Crystal Palace 3-3 Liverpool: Reds blow three-goal lead, maybe title

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Incredible scenes in London.

What began as a 3-0 charge to reclaim goal differential from Manchester City ended with Liverpool perhaps choking away the Premier League title with a 3-3 draw Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Monday.

Damien Delaney‘s deflected shot in the 80th minute looked like just a bit of damage to Liverpool’s goal differential hopes, but Dwight Gayle scored a minute later to put the three points back into discussion. Gayle added another in the 88th to seal a point.

Joe Allen, Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez scored for the Reds, who are back into first place for perhaps the last time this year. Manchester City plays Wednesday and now has a 9-goal lead in goal differential with a match-in-hand. Liverpool finishes the year against Newcastle on Championship Sunday.

Palace, once left for dead, can now remarkably finish no worse than 11th place.

source: APLiverpool players were left to choke back tears. Suarez collapsed, covering his eyes with his jersey and heaving forth sobs. An emotional Gerrard had to lead him off.

Brendan Rodgers‘ pre-match quotes implied that even Liverpool’s fiery attacking would be ratcheted up a notch as the Reds attempted to chase down Manchester City’s goal differential, and a boisterous Selhurst Park added to the atmosphere. Both Crystal Palace and Liverpool came hard charging out of the gates in an attempt to match the crowd’s energy.

As the game hit 10 minutes, however, Tony Pulis‘ Eagles began to sink into familiar defense-first form. Liverpool’s Glen Johnson made a darting run to latch onto a free kick, heading over on a point blank chance in the 15th minute in just once instance of the Reds’ desire to beat the back line.

Daniel Sturridge provided plenty of danger early, but seemed intent on taking an extra touch in several situations where a first touch strike looked deadly.

Welsh midfielder Joe Allen got the match’s first goal — and his first in 50 games with Liverpool — when he lost Joe Ledley on a Steven Gerrard corner kick and received a free header from the back post. He made no doubt about it, and it was 1-0 in the 18th minute.

Luis Suarez tried a daring, curling free kick just inside of a half-hour but missed the upper right corner by a yard as the ball dipped high and wide of the frame.

Palace’s Jason Puncheon put a scare into Liverpool in the 33rd minute when his drive deflected off Sakho, forcing Simon Mignolet to push the ball out for a corner (which came to nothing).

And Mile Jedinak continued his sterling season with a strong rip on goal that Mignolet had to tip over the bar. The ensuing corner was punched free by Mignolet. Jedinak may be the most overlooked, under-appreciated midfielder in the Premier League.

Liverpool attacked hard at the break. Speroni was forced to make a big save in the 50th minute, but Suarez sent an easy-enough rebound well over the frame.

Sturridge found the second goal in the 54th minute when he put a deflected shot past Speroni. He briefly celebrated before realizing how many goals Liverpool wanted to score, and pushing his teammates back for the kickoff.

And just one minute later, it was the other half of SAS who buried a goal, slotting home with his left foot just outside of the six-yard box. It was 3-0, goal differential was down to six and Liverpool had its 99th goal of the season.

Glen Johnson dribbled to the middle of the field and struck a hard ball toward goal that Speroni pushed over in the 67th minute.

But Delaney’s shot in the 79th minute took a left turn off Johnson and beat Mignolet to dent Liverpool’s hopes of catching City’s differential. And then Gayle collected a Yannick Bolasie pass in the 18 and scored just two minutes later.

From then on, Liverpool were either gassed, confounded or both Crystal Palace carried the play and the Reds were just holding on for the three points.

They couldn’t. Gayle ran down the middle of the pitch to hammer home and equalizer. Incredible! How??!

LINEUPS

Crystal Palace: Speroni, Mariappa, Dann, Delaney, Ward, Dikgacoi (Ince, 85′), Jedinak, Ledley, Bolasie, Puncheon (Gayle, 65′), Chamakh (Murray, 71′).

Goals: Delaney (79′), Gayle (81′, 88′)

Liverpool: Mignolet, Johnson, Flanagan, Skrtel, Sakho, Gerrard, Allen, Lucas, Sterling (Coutinho, 78′), Sturridge (Moses, 86′), Suarez

Goals: Allen (18′), Sturridge (54′), Suarez (55′)

Spain revamps Super Cup (and others should follow suit)

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Ever read a tournament concept and immediately think nearly every other league should adopt it?

La Liga is taking its version of England’s Community Shield — the Spanish Super Cup — and making changes that see the league season kick off in style.

[ MORE: CONCACAF Champions League returns Tuesday ]

Normally the winners of the Copa del Rey and La Liga meeting for a piece of hardware, the Spanish federation will now hold a four-team tournament abroad.

The tournament would include the Copa del Rey finalists and the two top league finishers (obviously extending to the third and fourth place teams if needed).

Flip it on its ear and imagine that MLS was kicking off its season not with myriad friendlies and the CONCACAF Champions League, but the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup winner, MLS Cup finalists, and Supporters’ Shield winner (especially if it was mandated that the cup finalists mixed it up in the semis).

For the Community Shield, you could include the Premier League winners, League Cup winners, FA Cup winners, and either the second place team or the “reigning Community Shield winner.” The gut reaction might be to rebel against “ugh, another game,” but if it’s taking the place of a Stateside friendly between second-choice sides? Come on!

CONCACAF Champions League returns with TFC, Houston

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The CONCACAF Champions League returns Tuesday night with a pair of Major League Soccer sides seeking a positive start to their seasons after substandard 2018s.

[ FA CUP: Man Utd bounces Chelsea ]

In the case of Toronto FC, their season went downhill in a big way after CCL success driven largely by Sebastian Giovinco. He’s gone now, as is Victor Vazquez, and TFC opens its bid to return to the final with a visit to Panama’s Independiente for the front end of a two-legged tie.

