NWSL Update: Western New York, Portland into league’s first title game

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If women’s soccer fans were told five months ago that first NWSL season would end with Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan in the title game, some would have happily taken it. Others would have cried conspiracy. Few would have disputed it as a boon in the league’s first year, when every bit of publicity helps.

After Saturday’s semifinals, the league has their dream matchup, though it’s still unclear if all the stars will be on stage. Whereas Wambach is guaranteed to lead her team onto the field in Rochester after Western New York eliminated Sky Blue (2-0), Morgan has not played since suffering a knee injury in Boston nearly three weeks ago. Without her, Portland upset FC Kansas City on Saturday, Allie Long’s extra time winner giving Thorns FC a 3-2 win, giving FOX Sports license to run a week’s worth of Abby vs. Alex promos ahead of Saturday’s final.

But for anybody who watched Saturday’s game in Kansas, “a 3-2 win” feels like a gross understatement. Here’s how the Thorns (and Flash) advanced to the NWSL’s first championship game:

source:  Semifinal 1: FC Kansas City 2, Portland Thorns FC 3

Favorites coming into the season, Portland slipped to third place by the time the last game was played, meaning their route to the final would go through Overland Park. In two regular season games at FCKC, Portland had only taken one point, generally being outplayed during their trips to Shawnee Mission District Stadium. Yet with Vlatko Andonovski’s team limping into the postseason — a two-game losing streak to non-playoff teams costing them first place — there was reason to doubt Kansas City carried the same quality that troubled Portland during the regular season.

Those doubts irrelevant after 25 minutes. Rookie of the Year Erika Tymrak, whose half season starting for Andonovski has earned her a national team call-up, scored from distance in the 12th minute. Melissa Henderson, goalless in 17 regular season games, beat Karina LeBlanc near the half’s mid-point, priming Portland for an embarrassing end to their season. With league MVP-to-be Lauren Holiday pulling the proverbial strings, the Thorns were getting steamrolled. Favorites before game one, eliminated at game 23, Portland’s lopsided elimination would bring joy to the throngs who’ve come to view PTFC as the NWSL’s Galactic Empire. Merritt Paulson’s Darth Vadar, and FC Kansas City were routing his stormtroopers.

Much to their chagrin, the Rebellion wasn’t meant to be. The narrative that won out in Overland Park was Kansas City’s demise, not Portland’s failure to play to their talent. Whereas the Blues once seemed destined to win the league comfortably, a slew of late capitulations over summer months (in New Jersey, Boston, Chicago, and at home against Chicago) served as a wakeup call. Only as Saturday’s collapse showed, Kansas City never woke up.

In the 35th minute Tobin Heath, playing on an obviously ailing right foot, pulled Portland within one. Tiffany Weimer, coming on strong after joining mid-season, pulled Portland even in the 65th, setting the stage for a bit of redemption. Scrutinized all season long for her play in Portland’s midfield, Allie Long forged the match-winner in the first period of extra time (103′) and, as is if to reinforce the Portland’s image as the league’s pantomime villain, spent the rest of the match committing fouls that teased a second yellow card. Like her team, though, she survived, with Portland’s 3-2 win putting them into Saturday’s final.

It was Portland’s best 90 minutes of the season, finally claiming some of their promise while on the verge of bowing out. For Kansas City, however, it was a heart-breakingly appropriate conclusion to their season. Though they seemed like the best team, their inability to finish games killed them. After this week of postseason awards ends, Kansas City will have the league’s best player, defender, rookie, goalkeeper and coach, but they’ll also have an unexpectedly early end to what has to what was ultimately a disappointing season.

source:  Semifinal 2: Western New York 2, Sky Blue FC 0

Sky Blue’s last two months were all about Saturday. Whereas Kansas City slid into the playoffs and Portland had the postseason thrust upon them, Sky Blue had the final four in the sites ever since it became clear the formula vaulted them top of the league in June was not going to carry them through August. While falling to fourth, Jim Gabarra’s team consolidated, forging their best possible formula for playoff success, though their slide left them with a nightmare playoff matchup. Western New York, the regular season champions, had beat them three times in a row, outscoring them 8-1 in the process.

