Offshore drilling, England: at Everton 2, Liverpool 2

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Man of the Match: Luis Suárez detracted from his own play when, celebrating the first (ultimately, own) goal, he ran to the Everton bench to bellyflop in front of David Moyes, an orchestrated response to the manager’s critique of the Liverpool forward’s diving. Thankfully, Suárez managed to stay on his feet for most of the afternoon, scoring a goal of his own in the 20th minute. In second half stoppage time, he nearly capped his villainous performance when he put in a shot from five yards out  only to have the assistant referee wrongly wave it off.

It was a quintessential Suárez performance. He was the best player on the field, but his antics detracted from his brilliance, even if Moyes’ comments baited the celebration. On a day he was nearly heroic, he adorned the mask of the villain. With Suárez, there seems no other way.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • The energy of a Merseyside derby met with sloppy first half defending to produce four goals by intermission, two for each side. After a horrible Premier League Saturday, we needed something to cheer about.
  • The own goal hit off Leighton Baines by Suárez opened the scoring, Everton’s defense left in rivets after Seamus Coleman’s mistimed challenge took the right back out of the position, allowing Suso to put a ball through the box from the left. Despite fouls by Baines and James Naismith (the former a possible penalty), play was allowed to continue. When Baines turned toward Suárez after taking down Raheem Sterling, the Everton left back had just enough time to see the shot deflect off his leg an into goal.
  • Suárez doubled Liverpool’s lead in the 20th minute, heading a Steven Gerrard cross into the lower left hand corner after Leon Osman committed a foul in a dangerous spot.
  • The Everton midfielder, playing inside in the absence of Darron Gibson, made amends two minutes later, his 18-yard volley after a weak punch from Brad Jones (playing for Pepe Reina) sailing into the left side of Liverpool’s goal.
  • At the 30-minute mark, lax defending on an Everton throw-in allowed a Marouane Fellaini cross to float into the six. Naismith had an easy finish after José Enrique, having drifted inside from his left back position, failed to act.
  • Predictably, the match settled down in the second half, with each manager making (or, having to make) tweaks coming out of the dressing room. Everton’s Kevin Mirallas, the team’s best player over the first 45 minutes, was injured and came off for Magaye Gueye. Liverpool shifted from a two to a three-man central defense, bringing Sebastian Coates on to play between Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger.
  • The change helped reinforce the defense, but it also handed the initiative to Everton (who, in fairness, were already dictating play in the first half). For the first half hour after intermission, Everton had Liverpool packed in their own end, even if the change in formation meant there were fewer chances to be had.
  • Perhaps it was Liverpool’s unfamiliarity with the 3-5-2, but the Reds didn’t look comfortable coming out of their own half until the match’s last 15 minutes. Then they were able to create chances for Gerrard (blocked by Phil Jagielka) and Suárez (blocked by Baines), though aside from one painfully missed Raheem Sterling chance, they were never able to truly test Tim Howard.
  • In the 93rd minute, a restart headed down by Coates was put home by Suarez, giving Liverpool an apparent winner. A late call by the assistant referee kept the goal of the scoresheet, though it was unclear why the flag went up. Most often, the call is offside, but Suárez was clearly on. While Coastes seemed to climb over the back of an Everton defender, it would have been difficult for the AR to see the foul from his position. Regardless, Liverpool’s winner came off the books.
  • By full time, the match had given us an antidote to Saturday’s sleeping spell, though it was poor defending rather than exquisite execution that produced the final score. A review of the team sheets sees few player who stood out for their excellence (Mirallas, Suárez) than those who were exposed for their weaknesses.
  • The win pushes Everton back up to fourth, passing Arsenal, while Liverpool remain in the bottom half.

Mourinho: Tactics involved targeting young Benfica backstop

AP Photo/Armando Franca
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Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho knew that promising Benfica backstop Mile Svilar would be facing some big nerves.

The 18-year-old was making his UEFA Champions League debut, and Mourinho instructed his Red Devils to challenge the backstop at every turn.

[ RECAP: Benfica 0-1 Man Utd ]

That paid off when Svilar carried Marcus Rashford‘s free kick into the goal, the lone marker of a 1-0 loss that keeps United atop Group A and Benfica three points behind second- and third place.

“I knew how good the goalkeeper was, I told the players that. We had a little bit of a strategy, especially on set-pieces to make him uncomfortable. We put men around him on corners so he cannot come out. He risks a lot, but only top keepers do that. He was unlucky for the goal,” Mourinho said.

Svilar looked dejected after the game, apologizing to fans at the Estadio da Luz and getting consolation from a fellow Belgian in Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku.

Nemanja Matic laid out United’s strategy a bit more, from the BBC:

“The manager said to us to try and shoot and get some crosses towards their goalkeeper because he is young and playing in his first game. This is football and I know he is a great goalkeeper and I wish him well for the future.

“We had control, some difficulties in the first 30 minuets but then we controlled the pitch. We used our experience. We could not find the second goal but did not make any mistakes at the back.”

