Roberto Martinez revels in Everton’s humbling of Manchester United

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LIVERPOOL — Wearing his brown shoes on the sidelines at Goodison Park, Robert Martinez barely left the edge of the pitch the entire game.

Style, substance and subtle, his team had all that and more on Sunday.

The Spanish coach has transformed Everton’s playing style in his first season in charge at Goodison Park, as his team are still in the hunt for a top four spot with three games to go. Sitting on 69 points, the Toffees are also looking at a record points haul, as they stellar season under the Spaniard continues.

(MORE: Everton 2-0 Man United – Toffees rampant in miserable return for Moyes)

One point and one place behind fourth placed Arsenal, the Toffees are focused on qualifying for the UEFA Champions League. However, despite keeping their UCL hopes alive with a 2-0 win over Manchester United on Sunday, they also had another reason to celebrate.

Everton haven’t beaten Man United home and away since the 1969-70 season. That’s something Martinez is delighted to have achieved.

“It is a big thing, we knew since the 1969 we haven’t done the double over United,” Martinez said. “It is one of the things that tells you about this group of players are ready to develop something special. There is a mental side, if you can do the double over the current champions, then there is something special in this group. I always felt we are developing into a strong side. I thought it was important for our fans to today be proud of their team, to have something to remember and have a special memory. It was perfect to give them something back for all the support they have given us.”

(MORE: Moyes vilified on return to Everton, as Manchester United nightmare continues)

source: AP
Baines gave Everton perfect balance, as Martinez’s side impressed once again.

With three games left, especially after a demoralizing defeat to Crystal Palace in midweek, this was the kind of performance Martinez was hoping for. Energetic from the start and an extra bite all over the pitch, Everton’s gameplan of soaking up United’s pressure then counter-attacking worked perfectly.

Martinez knew it.

“With three games to go until the end of the season it was the right type of performance,” Martinez said. “We were full of energy, dynamic, on the counter-attack we looked electrifying. We are a very exciting team to watch on the counter-attack. We had to defend and be patient and pick our moments. Once we did that I thought we were terrific. When we saw the lineup with Kagawa, Mata, Nani and Rooney we knew they were going to try to get on the ball and try to take the sting out of the game. That is when as a team you have to be adaptable. I thought we were devastating on the counter-attack, if anything we should’ve scored more. We had good chances, they were on the ball but they never broke us down.”

What about David Moyes and the squad he left Martinez at Everton?

The Toffees boss was full of praise for the building blocks put in place by Moyes as the Spaniard has built his own squad around the framwork Moyes left behind.

“I was a very fortunate man to walk into a football club where everything was in place,” Martinez said. “The work that David did over 11 years was there. Previously I have gone into football clubs that look like a bomb exploded. Believe me the best situation for a manager is to have something like that. Yes, I wanted to change many things, but I didn’t want to lose anything. I brought 10 players in which is a big amount, the senior players were very open to play in a different manner and we gave a massive role to the younger players. That is the big difference in this squad. I thought David Moyes’ job at Everton provided the platform for the performances we have been able to put in this season.”

One area where Martinez outwitted Moyes was on the flanks, especially on the right.

Right back Seamus Coleman created the second goal after a number of marauding runs from the run kept United at bay. Kevin Mirallas scored the second, as he and Coleman tormented United’s left back Alexander Buttner all afternoon.

Speaking of that threat, Martinez revealed he’s extremely happy with the entire balance of his side, as they are in the hunt for a top four position with three games to go.

“It is fair to say that we created that space, we are a very well balanced side,” Martinez said. “We carry threat on the left hand side, Leighton Baines can really hurt you in possession, Seamus Coleman is developing his penetration, then in the middle you have Ross Barkley and Steven Naismith, who is in form at the moment, I thought we were a well-balanced team today. We had to be patient. It was the first time this season we gave the ball to the opposition, but the way we used it in our favor was quite impressive.”

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).