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Fulham 2-3 Liverpool: Stoppage time conversion from Steven Gerrard has Reds within four of first (video)

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A stoppage time penalty conversion from Steven Gerrard has Liverpool within four points of first, with goals from Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho helping the Reds to a 3-2, comeback win at Craven Cottage. Responding after a Kolo Touré own goal and Kieran Richardson tally gave Fulham leads in each half, Liverpool extended their unbeaten streak in to nine games, simultaneously keeping the Cottagers at the bottom of the table.

Touré’s shanked clearance from the edge of Liverpool’s six-yard box gave Fulham an unlikely lead in the eighth minute, an advantage Sturridge was able to pull back four minutes before half time. The Cottagers rebuffed Liverpool’s early second half pressure to go up through Richardson in the 63rd only to see Coutinho give the Reds their second equalizer in the 72nd minute. Just before the end of regulation time, Sascha Riether was judged to have slid through Sturridge in the right of the area, clearing the way for Gerrard’s stoppage time winner.

For Fulham, the result keeps them five points away from safety, with only 12 rounds remaining for the relegation-embattled Cottagers to carve a way to Premier League survival. Had they held either of their two leads, Fulham would have vaulted Cardiff City to claim 19th place.

And for fourth place Liverpool, the result sees them gain two points on the top of the table, with Chelsea having stumbled at West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday. With Arsenal’s 0-0 draw against Manchester United keeping the Gunners second, the Reds are only four points back of the league-leading Blues.

While Fulham made early noise by forcing three corner kicks in the first four minutes, Liverpool quickly settled into they type of control you’d expect from the teams’ recent performances. But that control was rendered meaningless in the eighth minute when a ball rolled across the top of the six by Richardson was shanked into the Liverpool goal by Touré, with the Reds’s defenders right-footed clearance looping into Simon Mignolet’s net to open the scoring.

For most of the first half, the lead held up,with Liverpool initially unable to put a shot on Maarten Stekelenburg. Though the Cottagers did not play as conservatively as they did Sunday at Old Trafford, the team still sacrificed possession in favor of organization, a plan Liverpool tried to undo by playing balls behind the Fulham defense from high. For most of the half, strong defending from the Cottagers was able to preserve their one-goal lead.

In the 41st minute, however, Liverpool’s approach paid off, with a long ball from Gerrard from just inside his own half finding Sturridge behind a high Fulham defensive line. Dribbling into the right side of the penalty area, the Liverpool striker put his equalizer off Stekelenburg’s far post and in, sending the teams into halftime tied, 1-1.

Liverpool started the second half seemingly destined to claim the lead, continuously breaking through Fulham’s left side as the game began to be played almost entirely in the Cottagers’ defensive third. In the 61st minute, Luis Suárez rattled Stekelenburg’s upright with a shot from 19 yards, foreshadowing Liverpool’s apparently inevitable go-ahead goal.

Moments later, however, Fulham had an unlikely lead, with a speculative cross off a throw in deep on Liverpool’s left leading to Richardson’s goa;. On a 63rd minute ball targeting Darren Bent at the far post, Reds defender Martin Skrtel elected to extend his right leg to try to play the cross, leaving him no option but to knock the ball back across goal. Hit back toward the near post, the ball bounced out of the reach of Mignolet, falling for Richardson for an easy finish from three yards out.

Nine minutes later, Coutinho had Liverpool back even. Allowed to cut across the top of the area and onto his left foot, the Brazilian attacker let go of a shot from 20 yards out, his effort getting through the right hand of Stekelenburg and into the Cottagers’ goal.

While Liverpool pressed for a winner, full time approached with the match having leveled off. The Cottagers has nearly bled out their draw. In the 90th minute, however, Riether was adjudicated to have brought Sturridge down in the far right of the penalty area. Seconds into stoppage time, Gerrard blasted his penalty kick off the left post, pulling Liverpool within four points of first place.

LINEUPS

Fulham: Stekelenburg (Stockdale 76′); Riether, Heitinga, Burn, Riise; Tunnicliffe, Sidwell, Kvist, Richardson (Kacaniklic 71′); Holtby, Bent

Goals: Touré (o.g., 8′), Richardson (63′)

Liverpool: Mignolet; Flanaga, Skrtel, Touré, Cissohko; Gerrard, Henderson,  (Agger 91′), Sterling (Teixera 82′), Suárez, Sturridge

Goals: Sturridge (41′), Coutinho (72′), Gerrard (91′)

Bayern’s Vidal says “ugly” Atletico not deserved UCL finalists

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27: Juanfran of Atletico Madrid and Arturo Vidal of Bayern Munich argue during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.

Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.

Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.

They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.

The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.

Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.

[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]

Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.

Europa League preview: Liverpool, Shakhtar look to overcome Spanish foes

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - APRIL 28:  Cedric Bakambu of Villarreal is watched by the Liverpool defence during the UEFA Europa League semi final first leg match between Villarreal CF and Liverpool at Estadio El Madrigal on April 28, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.

[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]

Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0

Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.

[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]

Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw 

Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.

[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]

Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.

Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.

Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.