Liverpool 4-3 Swansea: Sturridge and Henderson bag braces as hosts spurn two comebacks (Video)

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Swansea mounted two spectacular comebacks, but braces from Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson ensured Liverpool maintained the victory.

The visitors didn’t give in after falling behind 2-0 in the opening quarter of an hour, storming back to tie it up at 2-2 before being forced to come back again at 3-3.

But it was ultimately Henderson who would deny the visitors any fruit for their labors, scoring with 15 minutes remaining for just his third of the year.

Holding most of the opening possession, the visitors coughed up possession to Raheem Sterling, who immediately found a streaking Sturridge.  The red-hot striker caught out Swansea’s back line and beat a helpless Michel Vorm giving Sturridge an empty net to calmly place the ball into.

With the score, Sturridge has goals in eight straight matches, dating back to before his injury spell.

Swansea continued to pass all over their half of the pitch, but offered nothing on the other end, and Liverpool soon capitalized again.

Sturridge turned creator, cutting in from the right flank on 20 minutes and dishing to Henderson in space at the top of the box. The Englishman decided to have a go from distance, leaving Vorm rooted to his spot and unable to keep out a second goal.

The visitors were in trouble but not discouraged.  Finally they put together their first real attack, and got themselves right back into the game with a goal strikingly similar in nature to Liverpool’s second scored just minutes earlier.

source: Getty Images
Wilfried Bony’s brace wasn’t enough for Swansea to keep pace with Liverpool’s scorching attack.

Nathan Dyer cut in from the right – much like Sturridge did – and he dished to Jonjo Shelvey.  The 21-year-old didn’t waste any time, chipping one-time into the top right corner, clattering the crossbar and ricocheting downwards over the line.  Shelvey decided to mute his excitement, choosing not to celebrate at his former club and receiving a kind applause from the home crowd for his respect.

Swansea stunningly did not cease in their quest to restore order. Martin Skrtel committed a yellow card offense, giving the visitors a free kick midway into the attacking half.  It was taken well, and found Wilfried Bony for a header in the box.  The effort took a deflection off Skrtel’s shoulder and nestled past the near post in the back of the net.

Just like that, Swansea had broken under Liverpool’s early pressure like so many teams had before them, but mounted an instantaneous comeback to level things up once again. And all while a quarter of an hour had barely gone by.

It wouldn’t last long though.  The combination of Liverpool strikers struck as they have come to so often, and it was Sturridge once again on the end product. Luis Suarez chipped in a cross from the left edge of the box, and it floated over defenders to Sturridge for a free header past Vorm.

The goal is now Sturridge’s 18th on the season in 19 matches, and marks his 10th in his last eight games.

Swansea continued to pass confidently, probing for space before Bony looked for another equalizer on 43 minutes but Simon Mignolet was up to the task for the first impressive display of goalkeeping in the match.

The first-half drama continued directly after the break, as Skrtel was penalized for a foul in the box on Bony just a minute after the restart, and the Ivorian converted for another level score.

The dangerous build-up play continued for both sides, and after a few wasted chances Liverpool would find the winner.  Steven Gerrard’s long ball found Suarez at the top of the box, who fired a rocket on goal. It was blocked, but the ball fell to Henderson who rifled on goal. That was also saved, but on the third time Henderson found the back of the net with Vorm on the ground.

Gerrard would hit the post later on as Liverpool saw out the victory in another late gut-check in front of the home fans at Anfield.

The win again will give the top sides something to think about, as it would take a few stumbles but Liverpool maintain a reasonable shout as an outside title contender, just a point behind Manchester City.

Swansea will be hard done by to leave with nothing to show for their efforts, and they remain in a nervy position just four points above the drop.

LINEUPS:

Liverpool – Mignolet; Johnson, Flanagan, Skrtel, Agger (Toure 63′); Gerrard, Henderson, Sterling (Allen 58′), Coutinho; Suarez, Sturridge (Moses 79′).

