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Riyad Mahrez winner sends Manchester City above Liverpool to top Premier League

Riyad Mahrez winner sends Manchester City above Liverpool to top Premier League

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Arsenal manager Unai Emery suggested that video assistant referees (VAR) could not be introduced to the Premier League soon enough, after his side's incident-packed 1-1 draw with Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League on Saturday.

After taking an early lead through Aaron Ramsey, the Gunners held Spurs off for nearly an hour before Harry Kane, challenging to get on to the end of a free kick, was judged to have been brought down in the box by Shkodran Mustafi.

Kane converted that penalty but video replays showed that the England striker had actually been offside when he was fouled.

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Emery did not complain about the decision directly, but he suggested that VAR might prevent game-changing decisions going the wrong way.

"Today for me, the referees were a big personality but it's not enough to make the best decision in difficult action in the box, for them and for us," he told reporters after the match.

"I think VAR is coming to help them to be fair for one match like today."

"It's very difficult for them to watch in the moment one action like that. VAR is coming to help them to be fair for this decision. And I think it's positive for football in England," he added.

VAR, which was used in the World Cup last year and is use in major leagues across Europe, is set to be used in the Premier League next season after clubs agreed in principle to introduce the technology.

Overall, Emery felt his side had done enough to win the game and had played well together.

"I am proud of our players. You can win, you can lose, you can draw, but above all it's playing like a team," he said.

"We could win this match. We played today with a big collective spirit."

For his part, Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino said VAR would probably help match officials but the important point would be how the technology was applied.

"Some situations are difficult for referees to handle, to manage, we can't think that it will be the key for football to be fair," he said.

"Of course the key will be how we use the VAR. Important work for the future, to be sure, it will be a massive help."

But he added that no amount of technology would ever completely put an end to arguments over refereeing decisions.

"Football has never been fair, and it never will be fair," he said.

Tottenham Hotspur boss Mauricio Pochettino has bemoaned referee Anthony Taylor's failure to punish Granit Xhaka for an early challenge on Harry Kane during Saturday's north London derby.

Xhaka felled Kane with a knee-high sliding tackle from behind shortly before Aaron Ramsey's 16th-minute opener, and Spurs' manager feels action should have been taken.

It follows Pochettino's criticism of Michael Oliver last month, and his spat with Mike Dean at Burnley last weekend, after which he was charged with improper conduct.

"Sometimes we focus on a few actions, but I think the action that changed the game was after 12 minutes -- the action from Xhaka to Harry Kane that wasn't even a foul," said the Argentinian. "That was the action that afterwards changed everything in the dynamic of the game.

"This season we are so unlucky with decisions that affect us in a negative way, like against Manchester United -- [Paul] Pogba should be sent off, Harry Kane got an injury when it was a clear foul on the edge of the box but no foul.

"We keep on going in many, many, many situations but you know, I hope we get to the end of the season and next season change maybe, and we have more luck in the future.

"It should have been yellow, amber or even red [for Xhaka], but it wasn't even a foul.

"If the foul was for us we could have scored a goal. If it's a yellow card the aggression of the player drops. Amber, well we don't use amber. Red and it's clear you'll have an advantage.

"But please make it an exercise to watch this action and afterwards we can talk about whether [Harry Kane] was offside [for Spurs' penalty], a penalty or not and different decisions, if [Lucas] Torreira should have been sent off in the final minutes.

"If you score in the first second of the game, maybe you win 1-0. It can be decisive, not only the actions at the end, if you are going to win a game."

Having come from behind to level the game at 1-1 against Arsenal, Spurs conceded a late penalty, only for captain Hugo Lloris to deny Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from the spot.

The Frenchman had been partly at fault for both of the goals scored by Chelsea in the midweek defeat at Stamford Bridge, but he made amends at Wembley.

"It wasn't only [him who had] a bad night on Wednesday -- the whole team, not only Hugo," said Pochettino. "You put the finger on Hugo as responsible for the defeat. It was not him, I cannot blame him.

