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Manchester United 1-0 Liverpool: Chicharito goal sees Red Devils advance in Capital One Cup

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For the second time this season, Liverpool and Manchester United rekindled their North West Derby, and for the second time this season, the first goal decided it. But whereas the teams’ Sept. 1 meeting at Anfield saw Daniel Sturridge’s fourth minute goal hold up, the Carling Cup’s switch of venue also saw a switch of victors. Thanks to Javier Hernández’s second half volley, Manchester United was able to get a measure of revenge, defeating Liverpool, 1-0.

The Mexican international’s goal came after a half in which Liverpool, who started with a three-man defense, came out the stronger team only to fade by halftime, their hosts having slowly adapted to Brendan Rodgers’ surprise deployment. Though the Reds held an edge in possession at half, both teams had only managed one shot on goal, with United’s increased pressure toward the end of the period hinting they’d adjusted to the Liverpool boss’s gambit.

Whether that was actually the case, we may never know, as Chicharito’s 46th minute goal put United ahead before the half could play out. From service via another talented reserve, Shingi Kagawa, Hernández headed home the early second half corner, rendering Liverpool’s extra central defender useless as he finished the game’s only goal.

[MORE: When they met in league – Liverpool 1, Manchester United 0]

[MORE: Absent without leave: Where in the world are Shingi Kagawa, Juan Mata?] 

In the 67th minute, Rodgers pulled Lucas Leiva for right back Martin Kelly, switching back to a four-man defense. But as was the case before the switch, the visitors couldn’t make a meaningful impact at the other end. Despite a formation that allowed the returning Luis Suárez to be coupled with Daniel Sturridge up top, Liverpool only generated three shots on goal, their team unable to navigate through a central midfield of Ryan Giggs and Phil Jones, a central defense of Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling.

source: AP
Martin Skrtel (left) and Kolo Touré (right) teamed with Mamadou Sahko to form Liverpool’s three-man defense Wednesday at Old Trafford. (Photo: AP Photo.)

Against that United team, Rodgers’ change at the back may have cost Liverpool, a criticism you could have also made this weekend after the Reds’ 1-0 loss to Southampton. Then Rodgers elected to start four central defenders along the back and was rebuked as Mauricio Pochettino’s compact team was never tempted out of their spots. Today, Liverpool’s three-man back may have caused United to reconsider their approach, but once the adjustments were made, they started to look like the better side (a common narrative when a team makes a surprise switch to a three-man back). Had Liverpool deployed their normal setup, they may have taken advantage of a United team that featured only three regular starters (Wayne Rooney, Rafael, David De Gea).

To Rodgers’ benefit, he’s learned some valuable information from these two games. Had he not tried these tweaks, he’d still be curious as to whether they’d work. Thanks to his experimentation, he’s been able to see what value the tactics have going forward.

At the same time, Liverpool’s out of the League Cup, Chicharito’s second half game winner sending their rivals through.

Goals:

Manchester United – 46′ Hernández

Lineups:

Manchester United: De Gea; Rafael, Smalling, Evans, Büttner; Nani (90′ Welbeck), Jones, Giggs, Kagawa (73′ Januzaj); Rooney, Hernández (74′ Carrick). Unused Subs: Amos, Anderson, Fabio, Zaha

Liverpool: Mignolet; Touré, Skrtel, Sahko; Henderson, Gerrard, Moses (82′ Sterling), Leiva (67′ Kelly), Enrieua; Sturridge, Suárez. Unused Subs: Alberto, Jones, Aspas, Ibe, Wisdom.

Thibaut Courtois committed to Chelsea despite links to PSG

WATFORD, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 03:  Thibaut Courtois of Chelsea in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Watford and Chelsea at Vicarage Road on February 3, 2016 in Watford, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Thibaut Courtois has denied reports he could leave London for Paris Saint-Germain this summer after a disappointing season at Chelsea.

The 23-year-old goalkeeper missed a large portion of the season through injury and failed to regain his top form when healthy as the Blues struggled throughout the year.

With a new manager in Antonio Conte taking over in June, some believed Courtois would be sold to allow the Italian to bring in a goalkeeper of his choice.

[ MORE: Atletico Madrid reach UCL final ]

Despite recent reports linking Courtois with a transfer to PSG that would make him the most expensive goalkeeper in the world, the Belgian international does not fancy a move to France.

Speaking to French newspaper Le Parisien, Courtois said he is happy at Chelsea and will “100-percent” be back at Stamford Bridge next season.

