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′)

Rio prosecutors launch probe into soccer final violence

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Prosecutors in Rio de Janeiro launched an investigation Thursday into the fan violence surrounding the Copa Sudamericana final between local club Flamengo and Argentine team Independiente.

[ SOURCE: LAFC close to signing third DP, Geraldes of Sporting CP ]

Clashes broke out on the night before Wednesday’s match at Maracana Stadium, and continued throughout the day. There was vandalism inside the stadium during the match and violence afterward, with more than 50 Flamengo supporters being detained over the two days.

The Rio prosecutor’s office said in a statement it would be questioning officials at Brazil’s football confederation, South American soccer’s ruling body, CONMEBOL, and local police about the incidents.

The statement added that “a profound investigation of the facts is needed so we can identify and punish the criminals that disguised as fans to spread chaos, fear and disorder in society.”

Major Silvio Luiz, head of policing for the final, criticized Flamengo’s handling of ticket sales.

Flamengo drew the second-leg match 1-1, and lost the final 3-2 on aggregate. The Copa is the second most prestigious club competition in South American soccer.

Ligue 1 set to use VAR starting in 2018/19 season

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With video replay technology becoming more and more prevalent in soccer across the globe, another major European league has revealed it too will join those ranks.

[ SOURCE: LAFC set to sign third DP with Sporting CP’s Geraldes ]

Ligue 1 has announced that the French top flight will begin to utilize video replay and have a video assistant referee (VAR) starting in the 2018/19 season.

Major League Soccer and the German Bundesliga are just two of the major global leagues to implement the system thus far. In MLS, the technology can be used in four instances; when goals are scored, during penalty situations, when a straight red card is given and during cases of mistaken identity.

French outlet L’Equipe wrote on Thursday that Ligue 1 would also follow a similar structure in what decisions VAR officials will be reviewable.

Spain has also announced that it will introduce VAR in 2018, ahead of the next La Liga season.

Top Premier League storylines — Week 17

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The title is looking more and more like it’s heading to Manchester, so will Tottenham be able to slow the Premier League leaders on Saturday?

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks ]

 

Here are the four biggest storylines ahead of this weekend’s action.

Can anyone stop the Cityzens?

Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

Nobody has found a way to halt Pep Guardiola‘s side yet this season in PL play, so why would that change this weekend? City remain unbeaten through 17 matches, and while Spurs enter the weekend unbeaten in its last four, Mauricio Pochettino and Co. have their work cut out. The City attack, which has scored 52 goals this season, has shown no signs slowing down during the first four-and-a-half months of play, giving Tottenham a big test defensively. Harry Kane and his 12 goals will surely have a say in the get together, but Spurs has been lacking thus far in another go-to finisher.

Will the Toffees keep rolling under Big Sam?

Everton vs. Swansea City — 3 p.m. ET Monday on NBCSN (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

It’s been quite the turnaround recently at Goodison Park, and Everton has the chance to extend its unbeaten streak to six games on Monday. Sam Allardyce has brought life to the Toffees as of late, with Everton scoring 11 goals over the last five matches.

Foxes aim to climb higher, while Palace shoots for safety

Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

The Foxes have found their footing this season, and dare I say there are some glimpses of the team that won the title two years ago? Since Leicester’s 2-0 defeat to Man City, the Foxes have looked the part of a top-tier PL side, winning four of five matches, including victories over Tottenham and Burnley. Meanwhile, Palace has made the relegation battle a very intriguing one, as Roy Hodgson and Co. sit just a point inside the bottom three. Amazingly, Palace is unbeaten in seven of its last eight matches, but the club remains in 18th place.

Clarets aim for third consecutive victory

Brighton vs. Burnley — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBC Sports Gold (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

The Clarets don’t boast a bonafide goalscorer, but Burnley looks like a well-oiled machine as Sean Dyche‘s side sits on the edge of the top four. Although the side likely won’t be pulling off a Leicester-sided feat in 2017/18, what the Clarets are accomplishing is quite amazing given the squad currently in place. Brighton has gone through its share of struggles recently, going winless in its last six matches, and scoring just three goals in that span. They’ll likely have a hard time breaking past Burnley’s tough backline.

NYCFC busy on Thursday with Abdul-Salaam, Stuver additions

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New York City FC is moving on from the club’s first-ever MLS SuperDraft selection, but they’ll be acquiring a solid defensive piece as the team continues to rebuild at the back.

[ SOURCE: LAFC finalizing deal to make Sporting CP’s Geraldes third DP ]

On Thursday, NYCFC announced a trade sending former 2015 first-round pick Khiry Shelton to Sporting KC in exchange for defender Saad Abdul-Salaam.

Shelton, who spent three seasons with NYCFC, struggled to find playing time under manager Patrick Vieira, particularly once the organization drafted England youth international Jack Harrison in 2016.

Vieira and Co. will be getting back a player also selected in the 2015 SuperDraft in Abdul-Salaam.

With the departures of Ethan White, RJ Allen and Andraz Struna this offseason, the move certainly makes sense for NYCFC, who were severely lacking at the right back position heading into this week.

NYCFC signed Malmo defender Anton Tinnerholm on Wednesday to help improve the backline.

The Eastern Conference side also added goalkeeper Brad Stuver from the Columbus Crew on Thursday, with the 26-year-old presumably serving as the backup to Sean Johnson in 2018.