Gabarra, who had played a 4-3-3 formation for most of the year, decided to throw the Flash a curve. He went 3-5-2, a system nobody had played this season in the NWSL. Whether he did that to load up in defense, get more defenders to combat Abby Wambach, or put players wide on to deal with the Flash Sam Kerr-led wing play, it seemed to cause some confusion. While Western New York were better over the first half hour, a stalemate looked possible.

Then Carli Lloyd broke through. It was a big game, so the Flash midfielder, who most know from her two goals in the 2012 Summer Olympics’ final, was obligated to step up. Clutch is what she does. Converting on a cross from fullback Katherine Reynolds in the 33rd minute, Lloyd lived up to her reputation, putting the home side in front.

Sky Blue held on for the next hour, fostering the impression they could nick an equalizer at any time, but against the league’s best defense, an attack that had come reliant on one player (forward Lisa de Vanna) never broke through. They finished the game outshot 15 to 5, losing 2-0 after Lloyd’s 93rd minute goal completed the U.S. international’s double.

Ultimately, and despite Gabarra’s attempt to change it up, the game played out exactly as expected. While Sky Blue had recovered  from their summer funk, they still didn’t have an answer for the Flash. Their new formation stalled the inevitable, but come full-time, the Flash had still controlled play, won a relatively straight forward game, and looked every bit the title favorite. They finished the regular season number one, and come kickoff in Rochester on Saturday, they’ll be favored to retain that mantle.

Final: Western New York vs. Portland Thorns FC

Ever since Kansas City’s slide began, Western New York has been the scariest team in the league. Now, with Lloyd clicking while  Wambach continues to demand the defense’s focus, the Flash are on track for their fourth title in four years (across four leagues: W-League, WPS, WPSL Elite, NWSL). In a league down to two teams, they have the best defense, the best attack, the best coaching, and home field advantage. Despite drawing both their meetings with the Thorns this season, Aaran Lines team will be deserved favorites Saturday night.

The threat Portland poses depends on their health. Heath had to leave Saturday’s game after Kansas City’s Desiree Scott stepped on her foot. She’s expected to play, but her exact status won’t be known until later this week. Likewise, what Cindy Parlow Cone can count on from Alex Morgan depends on how much the Thorns star improves. The team’s optimistic, though if she’s healthy, the coaching staff face a challenge integrating her into a team that’s gone 2-0-1 without her.

That draw came two weeks ago, when Portland visited Western New York. Both teams seemed willing to accept the stalemate, the 0-0 result playing out as one of the league’s least compelling games of the season. But without Morgan, Portland were emboldened by the shutout, their improvement in defense giving them confidence going into their season finale.

Two wins later, the Thorns have a shot at the title. And with any luck, the NWSL will get an Abby vs. Alex matchup in its inaugural final.

USWNT players ‘horrified’ by report of abuse in women’s soccer

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As the United States was preparing for its game Friday against England at Wembley Stadium, players were trying to process an investigation that found emotional abuse and sexual misconduct are systemic in women’s soccer.

“We are horrified and heartbroken and frustrated and exhausted and really, really angry,” said defender Becky Sauerbrunn.

Former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Q. Yates and the law firm of King & Spaulding released a report Monday after being retained by U.S. Soccer to investigate allegations of abuse in the National Women’s Soccer League following a series of scandals last year.

The NWSL and its players association are conducting another investigation.

[ MORE: USWNT vs England WNT preview ]

Five of 10 NWSL coaches either were fired or stepped down last season amid allegations of misconduct. Among them was North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley, who was dismissed after two former players, Mana Shim and Sinead Farrelly, accused him of sexual coercion and harassment dating back a decade. Riley denied the allegations.

Yates’ report focused on three former coaches, including Riley. Not only did the investigation find misconduct by all three, it also said their teams did not fully cooperate.

“I think for so long this has fallen on the players to demand change. That is because the people in authority and decision-making positions have repeatedly failed to protect us and they have failed to hold themselves and each other accountable. Who are you actually protecting and what values are you upholding? You have failed in your stewardship,” Sauerbrunn said. “And it’s my opinion that every owner and executive and U.S. Soccer official who has repeatedly failed the players and failed to protect the players, who have hidden behind legalities and have not participated fully in these investigations, should be gone.”

