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.

[ RELATED: Latest Premier League standings ]

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′

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.