Liverpool's Luis Suarez, centre right, celebrates the opening goal which was credited as an own goal scored by West Ham's Guy Demel, not in view, during their English Premier League soccer match at Anfield, Liverpool, England, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/ PA, Peter Byrne)

Liverpool 4-1 West Ham: Own Goal stars in Liverpool win (video)

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That’s five wins in a row for Liverpool, but they should give a bit of credit to Own Goal, who knocked in at least two, and possibly three, of the hosts’ four goals. The manner of the win will likely matter little to the Reds, however, as they’ll simply be celebrating the fact that they’ve pulled into third place.

West Ham, meanwhile, are feeling the pressure, sitting outside the relegation zone only thanks to a superior goal difference to Crystal Palace.

Both Liverpool and West Ham were sprightly in the first half, putting pressure on the opposing defense and looking for any chance to slip the ball into the back of the net. However, it took until the 42nd minute for Liverpool to break the deadlock. They’d had a good chance less than two minutes before, when Philippe Coutinho sent in a perfectly weighted ball for Raheem Sterling. The youngster probably should’ve went around Jussi Jääskeläinen, but instead placed his shot wide.

Sterling’s blushes faded, however, when Guy Demel put the ball into the back of his own net. Jääskeläinen managed to push away a sharp shot from Luis Suárez but Demel, running in to attempt to stop the damage, couldn’t put the brakes on fast enough, and wound up knocking in an own goal.

It looked like Own Goal scored another just after the restart. Steven Gerrard sent in a free kick that floated toward the far post, and, after some confusion at the back, it appeared as though West Ham defender James Collins had got the last touch. In the end, though, it was ruled that the ball came off the knee of Mamadou Sakho.

Own Goal definitely did score the third, however, and this time, it was in West Ham’s favor. Demel was involved again, sending in his cross for Matt Jarvis to get a touch. It was Martin Skrtel, however, who managed to turn the ball past Simon Mignolet and into the back of his net.

But there were no questions as to who grabbed Liverpool’s third goal. Who else, but Suárez? For his 81st minute goal, the Uruguayan, lurking by the far post, got on the end of a lovely cross from Glen Johnson to head in from close range.

Less than two minutes later, it went from bad to worse for West Ham. Captain Kevin Nolan lost his temper and, frustrated, stuck his studs in the back of Jordan Henderson’s calf. It was a straight red for the midfielder, who managed to make the task even more difficult for his struggling club.

Sure enough, the visitors then conceded a fourth, and again, it was down to Own Goal — although the beautiful footwork of Luis Suárez certainly created this one. The dancing feet of the forward turned Mark Noble inside out before Suárez fired off his shot. This time the ball took an important deflection off Joey O’Brien, wrongfooting Jääskeläinen and preventing him from stopping the goal.

Despite the victory, Liverpool can’t rest entirely easy. In the 56th minute, Steven Gerrard pulled up clutching his hamstring, and immediately signaled to the bench for a substitution. Already missing Daniel Sturridge, the Reds really don’t want to be without their captain.

Liverpool : Mignolet, Flanagan (Kelly 79), Sakho, Skrtel, Johnson, Allen, Gerrard (Lucas 56), Henderson, Sterling (Moses 72), Coutinho, Suárez

Subs not used: Jones, Cissokho, Alberto, Aspas

West Ham United : Jääskeläinen, Demel, McCartney, Collins, Tomkins (O’Brien 56), Noble, Diame, Nolan, Downing (J. Cole 46), Jarvis (Taylor 84), Maiga

Subs not used: Adrian, Collison, Diarra, C.Cole

Crew SC announce MLS Cup 2015 sold out 15 hours after qualifying

Wil Trapp, Columbus Crew SC
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The building formerly known as Crew Stadium has hosted its fair share of famous soccer games since it opened in 1999 — dos a cero, anyone? — and Sunday’s MLS Cup 2015 looks set to rank right up there among them.

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Roughly 15 hours after advancing to this year’s MLS Cup, which they will host this Sunday (4 p.m. ET), Columbus Crew SC announced on Monday that MAPFRE Stadium is officially sold out.

Crew SC president of business operations Andy Loughnane addressed the fanbase in a blog post on the club’s official site Monday afternoon and said, “As of late this morning we are sold out of the extra capacity seating that was created for MLS Cup at MAPFRE Stadium. While there is a small chance that additional seats could be released for purchase as a result of MLS holds being returned, we are sold out of all known available seats.”

[ MORE: Beckham group abandons yet another stadium plan, site in Miami ]

Crew SC, making their second MLS Cup appearance in club history (2008 champions), will host first-time MLS Cup contestants, the Portland Timbers, on Sunday.

