Manchester United 1-1 Liverpool: Ibrahimovic salvages Red Devils point

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  • Pogba penalty leads to Milner goal
  • Ibrahimovic equalizes in 84th minute
  • Point sees Liverpool move to 3rd

A rivalry with plenty of buildup produced a clunky game that needed a late moment to savor a draw as things ended level 1-1 at Old Trafford.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ] 

A penalty for handball on Paul Pogba gave Liverpool a 1-0 first-half lead, and the Reds seemed comfortable to defend that advantage.

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It broke down late, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic produced an incredible looping header to draw United level and salvage a point with six minutes to go.

 [ MORE: Klopp blasts “long ball” United ]  

United had most of the early chances, with Anthony Martial sending one to the far post for Zlatan Ibrahimovic that was just out of the Swede’s outstretched leg on 13 minutes. A Liverpool mistake at the back nearly cost them, as Dejan Lovren‘s back-pass was too short and came to Ibrahimovic, but Simon Mignolet did just enough to see the ball land on the roof of the net with Zlatan waiting to pounce on the empty net. Moments later Paul Pogba was fed through by Henrikh Mkhitaryan but scuffed his shot just inches wide right.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

As Liverpool worked themselves into the game, they would press forward and win a penalty in the 27th minute. The ball popped up into the air in the United penalty area, and Pogba completely lost sight of it, finally getting a bead on it and awkwardly getting a head to it, but he also handled the ball in the process, and referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot. James Milner stepped up and buried the penalty to give Liverpool a 1-0 lead.

United came close past the half-hour mark as Ibrahimovic delivered a venomous free-kick that forced Mignolet into a sharp save low to his right. Mignolet was required again five minutes from halftime as Mkhitaryan was played through by Ander Herrera, but Mignolet was there to parry the shot from a tight angle.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings

The hosts made a surprising change out of the break, with manager Jose Mourinho replacing Michael Carrick with Wayne Rooney. They had the first chance out of the break but couldn’t capitalize. Ibrahimovic sprung Mkhitaryan down the right, and his heavy touch brought out Mignolet, but he was still able to get the ball into the middle where Anthony Martial was streaking in. Martial tried to rabona the ball into the empty net, but under pressure from Trent Alexander-Arnold he couldn’t get a touch.

Both teams brought on playmakers past the hour mark as Juan Mata and Philippe Coutinho came on. Coutinho had a chance straightaway with a brilliant touch to Roberto Firmino whose close-range shot was saved by David De Gea.

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Wayne Rooney crashed his studs into the shin of James Milner, causing a bit of a delay and a bit of controversy, as replays showed he stepped over the ball onto Milner’s leg. No card was shown by the referee. Wayne Rooney nearly had a moment to remember, a goal away from breaking Sir Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring record at United but his 82nd minute shot was saved.

[ LISTEN: 2 Robbies on Man United, Liverpool ] 

As the game wore down and Liverpool defended comfortably, Mourinho brought on Marouane Fellaini and changed tactics, targeting Ibrahimovic and Fellaini with long balls instead of the flowing play they had been using prior. This caused Liverpool problems and produced a late equalizer, as Fellaini’s initial header clanged off the post, but it came back to Ibrahimovic who ducked down low and brilliantly looped a header into the corner in the 84th minute. There looked to be a missed offside call early in the buildup, but Liverpool’s frantic defending with the ball in the air did them in.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score

There were some tense moments down the stretch, and a scuffle as well as Ander Herrera nearly ripped off Roberto Firmino’s shirt, and the Brazilian reacted violently, earning both yellow cards. The managers got into it at the same time, seeing Jurgen Klopp bouncing up and down mocking Mourinho.

The game ended level, leaving Liverpool third in the table, failing to take the opportunity to move into second. Manchester United will be disappointed with the point as well, up to 40 points and still in sixth, two points behind Manchester City.

Three things we learned: Chelsea v. Southampton

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LONDON — Chelsea beat Southampton 2-0 in the FA Cup semifinal at Wembley on Sunday, with the Blues setting up an FA Cup final clash with Manchester United on May 19.

Antonio Conte‘s side scored twice in the second half with Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata on the scoresheet against a sorry Saints outfit.

Here’s what we learned as Chelsea have set up a tasty clash with Jose Mourinho next month.


GIROUD AN ELEGANT ASSASSIN

Olivier Giroud is quickly becoming a cult hero at Chelsea. The Frenchman dribbled delicately around three Southampton defenders and goalkeeper Alex McCarthy before prodding home to put his side ahead.

It was a elegant, yet clumsy, goal and summed up Giroud’s penchant for delivering goals of the highest difficulty.

Giroud has now been involved in 22 goals in 26 FA Cup appearances (15 goals, 7 assists), more than any other player in the completion since his debut in 2013.

The Frenchman is now pushing hard to be Chelsea’s first-choice central striker ahead of Alvaro Morata, although the Spaniard did grab a goal late on to wrap up the win.

Giroud has scored four goals in 13 appearances in all competitions since arriving from Arsenal in January but the way he holds the ball up and links with Eden Hazard is a huge plus for Conte. Giroud could also start up top with Morata if Chelsea tweak their system and at the age of 31 there is still plenty of life left in him and not just as a late sub, the role Conte earmarked for him.


