Liverpool 0-2 Chelsea: Blues stun leaders after Gerrard’s blunder (video)

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LIVERPOOL — Chelsea beat Liverpool 2-0 at Anfield on Sunday, as the Premier League leaders were beaten for the first time in seventeen PL games to blow the title race wide open.

From the off Jose Mourinho’s side wasted time and used every trick in the book to unsettle the home side. It worked a treat.

Resting several regular starters, ahead of Chelsea’s UEFA Champions League semifinal with Atletico Madrid on Wednesday, the away side contained Luis Suarez and Liverpool’s other attackers as Mourinho masterminded yet another superb defensive display.

A horrendous mistake from Steven Gerrard set Chelsea on their way to all three points, as the Liverpool captain slipped at a crucial moment right on half time to let in Chelsea forward Demba Ba, who raced through on goal and put the Blues 1-0 up at the break. Anfield was stunned.

(MORE: Three things we learned from Liverpool vs. Chelsea)

Try as they might Liverpool couldn’t break down Chelsea as Joe Allen, Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez were all thwarted by superb stops from Mark Schwarzer. Then as Liverpool poured men forward towards the end, Chelsea broke and Fernando Torres played in Willian to slot home and seal a stunning win for Mourinho’s men.

With the victory Chelsea now have 78 points with two games to go, while Liverpool have 80 points with two games remaining. As for Manchester City, they now have a wonderful chance to go top of the standings on goal difference if they win their game in hand.

Sunday provided yet another dramatic twist in the title race and there’s still plenty more to come.

(MORE: Jose Mourinho – “The best team won” but Chelsea has “no chance” of title)

Early on Chelsea antagonized Liverpool by time wasting at every opportunity. Chelsea took an age over every free kicks and throw-in as they aimed to quell Liverpool’s famous fast-paced starts. The away side had the first meaningful effort on goal, as a long throw was cleared to the edge of the box where Ashley Cole took one touch and smashed a shot towards goal which Simon Mignolet parried away. In the 11th minute Liverpool finally cut the shackles loose, as Luis Suarez curled in a cross to the back post that found Philippe Coutinho unmarked but the Brazilian midfielder slammed his shot into the side-netting.

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Gerrard slipped at a crucial moment, as Ba slotted home for Chelsea.

In the 14th minute Liverpool should have gone ahead as Suarez’s corner bounced off John Obi Mikel and towards goal but Cole cleared off the line as the ball pinballed around the box before Mamadou Sakho smashed wildly over the bar from six-yards out. Chelsea were content to let Liverpool do the pressing as the Blues stood off and parked two solid banks of four in front of their own goal. Mourinho’s men barely threatened as an attacking force, as they sat back and launched occasional lackluster counter-attacks.

(MORE: Latest Premier League standings)

As the first half wore on Liverpool pressed hard but Chelsea’s makeshift backline, which included Tomas Kalas making his full debut, bent but did not break. Before the break the Blues made a few forays forward, with Mohamed Salah’s shot smashing against Jon Flanagan’s arm but referee Martin Atkinson waved away appeals. Then in the 41st minute Chelsea made a rare defensive mistake as the ball was allowed to bounce at the back and Luis Suarez latched onto it before curling an effort just over Schwarzer’s bar.

On the stroke of half time Kalas should’ve scored as Frank Lampard’s corner found the young Czech defender unmarked but he fluffed his lines after failing to get clean contact on his header. Yet the away side were soon 1-0 up, as in first half stoppage time Sakho played a square ball to Gerrard who inexplicably slipped up at a crucial moment to let Ba run in towards goal and slot home. It was nightmare moment for Liverpool’s inspirational leader.

After the break Liverpool came flying out of the traps as they tried to level things up, with Sterling and Suarez running at pace but Chelsea’s backline withstood relentless pressure. With Nemanja Matic and Mikel sitting in front of the back four, the West Londoners looked solid throughout.

With just over 30 minutes left Daniel Sturridge came off the bench and Liverpool almost equalized as Mikel’s poor defensive header from a corner found Joe Allen on the edge of the box and the Welshman sent a rasping volley towards the bottom corner which Schwarzer saved superbly. Chelsea almost doubled their lead in the 62nd minute as Andre Schurrle cut in from the left flank and curled an effort towards the bottom corner which Mignolet palmed away.

Time and time again Liverpool were allowed to have the ball out wide but Chelsea packed the box and defended resolutely whenever high crosses were pumped in by a frustrated Liverpool side. The home fans grew agitated as Liverpool tried to stay patient but they just couldn’t break down Chelsea’s remarkable defensive display. As the last 10 minutes approached Coutinho whipped in a ball that Suarez couldn’t get on the end of and Rodgers used his last roll of the dice by chucking on Iago Aspas up front.

In the final few minutes Liverpool threw the kitchen sink at Chelsea but the Blues held on and then broke to score a second, as Willian slotted home to stun Anfield.