Goals: Sturridge (3′, 36′), Henderson (21′, 74′)

Swansea – Vorm; Rangel, Chico, Williams, Taylor; Britton, de Guzman (Hernandez 73′), Shelvey (Canas 45′), Dyer (Ngog 78′), Routledge; Bony.

Goals: Shelvey (23′), Bony (27′, 46′)

Money from Wembley replay will “support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years”

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Worst-case scenario for Tottenham Hotspur: drawing League One side Rochdale in Sunday’s FA Cup fifth-round clash; best-case scenario for the Dale: drawing the Premier League giants and forcing a replay at Wembley Stadium.

[ MORE: Man Utd draw Brighton in FA Cup QF; Chelsea get Leicester ]

For a club the size of Rochdale — 10,200-seat stadium, and never been above the third tier of English soccer — the financial impact of raking in half of the game’s gate receipts “will support the club for the next two or three years,” according to manager Keith Hill — quotes from the Guardian:

“I don’t know how much it is worth but a lot of money has gone into the new pitch. That was a heavy investment for us. Hopefully the money we make will support the club for the next two or three years. We will cut our cloth accordingly and we won’t be in debt.”

As for Steve Davies’ 93rd-minute equalizer, Hill was adamant that it was nothing short of what they “deserved”:

“It was a feeling of reward, not relief, because the performance deserved at least the opportunity for us to go to Wembley for a replay. I’ve always wanted to do that against a Premier League team and manager. Why not take them on and try to win? It could have been football suicide but I thought we gained their respect and to score the goal we did was tremendous. The players were magnificent.”

Tottenham Hotspur, soccer philanthropists.

Try, try again: Messi seeks 1st goal vs. Chelsea in 9th attempt

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LONDON (AP) As unlikely as it sounds, Lionel Messi is still waiting to score his first goal against Chelsea after drawing a blank in eight previous Champions League matches.

The five-time World Player of the Year is likely to get another chance to break his duck this week and Chelsea manager Antonio Conte believes the past will count for little when Barcelona visits Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

“I hope we maintain this tradition but we are speaking about a fantastic player,” Conte said ahead of the last-16, first-leg Champions League game. “The most important thing is the present.

“We must have great respect but at the same time we must be excited to play this type of game and take on this type of challenge. It won’t be easy because we know very well this player, we are talking about one of the best in the world.”

The teams have produced some epic games in the past although they have not met in the Champions League since Chelsea pulled off a remarkable backs-to-the-wall semifinal victory over Barcelona on the way to winning the trophy in 2012.

Messi missed a penalty in the second leg at the Nou Camp as the London club overcame the first-half dismissal of captain John Terry, and a 2-0 deficit, to draw the game 2-2 and secure an unforgettable 3-2 aggregate win.

Bayern Munich hosts Besiktas in Tuesday’s other game while the following day sees Manchester United traveling to Sevilla, and Shakhtar Donetsk playing host to Roma.

Two weeks ago, the prospect of a Chelsea win over Barca would have been unthinkable after Conte’s men had slumped to successive defeats by two of the Premier League’s lesser lights.

The London club was still smarting from a 3-0 home loss against Bournemouth when it traveled to Watford and succumbed to an embarrassing 4-1 reverse.

Chelsea has got back on track since then, though, easing past West Bromwich Albion 3-0 in the league last Monday before swatting aside second-tier Hull 4-0 in the FA Cup four days later.

Conte has several selection dilemmas. He must choose between captain Gary Cahill and Antonio Rudiger for a place at the back, and between Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud up front.

Cesc Fabregas will also be desperate to play against his former team but may have to settle for a spot on the bench.

Barca has lost only once in 38 matches this season since falling in the Spanish Super Cup to Real Madrid in August. It has a seven-point lead at the top of La Liga and has reached the final of the Copa del Rey.

Messi is having another stellar campaign, scoring 27 times in all competitions, and he helped set up two goals in Saturday’s 2-0 win at Eibar.

