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De Bruyne blast sinks Chelsea as Man City storm 13 points clear, Coutinho scores on Villa debut

Kevin de Bruyne of Manchester City scores his teams first goal during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Chelsea at Etihad Stadium on January 15, 2022 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Matt McNulty - Manchester City)
15th January, 2022
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For Pep Guardiola, the biggest challenge will be convincing his Manchester City players the Premier League title race is not over after Sunday’s win over their nearest rivals.

“My job is to take it out from the brain and heads of my players,” Guardiola said after Kevin De Bruyne’s goal inspired City to beat Chelsea 1-0.

With City holding a 13-point lead, it’s hardly surprising that people have already handed Guardiola’s relentless champions a sixth title in 11 seasons.

After all, they are now on a 12-match winning run in the league after De Bruyne’s brilliant curling strike in the 70th minute sealed victory at the Etihad Stadium.

City have lost just two games all season and would have to lose at least three of their remaining 16 matches to drop out of first place, having already played all of the top teams away from home.

Liverpool, in third place 14 points behind having played two games fewer, look to be the only team realistically capable of stopping City and will try to trim the gap by beating Brentford at home on Sunday.

Elsewhere, Philippe Coutinho marked his debut for Aston Villa with a late equaliser to complete a dramatic comeback in a 2-2 draw against Manchester United, after Bruno Fernandes had scored twice to put the visitors two up.

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The brilliant Brazilian Coutinho, on loan from Barcelona, was involved in Jacob Ramsey’s goal in the 77th before tapping home from inside the six-yard box five minutes later at a raucous Villa Park.

With Cristiano Ronaldo still missing with a hip injury, Fernandes took centre stage for seventh-placed United like last season before his Portugal teammate arrived.

He opened the scoring with a sixth-minute long-range strike that squirmed through goalkeeper Emi Martinez, and added a stunning second with a shot in off the crossbar in the 67th.

A 2-1 home win over Everton took Norwich off the bottom to 18th place and dragged the visitors into the relegation picture, while piling more pressure on their manager Rafa Benitez in the process.

Everton supporters’ frustrations with Benitez are boiling over, with one fan seen running onto the field in the first half at Carrow Road and making his way towards the Spaniard before getting stopped by stewards.

There were calls for Benitez to leave the club before the game, with banners held aloft, and then Norwich scored two goals in quick succession — an own goal from Michael Keane and Adam Idah’s close-range strike — to leave Everton reeling.

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Richarlison pulled one back for the visitors shortly after coming on with an overhead kick, but Everton remain without a league win since the start of December and are 15th, six points above relegation zone.

New recruits Kieran Trippier and Chris Wood started in the 1-1 draw at home to Watford that kept Newcastle in the bottom three and with just one win all season.

Watford scored an 88th-minute goal through Joao Pedro’s header to snatch a point after Allan Saint-Maximim put Newcastle ahead.

It was another disappointing result for Newcastle, coming a week after losing at home to third-tier Cambridge United in the FA Cup on Trippier’s debut.

Also on Sunday, Wolverhampton defeated Southampton 3-1 to jump to eighth. Raul Jimenez, Conor Coady and Adama Traore – with his first of the season – scored for Wolves, and James Ward-Prowse’s free kick made it 2-1 in the 84th.

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Meanwhile Tottenham have called for “clarity and consistency” from the English Premier League after Arsenal’s request to call off the north London derby because of a lack of senior players available was granted.

“We are extremely surprised that this application has been approved,” Tottenham said in a strongly-worded statement released a few hours after the announcement of the postponement of Sunday’s match.

The decision was reached because Arsenal has fewer than the required number of players – 13 outfield and one goalkeeper – available because of a combination of COVID-19 cases, injuries and players away on international duty at the African Cup of Nations.

However, Arsenal also recently decided to let two players go out on loan and have one player out suspended in Granit Xhaka.

There is only one declared absentee because of the coronavirus – Martin Odegaard – although there might be others from the latest round of testing.

“The original intention of the guidance was to deal with player availability directly affected by COVID cases, resulting in depleted squads that when taken together with injuries would result in the club being unable to field a team,” Tottenham said.

“We do not believe it was the intent to deal with player availability unrelated to COVID.

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“We may now be seeing the unintended consequences of this rule.”

Saturday’s scheduled top-flight match between Burnley and Leicester had already been postponed on Friday due to the Clarets being unable to raise a team.

A second FA Women’s Super League fixture has also been called off after Arsenal confirmed the request of opponents Reading to have their match rearranged was granted by the Football Association.

Everton’s scheduled WSL game at home to Chelsea this weekend had already been postponed on Friday due to COVID-19 issues in the hosts’ camp.

© AAP

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