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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.

Agent: Liverpool contacted Klopp only after Rodgers firing

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 09:  Jurgen Klopp arrives to be unveiled as the new manager of Liverpool FC at a press conference at Anfield on October 9, 2015 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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As soon as Brendan Rodgers was dismissed by Liverpool on Sunday, Jurgen Klopp’s name was tossed around as the likely successor to the then-vacant Liverpool managerial position.

However, according to Klopp’s representatve Marc Kosicke, Liverpool did not make contact with the German until after Rodgers had been officially let go.

“The first call from Liverpool came after the dismissal as coach of Rodgers,” Kosicke told Bild. “Before Liverpool there were naturally quite a few inquiries. But Jurgen always asked me not to take it any further.”

Club management was less committal than Klopp’s rep, but did say they had their eye on the German for some time. “We have learned to keep certain matters confidential. We had a meeting recently with Jurgen that he has talked about and I don’t want to talk too much about these conversations. But we have thought about him for a long time and everyone who knows football knows he is an outstanding manager.”

It’s relatively hard to believe Liverpool would have canned Rodgers without knowing for sure that a top-level target such as Klopp or Carlo Ancelotti were on board to replace him. It also would mean discussions of the contract terms and logistics would have moved at lightning speed, with just four days between the Rodgers dismissal and Klopp’s official unveiling.

England’s Mark Sampson on growth of women’s soccer, NWSL

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Head coach of England women’s national team Mark Sampson is a man who has had his life transformed over the past six months.

[ MORE: English women inspire a nation ]

Since England finished third at the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada — the Three Lionesses had failed to win a single knockout game before their exploits in Canada — Sampson and his team have been at the fore of the women’s game getting increased exposure and attendances in England.

[ MORE: Klopp dazzles on Liverpool unveiling ]

With that in mind, ProSoccerTalk caught up with Sampson to discuss his appearance at the Balanced Business Forum (BBF) in London next week, which promotes gender balance in the business world, plus we also spoke to him about what the reaction has been like in England since returning from the World Cup and his plans for his own team, and his own coaching pathway, for the future.

Q: Mark, what is it about the BBF which made you so interested in speaking and getting involved?

A: I have  been fortunate enough to work in women’s football for a number of years now and at a number of levels as well and be around some elite people on and off the field, whether that be on the pitch or away from the pitch in the boardroom. I am very passionate about women’s sport and women in business. It is a great opportunity to share my experiences, particularly over the course of the summer, where I worked with a group of women who were successful and achieved something very special. It is a unique opportunity to share those experiences.

You have seen up close the positive impact of women playing soccer at the elite level. How important is it to develop those qualities in young women?

Certainly within women’s football we have seen a huge leap in recent years in not only the quality of play on the field but the change in the dynamic in the game as a whole. We are seeing more people watching domestic football, more people supporting the international team, we are seeing more clubs move towards a more professional model, which is creating positions not only for women on the field but off the field. I think women’s football at the moment is seen as a leading light not only in women’s sport but promoting in high positions.

How does all of this slot into your long-term and short-term goals with the English national team?

From our point of view we are obviously keen to promote the team and the game. We still have a lot of work to do at growing the game, whether that be at grassroots level, domestic level or international level. We are not where we want to be at yet. We want to make sure we continue to grow and these kind of opportunities are great for us to share our experiences, share our journeys and make sure that we are continually promoting good practice in women’s sport. The FA are certainly very strong around supporting women’s coaches, grassroots development, women in the boardroom and these are great opportunities to share those experiences and push that message even further.

After being involved at Swansea City and other clubs in the men’s game, what it the biggest differences you’ve seen between men’s and women’s soccer over the years?

The most important thing to mention, always, is that football is football. The great thing is that the women’s game now is getting the respect from people outside of it that maybe it didn’t have in previous years. Certainly there is a long way to go to move it closer to the men’s game but there is far more acceptance now from the men’s game. As a sport and it has got its own identity and people support it. The likes of Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, they are football clubs who have really got behind and jumped on the bandwagon of women’s football and have started to develop really strong models at club level, hence we are seeing better players, better programs and more bums on seats at grounds. That is probably the way for us to go, moving forward, to really connect with the men’s game and ensure women’s football is visible within their clubs.

