Arsenal 3-4 Liverpool: Coutinho stars in season’s first heavyweight bout

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  • Walcott gave Arsenal a 1-0 first-half lead
  • Reds scored 4 goals in a row
  • Gunners nearly brought it back level

Liverpool did not play well across the first 45 minutes, but they have Philippe Coutinho, and with the Brazilian spark plug, the fuse can ignite at any moment.

Coutinho scored a pair and assisted another as Liverpool won a free-flowing game 4-3 at the Emirates. The game swung back and forth, as the Gunners were up 1-0 most of the first half, the Reds scored four goals in a row to take control, and then the home side came just short of completing a remarkable late comeback.

The match began with a cagey nature, with Arsenal holding a fair amount of possession but being pressured by the Jurgen Klopp press. The first chance fell to the Gunners on 15 minutes when a long ball from Monreal was not cleared properly by Alberto Moreno, who instead headed directly into the path of Aaron Ramsey. The Reds defender made up for his mistake with a pinpoint tackle to see out the chance.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Liverpool pressed well, but their attack seemed disjointed, finding themselves in offside positions or misplaced passes that killed chances early. The Reds had their first opportunity on 23 minutes, when Georgino Wijnaldum won the ball back from Monreal, leading Jordan Henderson to deliver a ball in to a free Roberto Firmino, but Hector Bellerin just put Firmino under enough pressure to see him bungle the chance.

Arsenal should have gone in front when given a penalty in the 29th minute. Moreno needlessly dropped Theo Walcott at the edge of the area, and the referee pointed directly to the spot. Simon Mignolet produced a fantastic save on the penalty, as Walcott looked to poke it into the low corner. Walcott would atone minutes later, however, as he’d get behind Moreno. Alex Iwobi found him on the right, and the English international found the far corner for a 1-0 Arsenal lead.

[ MORE: Premier League standings ]

Liverpool’s physical nature of play began to build up the card count, with Moreno earning himself a yellow card for his foul on Walcott, and both Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren picked up first-half cautions. The Reds appeared second-best for much of the first half, but Philippe Coutinho single-handedly brought them back level on the stroke of halftime.

Into first-half injury time, Coutinho won a questionable free-kick, and took the strike from well outside the area, and from at least 30 yards out he deposited an absolutely outrageous strike into the top corner past a helpless Petr Cech. The goal is the second straight on opening day for Coutinho, having scored the 1-0 winner against Stoke City last season.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Following the break, Liverpool looked much more cohesive, and they were duly rewarded. Coutinho cut into the left edge of the box and plucked a beautiful flick to a waiting Adam Lallana on the far side. The England international chested it down and finished cooly from a tight angle for a 2-1 lead just four minutes after the break.

Just minutes after that, Coutinho would get his second goal and put the Reds 3-1 up as Nathaniel Clyne whipped in a pacey cross and the Brazilian easily touched home from point-blank range. Arsenal looked shell-shocked, and it would get worse. Sadio Mane ran straight around Calum Chambers and ripped an off-balance scorcher into the top corner for a 4-1 Liverpool lead.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

The Reds weren’t able to celebrate their stunning scoreline for long, as the Gunners picked up a lifeline in what turned into a goal fest. Substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored just 56 seconds after Mane’s goal, emulating his predecessor by flicking the ball past Nathaniel Clyne and beating Simon Mignolet at his near post.

Coutinho was removed on 70 minutes after cramping up suddenly on a one-on-two breakaway, replaced by Emre Can. Arsenal brought on debutant Granit Xhaka to shore up the midfield, and the Gunners would grab a lifeline. With 15 minutes remaining, a beautiful curling free-kick from substitute Santi Cazorla glanced off the head of a rising Chambers in the box, and the Gunners were suddenly back within one.

The home side poured numbers and pressure forward, but it wasn’t enough as the Gunners were downed by Liverpool at home for just the second time in their last 21 meetings.

Red Bulls must rally quickly, turn attention back to MLS playoff race

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For any Red Bulls supporter, Wednesday night’s U.S. Open Cup final was a grim reminder of how devastating any cup final can be for a team.

[ MORE: Sporting KC claims its fourth U.S. Open Cup title ]

The New York Red Bulls fell short against Sporting KC — who captured its fourth Open Cup victory in its club’s history — but Jesse Marsch’s side cannot dwell on the result because there is another big task at hand over the final weeks of the MLS regular season.

While that may be easier said than done, especially after the “heartbreaking” nature of Wednesday’s loss, Marsch believes that his side exhibits the qualities you’d want in any good team.

“The outcome is obviously heartbreaking, but the performance is what I think we’ll carry with us. In the moment, there’s no consolation prize,” Marsch said when asked about if there would be any hang over from the loss. “But the confidence that this group has, they way that they played and the way that they played for each other, this will continue to make us good.”

The biggest concern for the Red Bulls though isn’t necessarily even their current form, but instead the form of other clubs around them in the Eastern Conference. With six matches remaining, Marsch and Co. sit just three points above the Montreal Impact for the sixth and final playoff spot in the East.