COULD CONTE STAY…

Antonio Conte will likely still leave Chelsea at the end of the season but the Italian coach seems to badly want his time at Chelsea to end with a trophy.

But here’s a thought: if Chelsea beat Man United and somehow make it into the top four at Tottenham’s expense (they are five points back with four games to go), will he remain in charge for the final year of his three-year contract?

The Blues cruised into the FA Cup final and looked fired up from the start as Eden Hazard pulled the strings and Giroud made a nuisance of himself.

Conte’s comments all season long suggest he will depart Chelsea this summer and seek a new project, but if he does so after winning the FA Cup (after being runners up last season) to go along with the PL title he won last season, and then finishing fifth, that’s not a bad two years in the PL.

The Italian will depart with his pride and reputation intact even if he doesn’t defeat his old foe Mourinho in the final next month.


SOUTHAMPTON’S STRUGGLES

Saints are in the Premier League’s relegation zone for a reason and their total lack of confidence was clear for all to see at Wembley.

Mark Hughes‘ men have five games left to save themselves but it almost seems as if Saints’ players have resigned themselves to relegation from the Premier League despite sitting just four points from safety. One win in their last 21 PL games (that came against West Brom) tells the story of a side crumbling before our eyes.

After they shipped 12 goals in four Premier League, all of them defeats, Hughes has set Saints up in a 5-3-1-1 formation to try and make them tougher to break down.

It is working, at least defensively, with a 0-0 draw at Leicester on Thursday, but going forward they totally lack any cohesion and only created three real chances on Sunday as Shane Long made a hash of a great opportunity, Charlie Austin hit the post and Nathan Redmond tested Willy Caballero.

Saints are in a really bad place as they now have to find a way to stop themselves hurtling towards relegation. Their game at home against Bournemouth next weekend is a must win. Simple.

Chelsea joins Man Utd in FA Cup Final

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Chelsea will meet old pal Jose Mourinho in the FA Cup Final after beating Southampton 2-0 at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata scored the goals for Antonio Conte‘s men, whose date with Manchester United comes at the same venue on May 19.

Southampton will turn its attention back to the relegation battle, four points behind 17th place Swansea City.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Willian hit the cross bar with an early effort as Chelsea looked very much up for the semifinal.

Olivier Giroud had a 39th minute chance zip wide of the frame, as Chelsea posted nine of the first half’s 11 shot attempts while holding 60 percent possession.

Saints would have been happy to get to the locker room at nil-nil.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Twenty-eight seconds into the second half: That’s when Giroud scored, with Chelsea’s first long ball knocked down by Eden Hazard on the edge of the 18 and played to the Frenchman.

Giroud cut between two Saints defenders and goalkeeper Alex McCarthy to stab home with his right foot.

Hazard curled an effort of his own wide in the 48th minute.

Saints snapped to life, and Shane Long touched around Wily Caballero but too strong to equalize at Wembley.

Nathan Redmond forced a wild save out of Caballero in the 72nd minute, and nearly claimed the corner.

McCarthy tipped a Hazard shot over the bar minutes later.

Morata put it to bed on a cross from his in-tune assist man Cesar Azpilicueta.

The finish was thrilling nevertheless, with Charlie Austin hitting the far post and Saints getting a goal line clearance at the other end.

Wenger: Praise after exit announcement “more than I deserve”

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Arsene Wenger doesn’t seem like the type to go on a victory lap, but the Arsenal boss is handling his resignation and the accompanying praise with pure class.

[ RECAP: Arsenal 4-1 West Ham ]

Wenger announced the end of his long Arsenal tenure earlier this week, and has been met by heaps of praise from ex-players, fans, current Gunners, and even rivals.

The Frenchman addressed the plaudits following a 4-1 win over West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday. From the BBC:

“I would like to thank everyone who has been very nice and kind and praised me more than I deserved it. I would like to say thank you everyone. It’s been a great period for me and I’m thankful for that.”

Arsenal punished West Ham after the Irons equalized through Marko Arnautovic, getting a lucky goal from Aaron Ramsey and two fine finishes from Alexandre Lacazette in the win.

“I was focused on winning the game. We just tried to be professional and do our job even when the circumstances are different. It was a good team spirit and good preparation for Thursday.

“I think we constructed patiently. We didn’t make big mistakes. First of all before winning a trophy, you need to get through the semi-finals. This is a good way to prepare – scoring goals against a strong West Ham team who have done well recently.”

Next up: A huge test in the UEFA Europa League semifinals, with Atletico Madrid visiting for Thursday’s first leg. Wenger rested several big names, and Atleti has just one win from its last four matches (including a Madrid Derby draw at the Bernabeu).

WATCH: Chelsea’s Giroud scores 27 seconds after halftime

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Southampton held firm against Chelsea’s challenge for 45 minutes of Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal at Wembley Stadium.

Well, 45 minutes and 27 seconds.

[ RECAP: Arsenal 4-1 West Ham ]

The first long ball of the second half saw Chelsea’s Eden Hazard leap to trap, and the Belgian played a quick ball forward to his striker.

That’s Olivier Giroud, who dribbled between two defenders and Saints goalkeeper Alex McCarthy to stab home with the outside of his right foot.