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City inspired by world champion badge to rally for win

Updated: 2023-12-29 09:25
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Julian Alvarez celebrates scoring Manchester City’s second goal with Rodri (left), Phil Foden (center) and Jack Grealish in a 3-1 English Premier League victory at Everton on Wednesday. REUTERS

LONDON — Trailing 1-0 to Everton at halftime, Manchester City didn't much look like the newly crowned Club World Cup champion despite the new golden FIFA badge on the front of the players' shirts.

But Pep Guardiola had a simple message to his players at the break.

"The manager (told us) at halftime to just keep believing, we haven't got this badge for no reason," City midfielder Phil Foden said. "In the second half, yeah, wow, I think we blew them away with the way we played."

Foden started the comeback by equalizing in the 53rd minute, before Julian Alvarez's penalty and a late goal by Bernardo Silva secured a 3-1 win at Everton to put the defending champion back into the Premier League's top four.

"That's why we're the world champions. The best team in the world," Guardiola said with a smile in a post-game interview on Amazon Prime. "Now I'm going to remind them every day. We have a standard to keep."

The trip to Saudi Arabia for the Club World Cup was perhaps a bit of a distraction and allowed rivals Liverpool and Arsenal to widen the gap at the top.

However, City can now fully refocus on the task of winning an unprecedented fourth straight Premier League title, and this was a vital first step in showing that it can't be counted out despite a recent poor run of form.

City is five points behind leader Liverpool with a game in hand, while Arsenal can go six points ahead of Guardiola's team by beating West Ham on Thursday.

"We know after six games with just one win, the people were asking, which is normal because it is all about results," Guardiola said about his team's recent run. "I have a feeling this team, we're going to be there."

Even with Erling Haaland still out with a foot injury, City showed it has more than enough attacking threat to turn things around.

The victory, though, came at a cost as defender John Stones had to go off with an ankle injury before halftime. "It doesn't look good," Guardiola said of the injury to the England international, "but we will see."

Everton manager Sean Dyche was furious over City's penalty, which was awarded when the ball struck Amadou Onana's arm from pointblank range. The law states that handballs should be awarded if players unnaturally position their hand or arm to intercept the ball.

"That's completely natural. He's not putting his arm up to save it, he's literally jumping in to try to block the ball," Dyche said.

"How that is given as a penalty is bizarre in my world but I must be from a different planet."

Blues boost

League victories at Stamford Bridge have been hard to come by for Chelsea in 2023. But the Blues' last home game of the year ended in a 2-1 win over Crystal Palace after substitute Noni Madueke converted a late penalty for the host.

It was just Chelsea's sixth home league win of the calendar year, and Mauricio Pochettino's team once again struggled to turn possession into goals for much of the game. With Chelsea fielding the club's youngest ever Premier League starting lineup — thanks to a slew of injuries and suspensions — the Blues took the lead through Mykhailo Mudryk in the 13th minute. The host missed several chances to double the lead before Michael Olise equalized just before the break.

Just as it looked like Chelsea's inefficiency up front would cost it again, Madueke was tripped by Eberechi Eze inside the area and stepped up to the spot himself to send goalkeeper Dean Henderson the wrong way in the 89th minute.

That lifted Chelsea into 10th place, which is still far from where the club had expected to be at this stage when it hired Pochettino.

"The first half of the season has been really up and down and it's been tough and difficult," Pochettino said. "But we're positive and we need to show that we can compete."

Bees stung

Brentford might need to start worrying about a relegation scrap.

Thomas Frank's Bees fell to a sixth loss in seven games after making a couple of defensive howlers in a 4-1 home defeat against Wolves.

Barely 10 seconds after Wolves' opening goal, a sloppy Nathan Collins back-pass was intercepted by Hwang Hee-chan, who slotted home the first of his brace.

Brentford is in 14th place, just four points outside the relegation zone, while Wolves climbed to 11th.

"We performed well, we just made too many big mistakes that killed the game," Frank said. "We just need to put in the good performance and things will turn around."

Agencies via Xinhua

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