Three things we learned from Liverpool’s dramatic collapse vs. Crystal Palace

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LONDON — Following Liverpool’s incredible 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Monday, the Reds threatened to eat into Manchester City’s superior goal difference but then blew it all away.

Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge ran riot in the second half as Brendan Rodgers’ side surged into a 3-0 lead but then they collapsed in the final 11 minutes as they crumbled in epic fashion.

MORE: Latest Premier League standings

Liverpool are still top of the table but are just one point ahead of Manchester City. However the crucial factor is that Man City have a game in hand and are still nine goals better off in terms of goal differential.

What did we learn from this incredible draw? So much, but here are three things.

Liverpool’s leaky defense comes back to haunt them, again

All season Liverpool’s defensive frailty has been their Achilles heel and on Monday night it was once again the case. 3-0 up with 11 minutes to play, Liverpool’s defense imploded and burst open at the seams and Palace scored three times to leave the title-chasers stunned. Dwight Gayle came off the bench in the 65th minute and struggled to impact the game but then he lost his marker to pull Palace back to 3-2 down in the 81st minute and then in the 88th minute Gayle was allowed acres of space by Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho to slot home the pivotal equalizer. It was not only Liverpool’s central defenders who gave Palace acres of space time and time again, Glen Johnson and Jon Flanagan were culpable as Yannick Bolasie tore them both apart. In 37 games Liverpool has now conceded 49 goals, only Stoke and Newcastle have conceded more goals than that in the top half of the standings. No matter how good you are going forward, having a defense reminiscent of a leaky sieve is a recipe for disaster.

Suarez and Sturridge hold the key

After an even first half in which Liverpool kept the ball for large periods and Palace threatened on the break, the match was crying out for somebody to take it by the scruff of the neck. Two players, as they often have this season, took up that mantle: Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge.  In the 51st minute Sturridge raced clear, cut inside and curled an effort towards the far corner that Julian Speroni finger-tipped onto the post and the ball fell perfectly to Suarez who uncharacteristically skied the rebound over. That was just a warning shot to Palace, as soon after Sturridge jinxed past Palace’s challenges and saw his shot deflect off Damien Delaney and in. A few moments later Liverpool were 3-0 up and racing back to the halfway line to kick off and try to further eat into Manchester City’s goal difference. Suarez latched onto a marvelous pass from Raheem Sterling and finished it off to score his 31st of the season. With that goal Suarez has now equaled the record for the most goals scored in a 38-game Premier League season (31) and he has one game to beat the record Alan Shearer  and Cristiano Ronaldo hold. With a fully-fit Sturridge by his side Suarez was sublime and the duo hold the key to Liverpool’s now slim title chances. Their ‘shoot on sight’ mentality will be needed once again versus Newcastle on the final day, as they hope Man City slip up and their star forwards keep scoring.

Mile Jedinak and Yannick Bolasie the most underrated players in Premier League?

If these two names were mentioned at the start of the season, how many of you could honestly say you knew much about Bolasie and Jedinak? Well, you should know much more about them now. Jedinak ran the midfield on Monday night and every time I’ve seen him this season the Australian international has been simply superb. He is a powerhouse who can pass, head and tackle with incredible efficiency and he drives his team on from midfield. He ‘out-Gerrarded’ Steven Gerrard on Monday and was the driving force behind Palace’s comeback as he was popping up on the wing with 20 minutes to go and was absolutely everywhere. As for Bolasie, his trickery on the left flank bamboozled Johnson and he was key in Palace’s stunning comeback. The former Plymouth Argyle winger has been all around the lower leagues but has grabbed his chance in the big time with both hands. If someone writes an underrated Premier League XI at the end of the season (and there will be, because I will write it) the Bolasie and Jedinak should be the first two names on the teamsheet. Inspirational performances from two gems.

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.