Fulham 2-3 Liverpool: Stoppage time conversion from Steven Gerrard has Reds within four of first (video)

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A stoppage time penalty conversion from Steven Gerrard has Liverpool within four points of first, with goals from Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho helping the Reds to a 3-2, comeback win at Craven Cottage. Responding after a Kolo Touré own goal and Kieran Richardson tally gave Fulham leads in each half, Liverpool extended their unbeaten streak in to nine games, simultaneously keeping the Cottagers at the bottom of the table.

Touré’s shanked clearance from the edge of Liverpool’s six-yard box gave Fulham an unlikely lead in the eighth minute, an advantage Sturridge was able to pull back four minutes before half time. The Cottagers rebuffed Liverpool’s early second half pressure to go up through Richardson in the 63rd only to see Coutinho give the Reds their second equalizer in the 72nd minute. Just before the end of regulation time, Sascha Riether was judged to have slid through Sturridge in the right of the area, clearing the way for Gerrard’s stoppage time winner.

For Fulham, the result keeps them five points away from safety, with only 12 rounds remaining for the relegation-embattled Cottagers to carve a way to Premier League survival. Had they held either of their two leads, Fulham would have vaulted Cardiff City to claim 19th place.

And for fourth place Liverpool, the result sees them gain two points on the top of the table, with Chelsea having stumbled at West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday. With Arsenal’s 0-0 draw against Manchester United keeping the Gunners second, the Reds are only four points back of the league-leading Blues.

While Fulham made early noise by forcing three corner kicks in the first four minutes, Liverpool quickly settled into they type of control you’d expect from the teams’ recent performances. But that control was rendered meaningless in the eighth minute when a ball rolled across the top of the six by Richardson was shanked into the Liverpool goal by Touré, with the Reds’s defenders right-footed clearance looping into Simon Mignolet’s net to open the scoring.

For most of the first half, the lead held up,with Liverpool initially unable to put a shot on Maarten Stekelenburg. Though the Cottagers did not play as conservatively as they did Sunday at Old Trafford, the team still sacrificed possession in favor of organization, a plan Liverpool tried to undo by playing balls behind the Fulham defense from high. For most of the half, strong defending from the Cottagers was able to preserve their one-goal lead.

In the 41st minute, however, Liverpool’s approach paid off, with a long ball from Gerrard from just inside his own half finding Sturridge behind a high Fulham defensive line. Dribbling into the right side of the penalty area, the Liverpool striker put his equalizer off Stekelenburg’s far post and in, sending the teams into halftime tied, 1-1.

Liverpool started the second half seemingly destined to claim the lead, continuously breaking through Fulham’s left side as the game began to be played almost entirely in the Cottagers’ defensive third. In the 61st minute, Luis Suárez rattled Stekelenburg’s upright with a shot from 19 yards, foreshadowing Liverpool’s apparently inevitable go-ahead goal.

Moments later, however, Fulham had an unlikely lead, with a speculative cross off a throw in deep on Liverpool’s left leading to Richardson’s goa;. On a 63rd minute ball targeting Darren Bent at the far post, Reds defender Martin Skrtel elected to extend his right leg to try to play the cross, leaving him no option but to knock the ball back across goal. Hit back toward the near post, the ball bounced out of the reach of Mignolet, falling for Richardson for an easy finish from three yards out.

Nine minutes later, Coutinho had Liverpool back even. Allowed to cut across the top of the area and onto his left foot, the Brazilian attacker let go of a shot from 20 yards out, his effort getting through the right hand of Stekelenburg and into the Cottagers’ goal.

While Liverpool pressed for a winner, full time approached with the match having leveled off. The Cottagers has nearly bled out their draw. In the 90th minute, however, Riether was adjudicated to have brought Sturridge down in the far right of the penalty area. Seconds into stoppage time, Gerrard blasted his penalty kick off the left post, pulling Liverpool within four points of first place.

LINEUPS

Fulham: Stekelenburg (Stockdale 76′); Riether, Heitinga, Burn, Riise; Tunnicliffe, Sidwell, Kvist, Richardson (Kacaniklic 71′); Holtby, Bent

Goals: Touré (o.g., 8′), Richardson (63′)

Liverpool: Mignolet; Flanaga, Skrtel, Touré, Cissohko; Gerrard, Henderson,  (Agger 91′), Sterling (Teixera 82′), Suárez, Sturridge

Goals: Sturridge (41′), Coutinho (72′), Gerrard (91′)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic says goodbye to the LA Galaxy

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic has bid adieu to Major League Soccer, thanking the LA Galaxy for “making me feel alive again.”

The Swedish superstar averaged nearly a goal per game with the Galaxy, and was rumored to be in line for another two years at the club.

[ MORE: Columbus acquires Nagbe ]

Perhaps those reports, and maybe AC Milan’s struggles to score goals, have made more suitors come forward. Time will tell.