Meanwhile, Atlanta United has surged up the table and still holds at least a game in hand over most of the field, making them quite the danger in addition leaders Toronto FC and second-place New York City FC.

The Red Bulls haven’t won a match since their 3-2 Open Cup semifinal victory against FC Cincinnati, which came over a month ago.

Marsch and his side do have the benefit of facing bottom-dwellers D.C. United twice over the last five weeks of the regular season, but also packed into into the Red Bulls schedule are matches against four current playoff teams, including Toronto and Atlanta.

Goalkeeper Ryan Meara stressed the importance of his side maintaining its focus, particularly after the Impact and Atlanta each picked up three points on Wednesday night.

“Yeah, that’s the thing, (our upcoming games) will make us move on from this,” Meara said. “We’ve got a big game in Columbus, we know the teams around us have been winning, Montreal won tonight and Atlanta won tonight, so I guess feel sorry for ourselves tonight, get up and dust ourselves off tomorrow and start looking forward to Saturday and Wednesday with D.C. United at home. The games are coming thick and fast and we’ve got to be ready for it.”

Tammy Abraham expected to make international switch to Nigeria

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Tammy Abraham has a bright future in the Premier League, but the on-loan Chelsea striker appears that he won’t be playing his international soccer for the country in which he currently plays.

[ MORE: Spurs land Hammers in League Cup draw; Chelsea faces Everton ]

The 19-year-old is expected to announce that he’ll play for Nigeria — the country of his father’s birth — after having represented England at various youth levels since 2014.

Nigerian Football Federation president Amaju Pinnick has made it clear that he believes Abraham will represent the Super Eagles at next summer’s World Cup in Russia, assuming Nigeria qualifies for the competition.

“I had a very honest and productive discussion with Tammy and his father last week,” said Pinnick.

“It’s been a long process but I can tell you authoritatively that he has agreed to play for Nigeria and not England. He and his parents have started the necessary documents to effect the switch.

“Clearly he understands he stands a better chance playing for the Super Eagles. With his talent he has the ability to fight for a place in the Nigeria squad, by God’s grace we make it to Russia, then he would contest for a chance to represent his fatherland.”

Nigeria currently leads its CAF World Cup qualifying group in the final round of African qualification, and a victory over Zambia on October 7 would ensure the country’s place in Russia next summer.

[ MORE: Pulisic stars, scores a goal in BVB’s latest Bundesliga win ]

The Super Eagles have a number of players Abraham is familiar with, given their connection to Chelsea, including Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel, youngster Ola Aina and current Blues wing back Victor Moses.

Weekend soccer games called off after Mexico earthquake

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MEXICO CITY (AP) Mexico’s soccer federation has canceled all first-division games this weekend as stadiums are being used as relief centers after the country’s magnitude 7.1 earthquake.

[ MORE: Sporting KC claims its fourth U.S. Open Cup crown ]

The federation announced Wednesday that there would be no games in the 10th round of the Apertura tournament or any other professional competition, including the women’s league.

“All the clubs are doing their bit,” Mexican league president Enrique Bonilla said in an interview on Fox Sports before the decision to cancel all matches was announced. “We would like to bring people a moment of joy, but it is a more complex decision, and we need to have all the information from authorities.”

The postponed league games will be played in mid-October, including the derby between Chivas and America.

Sporting KC claims its fourth Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup (video)

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Latif Blessing and Daniel Salloi scored as Sporting KC held on to beat New York Red Bulls 2-1 in the 104th Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final on Wednesday at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas.

Bradley Wright-Phillips blasted a Gonzalo Veron rebound beyond Tim Melia in the first minute of stoppage time to set up a nervy final five minutes. It was the Red Bulls’ second final, and second loss.

The win marks KC’s fourth title, tied for the most amongst active clubs, and its third in six tournaments.

KC now qualifies for the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League.

[ MORE: Pulisic scores 10th BVB goal ]

Sporting KC could’ve been down a man within five minutes, as referee Hilario Grajeda was handing out a yellow card to Seth Sinovic when Diego Rubio inexplicably kicked Felipe Martins in the ankle. It went unseen, and VAR is not a part of the final.

Gerson arrived on the doorstep with the ball and instead side-footed a pass that never got to Benny Feilhaber, a huge let-off for the Red Bulls.

Sacha Kljestan ripped a shot through traffic that forced a save out of Tim Melia in the 14th minute.

KC went ahead when Graham Zusi’s cross was somehow missed by a trio of Red Bulls defenders, allowing Blessing to pound a header home.

Benny Feilhaber committed a pair of fouls to allow a Red Bulls free kick from just outside the 18 and the end line, but the chance was blocked. A counter attack pass from Blessing sprung Gerso on a breakaway, but Ryan Meara blocked the shot.

Meara made another save after the first ball off the ensuing corner cranked off the cross bar.

Feilhaber then cued up Salloi for the insurance marker, before tournament leading scorer Wright-Phillips pulled one back for New York.

Ike Opara ripped down Wright-Phillips in the sixth of six stoppage time minutes, earning a yellow card and giving RBNY a free kick from 23 yards. Felipe skied his effort over the bar.