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Lackluster Liverpool stuttering ahead of Man United clash

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SOUTHAMPTON — Somehow Liverpool is still in with a chance of making the EFL Cup final but their shaky form continues.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned

Liverpool lost 1-0 at Southampton in the EFL Cup semifinal first leg on Wednesday but the Premier League title contenders should’ve lost by two or three to out-of-form Saints.

Jurgen Klopp‘s side, who have now drawn with PL relegation strugglers Sunderland, then League Two side Plymouth Argyle in the FA Cup and lost to Southampton in their last three games, never got going at a chilly St Mary’s on the south coast of England and that’s not good news ahead of their massive Premier League clash against Manchester United on Sunday.

Liverpool dominated possession but apart from a first half chance for Roberto Firmino they hardly threatened Southampton’s defense.

Speaking after the game Klopp admitted he was an off day for his side.

“After we conceded one goal obviously the game changed. Even if I try to explain it, it is not that easy. I am actually not used to a reaction like this from my boys. We have to accept tonight was not good,” Klopp said. “We were dominant second half and they had one or two counter attacks, that’s how it is. It is not a big problem. We have to defend them with passion. We had not a lot of chances. If we had some, Roberto Firmino first half, one or two other moments. We had a lot of moments in around the box where we could have had a chance but we didn’t make it.”

Was the fact that Liverpool escaped Southampton with a 1-0 defeat a plus for Klopp?

“The only one, actually,” Klopp said. “It is the third best result if you don’t win. Drawing or losing 1-0 is the best result, I don’t like it too much. This team always shows a reaction. We have to show a reaction in this cup against Southampton but it would be cool if we could already show a reaction at the weekend because we probably need a better performance to get something at Old Trafford.”

Ahead of the derby at United, Liverpool looked uncharacteristically disjointed in attack with Sadio Mane away at the African Cup of Nations, Daniel Sturridge ineffective and the duo of Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino patrolling the same spaces and shut down. It was an off day in attack for a Liverpool side who are the highest scorers in the Premier League but have now failed to score at St Mary’s on their last two visits.

Luckily for Liverpool, Southampton’s attack had yet another off day too as they continue to miss the presence of leading goalscorer Charlie Austin who is out through injury.

Saints goalscorer Nathan Redmond summed up just how wasteful he Saints were.

“I should have had four goals today. I didn’t realize how much time I had but I will learn from those mistakes. At least we won and we can take a lead to Anfield.”

He was right.

Redmond was twice denied by Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius, who was their best player, and he somehow clipped the bar when clean though on the break as Cedric and the impressive Virgil Van Dijk also went close for Saints.

Aside from Karius’ display the fact that Liverpool is  just a goal down going into the second leg at Anfield in two weeks time is the major plus for Klopp.

He admitted that Karius “kept them in the game” and the German coach believes his side still have a great chance of advancing to the final where they will likely face old foes Manchester United who beat Hull City 2-0 in their semifinal first leg on Tuesday.

Klopp knows his side got away from St Mary’s with an extremely favorable 1-0 defeat on Wednesday. It’s not often an almost full-strength Liverpool side can say that.

“The performance doesn’t feel too good, that’s how it is. But for the final everything is open, still,” Klopp said. “At the moment, there are two disappointed managers after the game. One because he lost and the performance wasn’t good. One because he only won 1-0 and has to go to Anfield for the second leg afterwards. We will strike back, we will be a different team. Everything will be different at Anfield.”

Game on. See you at Anfield on Jan. 25.

Kane, Dier react to late win, striker’s 150th Spurs goal

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Harry Kane didn’t realize he was sitting on 150 Tottenham Hotspur goals, but he did know his side was in danger of dropping three points at Crystal Palace.

[ RECAP: Palace 0-1 Spurs ]

The English striker got his milestone goal and Spurs picked up a Top Four place when he nodded Christian Eriksen‘s 89th minute corner kick off Wayne Hennessey and into the goal at Selhurst Park.

Hennessey and Palace’s stacked back line had mostly flustered Spurs on the day, though many of the misses were more on the visitors than anything done by the hosts.

Now fourth pending the result of Manchester United-Chelsea, Kane admits he had his doubts about Sunday’s visit to South London. From the BBC:

“We left that very late,” Kane said. “I thought it wasn’t going to be our day, because we had a few chances, especially me, and Serge Aurier had one at the end too, but we kept going until the end and eventually got our rewards.”

While Kane might’ve not realized he was on the precipice of 150 for Spurs, Eric Dier proffered a comment on his prolific teammate.

