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Championship Focus: Awful week sees Newcastle’s lead disappear

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A week ago, Newcastle United sat atop England’s second division with a five-point lead and just 11 games still to play. Following a 0-0 draw away to Reading on Tuesday, and Brighton & Hove Albion’s 2-0 win away to last-place Rotherham United the same day, the Magpies’ advantage was three points.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s coverage of the Championship ]

In short, Rafa Benitez‘s men looked poised to run away with the Championship title, let alone one of the two automatic promotion places.

Newcastle United 1-3 Fulham

Now, following a 3-1 thrashing at the hands of seventh-place Fulham on Saturday, only goal differential has Newcastle top of the league. Huddersfield Town, on the back of two wins this week, are now just six points back in the race for automatic promotion.

Tom Cairney put the visitors ahead on the quarter-hour mark, and then a star was born. 16-year-old Ryan Sessegnon bagged a brace in eight second-half minutes (51st and 58th) to complete the Cottagers’ scoring, his third and fourth league goals of the season. Sessegnon was denied the chance to complete his hat trick, though, when Tim Ream took, and missed, a 91st-minute penalty kick.

[ MORE: Arsenal beat Lincoln to reach FA Cup semis | Man City also through ]

Brighton & Hove Albion 3-0 Derby County

Brighton applied the pressure Friday night, well before Newcastle took the field a day later, brushing aside 10th-place Derby at Falmer Stadium. Anthony Knockaert opened the scoring in the fifth minute, and Sam Baldock and Glenn Murray completed the rout either side of the halftime break.

Following back-to-back losses last week, Brighton are back in the title race thanks to back-to-back wins this week. As ever, everything in the Championship is up and down like a yoyo.

Elsewhere in the Championship

(14th) Brentford 0-1 (3rd) Huddersfield Town
(4th) Leeds United 0-0 (15th) Queens Park Rangers
(8th) Preston North End 3-0 (5th) Reading
(12th) Aston Villa 2-0 (6th) Sheffield Wednesday

Coutinho rocket helps LFC to PL Asia Trophy (video)

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Goals from Mohamed Salah and Philippe Coutinho helped Liverpool come back from an early deficit to win the PL Asia Trophy on Saturday in Hong Kong.

Islam Slimani gave Leicester City an early lead in front of a heavy pro-Liverpool crowd at Hong Kong Stadium, but Coutinho delivered the goods on both goals in a 2-1 win.

The tournament win is Liverpool’s first in its second trip to the PL Asia Trophy Final.

[ EXCLUSIVE: Strootman talks Roma w/ PST ]

First he crossed for Salah to head home, and then he scored the above goal by cutting in from the left and lashing a shot past a flailing Kasper Schmeichel.

We’ve seen this one before from Coutinho, just not on this particular continent. The Brazilian remains a Barcelona target, but looks prepared for the season in whatever land he sets foot.

Transfer rumor roundup: Latest on Alexis, Neymar to PSG; Van Dijk

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Neymar and Alexis Sanchez to Paris? Brazil and Chile’s finest living as one? Reunited and it feels so French?

The latter’s talents will see Arsenal’s resolve tested by a $46 million bid, according to Sky Sports, though Gunners manager Arsene Wenger has been adamant that Sanchez will not be sold this summer.

Reports circled last year that Arsenal was prepared to offer Sanchez and Mesut Ozil record deals to stay at the club, though PSG has reportedly met with Sanchez and his agent with ideas of incredible $650,000 per week wages at the Parc des Princes.

[ EXCLUSIVE: Strootman talks Roma w/ PST ]

A source also told Sky Sports that it would take “a miracle” for Neymar to remain at Barcelona, so that Sanchez/Edinson Cavani/Neymar trident could be coming to a theater near you.

Southampton manager Mauricio Pellegrino is hopeful of convincing Virgil Van Dijk to stay at St. Mary’s, but for now he’s been forced to ask the defender to take time away from the club.

Van Dijk, hopeful to engineer a move to a UEFA Champions League club, has not been in the preferred mental state for Pellegrino.

“When I was talking with him, the boy said that he is not available to play because he wants to leave. I need to work with a player that works at 100 percent to defend Southampton. This is the decision. I had to say: ‘OK, if you don’t want to be involved because you don’t feel OK, you have to train alone until this period of time.'”

Liverpool publicly ended their interest in Van Dijk following Southampton complaints, and the club maintains it will not sell the influential center back.

West Ham’s loan move for Joe Hart could see both of its 2016-17 goalkeepers leaving the London Stadium. Multiple reports say Darren Randolph could be off to Middlesbrough, with Adrian also heading to the Northeast to play for countryman Rafa Benitez at Newcastle.

Must watch Milivojevic free kick leads Palace past WBA (video)


Goals from Luka Milivojevic and Bakary Sako led Crystal Palace to a 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion in the third place game of the PL Asia Trophy.

Palace had lost 2-0 to Liverpool in its semifinal, while West Brom fell to Leicester City in penalty kicks after trading goals over 90 minutes.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]  

Milivojevic’s free kick, won by Wilfried Zaha, was super. Whipped in with force and a wicked curl, Baggies keeper Ben Foster didn’t have a chance to reach it with his dive.

Sako created his goal with a darting move off a long dribble, though it needed a pair of deflections to get behind Foster.

The Baggies had their chances, and Julian Speroni made an outstanding save on Matty Phillips late in the match.

STREAM LIVE: Liverpool-Leicester duel for PL Asia Trophy

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Goals from Bakary Sako and Luka Milivojevic spearheaded Crystal Palace’s 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion in the PL Asia Trophy third place game, and now Liverpool and Leicester City tangle for the title.

The final will be staged at 8:30 a.m. ET, when Liverpool will hope to build on a 2-0 semifinal win paced by Divock Origi and Dominic Solanke goals.

[ LIVE: Stream PL Asia Trophy here ]  

West Brom lost to Leicester City in its semifinal when youngster Sam Field missed the side’s seventh attempt in penalty kicks. Jay Rodriguez scored the Baggies goal in regulation of a 1-1 draw.

Here are the lineups for Leicester City and Liverpool: