Three things we learned from Liverpool’s huge win vs. Manchester City

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LIVERPOOL — Following Liverpool’s dramatic 3-2 win over Manchester City on Sunday, the home side took a massive leap towards winning their first-ever Premier League title.

Brendan Rodgers’ side are rampant, after they sealed their tenth-straight win to keep them top of the standings on an emotional game at Anfield with the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster being remembered.

But what did we learn from Liverpool’s win? Here’s three things that stuck out.

Liverpool’s midfield just as good as S.A.S.

On Sunday Liverpool’s game-winner Philippe Coutinho curled in a deft finish to seal a massive three points late on. However the little Brazilian was getting stuck in more than anybody else in Red, as his teammates were inspired by his uncharacteristic feisty side. Smashing into City’s left back Gael Clichy at every opportunity, Coutinho was a beast, and the home fans around me at Anfield were applauding and cheering his relentless high-pressure. The diminutive playmaker came up with the game-winning goal so he will, of course, get all the headlines.

source: AP
Liverpool launched themselves ahead, as their midfielders flew out of the traps.

Yet Steven Gerrard put in another monumental display in the middle, Jordan Henderson worked tirelessly to overcome City’s marauding attackers and Raheem Sterling was a wizard on the wing. The teenager’s composure when put clean through in the first six minutes was marvelous and with Roy Hodgson watching on, Sterling looks to be a shoe-in for England’s World Cup squad. We often talk about Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez (but of whom failed to score but created plenty of problems) and rightly so after their 52 goals combined this season, but Liverpool’s midfield came up big when it really mattered.

David Silva can still win City the title

Missing vast swathes of the season through injury, in recent weeks David Silva has been the difference for City. His class shone through and he single-handedly dragged Man City back into the game in the second half. Even when Liverpool were 2-0 up and cruising midway through the first half, every time Silva got on the ball Liverpool’s defense dropped off and a sense of nervousness came over the home fans. Silva proved why in the second half, as he scored the first, his shot was deflected in for the second and his probing passes and clever runs had Liverpool reeling. You sensed he would be the game-winner and in the 75th minute he sent a stretching toe poke just wide of Simon Mignolet’s post as the Kop breathed a huge sigh of relief with the ‘Silva show’ in full flow.

That miss woke Liverpool up and Coutinho’s winner came moments later. Despite this damaging loss, if City win out they can still put pressure on Liverpool and win the title. With six games to go they are seven points behind the Reds, but have two games in hand. If Silva’s star continues to shine brightly in the final few weeks of the season, they have half a chance.

Still question marks over Liverpool’s defense

source: AP
Liverpool’s defense still looked leaky, but a mistake from Kompany saved them.

As mentioned, Silva orchestrated City’s surging second half comeback, yet that came after some slack defending from Liverpool which let the Citizens back into the game. Time and time again in the first half they gave the ball away just in front of their own back four and they started doing that in the second half too. Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho were solid, yet unspectacular, and every time they got on the ball and were urged forward by the home crowd, they hesitated. Full backs Jon Flanagan and Glen Johnson also looked nervy, as James Milner skinned Flanagan several times in the second half, while Johnson failed to deal with Nasri on a regular basis as the English right back stuck out a lazy leg to deflect a shot past his own ‘keeper for City’s second goal.

In the end a defensive mistake from City sparred Liverpool’s blushes, but the fact that they almost chucked a 2-0 lead away, at home, in the biggest game of the season, shouldn’t be overlooked. In the run-in they must get better at the back, but with their incredible offensive power the Reds may neglect their defensive duties. That could cost them in four tight games to come.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 10 — All eyes on Germany

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Many of the favorites in the 2018 World Cup have disappointed, but until Argentina fell 3-0 to Croatia on Thursday, Germany was the only one to suffer a defeat.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Die Mannschaft fell to Mexico in their opening match, with El Tri carving up the German midfield on the counter. Now, Joachim Low has had ample time to make the adjustments needed to go for victory as the Germans take on Sweden as they chase a spot in the knockout stages among Group F.

Meanwhile, Mexico looks to prove they’re not a one-hit wonder as they take on South Korea in Rostov. Juan Carlos Osorio has received plenty of praise – and rightly so – for his tactics in the upset victory, and that leaves El Tri with a chance to clinch a spot in the knockout stage with a win.

Before all that Group F craziness, Belgium takes the field in the morning against Tunisia as they look to follow up its comprehensive 3-0 victory over Panama in the opening round. A victory for the Red Devils would not only book a place in the knockout round, but also eliminate Tunisia from contention.

Below is Saturday’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 – Saturday, June 23

Group F
South Korea vs. Mexico: Rostov-on-Don, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Germany vs. Sweden: Sochi, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group G
Belgium vs. Tunisia: Moscow, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Kluivert junior leaves Ajax for Roma in $21m transfer

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ROME (AP) — Roma signed Justin Kluivert, the son of former Milan and Barcelona forward Patrick, from Ajax on Friday for a fee that could rise to 18.75 million euros ($21.8 million).