"Hugo is one of the best in the world. He does not need to show that. He cannot prove nothing, but the finger always points at the big players like Hugo, or if Harry misses big chances."

Lloris's penalty save ensured Tottenham maintained their four-point cushion above Arsenal in the top-four fight.

"Was it more than a draw? If you assess the game I think we were better than Arsenal in all the aspects," said Pochettino. "But of course in the way that it finished -- with the penalty missed by Arsenal and the action that we didn't get after, because it was a clear penalty on Harry Kane -- from lose to win, maybe.

"To concede after 15 minutes was tough for us. But of course I'm so happy with the character, the personality and the way that in the end we played.

"It wasn't great, our performance, but it was very good to draw and then maybe deserve to win. After two defeats it was important today to build again our positive ways.

"We have a very difficult game on Tuesday against Borussia Dortmund and arriving in a better condition than we arrived today is going to be key."

BOURNEMOUTH, England -- Manchester City moved two points clear at the top of the Premier League with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Bournemouth on Saturday. The champions struggled to create too many chances, but Riyad Mahrez's low shot in the 55th minute was the difference and puts the pressure on Liverpool ahead of Sunday's Merseyside derby.

Mahrez has found it difficult since becoming City's most expensive player ever in the summer -- not helped by a penalty miss at Liverpool early in the season -- but with chances difficult to come by at the Vitality Stadium, he was clinical when the best opportunity fell his way as he he beat Artur Boruc at his near post.

City need to keep as much of their squad fit as possible if they are going to challenge for the Premier League and Champions League, but appeared to suffer two significant setbacks. Kevin De Bruyne instantly knew he had a problem when he pulled up after playing a simple pass in the first half and walked off shortly after, while John Stones was replaced just two minutes into the second half. Pep Guardiola will be hoping they are not too serious but his squad is set to be stretched further.

7 -- Guardiola looked pensive throughout as City struggled in a game of few chances. He again decided against making too many changes with Sergio Aguero starting despite being "exhausted" in midweek. They controlled possession and their patience was finally rewarded as they struck to the Catalan's game plan.

GK Ederson, 7 -- With the ball mostly in Bournemouth's half, the sweeper keeper had to be alert to any quick breaks.

DF Kyle Walker, 7 -- Got forward to supplement attacks and didn't have any problems dealing with the speedy threat of Ryan Fraser.

DF John Stones, 6 -- Missed City's past three games through injury and looked a touch rusty before going off very early in the second half.

DF Nicolas Otamendi, 7 -- Dealt with the physical threat from Josh King and almost scored a stunningly athletic volley.

DF Oleksandr Zinchenko, 7 -- So often seen as the weak link, was happy to have the ball and cause problems while he also defended solidly.

MF Ilkay Gundogan, 6 -- Dictated the play from the base of midfield as City moved the ball from side to side to try to open up the home side.

MF Kevin De Bruyne, 6 -- He was linking up neatly with Bernardo Silva until he limped off just before half-time and looks set to miss more time through injury.

MF David Silva, 7 -- Tried to sneak some balls through the heart of the Cherries' defence and finally bustled his way in to set up Mahrez.

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On Feb. 8, a fire at an uninspected youth dorm at one of Brazil's highest-earning clubs killed 10 young players. How?

When Boca Juniors and River Plate were set to meet in Argentina's most important match, Buenos Aires lost its mind, writes Wright Thompson.

FW Bernardo Silva, 8 -- City's biggest threat in attack and caused problems with his quick feet as he drifted inside.

FW Sergio Aguero, 7 -- Grew into the game and went close a few times in the second half, striking the underside off the crossbar with a mis-hit cross.

FW Raheem Sterling, 6 -- Up against Liverpool loanee Nathaniel Clyne, who tried to deny him space, as his record of scoring for City in every game against Bournemouth came to an end.

FW Riyad Mahrez, 7 -- Big moment for the Algerian winger when he found the crucial breakthrough.

DF Vincent Kompany, 6 -- Solid performance at the heart of defence.

FW Gabriel Jesus, N/R -- Late change.

