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′

Mourinho: “Paul made a big effort”

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Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho had fine words for Paul Pogba, but was tickled by the performance of 21-year-old Scott McTominay in the Red Devils scoreless draw with Sevilla in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.

[ RECAP: Sevilla 0-0 Man Utd ]

The visitors emerged unscathed, though without an away goal, and Mourinho raised eyebrows when he kept Pogba on the bench to start the match. The young McTominay started the match, and was paired with Pogba once Ander Herrera left the match with injury.

When a reporter asked Mourinho about McTominay after the match, the boss asked if he could give the reporter a hug before elaborating (via the BBC):

“In the press conference, the questions were about Paul [Pogba] but the question should be about the kid. He was fantastic. He did everything well. He put pressure on Ever Banega and stopped him playing, he’s their playmaker. I think Scott was brilliant.

“I think Paul made a big effort to try to give the team what I asked of him. Paul replaced Ander, he tried to bring to the game the same kind of qualities. He lost a couple of possessions but he also gave us stability because we had a good percentage of possession for the way we played.”

Mourinho was sure to include Nemanja Matic as a big part of the midfield trio.

The Pogba-Mourinho questions aren’t going to go away any time soon, though it should be noted — perhaps strongly — that the player was ill this weekend and United has to face Chelsea in Premier League play this weekend.

Still, he couldn’t help but mention how much he believes “Old Trafford has missed a big European night,” and how he’s looking forward to a potentially big win come March 13.

Nil-nil in Seville as De Gea stars

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  • English sides unbeaten vs. La Liga in UCL season (2-6)
  • Pogba subs into match for Herrera, 17′
  • De Gea with seven saves for United

David De Gea was the star as Manchester United escaped Sevilla with a scoreless draw in the first leg of the two sides’ UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Sevilla won a corner kick within 90 seconds, but the ball made its way through the 18 without finding a receiver.

Ander Herrera sprung Alexis Sanchez down the middle, but Jesus Navas cut across to catch the Chilean and thwart the United chance.

Navas then dragged a shot across goal and past a diving David De Gea but inches wide of the far post.

A Herrera injury — yes, another injury United supporters — meant Paul Pogba would join the fray after just 17 minutes with the key position in the 4-3-3.

Lukaku botched a terrific diagonal cross from Sanchez with a blast over the goal in the 25th minute.

The 38th minute saw Scott McTominay pump a ball right at Sergio Rico for the Sevilla backstop’s first save, and Angl Correa’s low shot was collected by De Gea for a third Red Devils save.

De Gea then made a leaping save on Steven N’Zonzi’s redirection of a bicycle kick just before halftime, and then slapped Luis Muriel’s header over the bar before the whistle.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

De Gea nabbed another save, his sixth in the contest, when Clement Lenglet got his head on an Ever Banega free kick in the 64th minute.

A Sanchez giveaway provided Sevilla the chance to counter, and Muriel couldn’t get the step back needed to power a header past De Gea.

United had a goal pulled back in the 83rd minute as the ball struck Lukaku’s arm in the build-up.

Fred’s vicious free kick leads Shakhtar over Roma

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Facundo Ferreyra and Fred scored second half goals to lead Shakhtar Donetsk past AS Roma 2-1 at the Donbass Arena in Wednesday’s first leg of the clubs’ UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie.

Cendig Under scored his fifth goal in four matches as AS Roma did manage an away goal before the March 13 second leg in Rome.

Fred has been linked with a summer move to Man City, and the banger of a free kick showed part of the reason the Brazilian is in demand.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Roma is bidding to make its first UEFA Champions League quarterfinal since 2007-08 when they went out at the hands of Manchester United, while Shakhtar last made the quarters only to be dismissed by Barcelona in 2010-11.

Ukrainian backstop Andriy Pyatov had an early save on Edin Dzeko off a cross from Aleksandar Kolarov, two minutes after Kolarov mailed a free kick over the bar.

Kolarov and Dzeko remained big parts of the story line, though Pyatov and the Shakhtar defense stood tall.

Dzeko would wind up assisting the opener, and it was the in form Under who’d bury his chance.

Not soon after the break, though, Yaroslav Rakitskiy cued up Ferreyra for the equalizer.

And Fred but the hosts ahead with this outstanding free kick, what they’d call a “bar down bingo” in hockey.

Madrid beats Leganes 3-1 in game postponed from December

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MADRID (AP) Real Madrid overcame the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo and other regular starters Wednesday, coming from behind to defeat Leganes 3-1 Wednesday in a Spanish league match postponed from last year.

The result allowed the defending champions to regain third place from Valencia, but it did little to put Zinedine Zidane’s team back in the title race as it still trails leader Barcelona by 14 points after 24 matches. Madrid is seven points behind second-place Atletico Madrid.

[ MORE: Messi defies Conte’s successful tactics ]

Less than a month ago, Leganes jolted Madrid into a crisis by eliminating the Spanish powerhouse from the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey.

The hosts from southern Madrid went ahead less than 10 minutes into the match on Wednesday, but Madrid answered with first-half goals by Lucas Vazquez and Casemiro. Sergio Ramos sealed the victory by converting a 90th-minute penalty kick.

The league match was rescheduled from the 16th round because of Madrid’s participation in the Club World Cup in December, a competition it won.

Only in its second season in the first division, Leganes had a promising start to the campaign but has struggled recently. It hasn’t won in six matches and has lost four straight, dropping to 13th with 29 points.

Madrid has won four in a row, including 3-1 against Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 of the Champions League last week.

Ronaldo, who scored twice against PSG and has 10 goals in his last six matches, was rested on Wednesday along with goalkeeper Keylor Navas. Marcelo, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric are trying to recover from injuries in time for next month’s return match against PSG in Paris.

Leganes opened the scoring with a goal by Unai Bustinza six minutes into the match at Butarque Stadium. The defender dived in front of the ball as Madrid left back Theo Hernandez tried to clear it from near the goal line. The ball ricocheted off Bustinza’s head and shoulder and went into the net.

Madrid equalized five minutes later with Vazquez’s low shot into the far corner from inside the area after a through ball by Casemiro, and 20 minutes later it was the Brazilian defensive midfielder who found the net from close range after a pass by Vazquez.

Ramos scored from the penalty spot after Mateo Kovacic was pushed inside the area in the closing minutes.

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