Three things we learned from Liverpool vs. Chelsea

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LIVERPOOL — Chelsea went to Anfield and upset the apple cart on Sunday. Big time.

Jose Mourinho’s side used every trick in the book to frustrate Liverpool, as the Reds lost in the league for the first time since December 29, 2013. Their last defeat came against Chelsea too, as the Blues have now beaten both Liverpool and Manchester City home and away.

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

Demba Ba proved decisive up top, Steven Gerrard made a horrific mistake to give Chelsea the advantage and Liverpool ran out of ideas.

We learned an awful lot about both teams following an absorbing victory for the away team on Sunday, but here are three things that stood out.

Mourinho’s defensive masterclass

He is the king of parking the bus and Jose did it once again against Liverpool. In fact, he parked two. If you ever want to watch a defensive masterclass, then Chelsea’s display was marvelous. With inexperienced central defender Tomas Kalas making his full debut, Mourinho shuffled his backline superbly ahead of the UEFA Champions League semifinal with Atletico Madrid on Wednesday. Cesar Azpilicueta and Ashley Cole were faultless at full back and Branislav Ivanovic stopped Luis Suarez with ease. Coupled with the defensive midfield duo of Nemanja Matic and John Obi Mikel (more on those two later) Chelsea looked impenetrable the entire match.

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

Stand-in ‘keeper Mark Schwarzer had three decent saves to make from Joe Allen, Steven Gerrard and Suarez but that was after 73 percent possession from the home side. Chelsea allowed Liverpool to have the ball wide and whip it in, as Schwarzer claimed crosses easily and Chelsea’s center backs cleared up the rest. Chelsea clicked into the gameplan they know best as they recorded a league-high 17th clean sheet of the PL campaign.

Liverpool’s lack of pace in midfield

This time last season, Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson was lambasted by most and was hardly a player many thought would be pivotal in any future success for the Reds. Think again. On Sunday Henderson, who is serving a three-match suspension after being sent off against Manchester City late on two weeks ago, was missed in Liverpool’s engine room. The England international is Steve Gerrard’s legs in midfield and with Joe Allen and Lucas Leiva alongside Gerrard, the Reds passed sideways and backwards the entire game to no avail. That played into Chelsea’s hands perfectly, as Liverpool missed Henderson’s speedy runs through the heart of the oppositions defense. Chelsea were never caught on the back foot, as young attackers Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling ran out of ideas. Gerrard tried to break in behind but the demoralizing mistake he made to let in Ba for the first meant the Reds’ skipper had an off day despite his best efforts. None of his teammates stepped up to the plate, especially in the middle.

Matic and Mikel key

Crucial to Chelsea’s success on Sunday was a wall of muscle, grit and sacrifice in front of their back four. Take a bow, Matic and Mikel. Both players won’t play in Chelsea’s UCL semifinal against Atletico on Wednesday (Matic through ineligibility and Mikel through suspension) but they did a perfect job when their team needed them most in the league. Coutinho, Sterling, Gerrard, Lucas and Allen all tried to break through and get at Chelsea’s back four but M&M didn’t let them. David Luiz and Matic combined to beat Man City away earlier this season and this time Mikel stepped in to do a job. Mikel and Matic won’t win the Player of the Year award or be fans favorites but they did a perfect job in match which could claw Chelsea back into the title race. Of course they need Liverpool and Man City to slip up, but we may look back in awe at this incredible display of self-restraint and selflessness when all is said and done.

Mexico receives FIFA fine for insulting chant

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FIFA handed a $10,400 fine down to Mexico on Wednesday for “discriminatory and insulting chants” that occurred during El Tri’s 1-0 victory over Germany.

[ MORE: Spain tops Iran after overruled goal ]

The FIFA disciplinary committee reportedly levied the fine to Mexico for directing a derogatory chant towards German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

“The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has sanctioned the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) with a fine of CHF 10,000 for the misconduct of a group of Mexican fans (cf. art. 67 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code) in relation to discriminatory and insulting chants during the first half of the 2018 FIFA World Cup match played between Germany and Mexico,” FIFA declared in a press release.

The Mexican Football Federation has aimed to eliminate an ongoing epidemic of homophobic chants that supporters have screamed during goal kicks for some time.

El Tri was sanctioned 12 times during CONCACAF World Cup qualifying for those chants.

Ronaldo explains his new chin hair at World Cup

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Now that Cristiano Ronaldo has taken to sporting a reasonable hairstyle atop his head, people are talking about the foliage on his face.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

Ronaldo, 33, drew speculation when he stroked his chin following a goal in his hat trick performance against Spain in the World Cup opener. Some said he was demonstrating defiance against Lionel Messi posing with a goat (Greatest Of All Time) in a recent photograph.

Ronaldo scored again on Wednesday, and there was seemingly little doubt his goatee was a wink to the speculators. But what did it mean, CR7? From ESPN:

“This goatee? It’s a joke I had with [Ricardo] Quaresma. “We were in the sauna [before Friday’s match against Spain] and I started to shave and I left the goatee. I said if I score tomorrow, I would leave it for the rest of the tournament. And it gave me luck.

“I scored in that game, I scored in this one, so it stays.”

Personally, I like to imagine Ronaldo starting to get as wild with his facial hair as he did his head hair.

Perhaps a beatnik style, or something like Serj Tankian from System of a Down. Get nuts, C-Ron.

Report: Southampton could sell Tadic to Ajax for $20m

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Could Southampton be selling one of its most creative forces?

Dusan Tadic, 29, is in the middle of a World Cup run with dark horse Serbia, but the Saints star is also being talked about as a purchase item for Ajax.

[ MORE: Serbia tops Costa Rica ]

The celebrated Eredivisie has traditionally been a selling club for the Premier League, but could be a $20 million buy for Ajax.

The report says director of players Marc Overmars and financial director Jeroen Slop have flown to Southampton to work out a deal.

Tadic starred for Dutch sides Groningen and Twente between 2010-14 before moving to St. Mary’s for a reported $12 million.

He’s scored 24 goals with 35 assists in 162 appearances for Saints, 21 and 30 of which came in the Premier League.

Toronto locks down USMNT backstop Bono with extension

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Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono is going to stay Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The newly-capped USMNT backstop, 24, has been attracting interest from abroad since breaking past Clint Irwin to win the TFC job and guiding the club to multiple MLS Cup Finals.

Now general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has locked down his young goalkeeper to an undisclosed contract extension. From TorontoFC.com:

“Alex was a big part of our success last season. He set club records for wins and clean sheets and was a critical piece of our championship team,” said Toronto FC Sr. Vice-President, Soccer Operations & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Since joining the club as a first round pick in 2015, Alex’s ability to make key saves in big moments has been critical to our success.”

The Syracuse-born product of Syracuse University has made 64 appearances for the Reds.