Liverpool 1 – Stoke City 0: Mignolet’s heroics on penalty saves Reds (Video)

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It was a rainy day at Anfield, but Liverpool held its home turf thanks to Daniel Sturridge’s goal and a brilliant save by keeper Simon Mignolet for a 1-0 victory against Stoke City. He saved a penalty from Jonathan Walters after a clear handball by Daniel Agger.

A Stoke free kick in the 87th minute saw Liverpool defender Agger inexplicably raise his hand to block the shot after it cleared the wall, and referee Martin Atkinson gave the penalty right away. Walters shot it left, and Mignolet dove to keep it out.

New Stoke manager Mark Hughes unveiled his new passing side, but the club used to long ball attacking was shaky at best and often forced back deep in their own half by the bright Liverpool attack.

Recent signings for Liverpool performed well in their debuts. Iago Aspas impressed up front, as he linked up with fellow attackmen Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho up front. New defender Kolo Toure, fresh off his free transfer from Manchester City, also impressed at the back and clanged a header off the Stoke post as well.

Stoke City keeper Asmir Begovic, despite tons of interest from elsewhere, remained with the Potters and kept Liverpool at bay for the most part, despite little to no help from his back line. The Bosnian did all he could to keep the scoreline respectable despite domination by the Liverpool attack.

Stoke threw men forward in the final 15 minutes, and almost had their shock equalizer if not for Mignolet’s heroics.

The first three points of the season will be massive for Liverpool as they look to cope with the absence – either short-term or long – of embattled striker Luis Suarez. They head to Aston Villa next week before hosting Manchester United.

Lineups:

Liverpool: Simon Mignolet; Glen Johnson, Jose Enrique, Kolo Toure, Daniel Agger; Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Lucas; Iago Aspas (Raheem Sterling 72′), Philippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge.

Stoke City: Asmir Begovic; Erik Peters, Robert Huth, Ryan Shawcross, Geoff Cameron; Glenn Whelan (Charlie Adam, 63′), Marc Wilson, Steven Nzonzi; Jonathan Walters, Peter Crouch (Kenwyne Jones, 81′), Matthew Etherington (Jermaine Pennant, 63′).

WATCH: World Cup, Day 8 — Argentina on the edge; France aims for berth

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France, Denmark, and Croatia can clinch knockout round berths on Thursday in Russia, the last nation also holding the opportunity to help deprive the World Cup of an extended Lionel Messi run.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Messi’s Argentina drew Iceland in its opener, the megastar infamously missing a penalty, and will look to beat a Croatian side that looked quite good in dispatching Nigeria.

That’s the final match of the day, which begins with Denmark facing Australia and continues with a tasty match-up between France and Peru.

Below is Thursday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group C
Denmark vs. Australia: Samara, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
France vs. Peru: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group D
Argentina vs. Croatia: Nizhny Novgorod, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Halted World Cup flip-throw heard around the world

AP Photo/Sergei Grits
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Milad Mohammadi knew the time was right for something special, but special isn’t always good.

And good is a subjective term. Cause to us this is very good, Milad.

The Iranian national team defender failed with a flip-throw bid in the final moments of a 1-0 loss to Spain on Wednesday at the World Cup in Russia.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

And this wasn’t like he illegally flipped or broke some other rule. No, like a kid trying an audacious jump into the deep end, Akhmat Grozny star Mohammadi just bailed and climbed in from the side (so to speak).

The kiss, the look skyward, the headbutt… all integral parts of a wonderful World Cup moment.

Renard, Morocco ‘very proud’ of unlucky national team

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If you would’ve told Morocco fans or their manager, Herve Renard, that they’d outshoot and outpossess both Iran and Portugal at World Cup, their next question would probably be, “So do we need to do against Spain to win Group B?”

Alas, Morocco lost a pair of 1-0 decisions to become the first team knocked out of the 2018 World Cup.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The Lions of Atlas fell to Iran in their opener on a stoppage time own goal after carrying 64 percent possession and a 13-8 advantage in shot attempts, then lost to a Cristiano Ronaldo fourth minute goal on Wednesday despite a 16-10 shot advantage and 53 percent of the ball.

“I’m very proud of the performance and I am very proud of my players, I’m very proud of this country,” Renard said.

With no hope of advancing to the next round, the manager is finding the experience bittersweet. From RTE:

“What I am sure of at this moment is that the entire Moroccan people is proud of this team. Of course it’s easier to play with a player who has one chance and he puts it away. But we are in Morocco.

“We have quality players. Despite the ups and downs of the game, we should have been more effective. Because, like in the first game, we had plenty of chances. I won’t blame anyone. That’s football. It’s always those who know how to be present in the box, the most gifted players, who make the difference. We took a lot of risks and we didn’t get our reward.”

It’s unlikely Morocco will hold either of those statistical advantages against Spain, especially a Spanish side yet to qualify, but there is plenty to like from the tournament aside from poor finishing quality.

But the performances of 19-year-olds Amine Harit (Schalke) and Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid) — not to mention Hakim Ziyech (25, Ajax) — seem to hint at a promise for 2022. And Renard’s men can still play spoiler for Spain, which is no small shockwave.

Queiroz: Iran has one ‘match point’ left in World Cup group stage

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Iran manager Carlos Queiroz isn’t going to let his tournament be defined by one win or one loss, especially with a massive moment on the horizon.

Iran fell 1-0 to Spain on Wednesday, days after defeating Morocco in its World Cup opener. Team Melli was denied its equalizer despite VAR review thanks to an offside, and failed in several other bids to level the score.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Now Queiroz and his men need a win over Portugal to qualify for the first knockout stage in its five World Cup history.

“We showed that we were ready to suffer and ready to compete. I felt we deserved a better result. There’s no doubt Spain play wonderful, stylish football but I thought we deserved more for the way we played.

“But congratulations to Fernando Hierro and Spain. We will learn a lot from this game. If you think of it like tennis, we had one match point today and we will have another against Portugal. Everything is still open. We are still alive and still dreaming.”

What chance do you give Iran of getting over on Portugal, who only topped a dominant Morocco side via a terrific designed play executed to perfection by Cristiano Ronaldo?

The odds are in Portugal’s favor, if only for its experience in tight games on massive stages. Well, perhaps the better “if only” would be to say if only for Ronaldo. Either way…