Manchester United 0-3 Liverpool: Gerrard hits twice from the spot to send Reds second (video)

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Liverpool: calm, structured, lethal.

Manchester United: disjointed, frantic, out of control.

With NBC guest commentator Tim Howard dubbing this match the “biggest fixture in English football,” Liverpool proved the far superior squad at Old Trafford.

As one side jumped to within four points of the Premier League’s top spot, another fell to uncharted depths in seventh.

Steven Gerrard hit twice from the penalty spot and Luis Suarez added a third as the Reds made no mistake in their late charge towards the Premier League title.

Both teams proved bold yet nervy in the opening 20 minutes.

Each end saw action, but neither team had a serious effort on goal.  With either defense solid in their shape, Liverpool had more of the attack during match’s opening quarter, but the trio of Reds at the attack found it difficult to find any bit of space.

With both teams probing, Liverpool were gifted a chance to go ahead in the 34th minute, and they didn’t disappoint. Daniel Sturridge on the right touch floated a ball across the pitch to Luis Suarez, and he looked to work it into the box with Rafael guarding.

Suarez attempted to chip around the United defender, and with Rafael off balance, the ball clipped his outstretched arm.  Suarez immediately popped up shouting for handball, and referee Mark Clattenberg pointed to the spot.

Liverpool pleaded with Clattenberg for a yellow card for the offense, which would have been Rafael’s second already, but the referee refused.  There was no surprise as Gerrard stepped up to the ball for Liverpool, and he poked it past a wrong-footed De Gea for the first-half lead.

Manchester United did produce one moment to hang their hat on, but just minutes before halftime Simon Mignolet countered with a spectacular diving save to keep out Wayne Rooney’s shot from the center of the box.

Looking to bring it back level after the break, things instead got much worse for Manchester United directly out of the tunnel.

Suarez found Jordan Henderson in all kinds of space at the top of the box, and the youngster finds fellow midfielder Joe Allen cutting laterally across the box and tracked by Phil Jones.

source: Getty Images
Liverpool’s captain was the man of the hour as the Reds picked Manchester United apart.

With Jones beat, the big center back lowered his shoulder and bowled over Allen from behind, and Clattenberg again awarded Liverpool a penalty.  Gerrard converted for a second time, again firing right but this time harder and lower past de Gea.

The penalty marked the first time in Premier League history that opposition were given two penalties at Old Trafford.

The deficit caused the hosts to press harder, but they were panicked much too frantic, and they appeared more likely to get a man sent off than score a goal.

However, as United settled down and began to built, they produced two chances, but Clattenberg denied them twice.  Wayne Rooney looked for a foul outside the box as Martin Skrtel clattered him to the ground, and it appeared Glen Johnson slightly handed the ball, but both were waved off.

Things only got worse for Manchester United.  David Moyes waited all the way until the 76th minute to make his first substitution, a double change bringing on Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck, but it would be at the back where they would soon see a blow.

Daniel Sturridge rocketed past Nemanja Vidic, and the Manchester United captain went body-to-body looking to recover.  Sturridge hit a heavy touch, and instead of shooting a tight angle he went down softly, an obvious dive, but Clattenberg bought it giving Liverpool a third penalty and sending Vidic off with his second yellow card.

Gerrard stepped up with an opportunity to bag the first-ever Premier League penalty hat-trick, but he clanged the left post for a miss.

With United a man down, it was all Reds from here to the final whistle. Sturridge probably had a shout for yet another penalty when he checked back with the ball in the box and was felled by Michael Carrick, but Clattenberg waved it off.

Suarez then beat the defense and went one-on-one with David de Gea on 80 minutes but the Spaniard made a fantastic save.

But he couldn’t keep out Suarez with five minutes to go, as Sturridge found him just onsides through the United back line and he touched far post for a 3-0 lead.

LINEUPS:

Manchester United – De Gea; Rafael, Jones, Vidic, Evra; Mata (Ferdinand 87′), Fellaini (Cleverley 76′), Carrick, Januzaj (Welbeck 76′); Rooney, van Persie.

Liverpool – Mignolet; Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Flanagan; Gerrard (Lucas 87′), Allen, Henderson, Sterling (Coutinho 72′); Suarez, Sturridge (Aspas 90′).

Goals: Gerrard 34′, 46′; Suarez 84′

Champions League preview: Spurs host Leipzig, Valencia visits Atalanta

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Two more UEFA Champions League Round of 16 ties kickoff Wednesday, including one being labeled as the biggest in a club’s existence.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

That would be Serie A side Atalanta, which hosts Valencia at 3 p.m. at Gewiss Stadium.

Atalanta had played in two consecutive Europa Leagues, but this is their first move into the Champions League. To make the knockout rounds is exceptional, and club president Antonio Percassi is fired up.

“We must be honest, this is the most important game in the history of this club,” Percassi told Sky Sport Italia. “It doesn’t seem real. It’s exciting just thinking that tomorrow we’ll be in a Champions League Round of 16. It’s wonderful for our fans too. … This is going to be a unique experience that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.”

Atalanta finished second in its group to Manchester City, and is fourth in Serie A. Valencia won its group.

