Offshore drilling, England: at Everton 2, Liverpool 2

6 Comments

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.

Foul or flop? Player “headbutts” referee, is sent off

Associated Press
Leave a comment

Well, there must be something in the water down in Brasilia, because things got a little weird this evening.

Flamengo drew with Vasco da Gama 2-2, but that was just the start.

In the 54th minute, with Vasco da Gama leading 1-0 at Estadio Nacional Mané Garrincha, 36-year-old Luis Fabiano was sent off for “headbutting” the referee. Headbutting is in quotes because looking at the video, it certainly appears there was little to no contact, and the referee flops.

Yes, the referee flopped. Take a look:

To be fair, Fabiano was already on a yellow, so getting in the referee’s face even without the headbutt/pelvic thrust would likely still have seen him sent to an early shower.

So the former Porto and Sevilla man was sent off, and Vasco da Gama was down to 10 men. Immediately after the red card, Flamengo took advantage, powering in a pair of goals via Willian Arao and Orlando Berrio to take the lead 2-1. But Vasco wouldn’t quit, and they earned a penalty five minutes into stoppage time, which Nene buried for the 2-2 draw.

To top things off, a player named Yago Pikachu scored the opener for Vasco da Gama, which was followed by a delay in the game seven minutes later after a power surge in the stadium. Go figure.

Lletget diagnosed with foot sprain, escaping further damage

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Word has arrived from the LA Galaxy camp that will see USMNT fans feel relieved as Sebastian Lletget has escaped the news many feared.

The young attacker was impressive in the first 18 minutes of the United States’ 6-0 win over Honduras, but was injured minutes after scoring the opening goal and could not continue. Replays showed that Lletget got his foot caught underneath a defender in the process of a hard challenge on the right wing.

There was concern that Lletget would be out for a significant amount of time, but the Galaxy announced that after testing over the weekend, Lletget did not suffer any structural damage and was diagnosed with a left foot sprain.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Paul Arreola to roster, drops Lletget, Brooks, Morris ]

Lletget will visit a specialist on Monday to determine a plan for recovery, and it’s possible that he will still have to miss some time in the near future. The Galaxy visit Vancouver on Saturday, and his status for that match has to be considered up in the air. They then host Montreal on April 7.

While Lletget obviously misses out on the next USMNT game at Panama on Tuesday having already been dumped from the roster, he will most definitely be available for the June games against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico, and will likely be an option for Bruce Arena given the manager’s history with Lletget at Los Angeles.

The United States have been struck with a collection of injuries that all occurred just before the international break, hampering the squad significantly. Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, and Fabian Johnson all went down in the days before reporting for international duty, and the team lost Lletget and John Brooks in the Honduras win. Lletget’s departure could see Alejandro Bedoya into the starting lineup on Tuesday, with the Union midfielder having replaced Lletget in the Honduras match. Also in contention is Jermaine Jones, who could come in after his suspension and push Darlington Nagbe onto the wing.

Southgate can see Defoe in England squad long-term

Associated Press
Leave a comment

Gareth Southgate praised Jermain Defoe after his contributions to England’s 2-0 win over Lithuania on Sunday, but accidentally put a condition on his position in the squad.

The 34-year-old scored the opening goal and contributed heavily to the buildup of Jamie Vardy‘s score, and Southgate was happy that his decision to play an in-form striker paid off.

“If he scores like he is in the Premier League, there’s no reason why he wouldn’t be,” Southgate said. “We’re never able to pick a full cohort, so it’s important we can call upon the likes of Jermain and he can have the impact like he did today.

“I think we’ve got to look every time we get together as to who is in form. I don’t know if we can have a distinct pecking order because players who are playing well deserve the opportunity. If we are going to be successful, we have to have that competition for places. The reality is we will always lose players to injury.”

[ MORE: Defoe walks out Bradley Lowery before England game ]

A reporter asked him to clarify why he specified that Defoe should be scoring in the Premier League, and with his club Sunderland under heavy threat of relegation, Southgate admitted he let one slip.

“I walked into that,” Southgate said. “I guess the ideal world for all our players is they are playing regularly at a high level. The flip-side is we don’t have a huge pool of players to pick from.  We have to balance off a few different things. I can’t constrain myself on selection entirely, but I know ideally what I’d like to have. His performances and his goalscoring form this season have counted for him.”

Defoe has 14 goals in 28 Premier League appearances for Sunderland this season, but he’s proved the Black Cats’ only threat as they sit bottom of the league table with 20 points. Defoe has become the center of opposition game plans, and as a result he’s slowed down, with just two goals in his last seven games, and the club has little else to pick up the slack.

Still, at 34 years old, many wonder how much longer Defoe can contribute, and if he’ll be a viable option for next year’s World Cup.

Group F gets messy as Slovakia and Scotland grab wins

Getty Images
Leave a comment

England is in control at the top of Group F, but below them things are beginning to get complicated.

Despite the absence of Marek Hamsik due to a last-minute injury, Slovakia defeated Malta 3-1. They took the lead just 97 seconds in as Vladimir Weiss put the visitors in front with a beautiful curling strike from outside the box. Malta struck back through domestic striker Jean Paul Farrugia in the 14th minute, but that was all Malta could muster.

Slovakia would go ahead just before halftime as FC Copenhagen midfielder Jan Gregus put them in front in the 41st minute. The speculative shot from Gregus came from a great distance out, and as it skipped across the ground, it appeared Malta goalkeeper Andrew Hogg saw it late, as his dive was poor and it skipped off his hands and in.

Both teams ended with 10 men on the field, as Farrugia was sent off with 16 minutes to go for a second yellow, and Adam Nemec saw the same fate in injury time, but before he was sent off, Nemec was there to kill the game off in the 84th minute.

That put Slovakia up to nine points, and it moved them into second place thanks to late drama in Glasgow. Chris Martin gave Scotland all three points with an 88th minute strike as the home side won 1-0 over Slovenia, who dropped from second to third with the loss. The Fulham striker got a beautiful feed through the back line from Stuart Armstrong, and while his shot wasn’t terribly accurate, it was enough to win the game as Slovenia goalkeeper Matus Kozacik gave it a poor effort.

The win for Scotland pulls them above Lithuania and into fourth, a point back of Slovenia in third.