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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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Van Persie breaks stubborn Olympiakos resistance

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Van Persie breaks stubborn Olympiakos resistance

LONDON (AFP) – Robin van Persie rewarded Arsenal’s patience as the Gunners finally shattered Olympiakos‘s stubborn resistance to claim a 2-0 win in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Arsene Wenger’s side dominated the Group H clash at the Emirates Stadium from start to finish, but were frustrated until 12 minutes from full-time by a superb display from Antonis Nikopolidis.

Greek goalkeeper Nikopolidis made a series of fine saves to keep Arsenal at bay until Dutch striker Van Persie slotted home and then Andrei Arshavin notched the second to give the scoreline a more realistic look.

Wenger will become the longest serving manager in Arsenal’s history on Thursday when his tenure in north London stretches to 13 years and this was the perfect way to celebrate that milestone.

His team produced the kind of eye-catching play that Wenger loves and more importantly maintained their winning start to the group stage.

Wenger said: “I am very happy. We had a great first half and outstanding quality but unfortunately we couldn’t take advantage of it.

“It was difficult to maintain that pace and quality for 90 minutes but overall I think we dominated from the first minute until the last.

“We kept composure and we always played with the desire to keep discipline in the team. We have matured and a game like that shows that.”

Olympiakos boss Zico launched a furious rant at the officals for allowing Arshavin’s strike, which looked offside, and even claimed that French referee Stephane Lannoy and his two French linesman shouldn’t have taken charge of the game because Arsenal have a French manager and players.

“I think there was a lack of sensitivity. We had three French officials with a French coach of the opposing team and many French players. Maybe we could have had officials from another country. I don’t want to talk about only this but I think it should be taken into account,” Zico said.

“It is only a comment. I don’t think they were biased but a goal was offside. We always hope it is just a mistake.”

Arsenal’s movement off the ball was too much for Olympiakos’s statuesque defence and should have led to a goal in the 13th minute.

Gael Clichy made a perfectly timed run down the left and his cutback from the touchline gave Arshavin the chance to force a smart stop from Nikopolidis.

Wenger’s side went even closer moments later. A mesmerising exchange between van Persie and Arshavin cut open the Greek defence and Cesc Fabregas drove a fierce strike onto the crossbar. Van Persie seized on the rebound and fed Tomas Rosicky, only for Nikopolidis to push away his shot.

At 38 years old Nikopolidis is well into the twilight of his career, but he was keeping Olympiakos in the match almost single-handedly and denied Arshavin again, this time low down at his near post.

Arshavin seemed to induce mass panic in the Olympiakos back-four whenever the Russian ran at them and chances continued to flow.

Arshavin’s incisive pass gave Fabregas a clear sight of goal but Nikopolidis came to the rescue once more as he repelled the Spaniard’s shot.

Twice in quick succession, Van Persie tricked Raul Bravo to such an extent that the left-back was left flat on his back, but the Dutch forward’s finish was too tame to beat Nikopolidis.

Olympiakos finally caused Arsenal hearts to flutter just after half-time when Olof Mellberg’s header looped goalwards before young Italian keeper Vito Mannone clawed it to safety.

Arsenal’s response was immediate and Van Persie took Emmanuel Eboue’s pass in stride before forcing another good save from Nikopolidis.

When he kept out van Persie’s snapshot, Arsenal’s frustration grew.

But Wenger sent on Croatia forward Eduardo and Mexican striker Carlos Vela in a final attempt to break down the Olympiakos rearguard.

The move paid dividends immediately as Eduardo combined with Van Persie to break the deadlock in the 78th minute.

Fabregas started the move with a glorious pass to Eduardo and the Croatian timed his cutback perfectly for Van Persie to sweep past Nikopolidis at last.

That broke Olympiakos once and for all and Arshavin, standing in what looked an offside position, cleverly back-heeled in Fabregas’s cross to seal the victory in the 86th minute.

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