Manchester United 0-3 Liverpool: Gerrard hits twice from the spot to send Reds second (video)

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Liverpool: calm, structured, lethal.

Manchester United: disjointed, frantic, out of control.

With NBC guest commentator Tim Howard dubbing this match the “biggest fixture in English football,” Liverpool proved the far superior squad at Old Trafford.

As one side jumped to within four points of the Premier League’s top spot, another fell to uncharted depths in seventh.

Steven Gerrard hit twice from the penalty spot and Luis Suarez added a third as the Reds made no mistake in their late charge towards the Premier League title.

Both teams proved bold yet nervy in the opening 20 minutes.

Each end saw action, but neither team had a serious effort on goal.  With either defense solid in their shape, Liverpool had more of the attack during match’s opening quarter, but the trio of Reds at the attack found it difficult to find any bit of space.

With both teams probing, Liverpool were gifted a chance to go ahead in the 34th minute, and they didn’t disappoint. Daniel Sturridge on the right touch floated a ball across the pitch to Luis Suarez, and he looked to work it into the box with Rafael guarding.

Suarez attempted to chip around the United defender, and with Rafael off balance, the ball clipped his outstretched arm.  Suarez immediately popped up shouting for handball, and referee Mark Clattenberg pointed to the spot.

Liverpool pleaded with Clattenberg for a yellow card for the offense, which would have been Rafael’s second already, but the referee refused.  There was no surprise as Gerrard stepped up to the ball for Liverpool, and he poked it past a wrong-footed De Gea for the first-half lead.

Manchester United did produce one moment to hang their hat on, but just minutes before halftime Simon Mignolet countered with a spectacular diving save to keep out Wayne Rooney’s shot from the center of the box.

Looking to bring it back level after the break, things instead got much worse for Manchester United directly out of the tunnel.

Suarez found Jordan Henderson in all kinds of space at the top of the box, and the youngster finds fellow midfielder Joe Allen cutting laterally across the box and tracked by Phil Jones.

source: Getty Images
Liverpool’s captain was the man of the hour as the Reds picked Manchester United apart.

With Jones beat, the big center back lowered his shoulder and bowled over Allen from behind, and Clattenberg again awarded Liverpool a penalty.  Gerrard converted for a second time, again firing right but this time harder and lower past de Gea.

The penalty marked the first time in Premier League history that opposition were given two penalties at Old Trafford.

The deficit caused the hosts to press harder, but they were panicked much too frantic, and they appeared more likely to get a man sent off than score a goal.

However, as United settled down and began to built, they produced two chances, but Clattenberg denied them twice.  Wayne Rooney looked for a foul outside the box as Martin Skrtel clattered him to the ground, and it appeared Glen Johnson slightly handed the ball, but both were waved off.

Things only got worse for Manchester United.  David Moyes waited all the way until the 76th minute to make his first substitution, a double change bringing on Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck, but it would be at the back where they would soon see a blow.

Daniel Sturridge rocketed past Nemanja Vidic, and the Manchester United captain went body-to-body looking to recover.  Sturridge hit a heavy touch, and instead of shooting a tight angle he went down softly, an obvious dive, but Clattenberg bought it giving Liverpool a third penalty and sending Vidic off with his second yellow card.

Gerrard stepped up with an opportunity to bag the first-ever Premier League penalty hat-trick, but he clanged the left post for a miss.

With United a man down, it was all Reds from here to the final whistle. Sturridge probably had a shout for yet another penalty when he checked back with the ball in the box and was felled by Michael Carrick, but Clattenberg waved it off.

Suarez then beat the defense and went one-on-one with David de Gea on 80 minutes but the Spaniard made a fantastic save.

But he couldn’t keep out Suarez with five minutes to go, as Sturridge found him just onsides through the United back line and he touched far post for a 3-0 lead.

LINEUPS:

Manchester United – De Gea; Rafael, Jones, Vidic, Evra; Mata (Ferdinand 87′), Fellaini (Cleverley 76′), Carrick, Januzaj (Welbeck 76′); Rooney, van Persie.

Liverpool – Mignolet; Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Flanagan; Gerrard (Lucas 87′), Allen, Henderson, Sterling (Coutinho 72′); Suarez, Sturridge (Aspas 90′).

Goals: Gerrard 34′, 46′; Suarez 84′

Heynckes squashes Lewandowski rumors after Premier League rumors

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The English media – mainly the tabloids – has had a field day over the last 24 hours with rumors of a Robert Lewandowski move to the Premier League claiming, but the Bayern Munich manager is having none of it.

Jupp Heynckes told the German press during his pre-match press conference on Friday ahead of the club’s Saturday match against Hertha Berlin, “I can’t imagine there is a chance [the club executives] will sell Lewandowski.”

“Bayern is not a selling club,” Heynckes went on to proclaim. “They want to, and always will want to, keep their top players.”

