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′)

Sky Blue’s Sam Kerr named NWSL league MVP for 2017

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CHICAGO (AP) Sky Blue FC forward Sam Kerr has been named the National Women’s Soccer League’s Most Valuable Player for this season.

Kerr, a standout on the Australian national team, had a league-record 17 goals and became the league’s fifth Golden Boot winner to also be named MVP.

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

She became the first NWSL player to score four goals in a game on Aug. 19 against the Seattle Reign. Kerr rallied Sky Blue from a 3-goal deficit to beat the Reign 5-4.

Kerr’s award was announced Friday. The league had earlier announced the season’s other award winners: North Carolina’s Abby Dahlkemper was named Defender of the Year, teammate Ashley Hatch was named Rookie of the Year, Portland’s Adrianna Franch was named Goalkeeper of the Year and the Thorns’ Mark Parsons was named Coach of the Year.

The Mendy Effect: Pep praises injured back

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Full back Benjamin Mendy cost Pep Guardiola and Manchester City $68 million, but perhaps he’ll be just as valuable as a very expensive sports psychologist.

The “Shark Team” member was amusing on social media even before his ACL injury sent him to the sidelines until at least April, but he’s become a must-follow Twitter fixture with his in-game messages (See some of his work below).

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

City faces Burnley at 10 a.m. ET Saturday (Watch live on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

It’s fairly clear his act has translated in private, too, as apparently Mendy is just as good in group messages (Let us in, Pep. We won’t tell anyone). From ManCity.com:

“Usually, players who are out for a long time with injury are sad. They sometimes train apart and feel isolated.

“Mendy decided to be present. He is communicating on social media, WhatsApp and he calls his teammates and messages me. He is going to be so important outside the pitch because people like him make the atmosphere much better.”

It’s not surprising for anyone who’s been following the former Le Havre, Marseille and Monaco man.

Keep in mind, these Tweets below are from the last few days alone!

Ozil to Manchester United?!? Wenger reacts to gossip

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Sometimes, even the biggest Arsene Wenger detractors have to feel for the guy.

Coming off a thrilling late win in Serbia, one that saw Olivier Giroud cap off a team goal straight out of the creative Wenger playbook, the manager should’ve been discussing how to stretch those good vibes into this weekend’s visit to Goodison Park.

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

Yet no. Instead of talking about how the Gunners would respect the struggling Toffees, Wenger had to address speculation from several outlets claiming Mesut Ozil would move to Manchester United, perhaps as soon as January.

Feeling it? No, no Wenger was not feeling it. From Arsenal.com:

“We have to deal with all kinds of speculation when the players are at the end of their contracts. On the other hand, to be professional is to give 100 per cent as long as you are somewhere. For the rest, we came out many times and said that’s the situation. It [the media] can come out tomorrow and say that he extends his contract here. It will be exactly the same, it will not change anything. When you play the next game, commit 100 per cent. … When a player plays for Arsenal Football Club, his commitment cannot be linked with the length of his contract, it has just to be linked with the responsibility and the ambition he has to win the football game.”
Of course most big clubs have to deal with such drama on a year-to-year basis and, yes, having Ozil and Alexis Sanchez still in town was completely avoidable. But the idea that Ozil could leave, for free, to Manchester United? We’re sure Gooners the world over will be thrilled with the gossip.

MLS Decision Day preview: Much at stake

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Four teams can claim a Western Conference second round berth, while four more can earn a valuable first-round bye in the East.

Yep, there’s plenty to play for beyond the West’s final playoff spot Sunday during Major League Soccer’s Decision Day, when every team will take the pitch for 4 p.m. ET kickoffs.

[ MORE: Conte feels pressure ]

Here’s what we do know regarding the playoffs:

  1. Supporters’ Shield winning Toronto FC gets a first round bye, while No. 6 seed New York Red Bulls are headed to the road for a first round playoff
  2. New England, Montreal, Philadelphia, Orlando, DC, Minnesota, Colorado, and LA will not make the playoffs
  3. Full stop.

So, yes, this will be fun.

First, let’s look at the Eastern Conference Standings ahead of Sunday’s extravaganza:

Eastern Conference
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Toronto FC 33 20 8 5 72 35 37 13-3-1 7-5-4 68
x – New York City FC 33 16 8 9 54 41 13 10-4-2 6-4-7 56
x – Chicago 33 16 7 10 61 44 17 12-3-2 4-4-8 55
x – Atlanta 33 15 9 9 68 38 30 11-2-3 4-7-6 54
x – Columbus 33 16 5 12 51 47 4 12-2-3 4-3-9 53
x – New York 33 13 8 12 51 46 5 9-6-2 4-2-10 47

— New York City FC controls its bye destiny, though Columbus could join them on 56 points and would pass them on tiebreakers (wins).

— If that happens, Chicago could claim the second bye with a win or draw in Houston (The Fire owns the goal differential tiebreaker).

— If New York City and Chicago lose or draw, Atlanta could finish second with a home win over TFC.

— Columbus can finish second with a win and non-wins for Chicago and Atlanta.

Western Conference
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
x – Vancouver 33 15 7 11 49 47 2 9-5-3 6-2-8 52
x – Portland 33 14 8 11 58 49 9 10-4-2 4-4-9 50
x – Seattle 33 13 11 9 49 39 10 10-5-1 3-6-8 50
x – Sporting KC 33 12 13 8 39 27 12 10-6-1 2-7-7 49
x – Houston 33 12 11 10 54 45 9 11-4-1 1-7-9 47
San Jose 33 12 7 14 36 58 -22 9-5-2 3-2-12 43
FC Dallas 33 10 13 10 43 47 -4 7-7-2 3-6-8 43
Real Salt Lake 33 12 6 15 47 54 -7 8-4-4 4-2-11 42

Byes

— Vancouver finishes first with a win or draw at Portland. The ‘Caps could finish as low as third with a loss to Portland and a Seattle win versus Colorado.

— Portland finishes first — and wins the Cascadia Cup — with a win over visiting Vancouver.

— Seattle can claim a first round bye with a win over visiting Colorado and a Vancouver win over Portland.

— Sporting KC can finish second with a win at Real Salt Lake and non-wins for Portland and Seattle.

Final playoff spot

— San Jose claims the sixth seed with a home win over Minnesota. They can also finish sixth with a draw joined by non-wins for FC Dallas at home to LA and Real Salt Lake at home versus SKC.

— FC Dallas claims the sixth seed with a win over LA and a San Jose draw or loss versus Minnesota. FCD gets sixth with a draw, and a San Jose loss coupled with a RSL loss or draw versus SKC.

—  Real Salt Lake gets sixth with a win over SKC, and non-wins from San Jose and Dallas. RSL could also get sixth with a draw and losses for San Jose and Dallas.

(Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)

Schedule
FC Dallas vs. LA Galaxy
DC United vs. New York Red Bulls
San Jose vs. Minnesota United
Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting KC
Houston vs. Chicago
Seattle vs. Colorado
Philadelphia vs. Orlando City
Portland vs. Vancouver
Montreal vs. New England
New York City vs. Columbus
Atlanta vs. Toronto

Predictions

— NYCFC hangs on for a draw against Columbus, earning a bye, leaving Chicago to host New York Red Bulls and Atlanta off to Columbus for the first round of the playoffs (We have Toronto beating Atlanta on Sunday).

— Vancouver and Portland draw, while Seattle beats Colorado. The ‘Caps and Sounders get byes, while Seattle takes back the Cascadia Cup.

— San Jose beats Minnesota, gaining the West’s sixth seed. The Quakes head to Portland for the first round, while SKC hosts Houston.