Crystal Palace 3-3 Liverpool: Reds blow three-goal lead, maybe title

5 Comments

Incredible scenes in London.

What began as a 3-0 charge to reclaim goal differential from Manchester City ended with Liverpool perhaps choking away the Premier League title with a 3-3 draw Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Monday.

Damien Delaney‘s deflected shot in the 80th minute looked like just a bit of damage to Liverpool’s goal differential hopes, but Dwight Gayle scored a minute later to put the three points back into discussion. Gayle added another in the 88th to seal a point.

Joe Allen, Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez scored for the Reds, who are back into first place for perhaps the last time this year. Manchester City plays Wednesday and now has a 9-goal lead in goal differential with a match-in-hand. Liverpool finishes the year against Newcastle on Championship Sunday.

Palace, once left for dead, can now remarkably finish no worse than 11th place.

source: APLiverpool players were left to choke back tears. Suarez collapsed, covering his eyes with his jersey and heaving forth sobs. An emotional Gerrard had to lead him off.

Brendan Rodgers‘ pre-match quotes implied that even Liverpool’s fiery attacking would be ratcheted up a notch as the Reds attempted to chase down Manchester City’s goal differential, and a boisterous Selhurst Park added to the atmosphere. Both Crystal Palace and Liverpool came hard charging out of the gates in an attempt to match the crowd’s energy.

As the game hit 10 minutes, however, Tony Pulis‘ Eagles began to sink into familiar defense-first form. Liverpool’s Glen Johnson made a darting run to latch onto a free kick, heading over on a point blank chance in the 15th minute in just once instance of the Reds’ desire to beat the back line.

Daniel Sturridge provided plenty of danger early, but seemed intent on taking an extra touch in several situations where a first touch strike looked deadly.

Welsh midfielder Joe Allen got the match’s first goal — and his first in 50 games with Liverpool — when he lost Joe Ledley on a Steven Gerrard corner kick and received a free header from the back post. He made no doubt about it, and it was 1-0 in the 18th minute.

Luis Suarez tried a daring, curling free kick just inside of a half-hour but missed the upper right corner by a yard as the ball dipped high and wide of the frame.

Palace’s Jason Puncheon put a scare into Liverpool in the 33rd minute when his drive deflected off Sakho, forcing Simon Mignolet to push the ball out for a corner (which came to nothing).

And Mile Jedinak continued his sterling season with a strong rip on goal that Mignolet had to tip over the bar. The ensuing corner was punched free by Mignolet. Jedinak may be the most overlooked, under-appreciated midfielder in the Premier League.

Liverpool attacked hard at the break. Speroni was forced to make a big save in the 50th minute, but Suarez sent an easy-enough rebound well over the frame.

Sturridge found the second goal in the 54th minute when he put a deflected shot past Speroni. He briefly celebrated before realizing how many goals Liverpool wanted to score, and pushing his teammates back for the kickoff.

And just one minute later, it was the other half of SAS who buried a goal, slotting home with his left foot just outside of the six-yard box. It was 3-0, goal differential was down to six and Liverpool had its 99th goal of the season.

Glen Johnson dribbled to the middle of the field and struck a hard ball toward goal that Speroni pushed over in the 67th minute.

But Delaney’s shot in the 79th minute took a left turn off Johnson and beat Mignolet to dent Liverpool’s hopes of catching City’s differential. And then Gayle collected a Yannick Bolasie pass in the 18 and scored just two minutes later.

From then on, Liverpool were either gassed, confounded or both Crystal Palace carried the play and the Reds were just holding on for the three points.

They couldn’t. Gayle ran down the middle of the pitch to hammer home and equalizer. Incredible! How??!

LINEUPS

Crystal Palace: Speroni, Mariappa, Dann, Delaney, Ward, Dikgacoi (Ince, 85′), Jedinak, Ledley, Bolasie, Puncheon (Gayle, 65′), Chamakh (Murray, 71′).