Manchester United moved back into the Premier League's top four after Romelu Lukaku's late winner eventually saw off Southampton.

The visitors had lost just twice at Old Trafford since their return to the top flight in 2012 and it looked for a long time as if they would extend that run until Lukaku scored the winner in the 88th minute.

The Belgian striker had scored earlier to put Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side 2-1 up after Andreas Pereira's curling effort from outside the box cancelled out Yan Valery's stunning opener for Southampton.

In a game that could have been its own goal of the season competition, James Ward-Prowse scored a free kick from 25 yards to make it 2-2 before Lukaku sealed it. Even then, there was time for Paul Pogba to see a stoppage-time penalty saved by Angus Gunn.

Positives

Pereira was exceptional. He was substituted after an hour when he last started a league game, vs. Burnley in January, but if that was a low point of his time at Old Trafford, this was the highlight. His goal to equalise oozed technique and his run to set up Lukaku's first was all about skill and balance. It was Pereira's best performance in a United shirt and he has surely played his way into the team to face Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday.

Negatives

The injury list is growing. Already without Nemanja Matic, Ander Herrera, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial, Matteo Darmian and Antonio Valencia, Solskjaer saw Alexis Sanchez hobble off in the second half. He will also be without the suspended Pogba against PSG and could be forced to take a threadbare squad to Paris.

Manager rating out of 10

6 -- Solskjaer did not have many options with his team selection, but bringing in Pereira to replace Fred proved to be a good decision when the 23-year-old's second-half performance inspired United's fightback.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating.)

GK, David De Gea, 5 -- On his 350th appearance for United, he might feel be could have done better with Valery's strike after getting both hands on it.

DF, Ashley Young, 6 -- Got away with pulling Ryan Bertrand's shirt dangerously close to his own penalty area and gave away the free kick from which Ward-Prowse scored.

DF, Luke Shaw, 6 -- Started the game despite being a booking away from a suspension. His best moment was a brave diving header under his own crossbar as Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg steamed in.

DF, Victor Lindelof, 6 -- Won his fair share in the air but was not in a position to do anything about two Southampton goals that were scored from long distance.

DF, Chris Smalling, 6 -- Survived a penalty appeal when Bertrand got the wrong side and went down under pressure. Almost equalised with a header from Young's corner when the score was 1-0.

ESPN+ is America's home for a host of professional soccer leagues from around the world, highlighted by Italy's Serie A, Major League Soccer, UEFA Nations League and English FA Cup. |
ESPN+ schedule

ESPN FC's experts ranked the best men's players and managers in world football. Check it out.

On Feb. 8, a fire at an uninspected youth dorm at one of Brazil's highest-earning clubs killed 10 young players. How?

When Boca Juniors and River Plate were set to meet in Argentina's most important match, Buenos Aires lost its mind, writes Wright Thompson.

MF, Scott McTominay, 6 -- Took an early knock after colliding with Victor Lindelof, but was tidy on the ball in front of the back four.

MF, Andreas Pereira, 8 -- Back in the team at the expense of Fred, he scored the equaliser with a fantastic strike from outside the box and set up Lukaku's first.

MF, Paul Pogba, 6 -- Often crowded out by Southampton's busy midfield and did not see a lot of the ball. A missed late penalty summed up his day.

FW, Alexis Sanchez, 4 -- Played one lovely reverse ball for Shaw in the first half but that was about it. Went off shortly after half-time with what looked like a knee injury.

FW, Marcus Rashford, 6 -- Fit enough to start after shaking off an ankle problem, he should have scored with a header at the back post from Dalot's cross and later won the penalty that Pogba missed.

FW, Romelu Lukaku, 8 -- Could have had four in the first half alone but made up for that with a cool finish into the far corner to put United 2-1 up, plus a fine strike two minutes from time to win the game.

Substitutes

MF Diogo Dalot, 7 -- His introduction for Sanchez sparked United; created a good chance for Rashford.

MF Fred, NR -- Had a clever touch that laid on Lukaku's winner. 7

FW Tahith Chong -- Came on with seconds left for his Premier League debut.

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