Good Wednesday for Liverpool’s Premier League clubs

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It may have been a scheduling quirk. It may be been intentional. For whatever reason, both of the Premier League’s Merseyside clubs faced Tyneside counterparts on Wednesday, a day that turned to disappointment for the league’s northeast duo. Liverpool dominated visiting Sunderland, rolling the predictably disappointing Black Cats, 3-0, while Everton came back to post a 2-1 victory at Newcastle.

For Sunderland, at no point during Wednesday’s match at Anfield did it appear Martin O’Neill’s men would be able to keep up with Liverpool. A back line lacking speed and athleticism was exploited for two goals by Luis Suárez, his first coming seven minutes after Raheem Sterling’s 19th minute scoop over Simon Mignolet starting Liverpool’s rout.

Suárez’s first goal summed up Sunderland’s day. Running onto a long ball, Suárez touched the ball around Carlos Cuellar while the Black Cats defender overran his man, eventually stumbling to the ground. The Liverpool striker went in alone on Mignolet, blasting his shot off the keeper’s leg and into the Sunderland net.

For Sunderland, it was one of the more duor displays of a season that’s become defined by uninspiring performances. The team only managed 34 percent of the (Opta) possession, were outshot 10-2 (shots on goal), and couldn’t generate a scoring chance for Steven Fletcher, Stephane Sessegnon, or Frazier Campbell. Their only shots on Pepe Reina came from defender Matthew Kilgallon.

On Tyneside, Newcastle got off to a flying start with a second minute goal from Papiss Demba Cisse, creating a situation that should have felt familiar to the Toffess.

On Sunday, it was Everton that jumped out early on their visitors, taking a lead on Chelsea at Goodison Park. Chelsea would claim a goal just before halftime en route to a 2-1 comeback win.

At St. James’ Park, Leighton Baines sparked Everton’s comeback with a 43rd minute rocket. His left-footed blast from 28 yards out swerved into the left side of Tim Kurl’s net, the Newcastle keeper left surprised when Baines’ shot made it cleanly through the Magpie wall.

On the hour Victor Anichebe, subbed on two minutes earlier, ran onto a cross from Nikica Jelavic, his redirection giving Everton their third win in four.

Had Everton put together two good halves on Sunday against Chelsea, they’d be riding a 10-match unbeaten streak out of Newcastle. Even with that disappointment, the Toffees have only lost two league matches since Sept. 1, though their newfound ability to get three points may prove more important than their run.

During the 18 matches since September’s loss at West Brom, Everton had only won seven times, the team just now recovering from a mid-fall funk of draws.

Were they still in that phase, Everton may have drawn a game like today’s. Instead, they got a second goal, two extra points, and gave their fans reason to believe they’ll be able to keep up with Spurs, Chelsea, and Arsenal in the fight for the Premier League’s last two Champions League spots.

Zlatan confirms Manchester United departure

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic has confirmed myriad reports he’s leaving Manchester United with a perfectly-Zlatan Instagram message.

Ibrahimovic is expected to join the LA Galaxy next week.

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The words aren’t too important, but Ibrahimovic posted an old graphic of him in Greek god garb, arm-wrestling a devil. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

The living Swedish legend, 36, has been limited to seven appearances, one start, and one goal in returning from a season-ending knee injury, but finishes his Manchester United tenure with an impressive 29 goals and 10 assists in 53 games (deduct the seven and one for peak impressiveness).

Bale breaks Wales scoring record

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Gareth Bale has now unquestionably written his name into Wales history.

The 28-year-old Real Madrid scored a hat-trick for Wales in its 6-0 demolition of China, taking his overall tally to 29 goals, breaking Ian Rush’s record.

“It is right up there, maybe as the best,” Bale told reporters after the game. “I suppose when I was a little boy I never dreamed of being a record-breaker for Wales. It is a massive honor. I was not thinking about it, but now it has come it’s an incredible honor and one of the best things I’ve achieved in my career. On a personal note it’s great to break the record, but I could not have done it without my team-mates.”

Bale was unable to carry Wales to the 2018 World Cup, but he first became a National Team legend by helping take Wales to the Euro 2016 semifinals, scoring three goals along the way.

Here’s a look at Bale’s record-breaking goal.

Sporting KC giving away creative “Bike Opara” bobblehead

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In his ninth Major League Soccer season, Ike Opara has scored just a dozen regular season goals.

He’s known more for his physicality in the backline, for creating space for teammates on set pieces, or heading balls on to teammates with slightly more fleeter feet.

But in June 2017, it all came together for Opara in a magical moment, where he beat an offside trap from the LA Galaxy and scored an insane bicycle kick for Sporting Kansas City.

Now, to honor Opara’s ridiculous goal, Sporting KC has announced the first 10,000 fans through the gates at Children’s Mercy Park on March 31 will get a “Bike Ike” bobblehead, with him in flight kicking the ball towards goal over his shoulder.

You’ve gotta love the creativity and fun the Sporting KC marketing department is having. Hopefully, Opara can give the team another memorable goal in 2018.

Van Dijk named new Netherlands captain

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Virgil Van Dijk has had a pretty decent last three months since moving to Liverpool, and the towering defender earned a new personal achievement on Thursday.

Van Dijk was named the newest captain of the Netherlands National Team, where he’ll play under former manager Ronald Koeman. Van Dijk’s first game as captain will be against the nation where he currently plies his trade, England, on Friday.

“I am very happy with it, it is a great honor to be the captain of your country,” van Dijk said at a pre-match press conference Thursday. “Everyone knows that Koeman gave me the chance at Southampton, I am very grateful to him. This is very special.”

Van Dijk’s commanding presence in the Liverpool backline and previous stops at Southampton and Celtic make him an obvious choice for captain, taking the place of the now-retired Arjen Robben. At just 26-years old, van Dijk could carry the armband for a half dozen years if he keeps up his strong form.