As Sauerbrunn was speaking in London, her NWSL team, the Portland Thorns, announced owner Merritt Paulson, general manager Gavin Wilkinson and executive Mike Golub would immediately withdraw from any Thorns-related decision-making until the league investigation is complete.

Farrelly and Shim played for the Thorns when Riley was coach from 2014-15. At the time, the Thorns conducted an internal investigation of the allegations and decided not to renew Riley’s contract. But no reason for the decision was made public and Riley went on to coach elsewhere in the league.

Sauerbrunn was asked about increasing pressure on Paulson to sell the team. She said it was her belief the NWSL’s joint investigation would make its own recommendation as far as discipline.

“I don’t know if anything is going to come out in this other report that’s going to make any sort of difference. And so at the end of the day, if people continue to fail the players and they don’t comply to anything that gets asked of them or gets implemented because of these reports, then they need to be gone,” Sauerbrunn said.

Some of the details in Yates’ report were disturbing.

“I think we’re all reckoning with the things that were said in the report. Still kind of working through that, in all the ways that we individually do,” said defender Alana Cook, who plays for OL Reign. “I think we have such a momentous occasion on Friday playing at a sold out Wembley Stadium, and it’s marred by this report, and it’s marred by the atrocities that have been condoned and tolerated and allowed to go on.”

[ LATEST: Liverpool tops Rangers | Spurs draw Eintracht ]

The report made numerous recommendations to prioritize player health and safety. Among them is the requirement that teams accurately disclose coach misconduct to the league and the soccer federation to ensure coaches aren’t allowed to move between teams. It also calls for meaningful vetting of coaches and timely investigations into allegations of abuse.

U.S. Soccer also said it would immediately implement programs to protect players.

“It was a difficult day, yesterday, lots of emotions, different emotions. Personally, I’m saddened by the report in everything that we saw in it,” U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “At the same time, I feel a lot of empathy for the players, and I have tremendous respect for the bravery of the players who spoke out and the players who participated in this report. Soccer is is a game we all love and it should be a safe space.”

UEFA Europa League, Europa Conference League fixtures: How to watch, updates, schedule

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The UEFA Europa League and Europa Conference League group stages are here as Arsenal, Manchester United, and West Ham are all in action.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]

In the Europa League group stage Arsenal have a lovely set of European cities to visit with PSV, Bodo/Glimt and FC Zurich their opponents, and are clear favorites to advance. United are also favored but have some long distances to travel as they play Real Sociedad, Sheriff Tiraspol from Transnistria and Cypriot side Omonoia.

In the Conference League the Hammers have Anderlecht, FCSB (formerly known as Steaua Bucharest) and Silkeborg, as David Moyes’ side will be very happy with that draw.

[ LIVE: Conference League scores ]

The final of the Europa League will be played in Budapest, while the Conference League final will be in Prague.

Below are details on the Europa League and Conference League, including how to watch info, the group stage draw, dates and schedule.


UEFA Europa League, Conference League, schedule, dates, how to watch

Dates: Group stage to be played September to November
Online: Live updates via NBCSports.com
How to watch: TUDN, Paramount+


Europa League group stage fixtures & results (all kick off times ET)

Matchday 1 – Thursday 8 September

Group A: Zurich 1-2 Arsenal, PSV Eindhoven 1-1 Bodo/Glimt
Group B: AEK Larnaca 1-2 Rennes, Fenerbahce 2-1 Dynamo Kyiv
Group C: Ludogorets 2-1 Roma, HJK Helsinki 0-2 Real Betis
Group D: Malmo 2-0 Braga, Union Berlin 0-1 St Gilloise
Group E: Man United 0-1 Real Sociedad, Omonia 0-3 Sheriff
Group F: Lazio 4-2 Feyenoord, Sturm Graz 1-0 Midtjylland
Group G: Freiburg 2-1 Qarabag, Nantes 2-1 Olympiacos
Group H: Red Star Belgrade 0-1 Monaco, Ferencvaros 3-2 Trabzonspor