PL clubs combined to pay out $200 million in agent fees in 2015

Liverpool Unveil New Signing Christian Benteke
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What a time to be an agent in the footballing world, eh? The rich just keep getting richer and richer and richer.

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The steady increase in transfer fees being paid for players — bad, good, great and amazing alike — has made quite a few “selling” clubs rich reach over the last decade or two, to be sure, but it’s also made another group of people obscenely rich: player agents.

As the soccer world has gone crazy with its “now, now, now” approach — managers must win now, or they’re fired; new signings must become stars now, or they’ll be sold; etc. — agents are the ones making out like bandits — no losses to be sustained on players who turn out to be flops; no future loss of wages due to taking “too long” to settle in and being labeled a flop — at the expense of clubs and, most cruelly, the players.

More than $195 million was paid out agents by Premier League clubs across the January and summer transfer windows, with Liverpool — ever the club in constant change — paying out $21.5 million in agents fees to remain top of the table for a second straight year. Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal were the four other clubs to top $15 million.

[ MORE: Premier League Payback — The Diego Costa era over at Chelsea? ]

Agents not only receive a fee when players change clubs through transfers, but can only be compensated again and again when one of their clients signs a new contract with their current club.

For instance, Wayne Rooney has signed at least four new contracts since joining Manchester United in 2004, the latest of which came barely three years after he was given a new five-year deal in Oct. 2010 upon handing in a transfer request in an attempt to force a move to Manchester City. Rooney’s current weekly wage is reported to be in the neighborhood of $450,000. His agent, Paul Stretford, will have received a sizable payday upon negotiating the deal in Feb. 2014.

At the end of the day, sports are little more than a business, and it’s the ones who play the game — the political game, that is — the best, and most ruthlessly, who are making out like bandits.

Puksas Award finalists: Somehow absent is USWNT’s Carli Lloyd

Carli Lloyd, USWNT
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FIFA announced on Monday its three-man list of finalists for the 2015 Puskas Award, handed out each year to the player who scored the “most beautiful” goal of the past calendar year.

[ MORE: 2015 Ballon d’Or finalists ]

The three men up for this year’s honor are Alessandro Florenzi (WATCH HERE), Lionel Messi (WATCH HERE) and Wendell Lira (WATCH HERE) — all scorers of fantastically beautiful goals this year.

That means Carli Lloyd, who made the original list of nominees before being whittled down to just three, is shockingly tragically scandalously criminally not a finalist for this year’s award. Reminder: This is the goal we’re talking about.

[ MORE: Timbers reach first MLS Cup | Crew SC to host MLS Cup 2015 ]

So, here’s the case for Lloyd:

  • She scored from midfield
  • She scored the winner from midfield in a World Cup final
  • She scored the winner from midfield in a World Cup final to complete a hat trick
  • She scored the winner from midfield in a World Cup final to complete a hat trick in the 16th minute

How in the world is Carli Lloyd’s midfield goal to complete a 16-minute hat trick and win a World Cup final not a top-three goal of the year? You got some (more) explaining to do, FIFA.

Beckham group abandons latest plans for Miami MLS stadium

David Beckham
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All signs seemed to point toward an all-too-familiar outcome for the David Beckham-led investment group hoping to bring a Major League Soccer franchise to the city of Miami: another failed plan in their bid to build a brand new stadium.

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Earlier this month, newly-joined all-world sports executive Tim Leiweke warned that groups or individuals currently owning the various parcels of land surrounding the Miami Marlins’ baseball stadium, the latest site Miami Beckham United (MBU) had chosen, were making “unrealistic” demands and threatened to derail the project at that location.

Today, it’s been reported across South Florida that the group has altogether abandoned plans to build their stadium at that particular site. Miami city commissioner Francis Suarez confirmed that MBU were “moving in a different direction” — quotes from Local 10 News:

“It’s going to be withdrawn from the next agenda because the Beckham group has not acquired the private properties that are needed to construct the stadium on that site.”

“The residents expect us to hold these teams to the fire,” Suarez said. “A lot of times they’re financed by wealthy people and they want some sort of a public subsidy, which is very controversial as well, which is why we were going to take it to referendum.”

[ MORE: Timbers reach first MLS Cup | Crew SC to host MLS Cup 2015 ]

On Sunday, during halftime of the league’s Eastern Conference final, MLS commissioner Don Garber was asked about the Miami stadium situation, to which he responded, “We think Miami will be a great market. We found a reasonably good site. I’m confident that we’ll get something done there.”

MBU is reportedly being held to something of a deadline by the MLS board of governors, which meets every year ahead of MLS Cup, with this weekend’s sit-down thought of as a target date to have something concrete going forward. Meanwhile, Sacramento Republic FC, an MLS expansion hopeful currently playing in the USL (third division), announced last week they would be moving forward with building their brand new MLS-sized stadium, expansion bid or not.