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Man City too good for Liverpool

Man City too good for Liverpool

Manchester City recovered from their shock defeat at Sunderland and opened up a three-point gap at the top of the Premier League table with a comfortable victory over Liverpool.
Roberto Mancini’s side faced a test of character and resilience with a swift turnaround to play again only 48 hours after the loss at the Stadium of Light – and they passed the examination impressively.
Liverpool were denied striker Luis Suarez’s potency as they decided not to appeal against the eight-game ban handed down after the Football Association found the Uruguayan guilty of racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra.And they sorely missed Suarez’s menace as they enjoyed plenty of possession but never threatened to turn it into tangible reward.
Mancini incredulous at Man City fixtures
Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina’s error gifted Sergio Aguero an early goal and Yaya Toure rose to head home David Silva’s corner for a second before the break.
The only blot on City’s night came when Gareth Barry was sent off for a second yellow card, which means he misses Sunday’s FA Cup third round tie against Manchester United, but they sealed the win when James Milner scored from the spot after Martin Skrtel fouled Yaya Toure.

It gave City the advantage over closest rivals United before their visit to Newcastle on Wednesday and enabled them to regain momentum after a goalless draw at West Bromwich Albion and the 1-0 reverse at Sunderland.

Liverpool’s efforts lacked punch despite the vast expense lavished on their forward line by manager Kenny Dalglish and they ended well beaten.

Stewart Downing was thwarted by Joe Hart’s crucial early block from Jordan Henderson’s fine pass before Reina gifted City their opening goal.Aguero’s shot was testing in the stormy conditions but the Spaniard made the basic error of failing to get his body behind the ball and the 20-yard shot dipped underneath him to relieve City’s early nerves.

The Argentine then lifted a shot just over before Edin Dzeko’s effort took a heavy deflection off Glen Johnson and flew inches wide with the anxious Reina totally wrong-footed.

As Liverpool appeared to be getting a foothold in proceedings, the hosts struck again 12 minutes before the interval.

Reina made amends for his earlier error by turning Vincent Kompany’s header over the top, but when Silva returned the resulting corner Yaya Toure got ahead of Johnson to head high past the the visiting keeper.

Kompany made a vital intervention at the other end to ensure City protected their two-goal lead until half-time, throwing himself bravely in front of Dirk Kuyt’s shot as the Dutchman moved to turn in Andy Carroll’s header.Once more the Reds saw plenty of the ball after the restart, but their lack of threat prompted Dalglish to make a double change just before the hour mark, sending on Steven Gerrard and former Manchester City striker Craig Bellamy for the disappointing Charlie Adam and Kuyt.

They failed to make any serious inroads into the home defence, although they were given brief hope when Barry was sent off for a second yellow card, an innocuous block on Daniel Agger, with 17 minutes left.
If they did have any hopes of a revival, they were snuffed out two minutes later when referee Mike Jones – a late replacement for Andre Marriner, who refereed the match in which Suarez had his flashpoint with Evra in October – pointed to the spot after Skrtel tangled with Yaya Toure.

After Mancini had failed in demands to have Skrtel sent off by waving an imaginary red card, Milner converted the penalty emphatically.
Substitute Adam Johnson struck the post with a curling effort as City pressed again, but matters had already been settled well before.
Liverpool kept going and tested City keeper Hart with some late efforts from Gerrard and Downing, but he was more than equal to the task on a bitterly disappointing night for Dalglish’s side.

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Goal machine Ronaldo seals another Real victory

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Goal machine Ronaldo seals another Real victory

MADRID (AFP) – Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo made it nine goals in seven games by bagging a brace as Real Madrid‘s ‘Galacticos’ defeated 10-man Marseille 3-0 on Tuesday in their first Champions League match in front of their Santiago Bernabeu crowd.

It means Real have now won all seven of their matches this season, two in the Champions League and five in the league, and sit top of Group C with a maximum six points.

Real blitzed Marseille with three goals in six minutes; Ronaldo, who now has four Champions League goals in two games, scored two and won the penalty that led to the other.