The 19-year-old Dutch international forward has agreed a five-year contract with Roma.

“I’m very happy. I’m at an incredible club,” Kluivert said. “I cannot wait to start. I believe that Roma is the ideal team for my growth, which will allow me to play at the highest levels.”

Kluivert junior made 56 appearances and scored 13 goals for Ajax. He has one cap for the Netherlands.

He joins Roma for an initial 17.25 million euros ($20.1 million) and performance-related clauses could see the price rise by 1.5 million euros.

Ricketts family, owner of the Chicago Cubs, interested in purchasing AC Milan

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The Ricketts family, who purchased a controlling stake in the Chicago Cubs back in 2009, have interest in further pursuing ownership in financially troubled Italian club AC Milan.

According to a family statement, “The Ricketts family brought a championship to the Chicago Cubs through long-term investment and being great stewards of the team … They would bring this same approach to AC Milan.”

First reported by the Chicago Tribune, the news of the Tom Ricketts’ interest in the team comes on the heels of news that current owner Li Yonghong had failed to meet a Friday deadline for a $37 million loan payment. According to reports, the missed payment means that Li will cede control of the club to Elliott Management, who loaned the Chinese businessman the money to complete his initial purchase of the club last April.

The Chicago Sun-Times also reported the family’s interest in the club, and quoted their source as saying, “The Ricketts put together the management team, resources and training facilities [for the Cubs]. [They did] everything you need top to bottom to be successful.”

Ricketts has plenty of history in soccer ownership, having previously been a part of the group that owned English club Derby County before selling back in 2015. This May, Ricketts also announced he was leading an investment group that is looking to bring a USL expansion team to Chicago.

Forbes values AC Milan at $612 million – a massive 26% 1-year decline – and ranks them the 17th most valuable soccer club in the world. That valuation could be further on the decline, as the storied club missed out on Champions League qualification for the fifth straight year, although they qualified for their second straight Europa League appearance with 6th place finish in last year’s Serie A table, eight points behind Lazio in fifth.

AC Milan also faces heavy sanctions from UEFA regarding Financial Fair Play, although those fears could be eased with the financially-troubled Li selling the club.

The Ricketts family’s wealth comes largely from investment banking, with Tom’s father J. Joseph Ricketts having founded Ameritrade back in 1975. Tom is estimated by Forbes to be worth $1 billion, while his father has an estimated net worth of $2.1 billion.

Xhaka, Shaqiri display controversial goal celebrations in win over Serbia

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A seemingly innocuous goal celebration performed by both Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri has thinly veiled, politically charged undertones and could potentially land the pair in FIFA disciplinary proceedings following Switzerland’s 2-1 win over Serbia.

Both displayed a bird hand signal as they celebrated scoring goals, and considering their pre-match comments, post-match social media posts, and ethnic backgrounds, those were clearly meant to represent the double-eagle symbol in the middle of the Albanian flag.

This is a complicated political scenario, but it could be considered by FIFA to be politically provocative. Shaqiri is Albanian, born in Kosovo before moving to Switzerland with his parents and three siblings when he was just a year old. Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008 and is not recognized as a sovereign nation by Serbia. Xhaka is of Albanian descent, and his father previously participated in a demonstration against the communist Yugoslavian rule in Kosovo that landed him a lengthy jail sentence. Albania and Serbia have a particularly tumultuous relationship, with their leaders meeting for the first time in over 60 years in 2014, which caused tempers to flare.

Following the match, Xhaka posted a picture of his celebration on his Instagram story, with the caption in Albanian roughly translated to, “Here you go Serbia, this is why they call me Granit Kosovo!” He deleted the post, and replaced it with an image of his celebration side-by-side with Shaqiri’s, with the slightly more cryptic caption, “We did it, bro!” in English.

FIFA is wildly against any type of political demonstration or involvement in the world of soccer. The governing body has punished individual nation federations in the past for government involvement, while political demonstrations on the field are fiercely frowned upon.

Switzerland captain and new Arsenal signing Stephan Lichtsteiner came to the defense of his two teammates after the match. When asked about the celebrations, he said to Goal.com, “We had a lot of pressure, it was not an easy game for us. We have a lot of Albanians, so there is a lot of history between Serbia and Albania. It was a very tough game for them mentally.”

“It was good. Why not? This is the history for them,” Lichtsteiner continued. “The war between them was so difficult. I spoke to the father of one of our players who is Albanian, and he told me about this history. This is more than football. This is more than football because they have this period, this war that gave them both big problems. I understand them. I think it’s normal, it’s part of their life. There was also big provocation ahead of the game from them [Serbia], so I think it’s normal.”

Shaqiri could be in especially hot water. The Stoke City midfielder wore boots with the flags of Switzerland and Kosovo. He has made it clear in the past that he values his roots, saying, “I was born in Kosovo, but I grew up in Switzerland. I live both mentalities, it’s not a big difference.”

Switzerland finishes its World Cup group stage round with a match against Costa Rica on Wednesday in which a win would secure a spot in the knockout stage.