Philippe Coutinho is ineligible for Barca following his move from Liverpool.

Mourinho claiming injury crisis ahead of CL showdown

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The next three weeks will go a long way toward defining Jose Mourinho’s second season at Manchester United, with the Red Devils facing not only fellow top-four aspirers Chelsea and Liverpool, but also contesting their Champions League round-of-16 tie with Sevilla.

[ MORE: VAR provider admits incorrect graphic displayed on TV ]

Thus, it’s not exactly the most convenient time for the words “injury crisis” to rear their ugly heads yet again, but that’s the challenge Mourinho claims he faces ahead of Wednesday’s CL clash.

Paul Pogba missed Saturday’s FA Cup victory with a last-minute illness; Marcus Rashford is dealing with a leg injury and remains questionable, as are Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia; Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones and Marouane Fellaini are all but officially out, according to Mourinho — quotes from ESPN.co.uk:

“I didn’t rest one single player so we had today every player available here. I didn’t rest anyone. I brought two kids that played on Friday 90 minutes [for the under-23s] because I don’t have another player, so we arrive at this crucial moment with some problems.”

“Can we recover some of them to Wednesday? I believe so. I think Rashford, Herrera, Valencia — I think they have a chance.

“Paul, I don’t know. Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones, Marouane, Zlatan — I don’t think they have any chance.”

Mourinho dealt with a similar rash of injuries very late on last season, as his side barreled its way into, and eventually won, the Europa League final, securing a place in the CL this season. With a top-four finish all but out of reach at the time, Mourinho opted to rest his bare-bones group of first-team regulars in Premier League action and prioritize Europe’s “other” competition.

[ MORE: Man Utd draw Brighton in FA Cup QF; Chelsea get Leicester ]

This time around, United sit second in the PL table, just four points clear of fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur, and the path to winning the CL will prove far more difficult than taking on the likes of Saint-Etienne, Rostov, Anderlecht, Celta Vigo and Ajax.

Serie A: Napoli, Juve hold serve in 1-point title race

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ MORE: Barcelona now 31 games unbeaten | Real Madrid 17 points behind ]

Napoli 1-0 SPAL 2013

The battle for Serie A supremacy isn’t ending anytime soon, as Napoli and Juventus continue to match one another (nine straight wins for each side) in Europe’s only remaining major title race.

On Sunday, they even traded 1-0 victories — Napoli at home to SPAL 2013, with Juve triumphing over Torino in the Turin derby.

Brazilian midfielder Allan bagged the only goal for Napoli after just six minutes, finishing off a mesmerizing, free-flowing move that’s become synonymous with Napoli this season. The video-assisting referee came into play just after the hour mark, when Marek Hamsik headed home to make it 2-0 before the VAR wiped it away for offside.

Napoli’s current nine-game winning streak is the longest in club history.

Torino 0-1 Juventus

Juve’s victory came at something of a cost, though, as star striker Gonzalo Higuain was lost to an ankle injury after just a quarter-hour (the injury occurred after just three minutes), followed by a potentially serious knee injury for Federico Bernardeschi, who replaced Higuain, in second-half stoppage time. Higuain isn’t expected to miss significant time, with the club calling it a twisted ankle.

In between the injuries came Alex Sandro‘s 33rd-minute winner, a tap-in from close range masterfully set up by Bernardeschi. One additional positive for Juve: Sunday also saw Paulo Dybala return after missing five weeks with a hamstring injury. The Argentine star entered as a second-half substitute.

“Paulo played 30 minutes at a good level,” Juve manager Massimiliano Allegri said. “I’m pleased with his and everyone else’s performance. This is a good result against a well-organized Torino side.”

Elsewhere in Serie A

AC Milan 1-0 Sampdoria
Atalanta 1-1 Fiorentina
Bologna 2-1 Sassuolo
Benevento 3-2 Crotone