“I’m never playing for you again. EVER!” shrieked Riyad Mahrez at the Leicester City board when they refused to sell him to Manchester City last week.
City could have done with the wantaway winger against Burnley, with Raheem Sterling wasting a golden opportunity on the way to dropping a rare two points against Sean Dyche’s gritty underdogs. After fill-in full-back Danilo R1’d into the top corner to put City 1-0 up, shot-bobbler Sterling miskicked wide of an open goal from six yards out in the second half, then threw himself to the ground with an ear-piercing scream, in a manner usually reserved for dives and transfer tantrums. The Clarets earned a well-deserved equaliser through Johann Berg Guomundsson’s deft half-volley and for once, Guardiola’s super-team didn’t particularly threaten to retaliate with a late winner. One presumes Pep will target Mahrez once again come summer.
Mahrez, holding back his fury
(Algerie-Armenie-20140531-Riyad Mahrez by Clement Bucco-Lechat is licensed by CC 2.0)
Two players who did get the January transfer moves they wanted were Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who lit up the Emirates in a 5-1 victory against Everton with a zeal that has been missing from Arsenal’s team since Alexis Sanchez mentally checked out in October. Aubameyang introduced himself to the Emirates faithful with a delightful, dinked finish on debut, while “Miki” notched three assists in his first start for the Gunners. The real hattrick hero however, was Aaron Ramsey. The Welshman’s goal-guzzling performance does much to suggest the inclusion of Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan will lift the entire first eleven, as well as adding a sprinkling of star-dust to replace the mercurial Alexis.
Whether the acquisition of those two ex-Dortmund forwards will be enough to overhaul Spurs and Liverpool in the race for the Champions League is a question that appears to be unanswerable. Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino’s respective teams are the two most unpredictable sides in the Premier League, as evidenced by an absolutely bananas last ten minutes in Sunday’s 2-2 draw an Anfield.
Klopp, waiting for the next Dejan Lovren error
(Jurgen Klopp by Thomas Rodenbucher is licensed by CC 2.0)
Victor Wanyama equalised Mo Salah’s first-half opener with an 80 th minute strike smacked so wickedly off the outside of his boot that is bounced twelve yards out of Lloris Karius’ net after swerving into the top corner – this after the Kenyan was substituted on to play as a defensive midfielder. Six minutes later, Harry Kane won a penalty (and no, Mark Lawrenson, it wasn’t offside according to the letter of the law) before hitting straight at unlikely hero Karius in the Liverpool goal, who either read Kane’s intentions or is so useless he merely didn’t consider moving.
Six minutes after that, Salah reacted first to a ricochet on the right- side of the penalty area and slalomed his way past Ben Davies and Jan Vertonghen before poking over Hugo Lloris, a goal that, whisper it quietly, was genuinely Messi-esque. Cue pandemonium in the stands, the commentator declaring the game over and defiant chants of You’ll Never Walk Alone from the Kop. Victory was theirs.
Of course, Liverpool are more “Spursy” than Spurs are, and there was no way they would pass up an opportunity to get involved in all the snatching-a-draw-from-the-jaws-of-victory that was going on. A long throw to Spurs in the penultimate minute of injury-time saw Fernando Llorente nod on for Érik Lamela. Competing for the ball was Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk, Liverpool’s defensive saviour and guardian of all that is red, who instead of clearing the ball, decided to kick Lamela as hard as he could in the back of the knee. Or, according to one camera angle doing the rounds on Twitter, barely brushed the Argentine with a gentle swing of his right foot, before “Coco” collapsed in agony. A second penalty was given, Kane showed the “big balls” that Pochettino hailed in the post-match aftermath to tuck his finish away into the bottom right-hand corner, and shortly afterwards, referee Jon Moss blew the whistle on a gloriously insane game of football, the craziest draw that Liverpool have been involved in since…last month against Arsenal.
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