Since the World Cup, the FA Women’s Super League (WSL) in England has seen attendances rising, is that a big plus for you?

Absolutely. We are really working hard at ground level to push attendances and grow the game and to see it transpire at club matches and international matches is just a pat on the back really, for all the hard work that is going on. There has been hard work going on for many years, many years before I started working in the women’s football and here people haven’t got the rewards they deserve for the work that has been put in but now the rewards are there for everybody to see and the challenge is to continue to grow these partnerships and move the game forward. I still think we have a long way to go but this is a huge opportunity to keeping growing this game.

Can you sum up the reaction and incredible interest levels in the England women’s national team? What has that been like since you returned home after the successful summer?

The best way to describe it is, it is a different world. Jumping straight back off the plane we’ve had far more media interest, many more spectators at grounds, the girls are getting recognized in the street and people are genuinely supporting the team and excited about where this team is going. It has been great because people have been grafting away behind-the-scenes for years with the training, matches and hard work, and now to get to the point where they are being recognized for that, it is a real special time. It has given me even more motivation to keep that going and push it even further.


What is the next step for this team? You have a friendly tournament in China next month and then EURO 2017 which you are qualifying for right now. Surely you will be one of the favorites to win EURO 2017? 

As a nation like England whether that be in men’s or women’s football, you are always going to be one of the favorites for a major championship. That pressure is always going to be there. This team has been great at managing that pressure and seeing it as an opportunity and pushing it. There is a big challenge for us. We have got to always think about the big picture on this one. If we want to be winning these major championships, the World Cups and European Championships, then we have to consistently perform. To do that we need to play the best teams on a regular basis and win matches. A lot of time in international football people think you can turn up at a major tournament and turn it on for two months and go home with a trophy, but the reality of it is you need to be the best team, consistently, going into those tournaments and that has got to be our challenge in the next two to four years. Make sure we are winning football matches, growing our program and growing the game so that when we turn up at major championships, people look at England as a genuine contender.

Looking over at the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) in the USA, what do you make of the progress they have made?

Since it has come back into the fore, it has been really important. The U.S. are a leading nation of the women’s game and when the previous pro league fell by the wayside I always felt it was important for the women’s game as a whole that America were delivering a professional league. It is great to see the crowds and the quality of the football in America, in terms of how that relates to us, we are different. The culture in England is very different to America and we have got to work out how we are going to be competitive and sometimes the best way to find a competitive edge is to find something new and do something different. We are certainly going to look at what is going on in America, learn lessons of the good and the bad and make sure we find something that works well for our team and our country about growing the game. We have certainly got to give huge credit to the States and not only the work the national team and Jill is doing but domestically. The way they’ve grown the game and their fanbase, every nation is saying that we need to find a way of doing something like this.

You are obviously focused on your job with England right now, but I wanted to ask you about your own future. There are British coaches over in the NWSL, some of your players are over there too. If an opportunity arose in the NWSL or the U.S. in the future, would you consider it? 

Every coach is always going to say they are fully focused on their current job and I am certainly no different to that. In the future there will be some new challenges and I would never say no to anything, and certainly the way the women’s game is growing, and not just for me but every coach, there are going to be more opportunities to go and work at professional football clubs with some great players and some big clubs with big crowds. For any coach that has always got to be the motivation. Can you work at the highest possible level and test yourself?

Finally, in your home country of Wales right now there is euphoria around Gareth Bale and Wales on the brink of sealing qualification to the EURO 2016 championships. How big of a moment is this for soccer in Wales?

Saturday is a huge sporting day for the entire nation in general. We have a huge game against Australia in the Rugby World Cup, followed by an even bigger game for the Welsh national team away at Bosnia in our European Championship campaign. Certainly, Welsh sport at the moment is on a real high and it would be great to see the national team qualify for a major championship. I worked with Gareth Bale as a young kid and he is doing amazing things for himself and for the game in Wales. The staff behind-the-scenes there have worked so hard for so many years to really push the game and develop that team and everyone is really confident now that they will get their reward. It would be awesome for the country to be at a major championship.