Liverpool 3-2 Manchester City: Reds seal dramatic win to stay top (video)

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LIVERPOOL — At an emotional Anfield on Sunday, Liverpool took a giant leap towards lifting their first league title in 24 years after they beat Manchester City 3-2 in a pulsating clash, winning 10-straight Premier League games.

The Reds raced into an early 2-0 lead thanks to Raheem Sterling’s cool finish and Martin Skrtel’s deft header, as the home fans were treated to a masterclass for most of the first half. However Man City weren’t out of it, as two goals in five second half minutes turned the match on its head.

First the hugely impressive David Silva slotted home from close range, then Silva and Samir Nasri combined to see the former’s cross deflect off Glen Johnson’s leg and into the net for the equalizer. City were in the ascendancy after that goal and it looked like there would only be one winner.

However an awful error from Man City’s captain Vincent Kompany, who horribly sliced a routine clearance, let in Philippe Coutinho to curl home the game-winner and send Liverpool’s fans delirious. It was a goal worthy of winning any game, as the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster was marked with a superb Liverpool win that puts them within touching distance of their first-ever PL title.

Liverpool is now seven points clear of City in top spot, though City have two games in hand, and is five points clear of Chelsea with four games to go.

(MORE: Latest Premier League standings)

The game started at a rapid pace, as Luis Suarez was booked for a clumsy tackle on Martin Demichelis, as Liverpool took the lead with virtually the first attack of the game. Suarez wrestled off a City defender before slotting the ball perfectly into the run of Sterling, who kept his composure by taking the ball around Joe Hart and slotting into an empty net.

City were struggling to handle with Liverpool’s relentless earlier pressure and in the 15th minute the Reds almost doubled their lead. Sterling was set free down the right and his pinpoint cross found Daniel Sturridge in the box, but he flicked an effort goalwards that flew just wide of the far post. In the 18th minute Liverpool were handed a huge boost as City’s midfield man-mountain, Yaya Toure, was forced off after appearing to pull his groin following a shot from distance. The home fans sensed the importance of Toure’s withdrawal.

As the first half wore on City played their way into the game with Silva getting on the ball more and more in the final third. Yet just when City were coming back into things, Liverpool went 2-0 ahead. First Hart saved superbly from Steven Gerrard’s header six-yards out, as somehow the England international tipped the ball over, then from the resulting corner Skrtel flicked home Gerrard’s set piece to extend the home side’s lead.

source: AP
Coutinho was the game-winner, as Liverpool saw off City in an emotional encounter.

Soon after yet another innovative Liverpool attack tore City apart, but Kompany got a toe on Sturridge’s clever pass just as Suarez was preparing to finish. Liverpool were slack in possession on a few occasions in front of the back four, with Edin Dzeko being let clean through after a mix up but captain Gerrard arrived in the nick of time to knock the ball out for corner. City tried to get a goal back before the interval as Kompany’s header was hacked off the line and then Simon Mignolet saved superbly from Fernandinho’s vicious volley, as an emotionally charged and hugely eventful first half at Anfield came to a close.

In the second half Liverpool started brightly but a real moment of controversy arrived in the 50th minute as Suarez took a tumble on the edge of the box and replays showed it wad a clear case of simulation. The Liverpool forward was lucky to still be on the pitch after he was booked in the first half.

City settled into the second half well, as James Milner came onto the pitch and made an instant impact. The right winger latched onto a through ball and played in Silva to slot home in the 57th minute to give City hope. Two minutes later the away side poured forward and Silva’s cross flashed through the six-yard box but evaded Dzeko’s lunge. However the away side didn’t need to wait long to draw level, as Silva and Sami Nasri combined to see Silva’s cross deflect off Johnson and into the net to make it 2-2 with less than 30 minutes to go. Sturridge was forced off with an injury in the aftermath, as the Reds were rocking.

Sergio Aguero arrived off the bench for the final 25 minutes, as Man City’s top scorer joined the fray knowing one-goal could see his side take a massive step towards their second PL title. Aguero squirmed clear of Skrtel in the 76th minute and the Argentine played in the onrushing Silva, but his toe poke rolled agonizingly wide as City came close to taking the lead for the first time in the match.

