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Liverpool 0-2 Chelsea: Blues stun leaders after Gerrard’s blunder (video)

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LIVERPOOL — Chelsea beat Liverpool 2-0 at Anfield on Sunday, as the Premier League leaders were beaten for the first time in seventeen PL games to blow the title race wide open.

From the off Jose Mourinho’s side wasted time and used every trick in the book to unsettle the home side. It worked a treat.

Resting several regular starters, ahead of Chelsea’s UEFA Champions League semifinal with Atletico Madrid on Wednesday, the away side contained Luis Suarez and Liverpool’s other attackers as Mourinho masterminded yet another superb defensive display.

A horrendous mistake from Steven Gerrard set Chelsea on their way to all three points, as the Liverpool captain slipped at a crucial moment right on half time to let in Chelsea forward Demba Ba, who raced through on goal and put the Blues 1-0 up at the break. Anfield was stunned.

(MORE: Three things we learned from Liverpool vs. Chelsea)

Try as they might Liverpool couldn’t break down Chelsea as Joe Allen, Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez were all thwarted by superb stops from Mark Schwarzer. Then as Liverpool poured men forward towards the end, Chelsea broke and Fernando Torres played in Willian to slot home and seal a stunning win for Mourinho’s men.

With the victory Chelsea now have 78 points with two games to go, while Liverpool have 80 points with two games remaining. As for Manchester City, they now have a wonderful chance to go top of the standings on goal difference if they win their game in hand.

Sunday provided yet another dramatic twist in the title race and there’s still plenty more to come.

(MORE: Jose Mourinho – “The best team won” but Chelsea has “no chance” of title)

Early on Chelsea antagonized Liverpool by time wasting at every opportunity. Chelsea took an age over every free kicks and throw-in as they aimed to quell Liverpool’s famous fast-paced starts. The away side had the first meaningful effort on goal, as a long throw was cleared to the edge of the box where Ashley Cole took one touch and smashed a shot towards goal which Simon Mignolet parried away. In the 11th minute Liverpool finally cut the shackles loose, as Luis Suarez curled in a cross to the back post that found Philippe Coutinho unmarked but the Brazilian midfielder slammed his shot into the side-netting.

source: Getty Images
Gerrard slipped at a crucial moment, as Ba slotted home for Chelsea.

In the 14th minute Liverpool should have gone ahead as Suarez’s corner bounced off John Obi Mikel and towards goal but Cole cleared off the line as the ball pinballed around the box before Mamadou Sakho smashed wildly over the bar from six-yards out. Chelsea were content to let Liverpool do the pressing as the Blues stood off and parked two solid banks of four in front of their own goal. Mourinho’s men barely threatened as an attacking force, as they sat back and launched occasional lackluster counter-attacks.

(MORE: Latest Premier League standings)

As the first half wore on Liverpool pressed hard but Chelsea’s makeshift backline, which included Tomas Kalas making his full debut, bent but did not break. Before the break the Blues made a few forays forward, with Mohamed Salah’s shot smashing against Jon Flanagan’s arm but referee Martin Atkinson waved away appeals. Then in the 41st minute Chelsea made a rare defensive mistake as the ball was allowed to bounce at the back and Luis Suarez latched onto it before curling an effort just over Schwarzer’s bar.

On the stroke of half time Kalas should’ve scored as Frank Lampard’s corner found the young Czech defender unmarked but he fluffed his lines after failing to get clean contact on his header. Yet the away side were soon 1-0 up, as in first half stoppage time Sakho played a square ball to Gerrard who inexplicably slipped up at a crucial moment to let Ba run in towards goal and slot home. It was nightmare moment for Liverpool’s inspirational leader.

After the break Liverpool came flying out of the traps as they tried to level things up, with Sterling and Suarez running at pace but Chelsea’s backline withstood relentless pressure. With Nemanja Matic and Mikel sitting in front of the back four, the West Londoners looked solid throughout.

With just over 30 minutes left Daniel Sturridge came off the bench and Liverpool almost equalized as Mikel’s poor defensive header from a corner found Joe Allen on the edge of the box and the Welshman sent a rasping volley towards the bottom corner which Schwarzer saved superbly. Chelsea almost doubled their lead in the 62nd minute as Andre Schurrle cut in from the left flank and curled an effort towards the bottom corner which Mignolet palmed away.

Time and time again Liverpool were allowed to have the ball out wide but Chelsea packed the box and defended resolutely whenever high crosses were pumped in by a frustrated Liverpool side. The home fans grew agitated as Liverpool tried to stay patient but they just couldn’t break down Chelsea’s remarkable defensive display. As the last 10 minutes approached Coutinho whipped in a ball that Suarez couldn’t get on the end of and Rodgers used his last roll of the dice by chucking on Iago Aspas up front.

In the final few minutes Liverpool threw the kitchen sink at Chelsea but the Blues held on and then broke to score a second, as Willian slotted home to stun Anfield.

LINEUPS

Liverpool: Mignolet; Johnson, Skrtel, Sakho, Flanagan (Aspas, 81′); Gerrard, Allen, Lucas (Sturridge, 58′); Sterling, Suarez, Coutinho.

Chelsea: Schwarzer; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Kalas, Cole; Lampard, Mikel, Matic; Salah (Willian, 60′), Ba (Torres, 84′), Schurrle (Cahill, 77′)

Goals: Ba (45′), Willian (90′)

Hull City promoted, but Steve Bruce still considering future

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28:  Steve Bruce, manager of Hull City lifts the trophy after victory in the Sky Bet Championship Play Off Final match between Hull City and Sheffield Wednesday at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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Steve Bruce saw Hull City go down to the Championship, and pulled the Tigers right back up the Premier League.