“Cristiano is a player that can make a difference at any moment and is always capable of scoring a goal,” said stand-in captain Guti.

“We want to try and get through this group as soon as possible by winning it. For now we have a big league game on Sunday against Sevilla who are on a roll but then so are we.”

Marquee summer signing Ronaldo opened the scoring on 58 minutes and then won a spot-kick three minutes later which saw Marseille centre-back Souleymane Diawara dismissed for a second yellow card.

Kaka converted the penalty kick and Ronaldo struck again in the 64th minute to show why Real paid a world record 94 million euros for his services.

Ronaldo went off shortly after his second goal with a knock to his right ankle which makes him a doubt for Sunday’s match with Sevilla.

AC Milan‘s shock 1-0 defeat at home to FC Zurich gives Real a three-point lead in the group and Madrid now have a double-header against Milan starting at home on October 21.

“We are scoring goals and not conceding them, which is always good,” said Xabi Alonso. “We have two games against Milan now which will test us. The first game is at home so we have to make that advantage count.”

Captain Raul, the all-time top-scorer in the Champions League, had to be content with a place on the substitutes’ bench as new French star Karim Benzema started against his compatriots.

Ronaldo and Kaka joined Benzema in an attacking trident with Xabi Alonso and Fernando Gago employed in defensive midfield.

There were familiar faces to the Real fans in the Marseille line-up as Argentine defender Gabriel Heinze and veteran striker Fernando Morientes returned to their old stomping ground.

Heinze spent two seasons at the club before being let go by incoming coach Manuel Pellegrini in the summer while Morientes won three Champions League titles with Real and was given a warm welcome from the home fans.

Off the pitch there was a beefed-up police presence, after Marseille’s last visit to Madrid saw them clash with baton-wielding riot police at the Vicente Calderon during a group match with Atletico Madrid.

There was no repeat of those ugly scenes, though, and the match took centre stage although it was a low-key opening from Real, who only had a half-chance from Sergio Ramos to show from the first 20 minutes.

Marseille, fourth in their domestic league, had a chance of their own on the quarter-hour mark but Iker Casillas was on his toes and raced out to swipe the ball from visiting captain Mamadou Niang.

On 26 minutes the Senegalese star skipped past Pepe but had to shoot from an acute angle and Casillas was on hand again to save with his chest.

It was a warning that appeared to spur Real into action and Benzema went agonisingly close twice.

First of all the ex-Lyon striker saw a brilliant overhead kick go just over and was then thwarted in a one-on-one by goalkeeper Steve Mandanda.

In the second half Real found their stride and took the lead through a route-one goal, with Pepe’s long ball finding Ronaldo who carefully placed a low shot beneath the advancing Mandanda.

The former Manchester United man then drew a foul from Diawara which earned the defender a second yellow card and allowed Kaka to put Real 2-0 up with a confidently taken penalty.

Ronaldo continued his rich vein of form in front of goal with an easy tap-in to wrap up the game after slick inter-play between Benzema and Kaka.

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Senators surprise Penguins 5-4 in series opener

PITTSBURGH – One game, and the Pittsburgh Penguins already know this. Nothing comes easy for a defending champion, not even the playoff series opener against a seemingly overmatched opponent.

Erik Karlsson and Chris Kelly scored on power plays in the second period and the Ottawa Senators ignored their underdog tag and the Penguins’ recent playoff success, surprising the Stanley Cup champions with a 5-4 victory in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference first-round series Wednesday night.

“Nobody’s picking us to win the series,” Ottawa forward Jason Spezza said.

Evgeni Malkin scored twice following penalties on Peter Regin, the first barely 3 minutes into the game, but the fourth-seeded Penguins looked mostly flat and uninspired for long periods in beginning their bid to become the NHL’s first repeat champion since Detroit in 1998.

“We can’t hang our heads and just say something (like) `We didn’t execute,'” forward Alexei Ponikarovsky said. “We just have to do a better job. We’ve got to work and win the rest of them.”

Sidney Crosby, who piled up 15 points in his final five regular-season games, had three assists but was held without a shot until getting two in the third period. Ottawa constantly matched shutdown defensemen Anton Volchenkov and Chris Phillips against the Crosby line.

