Liverpool

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′)

MLS Snapshot: New York City FC 2-2 Orlando City SC (video)

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 15:  David Villa #7 of New York City FC tries to keep the ball as Scott Caldwell #6 of New England Revolution defends during the inaugural game of the New York City FC at Yankee Stadium on March 15, 2015 in the Bronx borough of New York City.The New York City FC defeated the New England Revolution 2-0.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
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The game in 100 words (or less): “It’s not how many times you get knocked down; it’s how many times you get back up.” If that is indeed the way the world works, New York City FC will be given every opportunity to prove themselves again and again and again. When they’re not losing 7-0 to their rivals, they’re blowing two-goal leads (and the simplest of chances to go 3-0 up — check out the videos below for more on that) inside the final 20 minutes at home a week later. Orlando City SC have made a habit of scoring stoppage-time goals this season (Sunday’s 94th-minute equalizer in the Bronx was their fifth), so you’ll have to excuse all of us who wholeheartedly expected NYCFC to snatch this 2-2 draw from the jaws of victory. With the draw, NYCFC remain fourth in the Eastern Conference, a point back of the New York Red Bulls and Montreal Impact for second and third, while Orlando City inch to level on points with sixth-place Toronto FC.

[ MORE: USMNT 4-0 Bolivia | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

42′ — Brilliant heads home not long before halftime — Everything seemed fine for NYCFC

66′ — Pirlo’s beautiful ball sets Villa up for 2-0 — Class. Pure class from everyone involved. Everything is fine.

70′ — Villa sends his PK effort sky high — What more can you say? Everything is still probably fine.

72′ — Baptista fires low to make it 2-1 — Villa left the door wide open, and Julio Baptista was quick to walk right through two minutes later. Everything is less fine.

90+4′ — Molino heads home with no time left — As soon as Villa missed the penalty, it was always going to end like this. Nothing is fine.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: David Villa (for a variety of reasons)

Goalscorers: Brilliant (42′), Villa (66′), Baptista (72′), Molino (90+4′)

Klinsmann excited about USMNT’s promising youngsters ahead of Copa America

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 29:  Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann of the United States Men's National Team watches his team play against Guatemala during the FIFA 2018  World Cup qualifier on March 29, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. The United States defeated Guatemala 4-0.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The U.S. national team’s last 135 minutes of game time — the final 45 minutes of a 1-0 victory over Ecuador, followed by Saturday’s 4-0 dismantling of Bolivia here at Children’s Mercy Park — have supporters across the country harboring unfamiliar feelings these days: cautious optimism ahead of this week’s 2016 Copa America Centenario.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

It’s the best three-half stretch Jurgen Klinsmann’s side has enjoyed (against top-80 opposition, according FIFA world rankings) since … well, come to think of it, I’m not really sure when. In the last 24 months, the Yanks have lost away to Guatemala, drawn away to Trinidad & Tobago, lost the CONCACAF Cup to Mexico on home soil, finished fourth at the Gold Cup on home soil, and wrapped up 2014 with just one win in their last eight games of the calendar year, including three of four World Cup fixtures.

(When you write it all out like that, it sounds really bad. It’s been really bad.)

Yet, here stands the USMNT, five days from kicking off the centennial edition of Copa America, and a few pieces are beginning to fall into place for Klinsmann and Co. I waxed poetically about Saturday’s victory and all the positives it highlighted.

[ COPA AMERICA PREVIEWS: Group A | BC | D ]

Listening to Klinsmann and a handful of players speak after the game, there was a similar sense of confidence among the men on the field that a workable, sustainable formula had indeed been realized.

“The atmosphere is really good,” the 1990 World Cup-winning German said. “Fine-tuning elements, every training session helps you. I think no team will come into Copa America 100 percent or perfectly prepared. … It’s a bit tricky.”

[ MORE: Ranking Copa America contenders — what are USMNT’s chances? ]

Perhaps no player on the USMNT’s Copa America roster has come further under Klinsmann’s tutelage, and in such a short period of time, than striker Bobby Wood, who has scored all five of his international goals inside the last five months and on Saturday assisted on Gyasi Zardes’s strike for a 3-0 lead with a quality cut-back cross from the end line — Wood, speaking after the game:

“I think as a team, we’re pretty confident,” Wood said. “We wanted to continue growing as a team with each game before the tournament. With these results, I think we did a good job to be confident going into the Colombia game. … I actually think two games ago, we were still pretty confident. Maybe the outside is putting pressure on us, but as a team inside the locker room, we’re pretty confident to do well. I think everyone is pretty hungry for Copa to start.”