Goals: Delaney (79′), Gayle (81′, 88′)

Liverpool: Mignolet, Johnson, Flanagan, Skrtel, Sakho, Gerrard, Allen, Lucas, Sterling (Coutinho, 78′), Sturridge (Moses, 86′), Suarez

Goals: Allen (18′), Sturridge (54′), Suarez (55′)

Benitez happy to stay at Newcastle if he “has the tools to compete”

Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Rafa Benitez is approaching something vaguely resembling sainthood in the northeast of England — with the Newcastle United-supporting portion, at least — but his future remains in doubt as the end of the current Premier League season draws nearer and the next one approaches.

[ MORE: Salah beats De Bruyne to win PFA Player of the year award ]

Benitez and Newcastle owner Mike Ashley have endured an unhappy working relationship for much of Benitez’s 25 months at the club. The Spaniard was true to his word, though, when he stuck around another season after being relegated from the PL in 2016, then again after winning promotion on the Magpies’ first attempt, but he’ll be faced with the same dilemma again this summer, even after guiding Newcastle to a mid-table finish (they currently sit 10th with five games left to play).

[ MORE: Man United reach FA Cup final | Chelsea join them ]

If he’s not given assurances that he’ll be handed the necessary funds to properly strengthen his squad during the upcoming summer transfer window, the 58-year-old could very well walk away and leave Ashley to play the part of all-too-familiar villain. Or, as Benitez put it this weekend, Ashley could fork over “the tools to be capable of competing” and make everyone, from the manager to the fans, happy — quotes form the Guardian:

“If they [Ashley’s representatives] want to talk to my people [about a new contract,] they can talk. The main thing is to be sure we share the same ambition.

“I want to win games and I want to win trophies and I want to have the tools to be capable of competing. At the same time, I like to improve players, coach players, follow a business plan, a realistic business plan in modern football. I have no problem with that because I did it in the past.

“We have to be sure to have all the tools to compete and achieve what we want to achieve because Newcastle is a massive football club and we want it to reach its potential.”

Of course, the perfect scenario for everyone involved would have been for any one of the numerous takeover bids to have gone through during the last two years, but as was most recently evidenced earlier this year, Ashley and the Toon can’t seem to quit each other just yet.

MLS: Timbers end NYCFC’s unbeaten start; Seattle get 1st win

Serena Morones/The Oregonian via AP
Leave a comment

Sunday was a very good day for a pair of green-clad Cascadia rivals, the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders, as the former put to end the unbeaten start of the best team in MLS, while the latter picked up their first win of 2018…

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS roundupOther MLS Things — The Archive ]

Portland Timbers 3-0 New York City FC

Through their first seven games, NYCFC were almost inarguably the best team in MLS (aside: how much better is their opening-day walkover of Sporting KC looking these days?), but Patrick Vieira’s side might as well have not even shown up to Providence Park on Sunday. Chalk it up to “it’s only one game,” or “these things happen in MLS,” or “NYC to Portland is a long trip for Russian clubs,” or any other credible rationale you prefer, but they were nothing more than 11 passengers for the whole of 90 minutes.

A quick look at the defending on all three of Portland’s goals…

Vieira was right at halftime, when he said his side was lacking intensity and aggression, and that it’d be nigh impossible to get back into the game in the second half if they continued to play that way. Spoiler: it was, because they did.

Just as I’ll not be rushing to judgment over NYCFC’s no-show performance, I’m not yet buying into the idea that Portland have figured things out defensively on the back of one clean sheet (their first of the season).

Seattle Sounders 3-1 Minnesota United

Speaking of firsts, Seattle are the proud owners of points — as in, more than one point — after putting three past Minnesota but almost fatally failing to kill the game off after going 2-0 up. I’m not sure what any defender in black is doing on this sequence…

Alas, Gustav Svensson, Will Bruin and Jordy Delem were far more clinical with their chances than the Loons…

Still, though, Seattle were completely helpless when it came time to grab control of the game while in a commanding position. Osvaldo Alonso is nowhere near the player he once was, which is a massive problem against teams that set up to counter-attack, as Minnesota did on Sunday. It doesn’t help that Roman Torres and Chad Marshall are the plodding center backs behind him.

