Van Persie treble hands Manchester United incredible Champions League comeback win over Olympiakos

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A sensational Robin van Persie hat trick gave Manchester United a 3-0 win over Olympiakos at Old Trafford on Wednesday night, as the Red Devils secured a stunning comeback victory to make it through to the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League 3-2 on aggregate.

Trailing 2-0 from the first leg, United had a mountain to climb but RVP single-handedly cancelled out Olympiakos’ advantage with a penalty kick midway through the first half and then a cool finish right at the interval to make it 2-0. Those goals, especially the second, lifted the roof off of Old Trafford as the home fans believed a remarkable comeback was in the offing.

Five minutes after the break the incredible turnaround was complete, as RVP curled a free kick from 25-yards around the wall to wrong-foot Olympiakos ‘keeper Roberto and put United 3-0 up. Late on Olympiakos pushed for a goal that would’ve put them through on away goals, but United held on to seal a memorable win which sees them advance to the last eight for the first time since they reached the final in 2010-2011.

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Manchester United started nervously as Olympiakos whipped in some great crosses from the left that United eventually cleared, as tension began to build  early at Old Trafford.

In the 6th minute Rooney had United’s first effort of the game, as his bending free kick was acrobatically punched away by Roberto, then shortly after Robin van Persie had a half chance. After that the game went into a scrappy period as first Kostas Manolas was booked, then Antonio Valencia was involved in a clash of heads with Joel Campbell and when he got up the Ecuadorian was scythed down by Alejandro Dominguez who was also shown a yellow card. Shortly after Michael Carrick also got a yellow, as a real blood and thunder affair played out under the floodlights.

source: Getty Images
RVP bags his first goal from the penalty spot, as United’s Dutch striker came to the rescue.

Olympiakos had a gilt-edge chance to go 3-0 ahead on aggregate in the 15th minute, as Joel Campbell bamboozled Phil Jones then pulled the ball back to Perez… but he ballooned his effort over from six yards out. In the 17th minute Rooney then headed towards goal but Olympiakos ‘keeper Roberto tipped the ball onto the post and away to safety.

Then in the 23rd minute United were awarded a penalty, as RVP was nudged in the back by Jose Holebas and referee Björn Kuipers pointed to the spot. Van Persie stepped up and slammed home the penalty kick to put United 1-0 up, as the home fans started to dream of a monumental comeback. Just before the half hour Olympiakos whipped in a dangerous ball from the right which Carrick somehow managed to hook clear from danger, as the away side came back into the match before the interval.

Before the break United pushed to level the score up on aggregate, as Patrice Evra’s header was brilliantly clawed out of the top corner by Roberto. But right on half time RVP scored his and United’s second of the match to send Old Trafford wild. A beautiful chipped ball from Carrick found Rooney, and the Englishman found his strike partner RVP to slot home a cool finish as Old Trafford erupted just with United 2-0 ahead.

It took just six minutes after the interval for RVP to smash in a free kick from the edge of the box to make it 3-0 on the night,  giving the Dutchman a hat trick, as the Red Devils were battering Olympiakos and were in front for the first time in the tie. The Greek side tried to regroup but United looked comfortable defensively as a long-range effort from Dominguez flew over the bar. However inevitable tension began to build amongst the home fans as the clock ticked down in Manchester.

Despite pulverizing their opponents, United were stuck in a excruciating stick-or-twist situation as they held off from attacking but invited pressure from Olympiakos. David Fuster has a shot well saved by David De Gea, as Olympiakos chucked the kitchen sink at United in the closing stages with plenty of nervy moments for the home fans to endure.

With Moyes ferociously gesticulating from the technical area and spurring his team on, United sucked all the energy out of the game. However that nouse, coupled with RVP’s sensational display, was enough to seal their passage into the last eight of the Champions League, after a night that will live long in the memory.

Good times are back at Old Trafford, for now.

LINEUPS

Manchester United: De Gea; Rafael, Jones, Ferdinand, Evra; Valencia (Young, 77′), Carrick, Giggs, Welbeck (Fletcher, 81′); Rooney, van Persie (Fellaini, 89′)

Goals: Van Persie (23′, 45′, 51′)

Olympiakos: Roberto, Maniatis, Holebas, Manolas, Marcano, Leandro Salino (Machado, 74′), N’Dinga, Perez (Valdez, 57′), Fuster (Vergos, 82′), Campbell, Dominguez

Swansea 1-0 Liverpool: Last-place Swans shock Reds

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  • Swansea shock Liverpool in game of few chances
  • Mawson sweeps home the winner — 40′
  • Reds’ 14-game PL unbeaten run ends
  • Swans now 2W-1D-1L under Carvalhal

From the high of snapping Manchester City’s unbeaten run (30 games dating back to last season) and bid for an unbeaten 2017-18 Premier League season, to being beaten by last-place Swansea City… in back-to-back games… all in the span of eight days.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

On Monday, Swansea topped Liverpool, 1-0 at the Liberty Stadium, to claim just their fifth PL victory all season; two of the five have come in the first three weeks of new manager Carlos Carvalhal’s tenure (four games).