Matchday 2 – Thursday 15 September

Group A: Arsenal vs PSV Eindhoven (postponed), Bodo/Glimt vs Zurich
Group B: Dynamo Kyiv 0-1 AEK Larnaca, Rennes 2-2 Fenerbahce
Group C: Real Betis 3-2 Ludogorets, Roma 3-0 HJK Helsinki
Group D: St Gilloise 3-2 Malmo, Braga 1-0 Union Berlin
Group E: Real Sociedad 2-1 Omonia, Sheriff 0-2 Man United
Group F: Midtjylland 5-1 Lazio, Feyenoord 6-0 Sturm Graz
Group G: Olympiacos 0-3 Freiburg, Qarabag 3-0 Nantes
Group H: Trabzonspor 2-1 Red Star Belgrade, Monaco 0-1 Ferencvaros

Matchday 3 – Thursday 6 October

Group A: Zurich vs PSV Eindhoven (12:45), Arsenal vs Bodo/Glimt (3:00)
Group B: Rennes vs Dynamo Kyiv, Fenerbahce vs AEK Larnaca (3:00)
Group C: HJK Helsinki vs Ludogorets (12:45), Roma vs Real Betis (3:00)
Group D: Malmo vs Union Berlin (12:45), Braga vs St Gilloise (3:00)
Group E: Sheriff vs Real Sociedad, Omonia vs Man United (12:45)
Group F: Sturm Graz vs Lazio (12:45), Midtjylland vs Feyenoord (3:00)
Group G: Freiburg vs Nantes, Olympiacos vs Qarabag (3:00)
Group H: Red Star Belgrade vs Ferencvaros, Monaco vs Trabzonspor (12:45)

Matchday 4 – Thursday 13 October

Group A: Bodo/Glimt vs Arsenal (12:45), PSV Eindhoven vs Zurich (3:00)
Group B: AEK Larnaca vs Fenerbahce, Dynamo Kyiv vs Rennes (12:45)
Group C: Real Betis vs Roma (12:45), Ludogorets vs HJK Helsinki (3:00)
Group D: St Gilloise vs Braga (12:45), Union Berlin vs Malmo (3:00)
Group E: Man United vs Omonia, Real Sociedad vs Sheriff (3:00)
Group F: Feyenoord vs Midtjylland (12:45), Lazio vs Sturm Graz (3:00)
Group G: Nantes vs Freiburg, Qarabag vs Olympiacos (12:45)
Group H: Trabzonspor vs Monaco, Ferencvaros vs Red Star Belgrade (3:00)

Matchday 5 – Thursday 27 October

Group A: Zurich vs Bodo/Glimt, PSV Eindhoven vs Arsenal (12:45)
Group B: AEK Larnaca vs Dynamo Kyiv, Fenerbahce vs Rennes (12:45)
Group C: Ludogorets vs Real Betis (12:45), HJK Helsinki vs Roma (3:00)
Group D: Malmo vs St Gilloise, Union Berlin vs Braga (12:45)
Group E: Man United vs Sheriff, Omonia vs Real Sociedad (3:00)
Group F: Lazio vs Midtjylland (12:45), Sturm Graz vs Feyenoord (3:00)
Group G: Freiburg vs Olympiacos, Nantes vs Qarabag (3:00)
Group H: Red Star Belgrade vs Trabzonspor, Ferencvaros vs Monaco (3:00)

Matchday 6 – Thursday 3 November

Group A: Arsenal vs Zurich, Bodo/Glimt vs PSV Eindhoven (3:00)
Group B: Dynamo Kyiv vs Fenerbahce, Rennes vs AEK Larnaca (3:00)
Group C: Real Betis vs HJK Helsinki, Roma vs Ludogorets (3:00)
Group D: St Gilloise vs Union Berlin, Braga vs Malmo (3:00)
Group E: Real Sociedad vs Man United, Sheriff vs Omonia (12:45)
Group F: Midtjylland vs Sturm Graz, Feyenoord vs Lazio (12:45)
Group G: Olympiacos vs Nantes, Qarabag vs Freiburg (12:45)
Group H: Trabzonspor vs Ferencvaros, Monaco vs Red Star Belgrade (12:45)

