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

2 Comments

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′

Mourinho: Mkhitaryan “disappeared” during games, got dropped

Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images
Leave a comment

It would appear that Henrikh Mkhitaryan has become the new Luke Shaw, who not so long ago became the new Juan Mata, who had become the new Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Pepe, who all previously become the new Kaka and Mesut Ozil — players previously perceived to be undroppable, only to fall out of favor and be dropped from Mourinho’s side.

[ MORE: Carrick back in training after operation to fix irregular heartbeat ]

Similarly to many of the aforementioned stars of Manchester United, Chelsea and Real Madrid sides of the not-so-distant past, Mourinho recently singled out Mkhitaryan for not working hard enough for the team and failing to meet expectations with his performances.

Mkhitaryan last featured in Man United’s 1-0 loss to Chelsea on Nov. 5, prior to the most recent international break. He played just 62 minutes, to follow an UEFA Champions League appearance of just 45 minutes against Benfica. Mkhitaryan was then absent from the substitute’s bench for a victory over Newcastle United and a defeat to Basel.

[ MORE: Pochettino sees Sanchez as one of world’s best defenders already ]

In Mourinho’s mind, Mkhitaryan hasn’t merited a place in the team — quotes from the Guardian:

“I was not happy with his last performances. I’m not speaking about one or two, I’m speaking about three, four or five. He started the season very well and after that, step by step, he was disappearing. His performance levels in terms of goalscoring and assists, pressing, recovering the ball high up the pitch, bringing the team with him as a no. 10, were decreasing.

“That was enough [to drop him] because the others worked to have a chance. Everybody works to have a chance. It’s as simple as that.”

“I don’t know if Mkhitaryan will start but, for sure, he will be back in the group. For him to be back to the group, it means that somebody is going to leave the group.”

Davinson delights Pochettino, who predicts “massive” strides

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
Leave a comment

It’s still very early days for Davinson Sanchez as a Tottenham Hotspur player, but the early returns are extremely positive as the Colombian center back has featured in 14 of the club’s 17 games in the Premier League and UEFA Champions League this season.

[ MORE: Spurs beat Dortmund again to win group with Real Madrid ]

What’s more encouraging than Sanchez’s initial performances? The 21-year-old’s “massive” room for improvement and the expectation he’ll one day soon be one of the world’s best defenders, according to manager Mauricio Pochettino.

After signing for Spurs in August, Sanchez went straight into Pochettino’s starting lineup, slotted in between stalwarts Toby Aldeweireld and Jan Vertonghen, who together last season led the defense with the PL’s best record (26 goals conceded in 38 games), as part of a back-three. Sanchez has taken to Tottenham like a duck to water, in Pochettino’s estimation — quotes from ESPN FC:

“You saw against against Dortmund how many times he was with [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang one-versus-one. How many central defenders can play one-versus-one and escape and go, be tight and press? If you run, I run because I am so confident when running. I think not many center backs in the world can do this.

“Or against Swansea against Tammy Abraham: how many times he was one vs. one and the ball was behind him, he was on the halfway line and running was not a problem? And against Cristiano Ronaldo, too?”

“We expect more from him, but I am so happy with him. He is doing well, very well. He’s only 21 years old, but he shows more maturity [than that], and he’s so aggressive when he’s marking, his concentration [is good] and then with the ball he’s good, but I think he can improve.

“There is massive scope to improve potentially, it’s massive for him. In only a few months, he’s showing he’s doing a fantastic job for us. [He can improve in] every single aspect, tactic, physical condition, technique.

“We need with him one and a half months or two months preseason every day, and then I’m sure he’s going to show a different level. I think he’s one of the best today, but has potential to improve a lot more.

“Because he’s so clever, and he’s very humble, and he’s very open to learn, he’s a player when you tell something his reaction is to be open, and be critical with himself, and that is a massive skill from a player, when he’s so open to improve, and then the conditions he has are amazing to be one of the best center halves in the world.”

To state the completely obvious, Pochettino was wise to utilize Aldeweireld and Vertonghen as training wheels for Sanchez, if you will, upon his arrival. His athleticism and pace make him 1) the ideal complement to a pair of players who read the game so well; and, 2) perfectly positioned to operate as the last-man, emergency defender on the rare occasion either Belgian is breached.

[ MORE: Liverpool host Chelsea in massive top-four clash ]

For the first time all season, Sanchez started out wide in Alderweireld’s absence (hamstring) against Arsenal last weekend, and for the first time since his arrival, he appeared a flawed — which is to say, human — defender. To his credit, Sanchez gave a quality account of himself on the whole, and finished the game much stronger than he’d started.

No one was more aware of this than Pochettino, though, as he slid Eric Dier into Aldeweireld’s spot for Tuesday’s Champions League triumph over Borusia Dortmund, again deploying Sanchez in the middle. With Aldeweireld expected to miss a couple more weeks at minimum, the Tottenham teamsheet should routinely read Vertonghen-Sanchez-Dier from left to right until he returns.

Lille appoint four interim managers to replace Bielsa

Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images
Leave a comment

LILLE, France (AP) A four-man coaching team will take provisional charge of French soccer club Lille in the wake of Marcelo Bielsa’s dismissal.

Lille says Fernando Da Cruz, Joao Sacramento, Benoit Delaval and Franck Mantaux will be in charge of the team until further notice.

Lille announced earlier this week that Bielsa had been suspended “as part of a procedure started by the club” following a 3-0 loss at Amiens.

The northern side is in 19th place and next travels Saturday to Montpellier, which has the best defense in the league.

Bielsa joined Lille this season but failed to make the club competitive. After finishing a disappointing 11th last season, Lille hired the coach – affectionately known as El Loco Bielsa (Crazy Bielsa) – with the aim of returning to the Champions League.

Irregular heartbeat the cause of Carrick’s recent absence

Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Manchester United captain Michael Carrick hasn’t played for his club since Sept. 20, a confounding period of more than two months now, and the reason for the 36-year-old midfielder’s absence has finally come to light: an irregular heartbeat.

[ MORE: Mourinho slams critics (again), gives injury updates ]

The condition, which Carrick announced himself on Friday, was first detected after Man United’s League Cup victory over Burton Albion. He has since undergone a cardiac ablation, a procedure to scar or destroy tissue in your heart that’s allowing incorrect electrical signals to cause an abnormal heart rhythm, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Carrick was named the new United captain this summer following the departure of Wayne Rooney. As told in the above statement, he is working toward full fitness and once again being available for selection in Jose Mourinho’s side.

Hooray for modern technology and medicine, which allow otherwise baffling medical conditions to be diagnosed, treated and recovered from in a matter of weeks or months.