Stoke City 3-5 Liverpool: Wild match sees Stoke comeback and Reds brilliance as Liverpool take spoils (video)

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A frantic, back-and-forth match saw Stoke shoot themselves in their foot twice early, come back from two goals down, and concede a penalty early in the second half which Steven Gerrard converted for the win.

Finding themselves 2-0 down thanks to a bit of bad luck and a lot of bad defending, a ferocious Stoke side roared back to draw level at the break, with Peter Crouch and Charlie Adam on target.

However, Raheem Sterling won a soft penalty, Gerrard finished, and Luis Suarez revitalize his relationship with Daniel Sturridge to seal the win.

An early bit of fortune saw Liverpool ahead inside the opening five minutes, and started off a tough day for Stoke City.

Liverpool defender Aly Cissokho took a “why not” shot from distance as both teams settled into the match, and the shot was going comfortably wide.  But it smashed into Stoke defender Ryan Shawcross who had little time to react, and the ball redirect past Jack Butland into the net.

As the match progressed, it became a physical battle, with a number of thumping 50/50 airborne challenges.  A 20th minute spell of pressure by Stoke City backfired, and only resulted in a counter-attack by Liverpool leading to a shot for Philippe Coutinho that blazed over the bar.

Stoke built momentum though, and they seiged the Liverpool defense in the 26th with a beautiful spell of pressure involving a pair of corners.

The home side however gifted the visitors their second goal, and made things incredibly difficult for themselves going forward.  A poor header backwards from Marc Wilson allowed Luis Suarez to chase the otherwise lost cause, and when the ball came to Shawcross the pressure from Suarez caused him to bungle possession.

Suarez cooly took the ball and finished between the legs of a confused Butland for a 2-0 lead and the Uruguayan’s 21st goal of the season in just 16 matches.

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Liverpool capitalized on an early gift from Stoke City’s defense.

But the home side wouldn’t quit, knowing they’ve only done themselves harm, and pulled one back before halftime.  With Suarez defending Marko Arnautovic, the winger whipped in a cross and Peter Crouch connected with his head, directing from some way out past Simon Mignolet.

It’s the first headed goal for Stoke City all season, leaving just West Ham without a headed goal this Premier League season.

And directly after, Stoke completed the frantic comeback. Jordan Henderson was caught in possession deep in Liverpool’s own half, and Charlie Adam pounced on the loose ball, slicing through the defense and unleashing a powerful shot into the top corner for the equalizer at 2-2.

On a day when refereeing decisions have already been brought to the forefront at St. James Park, Liverpool benefited from another contentious decision. A penalty was given by referee Anthony Taylor after Raheem Sterling had a breakaway but failed to get clear of Marc Wilson.  With Wilson defending tightly, instead of attempting to cut inside Sterling went to ground and won the penalty.

Gerrard finished the penalty low and hard for a renewed Liverpool lead. Replays also showed the officials may have missed a handed ball by Sterling in the buildup to the goal.

Nevertheless Liverpool were ahead again as the game continued to fizz back and forth.

Stoke kept up the attack, but Luis Suarez killed Stoke off.  With his early-season strike partner Daniel Sturridge on as a substitute, the two rekindled old brilliance.  The English international brought the ball up from the Liverpool half, cut back at the top of the box, and flicked on for Suarez who finished strongly at a tight angle.

Stoke pressed for another miraculous comeback, as Jonathan Walters slid a shot past Mignolet in the final five minutes with the keeper screened by his defender. It wasn’t enough though, as Sturridge swung the final swipe of the blade with a brilliant late goal as the rain came down.

After some holiday stumbles, Liverpool are back above cross-town rivals Everton and into the top four.

GOALS:

Liverpool – Suarez 32′, 71′; Gerrard 51′ (pen); Sturridge 88′
Stoke City – Shawcross (og) 5′; Crouch 39′; Adam 45′; Walters 85′

LINEUPS:

Stoke City – Butland; Cameron, Shawcross, Wilson, Pieters; Walters, Nzonzi (Ireland 81′), Adam, Whelan, Arnautovic; Crouch.

Liverpool – Mignolet; Johnson, Cissokho, Skrtel, Toure; Lucas, Gerrard, Henderson; Sterling, Coutinho (Sturridge 66′), Suarez.

FIFA worried about government interference in Spain

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Concerned about the independence of the Spanish soccer federation, FIFA said Friday it will send a delegation to the country to investigate government meddling.

FIFA said in a statement written in Spanish that it had recently sent a letter to the federation “expressing our concern for the situation that the federation is going through and reminding (its officials) that, according to the Statutes of FIFA, all member federations must manage their affairs independently and assure that there is no interference by third parties.”

Spanish newspaper El Pais reported earlier Friday that the FIFA letter warned of a possible suspension because of the government’s push to hold elections following the arrest of federation president Angel Maria Villar in July on suspicion of corruption.

