Roundup, Premier League: Marouane Fellaini one of England’s best?

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Had somebody told Paul Lambert at the beginning of the day that his team would get a point from Everton, the Aston Villa manager would have probably been happy, but giving up a 3-1 lead to be drawn late, the Villans’ 3-3 result against fourth place Everton ends up as a missed opportunity. It also means they stay in the drop zone.

One of the signings of the summer, 22-year-old Belgian Christian Benteke, had Villa up two after this 61st minute goal completed his double. Swapped goals from Everton’s Victor Anichebe and Villa captain Gabriel Agbonlahor rounded out the scoring before another Belgian, Everton’s Marouane Fellaini, stepped forward. Goals in 69th and 93rd minute salvaged a point for the Toffees.

In the big picture, the result was a disappointing one for Everton, but in digging themselves out of a hole, the Toffees gave us another chance to see how valuable  Fellaini’s become. The versatile Belgian started in a deep midfield role before David Moyes’ substitutions pushed him to the advanced role he’s played most of the season. Once a double substitution moved there in the 65th minute, Fellaini payed almost immediate dividends.

Now up to 10 goals this season, it’s worth asking who has had a better Premier League campaign this season. Robin van Persie (18) and Luis Suárez (17) have  more goals, but Fellaini has made greater contributions in almost every other facet of the game (save possibly setting up goals, which is important). He plays a more valuable defensive hole, has greater value on set pieces, and his versatility has significant tactical value.

Is Fellaini better than van Persie or Suárez, in the absolute sense? Probably not. Has he been better within league this season? Perhaps.

Elsewhere in England

Queens Park Rangers 0-0 Norwich City – QPR started strong before Norwich came into the match. The 0-0 was  just. Christopher Samba was decent in his QPR debut, but for a Rangers team so deep in the drop, anything but three in these types of matches is ultimately a failure.

Arsenal 1-0 Stoke City – A late Lukas Podolski pushed Arsenal even on points with Everton. Geoff Cameron got a rare start in midfield as Tony Pulis tried to clog the middle of the park, but the match played out exactly as you would expect a meeting between these two styles. Arsenal eventually got some luck when a deflected free kick gave them the match’s only goal, but the score was a result of resiliency as much as fortune. Nacho Monreal had a predictably impressive debut.

Reading 2-1 Sunderland – The Royals have now taken 10 points from their last four games after Jimmy Kebe bookended the match with goals in the seventh and 85th minutes. “We’ve been on a really steep learning curve but we are finding ways to win games now,” Brian McDermott said post-match. Sunderland’s only score came from the spot half-way through the first. Reading, after struggling into 2013, after two points clear of the drop.

West Ham United 1-0 Swansea – If West Ham had hit a wall, Andy Carroll just pushed them through it. The loanee’s 77th minute goal coupled with Swansea’s continued goal scoring problems give the Hammers a number needed victory, ending a six-match winless run.

Wigan Athletic 2-2 Southampton – The match gave spectators the promised goals, but Lactics supporters would have liked to avoid needing a Shaun Maloney extra time goal to take a point from a match where they may have been expecting three. Saints stay three points clear.

Newcastle 3-2 Chelsea

Fulham 0-1 Manchester United

Tomorrow: West Bromwich Albion vs. Tottenham Hotspur; Manchester City vs. Liverpool

The 2 Robbies: Alexis-Mkhitaryan Swap Becomes Reality

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe react to the Alexis Sanchez-Henrikh Mkhitaryan swap deal between Arsenal and Manchester United finally becoming reality (0:20), Swansea’s stunning 1-0 victory over Liverpool (9:20), Southampton’s much-needed draw with Spurs (22:30) and Watford’s decision to part ways with Marco Silva (36:20). The gents end the show sharing their memories of the late English striker, Cyrille Regis (39:45).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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Inter Milan sign Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan

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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan completed the signing of Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan until the end of the season, with a view to a permanent move.

Inter can sign the Brazil international permanently for $43 million plus $3.7 million in bonuses, and said on Monday that option “must be taken up before the end of the season.”

Rafinha, who was born in Sao Paulo, had been at Barcelona since 2006, when he joined its youth team. He spent the 2013-14 season on loan at Celta Vigo.