Europa League groups

Group A: Arsenal, PSV Eindhoven, Bodo/Glimt, FC Zurich
Group B: Dynamo Kiev, Rennes, Fenerbahce, AEK Larnaca
Group C: Roma, Ludogorets, Real Betis, HJK Helsinki
Group D: Braga, Malmo, Union Berlin, Union Saint-Gilloise
Group E: Manchester United, Real Sociedad, Sheriff Tiraspol, Omonia
Group F: Lazio, Feyenoord, Midtjylland, Sturm Graz
Group G: Olympiacos, Qarabag, SC Freiburg, Nantes
Group H: Red Star Belgrade, Monaco, Ferencvaros, Trabzonspor


Europa Conference League group stage fixtures (all kick off times ET)

Matchday 1 – Thursday 8 September

Group A: Hearts vs Istanbul Basaksehir, Fiorentina vs RFS (18:45)
Group B: Anderlecht vs Silkeborg (12:45), West Ham vs FCSB (21:00)
Group C: Villarreal vs Lech, Austria Wien vs H. Beer-Sheva (18:45)
Group D: Slovacko vs Partizan, Nice vs Cologne (18:45)
Group E: Vaduz vs Apollon Limassol, Dnipro-1 vs AZ Alkmaar (3:00)
Group F: Molde vs Gent, Shamrock Rovers vs Djurgarden (3:00)
Group G: Ballkani vs CFR Cluj (12:45), Sivasspor vs Slavia Prague (3:00)
Group H: Basel vs Pyunik, Slovan Bratislava vs Zalgiris (3:00)

Matchday 2 – Thursday 15 September

Group A: RFS vs Hearts, Istanbul Basaksehir vs Fiorentina (3:00)
Group B: FCSB vs Anderlecht, Silkeborg vs West Ham (3:00)
Group C: Lech vs Austria Wien, H. Beer-Sheva vs Villarreal (3:00)
Group D: Partizan vs Nice, Cologne vs Slovacko (3:00)
Group E: Apollon Limassol vs Dnipro-1, AZ Alkmaar vs Vaduz (12:45)
Group F: Djurgarden vs Molde, Gent vs Shamrock Rovers (12:45)
Group G: Slavia Prague vs Ballkani, CFR Cluj vs Sivasspor (12:45)
Group H: Zalgiris vs Basel, Pyunik vs Slovan Bratislava (12:45)

Matchday 3 – Thursday 6 October

Group A: Hearts vs Fiorentina, RFS vs Istanbul Basaksehir (3:00)
Group B: Anderlecht vs West Ham, Silkeborg vs FCSB (12:45)
Group C: Lech vs H. Beer-Sheva (12:45), Villarreal vs Austria Wien (3:00)
Group D: Slovacko vs Nice (12:45), Cologne vs Partizan (3:00)
Group E: Dnipro-1 vs Vaduz (12:45), AZ Alkmaar vs Apollon Limassol (3:00)
Group F: Molde vs Shamrock Rovers (12:45), Gent vs Djurgarden (3:00)
Group G: Sivasspor vs Ballkani (12:45), Slavia Prague vs CFR Cluj (3:00)
Group H: Pyunik vs Zalgiris (12:45), Basel vs Slovan Bratislava (3:00)

Matchday 4 – Thursday 13 October

Group A: Istanbul Basaksehir vs RFS, Fiorentina vs Hearts (12:45)
Group B: FCSB vs Silkeborg, West Ham vs Anderlecht (3:00)
Group C: Austria Wien vs Villarreal (12:45), H. Beer-Sheva vs Lech (3:00)
Group D: Partizan vs Cologne (12:45), Nice vs Slovacko (3:00)
Group E: Apollon Limassol vs AZ Alkmaar (12:45), Vaduz vs Dnipro-1 (3:00)
Group F: Djurgarden vs Gent (12:45), Shamrock Rovers vs Molde (3:00)
Group G: CFR Cluj vs Slavia Prague (12:45), Ballkani vs Sivasspor (3:00)
Group H: Slovan Bratislava vs Basel (12:45), Zalgiris vs Pyunik (3:00)