Hull won promotion at the first time of asking after defeating Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 on Saturday, but Bruce wants to see stability at the KC Stadium.

[ USMNT-BOLIVIA: Recap3 things | Player ratings ]

The club remains up for sale after owner Assem Allam saw his request to change the team name to Hull Tigers denied by the English Football Association.

From the BBC:

“I’ll sit down with the owners. It’s not often you walk away from the Premier League – that’s where I want to manage,” Bruce told BBC Radio 5 live.

“But I have to be given certain assurances that we’re all moving in the right direction.

“I keep hearing too many stories that there’s a takeover imminent. We’ll see what develops,” added the 55-year-old.

The longtime Manchester United back has been around the managerial block a few times, and it’d be nice to see him stay at Hull for the long term. He’s led the Tigers into the Premier League on two occasions, and is — seriously — the seventh longest tenured manager in the Football League. He would enter the Premier League as the second-longest serving manager, to Arsene Wenger.

BREAKING: Olympiacos striker Pulido kidnapped in Mexico

DRENTHE, NETHERLANDS - JULY 29:  Alan Pulido of Olympiacos in action during the pre season friendly match between FC Twente and Olympiacos Piraeus held at Sportpark Veenoord on July 29, 2015 in New Amsterdam and Veenoord, Netherlands.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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Terrifying news out of Mexico, where 25-year-old Mexican national team striker Alan Pulido has reportedly been kidnapped in his hometown.

Pulido, 25, has four goals in six caps for El Tri and moved to Olympiacos in 2015, where he scored five goals in eight matches.

[ USMNT-BOLIVIA: Recap3 things | Player ratings ]

Various reports claim that Pulido and his girlfriend were taken after masked gunmen cut off the vehicle in which they were riding, and only released the girlfriend.

From the Associated Press:

The official says the 25-year-old player was kidnapped near his hometown of Ciudad Victoria on Sunday after leaving a party.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case under investigation.

Klinsmann hails Zardes’ character; USMNT forward likes his first touch

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 29:  Gyasi Zardes #9 of the United States Men's National Team controls the ball against Guatemala during the FIFA 2018  World Cup qualifier on March 29, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. The United States defeated Guatemala 4-0.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Gyasi Zardes’ remarkable rise from Cal State Bakersfield to fixture on the United States men’s national team is one of the better stories in recent team history.

The USMNT attacker nabbed his fourth and fifth international goals in Saturday night’s blowout of Bolivia, and he’s up to 25 caps since making his debut in Jan. 2015.

[ USMNT-BOLIVIA: Recap3 things | Player ratings ]

Jurgen Klinsmann deserves some credit for putting the L.A. Galaxy on the field almost religiously as Zardes works on so many facets of his game. He’s improved dramatically in positioning, runs and 1v1 battles and reportedly soaks up information like a sponge. Klinsmann loves the guy, and for good reason.

It’s also important to note that, despite his ever-present status, Zardes remains 24 and a work in progress.

From MLSSoccer.com:

“Sometimes it’s perfect, and maybe the next day it’s not so good, but it’s totally fine – because every player has his strengths and weaknesses. So as long as they keep on working on those weaknesses and getting them better and better, it’s totally fine. He’s very straight in his thought process in front of the goal. He knows exactly what he wants to do.

“You have to follow your first thought. That’s crucial. If you start to have two thoughts, then you’re going to get messed up. He was very calm, putting two goals in there, and the whole game he was involved. It’s coming along.”

Zardes’ club goal production dropped last year from roughly a goal every other game to one every three, but he’s been growing as a playmaer and this season has four goals and four assists through 11 matches.

I really like Zardes — see my post calling for his USMNT call-up in 2014 — but let me say one negative thing about his bristling at first touch questions and saying, “To be honest, me personally, I think I have a good first touch”: I’m glad he feels that way and his woes may be a bit overblown, but calling his Saturday goals first touch goals is accurate but kind of hilarious.

The criticism of his first touch, which his betrayed him on major scoring chances in each of the last two USMNT matches, has nothing to do when his first touch is directed at goal. On his brace last night, the first was a good finish where he had to work it past the keeper and the second was a plant foot shot. Both, in fact, were shots.

Those count as your first touch on the ball, but when we discuss first touch it’s about taking the ball off a pass or dribble and possessing it for a purpose. Of course he was right to shoot, but it’s cool if your eyes rolled pretty hard in reading his comments.

Koeman: Manchester United “don’t deserve a medal” for treatment of Louis van Gaal

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 20:  Louis van Gaal, Manager of  Manchester United talks to Ronald Koeman, Manager of Southampton during the  Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Manchester United at St Mary's Stadium on September 20, 2015 in Southampton, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)
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When it comes to the firing of Louis Van Gaal, his countryman has his back.

Southampton boss Ronald Koeman doesn’t like the way Manchester United handled LVG’s fate with the team, firing him within hours of the Red Devils winning the FA Cup.

Like many, Koeman doesn’t buy that the LVG to Jose Mourinho transition happened in a week.

[ MORE: Early and (purposefully) absurd 2016-17 PL predictions ]

Given the gossip mill since Chelsea fired Mourinho in January, that’s not a hard thing to buy, and Koeman is angry that LVG was kept out of the loop. Reports claim that Van Gaal had drawn-up plans for 2016-17 with him on the day he was let go.

From Sky Sports:

“If Louis was not told about getting the sack until after the FA Cup final, then Manchester United as a club don’t deserve a medal for the way they treated him.

“If you know a little bit about the business at the highest level in football, then you know that these kind of deals are not done overnight.”

Koeman hedges his words with conditionals, but there’s little doubt what he means. Managers generally stand together when it comes to dismissals, but it’s nice to see someone stand up for LVG’s treatment (whether he deserved to be canned or not).