LINEUPS

Liverpool: Mignolet; Johnson, Skrtel, Sakho, Flanagan (Aspas, 81′); Gerrard, Allen, Lucas (Sturridge, 58′); Sterling, Suarez, Coutinho.

Chelsea: Schwarzer; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Kalas, Cole; Lampard, Mikel, Matic; Salah (Willian, 60′), Ba (Torres, 84′), Schurrle (Cahill, 77′)

Goals: Ba (45′), Willian (90′)

Iniesta joins Japanese club Vissel Kobe

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TOKYO (AP) Former Barcelona playmaker Andres Iniesta was introduced as the newest member of Japanese club Vissel Kobe on Thursday, a poorly kept secret that’s been rumored for weeks.

Iniesta appeared before a packed news conference at a central Tokyo hotel on Thursday along with Kobe’s billionaire owner, Hiroshi Mikitani.

[READ: Earnie Stewart being considered for U.S. Soccer post]

“I’m pleased to announce,” Mikitani said, “that Andres Iniesta will be signing up play with Vissel Kobe after his historic career at Barcelona.”

Iniesta signed his contract as Mikitani watched, and then spoke through an interpreter.

Terms of the contract were not disclosed, but Japanese media are reporting he will earn $30 million annually on a three-year deal.

“For me this is a very special day,” the Spaniard said. “This is an important challenge for me. My family is excited to come to Japan and we are very pleased. There were many offers. Other clubs showed interest. But I decided to sign with Vissel Kobe because the project presented to me was impressive.”

Mikitani is also the CEO of Barcelona sponsor Rakuten, a Japanese online retailer.

Iniesta held up the team’s red shirt with his famous No. 8 on the back, and his name written across the bottom.

Iniesta previously had said he would probably retire from international soccer after Spain plays at this year’s World Cup in Russia.

The 34-year-old Iniesta scored the winning goal for Spain in the 2010 World Cup final. He also was a key part of Spain’s two European Championships in 2008 and 2012.

He announced last month he would leave Barcelona after 16 seasons. His last match for the Spanish club was on Sunday against Real Sociedad at Camp Nou.

Vissel Kobe is in sixth place after 15 games in the J-League. It signed Lukas Podolski last year, but the German striker is out until the end of June with an injured calf.

Yaya Toure talks future, wants to play with Paul Pogba

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There is very little debate: Yaya Toure is his own special case.

The longtime Manchester City midfielder does what he wants, flies his own flag, has the worst agent in the game, and is pleased or dismayed in unusual ways.

[ UCL: What would Real 3-peat mean? ]

Toure, 35, has been linked with a move to NYCFC now that he’s leaving Man City, but the Ivorian still wants to play two more seasons for a Champions League or Europa League club.

And he wants to get together with Paul Pogba. You can see where this is going… (from The Manchester Evening News):

“Pogba is the same size, power – but different in the way he wants to go. Technically as well, the ability to score goals as well. It is a player I want to play with, to be honest, just to teach him some things.”

That must mean both are going to Paris Saint-Germain because… Yaya at Manchester United? No way, right? Right? Even with last year’s reports from his — again — terrible agent that it was an option, that still seems too villainous.

“I don’t rule big teams out. The big teams are very important for me. What they want to achieve, the way they want to go, for me is very important. … I want to go somewhere I can win and achieve. It’s going to be hard one day to play against City, but I have to do that. It is part of my job.”

Toure later said he was “no good in an office,” which had us thinking, well, what if they properly celebrated your birthday, Yaya?

WATCH: Miami United midfielder unleashes Open Cup laser

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Tomas Granitto, have yourself an extra plate at the postgame buffet.

The Miami United midfielder scored a gorgeous goal in Wednesday’s 2-0 win over fellow NPSL side Jacksonville Armada in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup’s third round.

[ MORE: 3 Key Battles for UCL Final ]

Complete with aesthetically-pleasing post-ping, the former El Salvador U-20 player laid into a 25-yard shot to open the scoring in Florida.

Granitto, 24, has played for Timbers 2, Swope Park Rangers, FC Edmonton, since leaving NCAA side Florida Gulf Coast.

Rondon wanted by Atleti, Inter Milan, and West Ham

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The big boys are looking to Salomon Rondon as a bargain striker.

Yes, $22 million is a bargain in the striker market these days.

[ MORE: Napoli hires Ancelotti ]

West Brom’s Venezuelan international, 28, stands 6’2″ and has a relegation release clause that is reportedly interesting Inter Milan, Atletico Madrid, and West Ham United.

Atleti and Inter are in the Champions League next season, but Rondon played for new West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini at Malaga, posting 25 league goals in two seasons.

He’s scored 24 goals in three Premier League seasons at West Brom, almost a quarter of the 104 produced by the Baggies.

He also picked up three assists this season as the target man for Tony Pulis, Alan Pardew, and Darren Moore (and was fouled more often than any other Baggie (Baggy?)).

Rondon and Marko Arnautovic next to each other would be a real handful for PL defenses. Then again, maybe he’ll stay loyal to West Brom and set the Championship scoring record next season.