After nine months out after surgery on his right knee, he made his first appearance of the season last week as a late substitute in Barcelona’s Copa del Rey defeat at Espanyol.

“It’s an important stage in my life,” he said, “and I had a lot of desire to approach this new phase in my career.”

Inter has slipped to fourth in Serie A, 11 points behind leader Napoli.

It could slip out of the Champions League places if Roma wins its match in hand on Wednesday.

“I hope to play in as many matches as possible and help the team to reach our objective which is Champions League qualification,” Rafinha said.

Klopp “angry, surprised” by Liverpool defeat to Swansea

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Liverpool fans might disagree — Jurgen Klopp certainly does, tonight, at least — but the beauty of the Premier League is that you can end the runaway leaders’ bid for an unbeaten season, then lose to the last-place team in the league, in back-to-back games.

[ MORE: Alexis-for-Mkhi swap complete | De Bruyne’s new contract ]

This, of course, leaves Klopp, Liverpool’s fiery, combustible manager, more than a little hot under the collar. Following Monday’s 1-0 loss away to bottom-of-the-league Swansea City, Klopp pulled no punches in describing the emotions he feels after such a result.

“Frustrated,” “angry” and “surprised” quickly came to mind after seeing his side’s 14-game PL unbeaten run come to an end. Despite creating 21 chances on the night, the likes of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain managed to put just four on target, which was undoubtedly the genesis of his frustration, anger and surprise — quotes from the BBC:

“I’m frustrated and I’m angry because it was not a good game. We lost the game in the first half. We didn’t do what we wanted to do. It hasn’t happened too often so I didn’t expect that, I was quite surprised. Because of the first half we weren’t flying and they were.

“We made pressure at the end but not enough to score. The last situation was unlucky but if we got a point it would still have been a bad game for us, and it was the opposite of what we wanted. That happens from time to time and it’s never the right moment and like it should be.

“It’s not that we threw it away. Swansea are fighting for their life and we’ve no problem with that, we had a problem with our offensive motions. It’s not what we came here for tonight. We have nothing, and that’s our fault.”

Swansea 1-0 Liverpool: Last-place Swans shock Reds

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  • Swansea shock Liverpool in game of few chances
  • Mawson sweeps home the winner — 40′
  • Reds’ 14-game PL unbeaten run ends
  • Swans now 2W-1D-1L under Carvalhal

From the high of snapping Manchester City’s unbeaten run (30 games dating back to last season) and bid for an unbeaten 2017-18 Premier League season, to being beaten by last-place Swansea City… in back-to-back games… all in the span of eight days.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

On Monday, Swansea topped Liverpool, 1-0 at the Liberty Stadium, to claim just their fifth PL victory all season; two of the five have come in the first three weeks of new manager Carlos Carvalhal’s tenure (four games).

Virgil Van Dijk cost Liverpool $100 million, but he’s yet to arrest the Reds’ woeful set-piece defending. It was the big Dutchman who failed to head the ball clear from the Swans’ 40th-minute corner kick. After an unfortunate bounce in the box, the ball fell to Mawson just 10 yards out. The young Welshman swept his right foot through the ball and Loris Karius could do nothing about it.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Liverpool’s first surefire chance of the second half came in the 60th minute, when Mohamed Salah delicately lifted just over the wall a free kick from 22 yards out. The ball quickly fell as it neared goal, but Lukasz Fabianski reacted quicker and pushed it over the crossbar at full-stretch to preserve the lead at 1-0.

Right on 94 minutes, with the referee staring at his watch, Roberto Firmino headed off Fabianski’s right-hand post and Adam Lallana missed an open-net follow-up, somehow booting the ball well over the bar from three yards out.

Despite holding over 70 percent of possession on the night, Liverpool put on target just four of their 21 total shots.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

With the defeat, Liverpool (47 points) fail to capitalize on Tottenham Hotspur’s 1-1 draw with Southampton on Sunday. Having ultimately gained a point in Round 24, Tottenham now trail Liverpool by just two points in the race for fourth. The two sides meet in two weeks’ time, on Sunday, Feb. 4, at Anfield.

Swansea (20 points), meanwhile, have done nearly enough to climb out of the PL cellar, but remain 20th out of 20 teams on goal differential. Three points stand between them and safety.