“It’s getting boring isn’t it? He just keeps getting the records. But he’s a class act, he just keeps getting the goals at vital moments.”

AT HALF: Watch Willian, Lukaku goals as Chelsea, Man Utd level

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It’s been a good one so far at Old Trafford, where Willian and Romelu Lukaku traded first half goals for Chelsea and Manchester United.

Both players started and finished their goals, though plenty more time elapsed between the beginning and end of Chelsea’s opener.

[ MORE: Watch the second half live, online ]

Willian broke up a United cross and Chelsea nearly went the length of the pitch on their goal. David De Gea will want to have done better on the Brazilian’s rocket finish, but a fine goal nonetheless (above).

As for Lukaku, he went head-to-head with Andreas Christensen and the Chelsea man hit the deck while the Belgian striker was merely stunned before getting on the end of terrific one touch work between Nemanja Matic, Alexis Sanchez, and Anthony Martial.

Off-kilter Kane saves sloppy Spurs at Palace

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  • Tottenham goes fourth
  • Spurs with 76 percent possession
  • Kane scores 150th Spurs goal

Harry Kane made amends for an atypical day of sloppy finishing with an 89th minute winner as Tottenham Hotspur persisted to beat Crystal Palace 1-0 at Selhurst Park on Sunday.

The win gives Spurs 55 points, good for fourth in the Premier League before Chelsea faces Manchester United.

Palace remains 17th, behind Saints but ahead of Swans on goal differential. The Eagles are sorely missing Wilfried Zaha.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Ben Davies was fouled in a bid to meet a back post free kick in the eighth minute, but no penalty was given and Palace cleared the corner as Spurs provided the first true scoring chance of the match.

Palace keeper Wayne Hennessey was at his left post for a fine save on Harry Kane in the 10th, as Patrick Van Aanholt lost the English superstar.

At the other end, Luka Milivojevic‘s free kick was headed into the arms of Hugo Lloris by James Tomkins. Lloris would deprive Christian Benteke of a finishing bid in the 16th minute, too.

A penalty was coming for Kane before the referee noticed the linesman’s raised flag and saved Timothy Fosu-Mensah from conceded the opportunity.

Palace made it to the locker room at 0-0, with Townsend hitting a low ball to Lloris before the break.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

The second half began, and Spurs worked some chances to score that were lacking the appropriate finish. Both Kane and Christian Eriksen shanked attempts in the first five minutes.

A pair of gorgeous flicks from Serge Aurier and Eriksen met Kane near the back post, but the striker atypically missed what should’ve been an easy opener.

Palace thought Alexander Sorloth might’ve earned a penalty from Davinson Sanchez, but Spurs escaped punishment in the 63rd minute.

Hennessey continued to play his role, stopping from Aurier before extending fully to palm away Davies’ offering in the 73rd.

Dele Alli dove in a bid to win a penalty soon after the Davies denial, but had no success.

Kane found a moment of brilliance in the 83rd minute, but Benteke of all players slid to block the shot and Hennessey collected the ball.

Davies should’ve had an assist moments later, but Aurier tripped on the ball.

Kane dragged an 86th minute shot inches wide of the goal, and it just seemed unlikely to be Spurs day despite dominance on the ball.

Of course, that meant an off-balance Hennessey couldn’t get a hold of Kane’s header off an Eriksen free kick with 90 seconds remaining before stoppage time.

Watch Live: Manchester United vs. Chelsea

Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
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It’s a big one, you know: Manchester United hosts Chelsea in a battle for table positioning on Sunday at Old Trafford (Watch live at 9:05 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Scrutinized summer signings Romelu Lukaku and Alvaro Morata start at center forward for their respective sides.

Morata scored the lone goal when Chelsea beat United 1-0 in November.

Jose Mourinho has opted for Scott McTominay over Michael Carrick and Juan Mata in the midfield, while Anthony Martial gets the call over Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard.

Chelsea will have Pedro and Olivier Giroud on the bench.

LINEUPS

Manchester United: De Gea, Valencia, Lindelof, Smalling, Young, McTominay, Matic, Pogba, Alexis, Lukaku, Martial. Subs: Pereira, Bailly, Shaw, Carrick, Mata, Lingard, Rashford.

Chelsea: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; Moses, Drinkwater, Kante, Alonso; Willian, Morata, Hazard. Subs: Caballero, Cahill, Zappacosta, Emerson, Fabregas, Pedro, Giroud.