Virgil Van Dijk cost Liverpool $100 million, but he’s yet to arrest the Reds’ woeful set-piece defending. It was the big Dutchman who failed to head the ball clear from the Swans’ 40th-minute corner kick. After an unfortunate bounce in the box, the ball fell to Mawson just 10 yards out. The young Welshman swept his right foot through the ball and Loris Karius could do nothing about it.

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Liverpool’s first surefire chance of the second half came in the 60th minute, when Mohamed Salah delicately lifted just over the wall a free kick from 22 yards out. The ball quickly fell as it neared goal, but Lukasz Fabianski reacted quicker and pushed it over the crossbar at full-stretch to preserve the lead at 1-0.

Right on 94 minutes, with the referee staring at his watch, Roberto Firmino headed off Fabianski’s right-hand post and Adam Lallana missed an open-net follow-up, somehow booting the ball well over the bar from three yards out.

Despite holding over 70 percent of possession on the night, Liverpool put on target just four of their 21 total shots.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

With the defeat, Liverpool (47 points) fail to capitalize on Tottenham Hotspur’s 1-1 draw with Southampton on Sunday. Having ultimately gained a point in Round 24, Tottenham now trail Liverpool by just two points in the race for fourth. The two sides meet in two weeks’ time, on Sunday, Feb. 4, at Anfield.

Swansea (20 points), meanwhile, have done nearly enough to climb out of the PL cellar, but remain 20th out of 20 teams on goal differential. Three points stand between them and safety.

FIFA seeking sponsors for video replays at World Cup

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LONDON (AP) Video replays will be used at the World Cup for the first time and talks are underway with potential sponsor branding to appear when the technology is used, a FIFA executive said on Monday.

Soccer’s rule-making panel met Monday to assess recent trials ahead of video assistant referees (VAR) being officially approved by FIFA later this season for use in Russia in June and July.

“Definitely VAR will happen,” FIFA chief commercial officer Philippe Le Floc’h told The Associated Press. “It’s great to have technology in football because this is also a fair(ness) thing.”

Referees were assisted for the first time by high-tech aids at a World Cup in 2014 when goal-line technology was used. That system sees a message instantly flash on referees’ watches saying only whether the ball crossed the line.

Video review is used when there is a “clear and obvious error” involving goals, penalty awards, red cards, and mistaken identity.

Replays could lead to delays in games in Russia as different angles are reviewed, presenting an opportunity for FIFA to brand up the segment on the global broadcast feed.

“We are talking to various technological companies who are very interested with what we are doing on the technology side of things,” Floc’h said on board the World Cup trophy tour plane during a stop at London Stansted Airport.

The final decision on allowing replays to become part of the rules of the game falls to the International Football Association Board on March 3 when its annual meeting is held at FIFA.

Video review has been expected at the World Cup because FIFA controls half the votes in IFAB’s decision. The other voters are the four British soccer federations.

Monday’s meeting brought together IFAB technical experts, FIFA refereeing officials, and researchers from the University of Leuven in Belgium, who have studied use of video review in 804 games across more than 20 competitions.

“The discussions we had today do not indicate that further experiments need to be conducted,” said Johannes Holzmueller, FIFA’s lead official for technological innovation.

Watch Live: Swansea City vs. Liverpool

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Swansea City’s bid to slow down steamrolling Liverpool begins at 3 p.m. ET Monday at the Liberty Stadium (Watch live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

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The rampaging Reds are coming off a 4-3 win that ended Manchester City’s unbeaten Premier League season, and will hope to avoid a let down against desperate Swans.

The Welsh hosts are six points adrift in the race for Premier League safety, and look set for a 5-4-1 with Jordan Ayew the only forward. Wilfried Bony and Oliver McBurnie are on the bench along with attack-minded Luciano Narsingh.

LINEUPS

Swansea City: Fabianski, Naughton, Van der Hoorn, Fernandez, Mawson, Olsson, Ki, Fer, Clucas, Dyer, Ayew. Subs: Nordfeldt, Bartley, Roque Mesa, Carroll, Narsingh, McBurnie, Bony.

Liverpool: Karius, Gomez, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Can, Wijnaldum, Salah, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mane, Firmino. Subs: Mignolet, Milner, Klavan, Lallana, Ings, Solanke, Alexander-Arnold.

Kevin De Bruyne commits to Man City through 2022-23

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Kevin De Bruyne is one of the best players in the world, and he’s committing his prime to the club which has taken him to the next level.

[ MORE: How will Arsenal, Man Utd line up? ]

Manchester City announced a new deal for the Belgian wizard, keeping him at the Etihad Stadium through 2023.

De Bruyne, 26, has posted 31 goals and 38 assists for Pep Guardiola‘s men since returning to England from the Bundesliga, and appreciates being given a lot more money. From ManCity.com:

“As I’ve said previously, my intention has always been to stay here at City, where I’ve felt at home from day one. Not only are we winning – we are playing great football. It’s a pleasure to be a part of and I’m really excited about what we can achieve in the coming years.”

De Bruyne is in the discussion for a Ballon d’Or finalist spot this year, along with Lionel Messi, Neymar, Gareth Bale, Harry Kane, and others (Hot take: This does seem to be year Ronaldo possibly knocked off, barring a remarkable run in the Champions League or World Cup).