Liverpool 2-1 Southampton: Sturridge gives Reds the win over strong Southampton (video)

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In what Reds fans hope will be a sign of things to come for Liverpool post-Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling fired the home side past a surprisingly bright Southampton at Anfield.

The two sides seemed very even for the first 20 minutes, punching and counter-punching in the midfield but unable to land any serious blows. Southampton kept up with Liverpool as the ball found itself on both ends equally.

Finally, the first knockdown arrived after 23 minutes as Jordan Henderson picked the pocket of new Saints signing Dusan Tadic and then in traffic unleashed a world-class ball up the gut to Raheem Sterling.

The 19-year-old winger sliced through the central defending pair caught off guard, and a precise touch squeezed the ball past Fraser Forster for the opener.  Sterling gets the credit on the scoresheet, but the work and eventual pass from Henderson would be an early contender for assist of the season if such an award existed.

Liverpool went into a holding pattern for the rest of the first half after their goal, and Southampton came close a few times but couldn’t equalize. James Ward-Prowse slung in a brilliant free-kick from well far out, and the blustering wind pushed it into a course destined for the top corner, but Simon Mignolet was able to tip it behind.

Mignolet was again called into action in first-half stoppage time after Morgan Schneiderlin ripped a curling shot just under the bar, and the goalkeeper was again equal to it.

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It again went back and forth after the break, but Southampton started to build brighter as the minutes ticked on. 10 minutes after halftime, Southampton had their deserved equalizer.

With the ball on the edge of the penalty area, Nathaniel Clyne sent the ball to Schneiderlin and made a run. The 24-year-old midfielder flicked right back to Clyne to slot him through, and Clyne finished with a close-range howitzer that blazed the back of the net before Mignolet knew what hit him.

They almost took the lead seven minutes later when Steven Davis had acres of space in the middle of the box after a ball from Tadić but he scuffed the shot and Mignolet saved.

[ RELATED: Premier League stats ]

Southampton continued to look bright with Victor Wanyama thumping in the middle and the attacking midfielders combining well. But Liverpool would hold firm, struggling to stay level, but their efforts eventually bearing fruit.

11 minutes from the end of regulation, the Reds ignited an unusually quiet Anfield crowd as Daniel Sturridge gave Liverpool the lead. A cross came in from the right edge, and it was headed by Wanyama. But the clear only went up instead of away, and it came down to Sterling who flicked with his head towards the goal mouth. The header opened up the defense, and Sturridge slipped onto the end of it to touch home from close range.

The goal makes Sturridge the Premier League’s leading goalscorer in the 2014 calendar year, with 13 goals to go one above Edin Dzeko, Wilfried Bony, and Luis Suarez.

The Saints continued to push for another equalizer, and they came inches with two minutes from full time. Schneiderlin had another shot from close range, and Mignolet proved the hero to touch the ball onto the crossbar and back out. Shane Long headed the ball on the rebound but it went wide. Southampton initially had a shout that the ball went over the line, but referee Mark Clattenburg pointed to his watch to indicate no goal had been given by the technology.

The game burst to life in stoppage time, but it was Liverpool’s on the day as Sturridge’s goal gave the home side three points to start the new season. They’re only the second home side all weekend to win, following in the footsteps of Arsenal’s lead. Southampton manager Ronald Koeman will be impressed with his side’s effort, but it wasn’t enough to prove fruitful on the table.

LINEUPS

Liverpool: Mignolet; Manquillo, Johnson, Skrtel, Lovren; Gerrard, Lucas (Allen 63′), Henderson, Coutinho (Lambert 76′), Sterling; Sturridge.

Goals: Sterling 23′, Sturridge 79′

Southampton: Forster; Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Bertrand; Wanyama, Schneiderlin, S. Davis (Isgrove 82′), Ward-Prowse, Tadić (Long 74′); Pellè.

Goals: Clyne 56′

Premier League Preview: Southampton vs. West Bromwich Albion

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  • West Bromwich Albion hope to choose from goalkeepers Ben Foster (back) and Boaz Myhill (hamstring) for the trip to St Mary’s. Hal Robson-Kanu (strain), James Morrison (calf) and Oliver Burke (hamstring) will all be absent for the Baggies.
  • Southampton are again without Jeremy Pied but have no other injury concerns.
  • Of all teams to have met in at least seven different Premier League campaigns, Southampton v West Brom has the lowest goals-per-match ratio in the competition (21 in 14 matches, 1.5 per match). 
  • Dusan Tadic has been directly involved in a goal in each of his last three PL appearances against the Baggies (one goal, two assists).

Two mid-table sides meet up in the south of England as Southampton hosts West Bromwich Albion at 13:20 p.m. Saturday afternoon. (Watch live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Both teams are struggling for form heading into the match. West Brom is winless in its last seven games while Southampton has just one win in its last five, coughing up a chance to defeat Newcastle a week ago.

It’s a big boost for Southampton though that Manolo Gabbiadini is back on the scoresheet after scoring twice against Newcastle. It was Gabbiadini’s first goal since the second week of the Premier League season.

At the other end, West Brom have a worry with both of its top two goalkeepers, Ben Forster and Boaz Myhill. recovering from injuries.

