s previous matches have shown a lack of performance in some of the positions. For example, a solid centre-back and a defensive midfielder are needed in addition to a long-term replacement for Peter Cech.

On the other hand, Liverpool with a comfortable 3-0 win over Huddersfield Town, saw them get back on track after two defeats. Jurgen Klopp stated, “you need to win all the time, we know that. Coming back on track is the most important thing. There is an open bill and we need to pay that back.”

Emre Can was the first to get on the scoresheet with a long rage deflected shot in the first half before Roberto Firmino added another just before the break. Mohamed Salah managed to score the third from the penalty spot securing his 19th Premier League goal this season, just two goals behind Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane.

Chelsea hosted Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night and suffered a shocking 3-0 defeat. Antonio Conte’s men looked clueless against Bournemouth’s solid team who haven’t lost a league game in their past six matches since Christmas. Conte stated; “They deserved to win the game. We tried to do something but it was very difficult for us, even in the first half when the score was 0-0, we struggled a lot”. All three goals for Bournemouth came in the second half when Wilson put the visitors up with the first goal followed by two goals from Junior Stanislas and Nathan Ake. This victory for Bournemouth is their “best result” in the Premier League this season, says manager Eddie Howe.

At the Etihad Stadium, three goals from Fernandinho, Kevin De Bruyne, and Sergio Aguero secured a comfortable 3-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion who is suffering now at the bottom of the table. This victory moved Manchester City 15 points clear at the top Premier League. The gap increased at the top after the neighbours Manchester United lost 2-0 to Tottenham Hotspur.

Centre-back is a position that Manchester City has invested in heavily in the recent years. It has consumed much of the club’s cash. Aymeric Laporte, the new club record signing also a centre-back, made an early debut for the Citizens and made a good first impression. Pep Guardiola expressed his thoughts about him after the match and stated; “Yesterday he made the first training session, just passed the ball, but today we saw how good he is. He made an amazing, amazing performance. We are so happy for him.” The only upset for Guardiola’s team in this match was the injury of David Silva who was forced out in the first half and replaced by Ikay Gundogan.

A Premier League attendance record of 81,978 at Wembley Stadium witnessed a defeat for Manchester United by Tottenham Hotspur. An early goal from Christian Eriksen after just eleven seconds of the match confused Jose Mourinho and his men. As he himself described the first goal as “ridiculous”. Minutes later, Phil Jones put through an own goal which provided a 2-0 lead to the hosts. Spurs looked sharper and more aggressive during the whole course of the match. Manager Mauricio Pochettino described it as a perfect night on and off the pitch as Spurs completed business and signed Lucas Moura from Paris Saint-Germain for £25m on transfer window deadline day.

TRANSFER WINDOW – JANUARY 2018

The Top 10 Transfers-

1- Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool to Barcelona (£106m)
2- Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton to Liverpool (£75m)
3- Aymeric Laporte from Athletic Bilbao to Manchester City (£57.2m)
4- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund to Arsenal (£56m)
5- Cenk Tosun from Besiktas to Everton (£27m)
6- Lucas Moura from Paris Saint-Germain to Tottenham Hotspur (£25m)
7- Theo Walcott from Arsenal to Everton (£20m)
8- Guido Carillo from Monaco to Southampton (£19.1m)
9- Olivier Giroud from Arsenal to Chelsea (£18m)
10- Emerson Palmieri from Roma to Chelsea (£17m)

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