[ PL PREVIEW: Chelsea vs. Southampton ]

According to El Pais, FIFA is concerned that the government’s interest in federation elections could be considered outside meddling and break its rules. If the national federation were to be suspended, Spain’s team would not be allowed to play at next year’s World Cup.

FIFA’s statement made no mention of a suspension or other punitive measures.

But the scare was big enough for Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to say that Spain will not miss soccer’s biggest event.

“I am sure that Spain will go to the World Cup in Russia and that it will win it,” Rajoy said at a news conference in Brussels.

FIFA added in its statement that “in the coming days” it will send a delegation, which will include representatives from UEFA, to Madrid to “observe and analyze the situation” of the Spanish soccer federation.

The federation said in a separate statement that its interim president, Juan Luis Larrea, had spoken with FIFA and UEFA officials at the World Cup draw on Dec. 1 and that he had passed on their “enormous concern” to Spain’s minister of education, culture and sport.

The Spanish federation said it was waiting for the ministry to set a date for a meeting.

Spanish police arrested Villar, his son, and two other soccer officials in July on suspicion of improper management, misappropriation of funds, corruption and falsifying documents.

Villar was replaced by Larrea, the body’s treasurer for three decades. Critics of Villar argue that elections are needed to make a clean start for the institution that has been tarnished by the scandal.

Newcastle linked with targets as Benitez begins transfer quest

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Newcastle United’s players have canceled their Christmas party, as manager Rafa Benitez admits he’s working on January gifts for the St. James’ Park set.

The Magpies have one point from their last eight matches, and face Arsenal, West Ham, and Manchester City in the run-up to the New Year, closing off a run of five matches in 16 days with Brighton and Stoke.

[ PL PREVIEW: Man City vs. Spurs ]

Benitez says he’s begun talks with managing director Lee Charnley about the January window. The team is expected to make moves whether Mike Ashley completes a reported sale of the team or not. From Sky Sports:

“At this time it is just to talk about ideas,” he said. “You might say ‘I would like to sign this player’ and someone will say ‘£40m’ – maybe it is not realistic.

“The main thing, we had this conversation, then we have to move forward quickly. I don’t know the details but at least we were talking about that. We have to progress and it is so obvious that we have to improve things.”

Newcastle has been linked with a number of notable names a few weeks from the start of the January market, including Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere, prolific Besiktas striker Cenk Tosun, as well as Liverpool’s Danny Ings and Manchester United’s Luke Shaw.

Premier League Preview: Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace

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  • Leicester leads all-time 26W-18D-23L
  • Foxes 3W-1D vs. Eagles since Oct. 2015
  • Palace won at Leicester in Feb. 2015

The Claude Puel revolution at Leicester City has the Foxes surging up the Premier League table, and Saturday’s visitors from Crystal Palace are making moves of their own (Watch live Saturday at 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Leicester has won four-straight matches, the latest a 4-1 beatdown of Southampton at St. Mary’s, and returns to King Power Stadium with a chance to make a dent on the five-point deficit between the Foxes and the Top Four.

 

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After beginning the season 0-7, Crystal Palace has claimed 14 of 30 points to move from 20th to 18th on the table. Roy Hodgson’s men have two wins and four draws in their last six matches.

What they’re saying

Leicester’s Harry Maguire on the task at hand:

Palace’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek on his high-flying loan spell from Chelsea: “It’s what you aspire to be when you’re younger. Right now it’s a case of trying to improve as much as I can and to keep the performances up. As long as I’m enjoying it I think I’ll do well, so I’m really happy. The experience of playing week in week out and the physical side of things, getting my body used to playing games – sometimes three in a week – has been a massive thing for me, especially when I haven’t played for two years regularly. That was one of the main reasons I wanted to get away from Chelsea, to play regular football, get my body used to it, get more robust and I think once you have that then it’s a platform to play better.”

Prediction

This could be a fun one, with names like Zaha, Townsend, Loftus-Cheek, Vardy, Mahrez, and Gray ready to bless the match with pace and creativity. Goals have come in bunches when Leicester’s on the pitch, and we’ll call it 2-1 to the Foxes.

RBNY’s Grella heads to Columbus (through Colorado)

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Mike Grella didn’t get to pick No. 20 of the MLS Re-Entry Draft, but that didn’t stop Columbus from getting their hands on the New York Red Bulls veteran.

Colorado selected Grella with the third overall pick, then sent him to Columbus for a second round pick in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft.

[ MLS: Ousted “blacklisted” by MLS? ]

The only other pick was made by Minnesota United, who took Tyrone Mears from Atlanta United.

Grella, 30, is a well-traveled Duke product who has played in England and Denmark. He scored 18 times with 13 assists in 89 matches for the Red Bulls, but missed most of the 2017 season with a pair of knee injuries.

It’s a good gamble for the Crew, and an extra draft pick for 2019. Second-round picks have become long odds to make MLS rosters, with Tommy McNamara and Aaron Long the last impact players to come out of the round. That was in 2014, and both needed changes of scenery before hitting their MLS strides.