Norwich City 2-3 Liverpool: Sterling, Reds with one hand on the title

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Liverpool’s blistering start takes no prisoners, and Norwich were no exception as two goals in the opening 10 minutes set the tone and put Norwich City away.

The Canaries brought themselves one back after the break and looked promising, but it was too little too late as the Premier League leaders went five clear at the top with three to play.

It wasn’t easy, as Norwich fought and twice pulled within one, but they couldn’t find the deathblow and the Reds’ early dominance led the way to their three points.

Raheem Sterling opened things with a salivating strike inside four minutes, and Luis Suarez bagged his 30th goal of the season six minutes later.

Sterling’s goal was a wonderful job of creating his own chances, first looking for other options before he decided to take it by himself. The 19-year-old cut back inside to create space, and from five yards outside the penalty area unleashed a explosive shot just inside the near post and past a diving John Ruddy.

The youngster then fed Suarez to double the lead, as the Uruguayan faked a near post run to catch the Norwich defense off guard before cutting to the back post, and Sterling’s ball across the face found him for the tap-in.

source: Getty Images
Raheem Sterling hugs manager Brendan Rodgers after his first goal just four minutes in.

Suarez is the first player in European play to reach the 30-goal mark, beating out Cristiano Ronaldo who sits on 28 in La Liga.  He is the first Liverpool player to reach 30 in the English top flight since Ian Rush’s 1987/88 season.

Norwich would find little of their own in the first half, but they saw out the rest of the opening 45 without further damage, and interim manager Neil Adams kept the attacking shape to open the second.

Out of the break the Canaries looked bright, bringing some life to Carrow Road and pulling one back when Simon Mignolet bungled a punch and left Gary Hooper with an empty net.

Liverpool received a stroke of luck when a Sterling shot ricocheted off the heel of Bradley Johnson and looped perfectly over Ruddy and into the back of the net for a 3-1 lead and a half hour to go.

But Adams and Liverpool wouldn’t go quietly into the afternoon.  Robert Snodgrass completed a great attacking spell in the 76th minute, leaping well over Jon Flanagan to head past Mignolet and bring the game back within one.

Things became very nervy for the Reds with 15 minutes to go, and the Canaries continued their strong spell with the home fans exploding from their seats and backing their team.

Ricky van Wolfswinkel came on for goalscorer Hooper, and had a brilliant chance to send tidal waves through the title race, but couldn’t finish as Mignolet denied him on 82 minutes.  Rodgers brought on a third central defender in Daniel Agger to close up shop, which they did through a nervy last ten plus four added minutes.

Suarez produced one last selfless moment in the dying minutes. With a chance to tie the Premier League goalscoring record and the goal gaping, Suarez instead decided to pass to Lucas on the edge of the area. Lucas popped two shots on goal, one which was brilliantly saved by Ruddy and the other blocked well.

The win sees Liverpool go five points clear at the top of the table and successfully capitalize on Chelsea’s defeat at Stamford Bridge. They also go nine in front of Manchester City who have a game in hand. The match now looms next week with Liverpool hosting Chelsea at Anfield, where avoiding defeat would just about wrap things up.

LINEUPS:

Norwich City – Ruddy; Whittaker, Martin, Turner, Olsson; Johnson; Howson, Fer (Murphy 78′); Snodgrass; Redmond, Hooper (van Wolfswinkel).

Goals: Hooper 54′; Snodgrass 77′

Liverpool – Mignolet; Johnson, Skrtel, Sakho, Flanagan; Gerrard, Lucas, Allen (Agger 81′), Sterling, Coutinho (Moses 76′); Suarez.

Goals: Sterling 4′, 62′; Suarez 11′

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”

Boa Esporte goalkeeper back to prison as murder appeal denied

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The risk clearly wasn’t worth it for Boa Esporte.

The Brazilian club signed Bruno Fernandes de Souza in March, not long after the convicted murderer and goalkeeper was released from prison on appeal.

Fernandes, 32, had been jailed for ordering the murder of a lover, who was fed to dogs by the killer. Boa Esporte lost several big sponsors for signing him, but vocally defended the move.

The owner, Rone Moraes da Costa, said he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to revive his career. Fernandes admitted his mistakes but said he wasn’t “a bad guy”.

According to the Associated Press:

“Brazil’s Supreme Court decided on Tuesday to deny an appeal to Boa Esporte goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes de Souza, who was released in March while appealing a 22-year sentence in the 2010 killing of Eliza Samudio.”

So it’s back to jail for Fernandes, and we’ll be waiting with baited breath to hear from Boa Esporte’s owner.

Conte: Chelsea “ready to fight to the end”

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Following Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Spurs and Tuesday’s blowout of Southampton — the 4-2 score line didn’t tell the story of the second half — Antonio Conte is fired up for Chelsea to complete its Premier League title run.

The manager admits that his side was under pressure after Spurs narrowed the table gap to four points last week, but the wins have eased the Blues’ burden.

Chelsea had lost two of four PL matches before the weekend.

From Football.London:

“I think we passed a big, big psychological step after the defeat to United. We lost three points and had to prepare a semi-final against Tottenham and then another tough game in the league. In that moment we had a really important test and our answer was very good.

“We must think that this race is open, we have reached the final of the FA Cup. The situation in the league is totally open. We are ready to fight to the end. We must be proud for the job we are doing and to fight to the end.”

Spurs can bring the gap back to four with a win at Crystal Palace on Tuesday, but have a tougher run-in with five matches to play. As long as the gap is within six points, anything is possible, but the Blues have certainly answered the bell over the past four days.

Chelsea: Big win “feels like a massive step” to title

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“It feels like a massive step to be honest,” said game-changing goal scorer Gary Cahill of Chelsea’s 4-2 win over Southampton at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

Chelsea’s Premier League lead stands at seven points after the win, which saw a dominant second half from the hosts.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Perhaps it was cued up by Cahill’s first half stoppage time header, which boosted the Blues to a 2-1 lead just before the whistle.

Cahill darted in front of Diego Costa‘s scissor kick attempt to power a header past Fraser Forster.

“(Costa) tried to claim it afterward as well,” Cahill said. “When the ball’s just lofted over, it’s dying to be attacked. We went into halftime with our tails up and it was a big boost for us.”

Cesc Fabregas said Southampton surprised the Blues tactically, leading to an entertaining first half that could’ve seen either side ahead before half.

“We needed a little bit of time to adapt to what they did because we prepared for something else,” he said.

Fabregas said the win was big with second-place Spurs watching at home. Tottenham plays at Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

“We needed a good response after the Man United game. We have to keep going with five games to go, to keep it up and make the last push. It would be a big shame if now we relaxed. We just have to push now more than ever,” he said.

“It’s a statement for (Spurs), for us, for everyone, but most of all for us.”
Eden Hazard agreed.
“We scored four beautiful goals,” said the Belgian, who scored the game’s first goal. “It’s good to play before and put pressure on them.”