The Reds are almost even money to win, according to most oddsmakers, but anything can happen on a CONCACAF pitch in February.

Having helped the USMNT start life under Gregg Berhalter following its World Cup collapse, TFC captain Michael Bradley is prepared to engineer another turnaround following his club’s playoff-free 2018. From TorontoFC.ca:

“Nobody is sitting around worried about last year anymore,” added the TFC captain. “For me, that’s been the best part of this last week or so: coming into camp, looking around and feeling right away that there was an excitement and a real motivation of the guys to get going; to work and make sure that we use every day in the right way to push ourselves forward.”

Jozy Altidore is still out for Toronto, which should give new import Terrence Boyd the chance to star in Panama.

That match kicks off at 8 p.m. ET Tuesday, two hours before Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup champs Houston Dynamo enter the CCL with a visit to 5,000-capacity Estadio David Cordon Hichos in Guatemala.

That’s where they’ll meet Guastatoya. We don’t know a ton about the Guatemalan side, other than they won both the Clausura and the Apertura last season.

Familiar faces return for the Dynamo in the form of Romell Quioto and Alberth Elis, but there will be new talent on show. Defender Kiki Struna arrives from Palermo, while Marlon Hairston joins the Dynamo from Colorado, and could end up being a very productive player in Wilmer Cabrera’s system. Tommy McNamara also gets a new lease on life in Texas.

Klinsmann received $3.35M settlement from U.S. Soccer

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CHICAGO (AP) Jurgen Klinsmann received a $3.35 million settlement of his contract with the U.S. Soccer Federation, according to the USSF’s tax filing.

His replacement, Bruce Arena, was given a $300,000 settlement during the fiscal year that ended March 31, 2018, according to the filing, which was released Monday.

[ FA CUP: Man Utd bounces Chelsea ]

Klinsmann was hired in 2011 and in December 2013 was given a contract extension through December 2018. He was fired in November 2016 after an 0-2 start in the final round of World Cup qualifying in North and Central America and the Caribbean. His contract was settled for $3,354,167, the tax filing said.

Arena earned $899,348 in base pay during the fiscal year and a $50,000 bonus, according to the filing, which was first reported by The Washington Post. He quit after the U.S. loss at Trinidad and Tobago in October 2017 that ended the Americans’ streak of seven straight World Cup appearances.

Dave Sarachan, Arena’s top assistant, was the interim coach from October 2017 through last November. He had a base salary of $223,656 during the fiscal year.

Klinsmann’s top assistant, Andri Herzog, was given a settlement of $355,537 during the fiscal year. He is now Israel’s national team coach.

U.S. women’s coach Jill Ellis earned $291,029 in base pay during the fiscal year, which did not include a major tournament. He compensation was topped by under-20 men’s coach Tab Ramos, who had $295,558 in base pay plus a $30,000 bonus.

USSF CEO Dan Flynn, who has said he may be retiring, had $684,617 in base pay and $130,000 in bonuses. Chief operating officer Jay Berhalter, brother of new U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter, had $466,195 in base pay and $115,563 in bonuses.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Champions League preview: Bayern visit Anfield; Lyon v. Barcelona

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Liverpool and Bayern Munich are set to battle for 180 minutes beginning on Tuesday, when last season’s UEFA Champions League finalists host the reigning Bundesliga champions at Anfield, and Reds boss Jurgen Klopp is as anxious as anyone to watch the drama unfold.

[ FA CUP: Paul Pogba scores, assists as Man Utd bounce Chelsea (video) ]

“It’s another one of those games I’m really happy to be involved in, and if I wasn’t involved, I would try and buy tickets,” Liverpool’s German manager said this week. “It’s a tough one against a really strong, experienced team, but we are strong as well. Only more stress [facing Bayern], because all the people wanted 600 extra interviews with German news.”

Liverpool will be fully prepared and well drilled after having no game during the most recent FA Cup weekend. By the time the referee’s whistle blows for kickoff at 3 p.m. ET, 10 days will have passed since the Reds thrashed Bournemouth in PL play.

Liverpool will definitely be without the trio of Virgil Van Dijk (suspension), Joe Gomez (leg) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee), while Roberto Firmino (illness), Dejan Lovren (hamstring) and Xherdan Shaqiri (abdominal strain) are questionable to varying degrees. Central midfielder Fabinho could be forced into central defense as a result. On the other side, Niko Kovac’s side will be without the services of Thomas Mueller (suspended), Jerome Boateng (illness), Corentin Tolisso (knee ligaments) and Arjen Robben (thigh). Kingsley Coman (ankle) is expected to be available for selection after picking up an injury over the weekend.

[ FA CUP DRAW: Man City, Man United avoid derby showdown ]

Elsewhere in Europe, runaway La Liga leaders Barcelona will visit Ligue 1’s third-place side, Lyon. Though Lionel Messi and Co., head into Tuesday’s first leg as heavy favorites to reach the quarterfinals, Ernesto Valverde’s side has won just one of its last four games (all competitions).

They have, however, been nearly infallible in Europe competition this season, as they waltzed to the top spot in Group B, finishing a full six points clear of Tottenham Hotspur and Inter Milan. Even Messi has seen his form dip ever so slightly in recent weeks, as the Argentine magician has scored just once in his last three appearances (two starts). Those relative struggles comes on the heels of a nine-game goal streak which saw the 31-year-old score a dozen times. He has been his usually brilliant self this season, and will cause Lyon all kinds of problems from the outset.

Lyon will be without star attacker Nabil Fekir (suspension), which could prove a futrher crippling blow to their chances.