Rashford limped out of the game, and Mourinho says he initially thought it was cramps. Instead, it’s a problem with his left knee. Simon Peach of the Press Association quotes Mourinho as hoping the injury is not bad.

United completed more than 500 passes, doubling Benfica’s production. Some have been critical of Mourinho’s penchant to play it safe, and he winked at them after the match in calling his tactics “a crime.”

“We were in control, David De Gea did not have one save to make. I never felt we could concede a goal and were solid defensively. Sometime I feel being good defensively is a crime, but that is a way of getting results.”

Chelsea 3-3 Roma – Thrills at the Bridge

AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
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  • Luiz, Hazard put Chelsea up 2-0
  • Kolarov, Dzeko brace flip lead
  • Hazard nabs equalizer
  • U.S. U-20 mid Scott on bench for Chelsea

Eden Hazard scored twice as Chelsea overcame the sacrifice of a 2-0 lead and the Blues drew AS Roma 3-3 at Stamford Bridge in UEFA Champions League action on Wednesday.

David Luiz also scored for Chelsea. Ex-Man City men Edin Dzeko and Aleksandar Kolarov starred for Roma, with Dzeko scoring twice and Kolarov adding a goal and an assist.

Chelsea has seven points to lead Group C, two more than Roma and five ahead of third-placed Atletico Madrid. The sides will meet again in Rome on Halloween.

[ MORE: Landon Donovan, USSF prez? ]

Luiz started the scoring with a delightful strike. Call it a second bite at the proverbial apple if you must, but then admit he sunk his teeth into it.

Eden Hazard made a darting run to double Chelsea’s lead, but Kolarov pulled Roma within one with a deflected strike past Thibaut Courtois.

Diego Perotti curled a shot that hardly troubled Courtois in the 63rd minute, the Chelsea keeper just leaving his feet collect it.

Dzeko and Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Then the former Man City striker struck again, seeing a long diagonal ball over his shoulder and whizzing a perfect left-footed volley through the flailing arms of Courtois.

Dzeko then made a late move before a Kolarov free kick to lose his mark and nod home a go-ahead goal.

It wasn’t over, as Hazard found his way to space and a cross from Pedro.

The Belgian headed his chance beyond a diving Alisson, and it was 3-3 with 15 minutes to play.

American-English midfielder Kyle Scott did not make his Chelsea bow. The 19-year-old has represented England at the U-16 level and the U.S. at the U-18 and U-20 levels.

Benfica 0-1 Manchester United: Match-winner Rashford injured

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  • No shots on goal for Benfica
  • United puts four on frame
  • Man Utd out-passes Benfica 522-237.

Marcus Rashford scored the lone goal of the match, then limped off injured in Manchester United’s 1-0 win over Benfica in UEFA Champions League action at the Estadio da Luz on Wednesday.

United is close to wrapping up a knockout round berth with the win, leading Basel by three points, CSKA Moscow by six, and Benfica by nine.

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho got his managerial start at Benfica when he replaced now-Bayern Munich boss Jupp Heynckes in 2000.

[ MORE: Landon Donovan, USSF prez? ]

Rashford’s free kick from the left fooled young Benfica backstop Mile Svilar.

The 18-year-old was making his UEFA Champions League debut, and was caught out of goal.

While retreating toward his end line, his two-handed catch carried him and the ball into the goal despite the efforts of his outstretched paws.

Report: Landon Donovan mulling U.S. Soccer presidential run

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Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl has been all over the turmoil at United States Soccer since the men’s national team’s embarrassing World Cup qualifying ouster last week.

The latest is that many interested observers are encouraging American legend Landon Donovan to run against Sunil Gulati in February’s presidential election.

[ MORE: JPW sits down with Ederson ]

Donovan retired from playing for a second time in 2016. He’s invested in Premier League club Swansea City and tried his hand at broadcasting as well.

According to Wahl, Donovan issued no comment when asked whether he is seriously considering a run for president. Gulati didn’t confirm that he’d run for a fourth term — the maximum tenure — during his post-World Cup failure conference call, but strongly lauded his credentials for another stint.

Wahl had previously reported that lawyer Steve Gans has the required letters of nomination to run against Gulati.

While Gans would challenge Gulati and perhaps make for interesting debate and a bellwether of the appetite for change amongst the constituency, Donovan’s name would likely be enough to swing some voters regardless.

Without making any judgments about the job Donovan would do, think of it as a big entertainment name like Dwayne Johnson amongst Democrats or Donald Trump amongst Republicans who might upturn eyebrows amongst folks thinking, “Maybe we need something different.” The name value isn’t the same but perhaps it’s less polarizing to compare the runs of Jesse Ventura and Al Franken, or Jack Kemp and Steve Largent instead.

A Donovan run would likely keep U.S Soccer’s cozy relationship with Major League Soccer while perhaps emboldening those who seek big changes within the youth structure (Donovan was part of the U.S. residency program which was recently canceled in a sort of “We did it” nod to academies). His experience is varied and his network exceptional.

Donovan for President? Maybe!