It’s the USMNT’s current crop of youngsters like Wood, the 23-year-old now-Hamburg man, that gives American fans hope beyond Copa America with an eye toward the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The average age of the scorers of the USMNT’s last eight goals: 23 years old. No one is more excited by that progression than Klinsmann, who raved about Christian Pulisic after the 17-year-old became the youngest goalscorer in USMNT history on Saturday.

“What is wonderful to see is the growth of [the young] players over these last one or two years — how they improved their game, how they’re becoming more adult[-like], obviously stronger physically, but also becoming more confident,” he said of players like Wood, Zardes, DeAndre Yedlin and John Brooks, among others. “This is a process. The process is never-ending, but the first couple of years when you grow, it’s a big learning curve. How far this process takes us into Copa America, we’ll take it one step at a time. We put the pieces together the best way that we get the right results.

“I think over the next couple of weeks, they will definitely get their opportunities to play minutes, leave an impression, and to push more and more the established players toward the edge, which is their job. It will be a very intense and interesting next couple of weeks.”

 

Tens of thousands welcomed Real Madrid home after Champions League final

Real Madrid bus (Photo credit: Real Madrid / Twitter: @realmadrid)
Photo credit: Real Madrid / Twitter: @realmadrid
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MADRID (AP) Tens of thousands of fans endured the rain to greet Real Madrid players as they returned home early Sunday from their triumph in the Champions League final.

[ MORE: Real top Atleti on penalty kicks — Ronaldo the hero again ]

Many waited all night after celebrating the team’s win over crosstown rival Atletico Madrid in a penalty shootout on Saturday in Milan.

The players arrived in Madrid at about 6 a.m. local time (0400 GMT) and traveled on an open bus to the club’s traditional celebration spot, the Plaza de Cibeles, where an estimated 30,000 supporters welcomed the team.

Players carried the Champions League trophy atop the bus, constantly showing it to the cheering fans. The word “Campeones” and “11” were displayed prominently on the bus, in reference to the club’s 11th European title.

[ MORE: Ronaldo — “Our team showed more experience” ]

Team captain Sergio Ramos, who scored Madrid’s goal in regulation time at the San Siro, took the walkway set up over the plaza’s fountain and draped the statue of the goddess Cybele with the club’s scarf and flag, then lifted the trophy high above the famous figure.

A huge video screen was set up at the plaza to allow fans to watch the final, and the party began right after Cristiano Ronaldo converted the final penalty kick in the shootout to give the club its second European title in three seasons. Light shows and music entertained the fans through the night.

Atletico Madrid supporters, who again were denied the opportunity to celebrate the title, had gathered at a different viewing spot to watch the final.

[ MORE: Bale — “We deserve it” ]

There were no reports of major incidents between fans of the rival clubs.

Real Madrid said “almost 80,000” fans watched Saturday’s final at the team’s Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, where four huge screens were placed at midfield. The title celebration at the stadium included confetti thrown into the air as “We are the champions” played through loudspeakers.

The team will meet with the mayor of Madrid later on Sunday and again will parade through city streets.

The title celebrations will culminate at night at the Bernabeu.

Marek Hamsik absolutely smashes goal in Slovakia’s upset of Germany (video)

TRNAVA, SLOVAKIA - MARCH 25:  Marek Hamsik of Slovakia runs with the ball during the international friendly match between Slovakia and Latvia held at Stadion Antona Malatinskeho on March 25, 2016 in Trnava, Slovakia.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images
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Marek Hamsik hit a ball with such momentous force that we’re not sure it rotated more than three full turns on its 20-yard flight into the goal.

The Slovakia star’s goal equalized a friendly with Germany at 1, and Repre went on to hammer the reigning World Cup champs by a 3-1 score.

[ USMNT-BOLIVIA: Recap3 things | Player ratings ]

I mean, really, what a hit. Bernd Leno had little hope of touching it.