With their star so tightly covered, the Penguins — seemingly unsettled by Ottawa’s defensive pressure — were held to a single shot during a stretch lasting 21 minutes, 53 seconds following Malkin’s first goal.

The Senators, one of the biggest underdogs of the first-round qualifiers, went from being down a goal to being up 3-1 during that period as Regin, Chris Neil and Kelly scored — quieting a standing room crowd of 17,132 that clearly arrived expecting another long playoff run by the home team.

“For sure we’d like to get to their d-men and have some speed through the neutral zone, but that starts in other places, too, and we have got to get there,” Crosby said.

Goalie Brian Elliott gave up four goals on 21 shots in his playoff debut, but made several big stops on Ponikarovsky and Malkin in the second period as the Penguins pressed to tie it following Malkin’s second goal, at 10:22.

Instead, the 19-year-old Karlsson restored Ottawa’s two-goal lead less than 3 minutes later, collecting a rebound of a shot from the left point by Matt Cullen that rebounded off Mike Fisher in front and wristing it into a wide-open corner of the net to make it 4-2.

No coincidence, the Senators said, that rookies Karlsson and Regin scored in their playoff debuts.

“They just feed off one another, if one scores, the other one’s got to score to match,” Neil said. “They room together, they’re inseparable. We call them the twins.”

On this night, they were twice the trouble for Pittsburgh.

“They (the Senators) made it very difficult, and their forwards were coming back hard (on defense),” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “They had five men around the net and made it tough to get to the net.”

The fifth-seeded Senators also got a fortuitous bounce on Kelly’s goal at 1:20 of the second that put them up 3-1. Chris Campoli was attempting to wrap the puck around the boards, but it took an odd deflection directly to Kelly close to the net with no defender near him. Kelly also had two assists.

“That bounce they got on that third goal ended up being the difference,” Crosby said.

Pittsburgh made several more pushes, with Craig Adams getting a goal at 5:16 of the third after playing all 82 regular-season games without scoring. He scored three goals during last season’s playoffs.

Again, the Senators answered as former Penguins agitator Jarkko Ruutu accepted Neil’s giveback pass to beat Marc-Andre Fleury on a wrist shot at 9:40 of the third. Ruutu began the rush by controlling the puck along the boards and feeding it up ice. Fleury faced 26 shots during a shaky performance.

“I think there’s a couple (of goals) he’s going to be thinking about, is going to want back. He knows he has to be a lot better to give us a chance,” Bylsma said.

Alex Goligoski cut it to one goal again by scoring with 2:14 remaining, but the Penguins couldn’t tie it even as their white shirt-wearing fans stood, chanting, “Let’s Go, Pens!” for most of the final 2 minutes.

The Penguins won seven of eight playoff rounds during the previous two seasons, losing only to Detroit in the 2008 finals, but this time they almost seemed to relax after Malkin scored off Sergei Gonchar’s pass on their first power play of the postseason. The goal came almost too easy and, rather than building on the early momentum, Pittsburgh allowed it to slip away and Ottawa tied it on Regin’s goal at 8:45 off a long rebound.

“I think we can to try to build off this,” Spezza said. “If we focus on the short-term and we’re not looking too far ahead, we can slowly creep up on them.”

NOTES: Elliott is 3-0 in Mellon Arena. … Crosby has two goals in 17 regular-season games against Ottawa, the fewest he has scored against an Eastern Conference opponent. … The team that won Game 1 won both Senators-Penguins series in 2007 and 2008. The teams split, with Ottawa winning in five in ’07 and Pittsburgh sweeping the following year. … Five of the last 10 Stanley Cup winners were gone by the end of the first round or did not make the playoffs. … The Penguins were 2-2 in Game 1s last spring. They came back to beat Washington in the second round and Detroit in the finals. … Pittsburgh had won its last five home playoff games. … Ottawa was 2 of 3 on the power play after ranking No. 20 during the season, while Pittsburgh — ranked 19th — was 2 of 5.