Steven Gerrard: “We can’t make it nervy” as Liverpool’s defensive worries resurface

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2-0 up at home with 30 minutes to go against relegation haunted Sunderland, Liverpool were well on their way to a comfortable victory on Wednesday.

Think again.

The Black Cats fought back late on, pinning Liverpool in their own half following Ki’s 75th minute header which made it 2-1, but the Reds held on to move second in the standings and they now sit just one point behind Chelsea with seven games to go.

Liverpool welcome title rivals Chelsea and Manchester City to Anfield in April, as a pivotal few weeks lie in store for the Merseyside club. Captain Steven Gerrard bagged the Reds’ first goal against Sunderland with a stunning free kick, but he urged his team to hold their nerve late on in games down the stretch.

“Give credit to Sunderland, they came here to make it difficult for us and put five at the back and two holding midfielders and were difficult to break down,” Gerrard told Sky Sports. “We need to learn though, that when we go two goals in front that we can’t concede and make it nervy at the end. We should have controlled the game and passed it better, but hopefully we’ll learn that in the remaining games.”

(MORE: Liverpool 2-1 Sunderland – Nervy Reds go second, seal seventh-straight win)

Gerrard hopes Liverpool learn this lesson fast in the closing games, but all season the Reds have succumbed to sloppy defending which has let them down on several occasions.

If there’s one question mark surrounding their title credentials right now, it’s their inability to keep clean sheets.

Liverpool have recorded just two shutouts in their last eight games and have conceded 39 goals in 31 games. Nobody in the top five has let in more goals than that, as Brendan Rodgers’ side must tighten up at the back if they’re going to take home the clubs first-ever Premier League title.

On the flip side, no team in the PL has scored more than Liverpool’s 84 goals. That domineering approach leaves them prone to conceding but if they’re going to beat the best teams when it really matters, silly mistakes like switching off at set pieces, as they did to let Sunderland get on the scoresheet, need to be cleaned up. ASAP.

Yannick Bolasie finally returns to Everton training (video)

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Among my most quoted coaching lines comes from former University at Buffalo and current Canisius College men’s basketball coach Reggie Witherspoon (and pretty sure it didn’t originate with him).

“It’s more about Jims and Joes than x’s and o’s.”

[ MLS: Seattle wins | Stalemate in Ohio ]

So if Everton rebounds from its rough start to the season to reach its preseason potential, there’s a good chance we’ll credit the return of one of the most electric attackers in the game and not necessarily their new boss.

Yannick Bolasie returned to training on Wednesday, and not a moment too soon following a near one-year layoff due to an ACL tear.

There’s no guarantee the 28-year-old Bolasie will have the same burst, of course, but he has the potential to be a season-changer.

Everton was 5-4-4 when Bolasie went down with his injury last season, and improved on the mark the rest of the way, but are a moribund 3-3-6 this season.

Player faces unsporting conduct charges for shoving ball boy

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ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) Adelaide United defender Michael Marrone has been cited for unsporting conduct for shoving a ball boy during the late stages of his team’s 2-1 loss to Sydney FC in the FFA Cup final.

Football Federation Australia on Wednesday issued a disciplinary notice to Marrone for “engaging in serious unsporting conduct,” with a hearing date to be set.

[ MORE: Liverpool fan trouble in Sevilla ]

Marrone knocked over the ball boy, reported by local media to be aged 10, while trying to get the ball to take a throw-in during extra time in the Tuesday night match.

The ball boy and his father were later allowed to take part in the trophy presentation ceremony.

“Just thankful that nobody was hurt,” FFA chief executive David Gallop said at a news conference Wednesday. “Perhaps some lessons for a few people in that one. Glad that it didn’t detract too much from what was a really exciting finish to the game and glad that the boy and his father got to share in the celebration at the end.”

While there are no precedents in Australia for such charges, Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard was banned for three games for violent conduct after kicking out at a ball boy in 2013.

In other countries, clubs have been fined if their ball boys have been found to be deliberately slowing play.

Miguel Almiron knew nothing about MLS, everything about Tata

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Miguel Almiron’s future is going to be a big part of the story for as long as he’s in Atlanta United, but his past is in focus following another cool post in The Players’ Tribune.

It’s a cool read, for sure, to examine Almiron’s rise from “too skinny” kid without a club to one of the top prospects this side of the Atlantic Ocean, but the story of why he came to Atlanta is an argument for the “big name” manager (Tata Martino in this case).

[ MORE: Liverpool fan trouble in Sevilla ]

Before the Paraguayan youngster was the talk of the transfer market, MLS Newcomer of the Year, and the No. 1 jersey sale in the league, he was being recruited to the Georgian expansion outlet.

“I didn’t know much about MLS. I didn’t know where Atlanta was. I didn’t know anything. But Tata was manager, and that was all I needed to know.”

Given that Martino arrived not too long before Almiron, the following Tweet makes the point I’ve been trying to make as well as anyone:

Sevilla manager reportedly told team of cancer diagnosis at half

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When it comes to locker room tales, few compare to this one.

Any big comeback, especially one as high profile as Sevilla’s stunning second half against Liverpool, inspires the question, “What was said in the team room at halftime?!?”

Down 3-0 at halftime and in danger of bowing out of the UEFA Champions League, Sevilla manager Eduardo Berizzo gave his team some very serious news.

[ MORE: Liverpool fan trouble in Sevilla ]

According to Spanish reports relayed by The Telegraph, Berizzo informed his players of his prostate cancer diagnosis.

Sevilla confirmed that Berizzo is battling adenocarcinoma, saying, “Future medical tests will determine a course of treatment. Sevilla FC wants to show maximum support to its manager in these moments and wishes him a prompt recovery.”

It adds extra weight to Ever Banega’s postgame comments:

“We have to go out there with that attitude, for the fans that always back us and for the coach who has turned this around. He is the most important of all of us, he has us on the right path and we are with him to the hilt.”

Our best to Berizzo, and — sorry Reds supporters — it’s pretty cool Sevilla was able to rally after such stunning news.