The reports stated that Lewandowski was “flirting” with a move to the Premier League, and that while Manchester City and Chelsea were the more logical destination, Liverpool was actually the preferred landing spot as the Polish international was open to a reunification with former boss Jurgen Klopp, whom he worked with at Borussia Dortmund before his switch to Allianz Arena. Lewandowski’s contract at Bayern Munich currently runs through 2021, leaving the player with little say over his future.

While the rumors seem like a long shot, what does make sense is that, at 29 years old, Lewandowski doesn’t a ton of time left to convince a Premier League club he’s worth a heavy investment for the next couple of years. Many top teams – most notably Arsenal – are hesitant to sign players over 30 years old, and would be even less inclined to pay a hefty transfer fee for a player without a long future ahead of them. Manchester United just paid a cut-rate price for Alexis Sanchez, and while that was largely due to Arsenal’s position of weakness regarding the expiry of Sanchez’s contract, Sanchez’s age also partially contributed to that knocked down transfer rate.

Nonetheless, Bayern’s sale history is minimal, having only offloaded surplus players, such as defender Medhi Benatia this past summer, Mario Gotze back to Borussia Dortmund the summer before, and Xherdan Shaqiri to Stoke City in 2015.

Recently retired Ryan Mason receives standing ovation at Hull match

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Midfielder Ryan Mason, who was forced to retire after suffering a fractured skull over a year ago, received a warm ovation at KCOM Stadium before Hull City’s match on Friday against Sheffield United.

Mason, just 26 years old, announced his retirement last week on the advice of medical professionals after over a year of rehabilitation from his injury in an attempt to return to playing. The Tottenham youth product was injured in an aerial clash with Chelsea defender Gary Cahill in January of 2017, and did not return to action.

“Ryan has sought the guidance of numerous world-renowned neurologists and neuro surgeons who have all advised that a return to competitive football is not advised,” Hull City said in a release after Mason’s retirement was announced. “Ryan would like to put on record his thanks to all at the club who have aided his recovery to this point and he his is indebted to them for their support and compassion over the past 12 months.”

Before Hull City’s match against Sheffield, an important one with Hull battling relegation, Mason was brought out on the pitch and received a warm reception from the patchy crowd.

As the club did after his injury, they put a message on the screen with the Twitter hashtag #OneRyanMason.

Mason picked up his first job since retirement over the weekend, commentating on Sky Sports in studio for a Championship match between Aston Villa and Preston North End, which ended in a 1-1 draw. “It’s been a bit of a whirlwind – it’s been crazy. I’ve had a lot of messages and it’s been a lot to take in,” Mason said on the broadcast. “I’ve been quite positive throughout and I’m looking to the next chapter now.”It’s difficult [to accept]. For the last year I’ve been working as hard as I can to get back on a football pitch. But when you’re long-term health comes into it then it’s a lot easier. There is more to life than football.

Wigan boss defends fans after pitch-storming

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Wigan Athletic boss Paul Cook is defending his supporters following a memorable upset of Manchester City in the FA Cup.

[ MORE: Europa League draw ]

Latics fans stormed the pitch at the DW Stadium, a celebratory but dangerous scene which included “disturbances” between supporters of both clubs and a confronration between fans and Sergio Aguero.

But it takes just a look at the above photo to see both sides of the issues, as the photographer at right catches fans and players celebrating together… while Aguero rages behind him.

From Sky Sports:

“You’ve got to remember the pure emotions of the night for Wigan fans,” he said.

“They didn’t really turn up to see us win – that’s the truth of it. I’ve got a picture of my son in the directors’ box – he’s only 12 – with his head in his hands looking at the floor because he couldn’t watch.

“We certainly don’t want to see fans engaging with players. The players’ protection is absolutely paramount. But also the supporters enjoying that moment is a good thing for me.”

There is, also, this photo to show the other side of the scenario. Ultimately in our era, this type should sadly be prevented to defy the potential for the latter. That’s sad, but it’s a litigious world.

Dan Burn of Wigan Athletic celebrates. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Premier League Preview: Watford vs. Everton

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  • Watford has two wins in last 14 PL matches
  • Toffees won 3-2 at Goodison on Nov. 5
  • Watford leads all-time 19W-3D-3L

Two top half hopefuls meet at Vicarage Road in a reprise of an early season thriller when Watford hosts Everton on Saturday (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Everton is in a battle for seventh with Burnley and Leicester City, and could finish the weekend there with a win and help.

Watford has to chance to finish in the top half. It’d be there already had it not coughed up a 2-0 lead to then-caretaker manager David Unsworth‘s Everton in a 3-2 loss on Nov. 5.

What they’re saying

Watford’s Jose Holebas on the match“We have to do something in this game. When we played there, we were 2-0 up and gave the game away in that way – it is unacceptable for me. I was a little bit emotional because I know that this season we have lost some points [from winning positions].”

Everton’s Sam Allardyce on his style critics“The type of football we’ve produced isn’t rubbish, we’ve produced proper football in terms of what we’ve tried to achieve. The past reputation is not the reality if you ask the players, so you look at the football we’ve played since I’ve been here.”

Prediction