They were made to pay for that miss as Kompany scuffed a clearance straight to Coutinho, who curled in a first-time effort to bag all three points for the Reds. A late red card for Jordan Henderson piled on the pressure, but Liverpool held on to seal a big win in their quest for the title.

LINEUPS

Liverpool: Mignolet, Johnson, Flanagan, Sakho, Skrtel, Gerrard, Henderson, Coutinho (Moses, 89′), Sterling (Lucas, 90′), Suarez, Sturridge (Allen, 66′)

Goals: (Sterling, 6′), Skrtel (25′), Coutinho (78′)

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy, Toure (Javi Garcia, 18′), Fernandinho, Navas (Milner, 50′), Nasri, Silva, Dzeko (Aguero, 68′)

Goals: Silva (57′), Glen Johnson, own goal (62′)

Cristiano Ronaldo could face tax-fraud charges in Spain

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MADRID (AP) Spanish prosecutors are considering whether Cristiano Ronaldo should face charges over allegations by the country’s tax agency that he defrauded the authorities of 15 million euros ($16.7 million) between 2011 and 2014.

Prosecutors said Thursday they have until the end of June to decide whether to charge the Real Madrid star, based on evidence from an investigation by tax officials.

The alleged irregularities were mostly related to money that Ronaldo had in the Virgin Islands.

Tax officials said Ronaldo adjusted his tax declarations and paid an extra 6 million euros ($6.7 million) in 2014.

Prosecutors said that if they decided to charge him, and if the Portugal captain was subsequently found guilty by a court, he would face a prison sentence of at least 15 months. However, it would be unlikely he would go to jail as a first-time offender.

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi was convicted of tax fraud last year.

Terry: “I couldn’t care less” about 26th-minute farewell criticism

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John Terry is a man who… well, let’s just say, does things his way.

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For instance, remember the time Chelsea won the UEFA Champions League, by beating Bayern Munich, in penalties? Remember Chelsea’s post-game celebrations, which saw Terry, who was suspended for the final at the Allianz Arena, joyously jumping around with his teammates wearing his full kit, shin guards and all?

Was it over the top and a bit silly? Sure it was, but was anyone hurt or genuinely upset by it? Of course not. On Sunday, as Terry said goodbye to the only club he’s ever known (apart from a six-game loan spell at Nottingham Forest in 2000), he toed the line between what’s acceptable and what’s outlandish. Just like in 2012, Terry caused a minor uproar, and just like in 2012 he “couldn’t care less” — quotes from the Guardian:

“I couldn’t care less, I promise you. All I care about is celebrating with my Chelsea fans. Me and them have a wonderful rapport and have done for 22 years. Nothing that people write or say can ever get in the way of that.

“If that’s the way I want to go out, that’s the way I go out because I’ve been here 22 years, I’ve won so many trophies — so if I wanted to play one minute and come off, I would have done.

“I wanted to play 26 minutes because the shirt number means a lot to me and the supporters so as long as they are happy – and I was over the moon with the reception – I promise you I could not care less.”

“It was an unbelievable send-off from the supporters to help me to celebrate 22 years at the club.

“I’m very grateful to them, and it was something I will never forget. It was so emotional after the game, I was in bits.”

There’s something to be said about the success that Chelsea have had as a club, and the way its recency leads them to feel they are perceived by the outside world. Other clubs, “bigger,” most historic clubs — Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal, for example — have been winning trophies pretty regularly for decades, while 70 percent of the major trophies (14 of 20) won in the club’s history have come since Roman Abramovich bought the club 14 years ago, in 2003. Chelsea is a 112-year-old football club.

[ MORE: Pogba, Mkhitaryan fire Man United to Europa League trophy ]

Chelsea’s players and fans are so clearly away of their bought-and-paid-for status, thus everything is celebrated on the grandest scale, almost as if to legitimize their accomplishments (which stand up just fine on their own two feet) and standing within the hierarchy of English football. “Contrived” (and admittedly so) is the word that comes to mind and best describes Terry’s send-off.

No one in this space is saying there’s anything wrong with that, but everyone connected to Chelsea must realize and accept that it looks silly to supporters of the aforementioned long-time giants, and they’re going to be pointed at and laughed at every time they do it.

FA Cup: Three key battles between Arsenal, Chelsea

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The FA Cup final usually brings out terrific entertainment for the fans, and this Saturday’s finale should be no different.