What they’re saying

Southampton manager Manuel Pellegrino on his team: “The reaction of the team was really good, but we have to start from the beginning with this spirit. Sometimes you have to be patient, because at the beginning teams have more energy, they are fresher and they can press you better. I think we feel comfortable with the ball. If we are precise with the ball and with our tempo, we can create more problems – it doesn’t matter who we are playing. We know that West Brom are really strong physically, and dangerous from set plays and on the counter-attack. That’s something we’ve been working on this week. Every single week we are learning from our last few games, and I feel that my players are better prepared.”

West Bromwich manager Tony Pulis on facing Southampton: “They’re a good footballing team. Pellegrino has come in with his own ideas and the way he wants to play. From watching them in a couple of games away from St Mary’s they seem a little more relaxed. They look a little more uptight at home. But I’m sure they’ll become the team everyone knows they can be.”

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Prediction

West Bromwich doesn’t look closer to stopping its slide down the table, especially on the road. Even with Jay Rodriguez returning to his former club, Southampton should find the offense to put Tony Pulis and West Brom away. Southampton 2-1 West Bromwich Albion

Watch Live: West Ham vs. Brighton and Hove Albion

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West Ham and Brighton kick off the weekend’s Premier League action at the London Stadium on Friday afternoon. (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN an online via NBCSports.com).

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Both teams have just eight points from eight games, and are looking to move up in the table with a win.

Manuel Lanzini makes his second consecutive start, playing behind Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez in West Ham’s 4-2-3-1 formation. On the other side, Tomer Hemed sits his final match of his three-match suspension, with Glen Murray playing atop the 4-4-1-1 Brighton formation.

LINEUPS

West Ham United: Hart; Zabaleta, Fonte, Reid, Masuaku; Kouate, Obiang; Antonio, Lanzini, Arnautovic; Chicharito Hernandez. Subs: Adrian, Cresswell, Ogbonna, Byram, Ayew, Noble, Fernandes

Brighton and Hove Albion: Ryan; Bong, Duffy, Dunk, Saltor; Izquierdo, Propper, Stephens, Knockaert; Gross; Murray. Subs: Krul, Goldson, Suttner, Schelotto, Molumby, March, Brown.

Report: FIFA considering updating international rules

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Under current FIFA rules, once a player plays a senior international competitive match, they’re cap-tied permanently to that nation. But that rule could be changing.

That’s according to a report from Reuters, which quotes CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani that FIFA could look into updating some of its nationality laws. Montagliani is the head of FIFA’s stakeholders committee.

“There are so many issues that have popped up over the years because the world is changing, immigration is changing,” Montagliani said. “There are nationality issues that pop up all over the world, in Africa, there are issues in Asia and CONCACAF, so its a good time to have a look at this and see if there are solutions, without hurting the integrity of the game.”

Changing the rules would have a big impact on nations with diverse populations or nationalities with large diasporas.

The report states the Cape Verdean FA requested relaxing the rule of cap-tying a player after playing a competitive game, if that player drops out of the player pool and likely wouldn’t be called up again. Cape Verde relies on a lot of Portugal-based and raised players with Cape Verdean heritage.

A relaxation of the rules could have an affect on U.S. Men’s National Team players as well. In theory, if Kenny Saief decided he wanted to play for Israel again, under a relaxation of the rules, and some sort of proof that a new USMNT coach wouldn’t call him up, Israel could potentially use him. In addition, players such as Cristian Roldan or Jesse Gonzalez could in theory be lost should they fall down the depth chart and other countries they’re eligible for.

 

Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Watford

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  • Chelsea are without N'Golo Kante, Victor Moses (both hamstring) and Danny Drinkwater (calf) is still absent.
  • Watford remain without Younes Kaboul and Sebastian Prodl (both thigh), plus long-term absentees Craig Cathcart, Nathaniel Chalobah and Isaac Success (all knee).
  • Watford have not won against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge since 1986, but the Hornets have won 10 points of a possible 12 on the road. 
  • Chelsea have lost three of their first eight matches this season. No team has ever lost this many of their opening eight matches and still won the Premier League title.

Watford heads south for another London derby with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday at 7:30 a.m. (Watch live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The Hornets have had an amazing start to the season and currently occupy fourth place on 15 points, two points ahead of fifth-place Chelsea, which has lost two-straight Premier League games. The Blues have struggled without N’Golo Kante and Alvaro Morata and there have been reports of grumbles from the squad about dissatisfaction with Antonio Conte‘s training methods, but the Chelsea coach has brushed those rumors off.

Meanwhile Watford is coming off a confidence-boosting win last weekend against fellow Londoners Arsenal, and the club is looking to take down another big club for a second-straight week.

What they’re saying

Watford manager Marco Silva on his team’s start“I want everybody to be really calm. We did really in the first eight matches but it’s too early. We want to continue to work hard every day. Everything changes fast and you need to keep going and treat the next game as the most important. But of course I feel proud.”

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte on being under pressure: “‘Do I feel the pressure? Every manager feels pressure, but I try to give all of myself into my job, so I’m happy when I go home because I know in every moment I give all of myself for the fans, the players and the club. In football you know anything can happen, but the most important thing is to work.”

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Prediction

Chelsea has its back against the wall but the team’s overall quality should be enough to see them through with all three points against Watford. The Hornets luck runs out in Stamford Bridge as Chelsea hold on for a late win. Chelsea 2-1 Watford