Everton 3-3 Liverpool: Plenty of drama in the Merseyside Derby (video)

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It’s hard to argue that Saturday’s match between Everton and Liverpool wasn’t a fine example of a derby match. This edition of the Merseyside Derby featured a hectic start, fine finishing and, of course, a bit of controversy. And that was all in just the first half! By the final whistle, even the fans were exhausted from the dramatic 3-3 draw.

Liverpool took the lead after barely five minutes had passed. Luis Suarez got on the end of a ball from Steven Gerrard, but his header was put out for a corner. No matter — that just gave the duo time to perfect their routine. Gerrard swung in the corner, and again, Suarez got his head on it. This time, though, it was a flick on to Philippe Coutinho, who came rushing around the Everton defense to end up by the near post. A slick little side-footed kick evaded Tim Howard to give Liverpool an early lead.

But Everton weren’t ready to throw in the towel. Just three minutes later, the Toffees had their equalizer. Coutinho brought down Phil Jagielka, conceding a free kick — a silly thing to do when Leighton Baines is on the opposite side. It was the left back who sent in the free kick, and Everton used Liverpool’s own moves against them: Martin Skrtel let down his guard, allowing Kevin Mirallas to slip around to linger by the near post. The attacker connected with Baines’ ball, sliding it past Simon Mignolet.

Liverpool, however, managed once again to take the lead, before twenty minutes were up. And the goal came off another set piece. Suarez took the free kick, bending it beautifully. But some of the blame must go to Howard, whose wall was rather skewed, allowing the ball to slide through an opening and evade the diving goalkeeper.

And it wouldn’t be a Merseyside Derby without some whiff of controversy. Phil Dowd was kind enough to create some when he awarded a yellow card for Miralles’ challenge on Suarez. The Belgian’s boot connected with Suarez’s thigh, hard enough to leave stud marks. The Uruguayan went tumbling and, although Dowd took his time in deciding, the high boot was ultimately ruled only worthy of a yellow.

Somehow, somehow, the second half managed to be even more exciting than the first. It started off with a pair of fantastic misses. For Everton, it was a whiffed chance by Gerard Deulofeu, on for Baines in the 50th minutes. Glen Johnson gave the ball away, allowing Everton to break quickly, putting Deulofeu one on one with Mignolet. But the youngster could only manage to put the ball straight at the Liverpool keeper.

Then it was Joe Allen, failing to put the game away for Liverpool. The Reds broke free, Allen and Suarez charging toward Howard’s goal. Allen only needed to beat the Everton keeper, or slide the ball to Suarez, but instead put his shot wide of the net.

That miss would come back to haunt Liverpool. In the 72nd minute, Everton grabbed an equalizer — through who else but Romelu Lukaku? The Belgian’s free kick was on target, Mignolet managed to push it away, but Everton continued to push for a goal. When Liverpool thought they’d grabbed the ball back, James McCarthy got a toe on it, pushing it over to Lukaku, who was lurking in the center. There was no stopping the striker’s powerful kick from landing in the back of the net.

But that wasn’t all for the hosts. Ten minutes later, Lukaku had a second, putting Everton ahead for the first time all game. This one was from yet another set piece, a corner sent in by Mirallas. Lukaku had no trouble getting his head on it and directing the ball past Mignolet. 3-2 Everton, and it was time for the Toffees to simply hang on.

Yet Liverpool were bound and determined to get, if not all three, at least a point from the match that had seen them in control throughout the majority of the minutes. And so there was little surprise, really, when the Reds’ pressure paid off with Everton conceding yet another free kick in the 89th minute. It was another lovely ball put in by captain Gerrard, and this time it was Daniel Sturridge, on for Lucas Leiva ten minutes earlier, who had the goal. His powerful header left Howard with no chance of keeping the scoreline level.

With four minutes of stoppage time, there was opportunity for even more drama to ensue. First, Liverpool very nearly thought they’d stole the match in the dying seconds, only for Sturridge’s goal to be ruled offside. Then McCarthy had his shot put out wide for a corner, but Dowd, obviously exhausted from his exertions, decided to blow the whistle before Everton had a chance to put away a winner.

Everton: Howard, Baines (Deulofeu 50), Distin, Jagielka, Coleman, Barry, McCarthy, Pienaar (Stones 83), Barkley, Mirallas (Osman 88), Lukaku

Subs not used: Robles, Heitinga, Jelavic, Naismith

Goals: Mirallas 8′; Lukaku 72′, 82′

Liverpool: Mignolet, Johnson, Flanagan, Agger, Skrtel, Lucas (Sturridge 79), Gerrard, Allen (Moses 68), Henderson, Coutinho, Suarez

Subs not used: Jones, Toure, Alberto, Sakho, Sterling

Goals: Coutinho 5′, Suarez 19′, Sturridge 89′

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

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West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

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In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.