The obvious answer to the midfield problem is to play Cristian Roldan deeper, alongside Alonso as they did en route to winning MLS Cup in 2016, but injuries to a number of key attackers have forced him into a de facto no. 10 role for the time being. These things will work themselves out with a bit of time, I suppose.

Full MLS scoreboard

Sporting Kansas City 6-0 Vancouver Whitecaps (Friday) — FULL RECAP
Montreal Impact 3-5 Los Angeles FC — FULL RECAP
Houston Dynamo 5-1 Toronto FC
New York Red Bulls 1-2 Chicago Fire
Columbus Crew SC 2-2 New England Revolution
Orlando City SC 3-2 San Jose Earthquakes
FC Dallas 2-0 Philadelphia Union
Real Salt Lake 3-0 Colorado Rapids
LA Galaxy 0-2 Atlanta United

Salah beats De Bruyne to win PFA Player of the Year award

Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Leave a comment

LONDON (AP) Mohamed Salah has been voted Player of the Year by his fellow professionals in English football in recognition of an incredible scoring return to the Premier League with Liverpool.

[ MORE: Man United reach FA Cup final | Chelsea join them ]

The Egypt forward collected the Professional Footballers’ Association award at a ceremony in London on Sunday, two days before Liverpool’s Champions League semifinal first leg against Roma.

It is a reunion with the Italian club he left in the offseason for 42 million euros (then $47 million). The hefty fee appeared to be a gamble for Liverpool but now represents a real bargain.

The former Chelsea player has scored 41 goals in 46 appearances in all competitions for Liverpool – enabling him to beat Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne in second place to the PFA award.

Tottenham striker Harry Kane was third.

[ MORE: Man City thrash Swansea in pursuit of points record ]

“It’s a big honor,” Salah said. “I’ve worked hard and I’m very happy to win it.”

Salah is preparing to lead Egypt into its first World Cup in 28 years and he is the first player from the North African nation to win English football’s top individual prize.

“Hopefully I’m not the last one,” he said. “I’m very proud to win and I’ve worked very hard.”

Salah’s impact has been more remarkable given his underwhelming 2014-15 season at Chelsea before being offloaded by then-manager Jose Mourinho. He went on loan to Fiorentina in early 2015 and Roma in 2016, and then on a permanent basis to Roma in August 2016.

Scoring 15 goals and setting up 11 more for Roma convinced Liverpool to bring Salah back to a second spell in England.

[ MORE: Liverpool draw West Brom in final tune-up before UCL semis ]

His goal at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday was his 31st in the league this season, tying the scoring record in a 38-game campaign held by Cristiano Ronaldo, Alan Shearer and Luis Suarez.

Suarez was the last Liverpool player to be crowned player of the year by the PFA in 2014 before moving to Barcelona.

It’s a sign of his remarkable impact that Salah secured the award with third-place Liverpool and that none of Manchester City’s newly crowned champions won the accolade.

But City winger Leroy Sane was voted PFA Young Player of the Year.

The PFA women’s player award went to Chelsea forward Fran Kirby, while Lauren Hemp of Bristol City secured the young player prize.

CONCACAF cancels women’s U-17 tournament due to violence

CONCACAF
1 Comment

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) CONCACAF has canceled the rest of its 2018 Women’s Under-17 Championship following violence in Managua, Nicaragua, where the tournament began Thursday.

The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football made the announcement Sunday. The tournament was to have determined the region’s qualifiers for the Under-17 World Cup in Uruguay, which starts Nov. 13.

More than two dozen people have been killed since Wednesday according to the independent Nicaraguan Human Rights Center, though the government had acknowledged only nine dead. Dozens of shops in Managua were looted during protests and disturbances sparked by government social security reforms.

The U.S. opened Friday with a 4-0 win over Costa Rica and had been scheduled to play Bermuda on Sunday and Canada on Tuesday.