When Arsenal and Chelsea take the field at Wembley Stadium, it will be the last chance this season for some of the Premier League’s stars such as Eden Hazard and Diego Costa for Chelsea and Alexis Sanchez and Mezut Ozil for Arsenal to bring glory to their club.

[ MORE: Follow all the FA Cup scores here ]

The match features two teams heading in different directions. Chelsea, the Premier League champions are in the ascendency after a one-year hiatus out of European competition, while Arsenal finished outside the top-four places in the Premier League for the first time in 20 years under manager Arsene Wenger.

In addition, there’s plenty of other storylines to watch on the field, from whether it’s Costa, Sanchez and Ozil’s potential last matches with their respective teams to how Arsenal will deal without two of its three regular centerbacks they’ve used this season.

Here’s a look at three key battles on the field ahead of the FA Cup final:


Arsenal’s centerbacks vs. Diego Costa

Diego Costa may be a thorn in Chelsea’s side off the field when it comes to the constant speculation of a move away from Stamford Bridge, but on the field this season he’s been brilliant. Costa scored 20 goals in the Premier League and another goal in FA Cup action, and he contributes off the ball as well, drawing the defense in towards him while opening up space for teammates including Hazard and Willian.

Heading into Saturday, it’s unclear who on Arsenal will be tasked with marking Costa. Laurent Koscielny was issued a straight red card in Arsenal’s 3-1 win over Everton and will miss the FA Cup final due to suspension while fellow centerback Gabriel left the field on a stretcher after suffering a knee injury. In addition, Shkodran Mustafi is still recovering from a concussion and is a doubt for Saturday.

That leaves Wenger with just Per Mertesacker and Rob Holding as healthy centerbacks, which could force Wenger to revert back to his usual four-man backline from the more recent three-man backline that’s been used.

Regardless of who Arsenal put out there, expect Costa to be at his best, attempting to physically dominate his opponent and get under their skin.


Nemanja Matic and N'Golo Kante vs. Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez

Arsenal are at their best when they play through the middle of the field before finding runners out wide, setting up crossing attempts into the middle or perhaps another chance to play through the lines in the center of the field.

Standing in Arsenal’s playmaking duo of Mezut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez’s way are Nemanja Matic and N’Golo Kante. Kante, as Riyad Mahrez saw last year, does so much of the dirty work defensively that he allows his teammates including Matic and Hazard to bomb forward and either create or finish goal-scoring opportunities.

Kante will have his hands full dealing with Ozil and Sanchez in midfield, and Matic may need to sit a bit deeper to cut off the passing lanes, potentially taking him out of Chelsea’s counter attack.


Eden Hazard vs. Hector Bellerin

For all the speed that Hazard possesses on the ball, there’s at least one player on Arsenal who can keep stride pace-for-pace.

With Hazard likely lining up on the left wing, Arsenal’s right wing back Hector Bellerin will likely face Hazard up one-on-one at both ends of the field, setting up a fun encounter. With Bellerin’s speed and ability to track back, he may be open to a few 40-yard springs into space down the right wing, knowing that Hazard probably won’t be in hot pursuit.

But if Bellerin doesn’t end up with the ball and there’s an Arsenal turnover, Hazard on his own or against a centerback on the left wing could be a nightmare for Arsenal to deal with.

Man United, Man City come together to support terror victims

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The Manchester derby is known as one of the world’s fiercest rivalries, but in the wake of a devastating terrorist attack this week, both sides are joining together to support the city of Manchester and victims of the attack.

Manchester United and Manchester City announced Thursday they pledged together nearly $1.3 million into the We Love Manchester community fund. The fund was set up to assist the families of the 22 people who died and 64 people who were injured in the attack.

“The barbarism of Monday evening’s attack has shocked everyone,” Manchester United executive vice chairman Ed Woodward said in a statement. “Our clubs are right at the heart of our local communities in Manchester and it is right that we present a unified response to this tragedy. The money will help of course but the work of the two clubs and their respective foundation and community scheme can build on the fantastic spirit that Mancunians have shown in the immediate aftermath.”

Folks who want to donate to the fund can visit http://www.redcross.org.uk/manchester or http://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/redcross/ManchesterEmergencyFund.

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