I have never had any contact with PSG. I have played a lot against PSG recently – twice last season, again this season in a friendly and twice more in the Champions League this year.

They are a good club who win their league easily. Me, I like playing in England. Paris is a very good club but I am happy at Chelsea.

I have a contract for three years, so I will say 100 per cent [be staying at Chelsea]. Rumours affect any club where things are going badly. People think the top players want to leave because they are not in the Champions League.

Those words show quite a change from Courtois’ opinion a few months ago, when he cast doubt over his Chelsea future.

At just 23, Courtois has already made more than 200 appearances in his career for Atletico Madrid and Chelsea. Although he did not have a standout season this year, Courtois has shown his talent as a potential top-five goalkeeper in the world and Conte would be wise to keep him.

Former CONMEBOL president has petition to stop extradition rejected

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ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) Paraguay’s top court has rejected a petition by Nicolas Leoz, the former head of the South American football confederation, to halt his extradition to the United States.

Leoz is being held under house arrest in Paraguay. He is accused of receiving millions in bribes and kickbacks and was among dozens of top officials indicted in the FIFA corruption scandal.

[ FOLLOW: Leicester City’s miracle ]

Leoz’s lawyer Ricardo Preda told The Associated Press that his petition was turned down, but that he would continue to appeal against the extradition.

Leoz was the head of CONMEBOL from 1986 until 2013 when he resigned, and was replaced by Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay.

Figueredo is under house arrest in Uruguay on similar charges. Figueredo was replaced by Juan Angel Napoul of Paraguay, who is under house arrest in Miami.

Cristiano Ronaldo back healthy for Real Madrid; will play vs. Man City

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 03:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid warms up during a training session ahead of the UEFA Champions League Semi Final Second Leg between Real Madrid and Manchester City at Valdebebas training ground on May 3, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has confirmed that Cristiano Ronaldo is “100-percent” for Wednesday’s Champions League semifinal match against Manchester City.

Ronaldo missed the first leg at the Etihad while recovering from a thigh injury, which ended a scoreless draw.

[ MORE: UCL semifinal preview ]

The Champions League’s all-time leading scorer with 93 goals, Ronaldo has not featured for Real since suffering the injury in a La Liga match against Villarreal on April 20.

Real Madrid had the better of chances in the first leg in Manchester, but Joe Hart’s heroics stopped Zidane’s side from grabbing an all-important away goal. However, Ronaldo’s absence was clearly visible and his return is a massive boost for Real.

[ RELATED: Atletico Madrid eliminate Bayern Munich, advance to UCL final ]

Even if Ronaldo is not 100-percent fit as Zidane claims, his inclusion in the lineup is still vital for Real’s success. A threat in so many different aspects of the game, his presence alone can throw off opposing defenses, leaving more time and space for his teammates to expose a City back-line that has its flaws.

Premier League chairman: Leicester City made mugs of all of us

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 03:  Leicester reacts to Leicester City's Premier League Title Success on May 03, 2016 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
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Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore has been around football for a long time, but even he can’t explain Leicester City’s miraculous title run.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Leicester coverage ]

With the Foxes now officially champions of England, Scudamore hailed the achievement as “the biggest sporting story ever.”

Speaking to BBC Sport, the Premier League’s top exec said Leicester’s run has silenced all the bookmakers and critics who said it could never happen, but that he wouldn’t want it any other way.

It’s probably the biggest sporting story ever and the biggest sporting achievement ever.

Nobody saw it coming and even when it was halfway through the season nobody said it could be sustained.

We don’t know what the future holds because we’ve all become completely hopeless at predicting anything, including the bookmakers and everybody else – because this one nobody saw coming.

It’s made mugs of all of us and that is just the most fantastic feeling.

If the bookmakers had it as a 5,000-1 event, you would imagine you should achieve these type of things once every 5,000 years. It gives us 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years of being able to say: ‘Leicester 2016. Just remember Leicester 2016.’

Pegged as pre-season favorites for relegation, Leicester defied the odds (5,000-1 odds) and claimed the most unlikely of championships. A top executive with the Premier League since 1999, even Scudamore had to admit he had a bit of egg on his face.

[ VOTE: What is the top moment from Leicester’s fairytale run? ]

Scudamore may not have believed in the Foxes, but few outside the city really did. One thing the chairman did have right though, is that we will all remember ‘Leicester 2016.’