The Galaxy said the decision was a “mutual parting of ways” and thanked the player for his work both on and off the pitch.

From LAGalaxy.com:

“We would like to thank Zlatan for his contributions to the LA Galaxy and Major League Soccer,” said LA Galaxy President Chris Klein. “Since his arrival in 2018, Zlatan has positively influenced the sport of soccer in Los Angeles. We are grateful for his work ethic and passion. We thank Zlatan for his professionalism and immeasurable impact on the Los Angeles community and the soccer community in North America as a whole.”

Zlatan’s full thoughts, below, were a bit more Zlatanny.

Klein will have his hands full in replacing Ibrahimovic, who scored 52 times in 53 matches, but the Galaxy have always managed to bring in big names.

Getting a star playmaker is even more important as El Trafico rivals LAFC have rewritten the MLS record book and snared plenty of attention in California and across the league.

Columbus acquires Nagbe from Atlanta for $1M in allocation

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Darlington Nagbe is headed for a reunion with old boss Caleb Porter.

Columbus has sent over $1 million in allocation money to Atlanta United in order to claim the influential midfielder.

[ MORE: Top 25 players in USMNT pool ]

Porter coached Nagbe at the University of Akron and the Portland Timbers, and has 25 USMNT caps but has turned down Gregg Berhalter’s requests for service.

Nagbe made 46 appearances across all competitions for the Five Stripes this season, scoring twice with five assists. He has 313 matches played between Portland and Atlanta.

From MLSSoccer.com:

“Darlington Nagbe is a proven winner and the type of player who can be a difference-maker in our team,” Crew SC president and GM Tim Bezbatchenko said in a statement. “In addition to his skill set, we believe that Darlington is someone whose character and values fit well within our organization. As we stated heading into this offseason, we continue to look both domestically and internationally for players that will make our team better, and we believe Darlington is an important part of those efforts.”

It’s a bold statement from Columbus, who had a reputation for getting the most of its talent under Berhalter but faded under Porter after a hot start. The Crew began 2019 with a 4-1-1 record but lost 13 of its next 15 matches.

Of course, being MLS, the Crew then only lost 2 of their final 13 matches. Shoulder shrug emoji.

NYCFC teen agrees move to Borussia Monchengladbach

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New York City FC’s impressive academy has earned one of the bigger transfer market payoffs in MLS Homegrown history, and will join the current Bundesliga leaders after next season.

Joe Scally, 16, is headed to Borussia Monchengladbach on a $2 million transfer with a sell-on clause, and will spend the 2020 MLS season with his boyhood club. Scally has played in the Open Cup, but has not debuted in an MLS match.

[ MORE: Top 25 players in USMNT pool ]

The $2 million figure is on the edge of Top 30 for departing MLS players, according to Transfermarkt, just behind Cyle Larin’s move from Orlando City to Besiktas.

Scally appeared 11 times for the U.S. U-17 national team, going 90 minutes in all three matches and assisting on the lone American goal at the World Cup in Brazil.

From Borussia.de:

“Joe Scally is a top American talent who we have been following for a long time. We see a lot of potential in Joe and we are looking forward to him joining up with us in January 2021. Until then, we will work together with New York City FC to prepare him for his move to Germany,” said Borussia’s sporting director, Max Eberl.

Not sure just how long they could’ve been following a 16-year-old, but we digress.

Scally will join U-17 teammates Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund) and Maximilian Dietz (Freiburg) on the books at a Bundesliga club. Recent U-17 call-ups Pablo Soares (Gladbach) and Noah Jones (RB Leipzig) are also with clubs in Germany’s top flight.

Last month, NYCFC sporting director Claudio Reyna told me that Scally was the perfect example of a young player trusting a club’s preference of changing his position.

“The perfect example is Joe Scally on the U-17 World Cup team. He came to us from a club in Long Island as an athletic box-to-box midfielder. He was very strong, but we saw him as an outside back. The lesson that we now we share that with our players, don’t get upset if you move to a position, but Joe Scally understood, never complained, he played wherever he was told to do, and now he’s a right back now, 16 years old going to the World Cup after being in our academy for two and a half years.”

Looks like it’s worked out.

Spanish court to decide fate of Spanish league game in USA

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MADRID (AP) A Spanish court will decide whether the Spanish league will be allowed to play the Villarreal-Atletico Madrid game in the United States next month.

[ MORE: La Liga scores, schedule

A court hearing is scheduled for Thursday in Madrid to hear arguments from the league and the Spanish soccer federation, which is against taking the regular-season match abroad.

The league has called for an injunction to force the federation to give its approval. It accuses the local soccer body of unfair competition.

The league also needs the approval of UEFA and American soccer bodies to be able to play the match, which is scheduled for Dec. 6 in Miami.

The commercial court hearing the case is expected to issue a ruling within the next few days.

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