Matchday 5 – Thursday 27 October

Group A: Fiorentina vs Istanbul Basaksehir (12:45), Hearts vs RFS (3:00)
Group B: Anderlecht vs FCSB (12:45), West Ham vs Silkeborg (3:00)
Group C: Villarreal vs H. Beer-Sheva, Austria Wien vs Lech (12:45)
Group D: Slovacko vs Cologne, Nice vs Partizan (12:45)
Group E: Vaduz vs AZ Alkmaar (12:45), Dnipro-1 vs Apollon Limassol (3:00)
Group F: Molde vs Djurgarden, Shamrock Rovers vs Gent (3:00)
Group G: Ballkani vs Slavia Prague, Sivasspor vs CFR Cluj (3:00)
Group H: Basel vs Zalgiris, Slovan Bratislava vs Pyunik (3:00)

Matchday 6 – Thursday 3 November

Group A: RFS vs Fiorentina, Istanbul Basaksehir vs Hearts (11:30)
Group B: FCSB vs West Ham, Silkeborg vs Anderlecht (3:00)
Group C: Lech vs Villarreal, H. Beer-Sheva vs Austria Wien (3:00)
Group D: Partizan vs Slovacko, Cologne vs Nice (3:00)
Group E: Apollon Limassol vs Vaduz, AZ Alkmaar vs Dnipro-1 (12:45)
Group F: Djurgarden vs Shamrock Rovers, Gent vs Molde (12:45)
Group G: Slavia Prague vs Sivasspor, CFR Cluj vs Ballkani (12:45)
Group H: Zalgiris vs Slovan Bratislava, Pyunik vs Basel (12:45)

Europa Conference League groups

Group A: Istanbul Basaksehir, Fiorentina, Hearts, RFS
Group B: West Ham, FCSB, Anderlecht, Silkeborg
Group C: Villarreal, Hapoel Be’er Sheva, Austria Wien, Lech Poznan
Group D: Partizan Belgrade, FC Cologne, Nice, Slovacko
Group E: AZ Alkmaar, Apollon Nicosia, Vaduz, Dnipro-1
Group F: Gent, Molde, Shamrock Rovers, Djurgarden
Group G: Slavia Prague, CFR Cluj, Sivasspor, Ballkani
Group H: Basel, Slovan Bratislava, Zalgiris, Pyunik


Manchester City vs Copenhagen: How to watch live, team news, updates

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Manchester City looks to move closer to clinching a UEFA Champions League knockout round berth when it welcomes Copenhagen to the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores, stats ]

City has beaten Borussia Dortmund and Sevilla and now faces consecutive games against Danish regulars Copenhagen.

WInning both would seal a place in the knockout rounds, but Copenhagen will be no walkover after drawing Sevilla earlier in the tournament.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]  

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Manchester City vs Copenhagen.


How to watch Manchester City vs Copenhagen live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 3pm ET, Wednesday
TV Channel: TUDN, Paramount+
Online: Updates via NBCSports.com


Key storylines + in-form players to keep an eye on

This time, we can combine the “key storylines” and “in-form players” sections: It’s Phil Foden and Erling Haaland.

Let’s focus on the latter.

Erling Haaland is threatening to put up season numbers that would seem impossible were we not to have experience Lionel Messi’s 2011-12 season at Barcelona. That season saw Messi score 50 goals and 19 assists in La Liga while adding 20 more goals and nine assists in other competitions.

The match total? 53.

That works out to 1.4 goals and 0.4 assists per game.

Haaland? So far he has 17 goals and three assists in 11 matches, good for… 1.54 goals and 0.27 assists per game.

So, yes, Haaland is currently on his “Messi prime” grind.


The lowdown on Copenhagen

Copenhagen enters this match hoping that star goalkeeper — ex-Brighton starter — Mathew Ryan can help shut down an incredible City attack.


Manchester City team news, injuries, lineup options

John Stones (thigh), Kalvin Phillips (shoulder), and Kyle Walker (muscular) are set to miss the match, while Rodri (lower leg) faces a late fitness test.

Liverpool cruises past Rangers with arrow free kick from Alexander-Arnold

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Liverpool dominated packed-in Rangers, cruising to a 2-0 win at Anfield in UEFA Champions League group stage play.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores, stats ]

Trent Alexander-Arnold scored a gorgeous free kick and Mohamed Salah converted a penalty to account for a 2-0 lead, and the Reds only allowed three shot attempts to their Glaswegian visitors. Not one of those attempts were on target.

