City reasserts title credentials as rivals drop points

Sports

Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus, right, celebrates with Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva after scoring his side’s opening goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge Stadium in London, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

LONDON (AP) — Manchester City reasserted its Premier League title credentials on a day all of its big rivals dropped points.

City delivered a statement performance in a 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge on Saturday to move second in the league standings, level on points with Chelsea and Manchester United, which missed a late penalty in a 1-0 loss at home to Aston Villa.

Pep Guardiola’s side is above its two rivals on goal difference and also cut the gap to Liverpool to one point after the league leader drew 3-3 at Brentford.

“Today the guys were outstanding,” Guardiola said. “At this stadium and against this opponent, to do what we have done makes me so proud.”

Gabriel Jesus scored the winning goal in the 53rd minute of a surprisingly one-sided match between two title contenders. A shot on the turn deflected off the heel of Chelsea midfielder Jorginho and squirmed into the bottom corner, with goalkeeper Edouard Mendy rooted to the spot

Chelsea had beaten City in their last three meetings — most recently in the Champions League final in May — but was outplayed at Stamford Bridge, not even registering a shot on target.

Chelsea had been anointed by increasing numbers as the title favorite after a strong start to the season. But the way City dominated possession and reduced Chelsea to mostly long balls showed that Guardiola’s team, the defending champion, might still be the team to beat.

City regularly picked off Chelsea on the break and only a goal-line clearance by Thiago Silva, who came on for the injured Reece James in the first half, prevented Jesus adding a second.

“They made us underperform,” Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said. “And it was deserved.”

PENALTY MISS

Bruno Fernandes missed an injury-time penalty as teammate Cristiano Ronaldo looked on in United’s first loss of the Premier League season.

Villa defender Kortney Hause was the hero for the visitors after he flicked a header past goalkeeper David De Gea off a corner in the 88th minute for his team’s first victory over United since 2009.

But Hause was then whistled for a handball to set up the dramatic spot kick as United tried to rescue a point at Old Trafford.

Fernandes, who had converted a penalty in all three of his prior Premier League appearances against Villa, adjusted the ball as Ronaldo stood nearby and then blasted it high over the crossbar.

SALAH CENTURY

Mohamed Salah scored his 100th Premier League goal for Liverpool but it was not enough to beat Brentford, which twice pegged the Reds back.

But Liverpool will be relieved at having preserved the top flight’s only remaining unbeaten record after Ivan Toney had what would have been a late winner ruled out for offside.

Vibrant Brentford led thanks to Ethan Pinnock and, following goals from Diogo Jota and Salah, levelled through Vitaly Janelt. Then, when Curtis Jones smashed Liverpool ahead again, Bees sub Yoane Wissa came up with another equalizer.

Everton moved to within a point of its city rival after beating Norwich 2-0. Norwich has zero points from its opening six matches.

Burnley and Leeds are also in the relegation zone. Burnley drew 2-2 at Leicester, while Leeds lost 2-1 at home to West Ham. Newcastle is still chasing its first league win this season after it drew 1-1 at Watford.

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Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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