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.

MLS Snapshot: Jozy double downs Dynamo, Toronto wins 2-0

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The game in 100 words (or less): Toronto FC had too much firepower for defensively challenged Houston, and the hosts carved up the Dynamo for a 2-0 win north of the border. Giovinco was creative and flashy if not sharp, and Jozy Altidore was the benefactor as the American bagged both goals. After an early spell of Houston possession off the opening whistle, Toronto dominated from start to finish, with the midfield bossing the game.

Three moments that mattered

16′ – Raheem Edwards on the ball out wide, he burst into the box and – seeing Giovinco draw 2 defenders in an offside position – he cut back for Altidore who finished cooly from the spot. Too easy for the opener.

32′– Jozy doubled his lead as he played an absolutely brilliant one-two with Giovinco. The Italian popped it over the top as Altidore slipped through the line, and the USMNT star had the simplest of finishes.

85′ – Houston looked to get back into things by pouring men forward, but to no avail. The closest they came was off a corner as Alex ripped off a shot that sailed over the bar.

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Man of the match: Victor Vazquez/Marco Delgado

Goalscorers: Jozy Altidore (16′, 32′)

Juventus bumped by Atalanta at the death

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Juventus is still in firm control of the Serie A title race, but they were dealt a slight setback as Atalanta secured a 2-2 draw with a dramatic 89th minute equalizer in Bergamo.

Dani Alves had given Juventus the lead in the 83rd minute on a header after a brilliant far-post cross by Miralem Pjanic, but Remo Freuler answered late as he grabbed a point.

The goal came on a fortunate bounce as Pjanic and substitute Stephen Lichtensteiner got tangled up on the ball and failed to clear, and the ball squirted to Freuler who suddenly found himself free in front of Gianluigi Buffon. The Juventus keeper came off his line to smother the chance, but he failed to completely collect, and the ball again popped free. Freuler followed up the loose ball, and with a trio of Juventus defenders flying in, the 25-year-old Swiss attacker knocked it in.

The draw was deserving for Atalanta, who had controlled the game for much of the first half, and went ahead just seconds before the break on a goal by Andrea Conti. Atalanta outshot Juventus 7-4 in the first half, 3-1 on shots on target. Juventus took over control in the second half, and got back on level terms just five minutes after the break as Juventus loanee Leonardo Spinazzola put one in his own net.

Alves’ goal put Juventus in front, but that lead only lasted six minutes. Juventus goes nine points clear at the top of the Serie A table with the draw, but Roma has the chance to cut that to six if they can beat Lazio at home on Sunday.

MLS Week 8: Litmus tests across the board

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Week 8 in MLS action could teach fans a lot about clubs with plenty to prove.

With questions still abound regarding teams like NYCFC, New England, Seattle, Portland, and New York Red Bulls, all those teams have a chance to make statements regarding their potential strength this season.

[ MORE: Week 8 MLS Power Rankings ]

In addition, struggling teams such as Los Angeles, Minnesota, and Montreal all have opportunities for much-needed points against arguably weaker opposition.

Let’s take a look at the weekend slate chronologically:

Toronto FC vs. Houston Dynamo
7:30 p.m. ET Friday

Toronto got a pair from Giovinco last time out, and sitting near the bottom of the crowded East mid-tier, they need points fast to avoid finding themselves in a hole behind the top of the table. There’s goals in this one, with Houston defensively challenged and Cubo Torres on fire to start the year.

Montreal Impact vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
3:00 p.m. ET Saturday

An all-Canadian clash actually serves as a vitally important match for both clubs. With each side near the bottom of their conference standings, they both need a result badly to jump-start the campaign. A draw does nobody any good here moving forward.

Orlando City vs. Colorado Rapids
4:00 p.m. ET Saturday

The Lions are one of 2017’s surprises, and Cyle Larin is on an absolute tear. Unfortunately, so far, anyone who shuts down Larin shuts down Orlando City. That said, good luck to Colorado shutting down an early MLS Golden Boot challenger.

Cyle Larin has 6 goals in 6 games this season (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images).

NY Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire
7:30 p.m. ET Saturday

New York has seen bumps on the early-season road, but overall remains a strong Supporter’s Shield contender. They face a big test against another strong Eastern Conference side, and a win here would make it three straight, all over good competition. Chicago is reeling after its defeat to Toronto, out-shot 9-1, but has another chance to pick up a road win before heading back home.

Columbus Crew vs. NYCFC
7:30 p.m. ET Saturday

Columbus has been poor on the road, but they return home to Mapfre Stadium to take on a strong NYCFC side. This game could potentially teach us a lot about whoever comes out on top, as both look to build separation from the rest of the pack in the East. Both have lost two of three, but both still appear strong up front, and three points in this game could prove to be a marquee win to point to later in the season.

Minnesota United vs. San Jose Earthquakes
8:00 p.m. ET Saturday

Minnesota United, owners of one of the worst starts to the season, has shown signs of life. Can they keep it going against another team struggling for points?

FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers
8:00 p.m. ET Saturday

This is a marquee matchup, and with FC Dallas unbeaten so far, represents a huge test but also a huge opportunity for Portland to announce itself as a true top contender in the West. They’re top of the table, but have played at least one more game than most teams just below them. Can the Timbers find a way through the strong Dallas D?

Sporting KC vs. Real Salt Lake
8:30 p.m. ET Saturday

A big rivalry game with big table implications, Sporting KC has the unfortunate luck of catching RSL after hiring Mike Petke and not before. This should be a fun one.

Seattle Sounders vs. New England Revolution
10:00 p.m. ET Saturday

We still don’t know exactly what New England is. For every step forward they’ve taken one back, and for every setback they’ve had they’ve found a way through. This is a fantastic test. There are plenty of excuses for a potential loss with the team going cross-country to face one of the league’s best attacks, but a result could be a true statement.

LA Galaxy vs. Philadelphia Union
10:30 p.m. ET Saturday

With Philadelphia struggling and now traveling a long way, this should be a chance for the Galaxy to turn things around. Should be.

Atlanta United vs. D.C. United
3:00 p.m. ET Sunday

Atlanta is back home for the first time in over a month. They have slipped a bit since the torrid start, but still appear a dangerous club. D.C. will have its work cut out.

Asian FIFA executive pleads guilty to bribery charges

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A guilty plea was entered early Friday by senior Asian Federation (AFC) official Richard Lai to bribery charges, leading FIFA to suspend the 55-year-old indefinitely.

Lai has served as the head of the Guam FA since 2001, and is a member of the FIFA audit and compliance committee. He was also formerly a member of the AFC executive committee, and currently sits on the AFC marketing committee. Lai is a United States citizen.

The guilty plea confirms more than $1 million in bribes accepted by Lai, including those from Kuwaiti officials looking to increase their influence over FIFA voters in the confederation. Two unnamed AFC executives, including one Kuwaiti, were also named as co-conspirators.

“One of the functions the defendant Richard Lai performed for Co-Conspirator #2 and Co-Conspirator #3 in exchange for the funds they sent him was to advise them on who was supporting which candidates in AFC and FIFA matters, including elections, and who Co-Conspirator #2 and Co-Conspirator #3 should recruit to support their chosen candidates,” a Department of Justice document published on Friday said.

That wording seems to indirectly implicate Qatari executive Mohamed bin Hammam, who was banned for life by FIFA in 2011 for bribery.

“I would like to thank the American authorities for their continued efforts to stamp out corruption from football,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said in a statement following the plea. “I am happy to confirm once again, that FIFA will provide whatever assistance is needed by the U.S. and any other authorities around the world.”

Lai has also been provisionally suspended by the AFC.