There’s a Premier League side in action on Wednesday, too, as Spurs begin life without Heung-Min Son.

Jose Mourinho spun a tale about how badly Tottenham will need its fans against RB Leipzig, comparing the home-field advantage to an emergency rescue crew of sorts.

Leipzig is led by Julian Nagelsmann, who was once referred to as “Baby Mourinho” by his players.

The 32-year-old was quick to distance himself from the story.

“Tomorrow it is Leipzig against Tottenham, not Mourinho v. Baby Mourinho,” he said. “I have great respect for Mourinho. He has won lots of titles with big clubs, the Champions League twice. He has made his mark on European football at some big European clubs. I think it his 59th knockout game in the CL and it is my first so there is obviously respect there.”

Liverpool’s Robertson not a fan of Atletico Madrid theatrics

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Liverpool fullback Andy Robertson was not impressed with Atletico Madrid’s display as his side fell 1-0 in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16 tie on Tuesday.

The Reds fell behind on a fourth-minute Saul Niguez goal and couldn’t get a shot on target despite 73 percent possession in Spain.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Atleti executed its plan to near-perfection, slowing restarts and taking advantage of counterattacking opportunities to assuage the constant pressure of Liverpool.

At times it was reminiscent of early-century Italian national team play, and both neutrals and Liverpool knew what they were in for once Atleti took the lead.

“We gave them the best possible start to get the fans behind them and then they can start falling over and things like that, trying to get under our skin a bit which I think we handled quite well to be honest,” Robertson told BT Sport. “We know we are better than (how they played). We put in a decent performance and we can be better than that. Luckily we have got a second leg to put it right.”

Given the performance and the reputation, you’d still fancy the Reds to “put it right” at Anfield. Jurgen Klopp thinks Atleti will feel plenty of pressure at Anfield, and he will certainly feel the officiating will be more to his liking.

Liverpool’s Klopp: ‘Our people will be ready’ for second leg at Anfield

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Jurgen Klopp didn’t have any issue with Diego Simeone’s defense-first Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie on Tuesday.

The Spanish side flummoxed Liverpool’s attack and the Reds didn’t manage a shot on target despite eight attempts and 73 percent possession at the Wanda Metropolitano.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

What Klopp didn’t appreciate was the referee’s work, though, implying that Polish official Szymon Marciniak was overwhelmed by the occasion. Marciniak has worked UCL matches for six seasons, twice overseeing quarterfinal ties.

Klopp was shown a yellow card in the second half, and the Liverpool boss felt Sadio Mane was harassed by Atleti. Klopp removed yellow-carrying Mane at halftime.

“He was targeted obviously,” Klopp said after the game. “The only thing they wanted was to make sure he got a yellow card. The score is 1-0, that’s all but you need to be really strong as a ref in this atmosphere. So many things happened, after 30 minutes already three players were on the ground. The first yellow card was a striker from us. I’m not sure they even got a yellow card, which is funny.”

Atleti’s Angel Correa was shown a yellow, while Klopp, Mane, and Joe Gomez were cautioned for Liverpool.

The Liverpool boss found himself laughing a few times, especially when he was asked about Simeone’s touchline personality.

Klopp said before the game that if the German was a four in intensity, then Simeone was a 12. Simeone followed suit by constantly urging the crowd to get behind the home side on Tuesday.

That didn’t bother Klopp, but he issued a public relations officer’s dream in reacting to it.

“Wow, wow,” he laughed. “That’s energy. I don’t think I have to do it that much (at Anfield). Our people will be ready. Welcome to Anfield. It’s not over yet.”

Klopp finished his remarks by saying of Jordan Henderson‘s removal from the game with a hamstring injury, “I hope it was a precaution, but I’m not 100 percent sure”

Haaland wins first leg after Borussia Dortmund-PSG comes to life late

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Erling Haaland scored twice in a mid-second half flurry as Borussia Dortmund beat Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie on Tuesday.

The hosts also got an assist from teenager Giovanni Reyna, who became the youngest American to appear in a Champions League match.

Haaland now has 39 goals in 29 appearances between Red Bull Salzburg and BVB, 11 of those for his new German employer.

Neymar scored off a Kylian Mbappe goal for PSG, who brings an away goal back to the Parc des Princes for a March 11 second leg.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Neymar had an early free kick, missing just wide of the far post.

Jadon Sancho troubled the keeper twice in the first half hour, first with a cross that Mats Hummels headed over goal. Then, Keylor Navas picked another Sancho offering out of the air.

Sancho kept serving, and Erling Haaland couldn’t turn a promising cross on target.

Dortmund walked into halftime with a scoreless match but a 7-2 edge in shot attempts. Neither of PSG’s shots were on target.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Borussia Dortmund boss Lucien Favre put in American teen Giovani Reyna in the 67th minute.

Two minutes later, it was 1-0 to the hosts through Haaland’s close-range goal.

Neymar replied from close range himself after a powerful, clever dribble from Kylian Mbappe led to a pass through the box.

But Haaland got his second in the 77th minute with a scorching shot that serves as the first senior assist of Reyna’s senior career with Dortmund (Watch it here).