Liverpool’s six points through three matches are three fewer than Napoli and three more than Ajax. Rangers have yet to claim a point ahead of a return match with Liverpool in Glasgow.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]  


What we learned from Liverpool vs Rangers

Trent Alexander-Arnold’s attacking flair has not been affected by defensive struggles: The English right back was poor at the back in a weekend draw with Brighton that followed an international break that saw him with England but not on the pitch. How would he react with a chance to do something special from a dead ball? Pretty darn well, sending an arrow into the upper 90 and giving Liverpool a 1-0 lead.

Better luck next time, Rangers: Glasgow Rangers’ run to the 2021-22 Europa League Final fueled the hope tank ahead of Champions League qualifying, and Giovanni von Bronckhorst led the team to the group stage and a tricky trio of opponents. So far, so ouch. Rangers lost 4-0 to Ajax in Amsterdam and had 25% of the ball. They hung tough with Napoli in Glasgow until a James Sands’ red card helped the Neapolitans to a 3-0 win. Now a 2-0 loss with 36% of the ball and a 21-3 attempt disadvantage? Woof.


Trent Alexander free kick goal video


Jurgen Klopp reaction: We changed things. It helped Trent.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says that there’s not a problem with Trent Alexander-Arnold’s defensive ability at right back.

Klopp says that if it appears he is struggling, that’s because he’s exposed by his teammates and the other team.

While that might seems like there’s a problem with his defensive ability, well, we would understand why you would think that, but he’s Jurgen Klopp admitting that there was a problem that included Trent Alexander-Arnold defending, so they changed their formation to make it better for him, and now there is still no problem.

JK, JK.

“There is no problem with defending,” Klopp said of Alexander-Arnold. “In good moments everything is fine. If there is no protection it looks like he is exposed. We changed it a little bit today.”

And Klopp is thrilled with the clean sheet following a 3-3 draw with Brighton at the weekend.

“We expected a reaction. Everyone expected a reaction. We really want to turn this into a positive and for that we need consistency. For that, you need top-class defending and we had that tonight. It worked out pretty well.”


How to watch Liverpool vs Rangers live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 3pm ET, Tuesday
TV Channel: TUDN, Paramount+
Online: Updates via NBCSports.com


Key storylines

Defensively Liverpool are really struggling and Virgil van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold in particular look way off their usual standards. However, it’s not just about the defense. From front to back Liverpool haven’t matched their usual energy levels so far this season and after so much success over the last few seasons it’s very strange to watch them play this way. As for Glasgow Rangers, they’re hoping to make it difficult for Liverpool and have players who can hurt teams, especially on the counter. This will be a very tough assignment for the Scottish giants but they know they have to get something from these two games in a week against Liverpool to have any chance of keeping their European hopes alive for the rest of this season.


In-form players to keep an eye on

Liverpool’s Luis Diaz has been one of their most consistent players so far this season, while Roberto Firmino scored two at the weekend and goalkeeper Alisson bailed them out against Brighton as they could have easily lost at home. For Rangers, Antonio Colak has scored four goals in his last two league games and he is one to watch in attack.


The lowdown on Rangers

It has not been a great start to the season for Glasgow Rangers either as their arduous path through the UEFA Champions League qualifying rounds impacted their form. They were hammered 4-0 by Celtic in the league and defensively they aren’t as well-organized as they were under Steven Gerrard. Young USMNT duo James Sands and Malik Tillman are options at center back and in an attacking midfield role respectively and both need a big few months if they’re going to get in Gregg Berhalter’s squad for the World Cup. Rangers have some very experienced players in Steven Davis, Alfredo Morales, Allan McGregor and James Tavernier and don’t forget, they reached the UEFA Europa League final last season and could have easily won it. They are the kind of team that can pull off an upset and click for 15-20 minute periods in a game. That will frighten Klopp.


Liverpool team news, injuries, lineup options

Klopp has a few injury issues to contend with as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita remain out, while Andy Robertson and Curtis Jones are also out. Ibrahima Konate and Calvin Ramsay are back in training though. As for lineup options, Klopp will go with Salah and Firmino in attack but Diogo Jota, Darwin Nunez and Luis Diaz could come in after all three were on the bench at the weekend. In defense it will be intriguing to see if Alexander-Arnold is given a rest and Joe Gomez starts at right back.