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

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On Sunday Liverpool took another huge step towards finishing in the top four, as they beat Manchester City 2-1 at Anfield. 

[ RELATED: Liverpool edge past City ]

Stunning strikes from Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho sealed the win for Liverpool, as Edin Dzeko’s first half equalizer was as good as it got for the title-chasing Citizens.

[ RELATED: Mourinho praises Zouma ]

The defeat means City could fall eight-points behind current leaders Chelsea, as Manuel Pellegrini’s men couldn’t cope with Liverpool’s tempo in the second half.

Here’s three things we learned from City’s damaging defeat at Liverpool.

COUTINHO LEADS LIVERPOOL’S CHARGE, CITY’S TITLE HOPES IN RUINS

For the second Sunday in a row, Coutinho scored a goal of the season contender. For the second season in a row, he scored a late winner against Manchester City at Anfield. The tiny Brazilian playmaker was the best player on the pitch against City as his darting runs and quick passing and movement in front of City’s back four made him a nightmare to defend. Coutinho, 22, has all of the attributes to become one of the best players in the Premier League. He is fast becoming just that. Look at his goal above. Do you need any more proof?

[ VIDEO: Rodgers says top four is real possibility ]

After signing a new long-term deal last month, he is pulling the strings as Liverpool is now unbeaten in 11 PL games and have moved into fifth place as they surge towards UEFA Champions League qualification for the second-straight season.

“It’s a massive win for us, we’ve got momentum,” Adam Lallana told Sky Sports afterwards. “They [Man City] are the champions and I thought we thoroughly deserved it today. They came back into it but the lads have got fighting spirit and the little magician [Coutinho] at the end coming up with another wonderful goal. With players like that, we are going to go far.”

As for City, just one shot on target all game (Dzeko’s goal) says it all. That was the fewest efforts on target City have had in any game so far this season, as their fluidity in the final third went missing when they needed it most (more on that below). If Chelsea win their game in hand, they will go eight points clear at the top of the table with 11 games to go. It’s safe to say that the Citizens’ title hopes are not only hanging in the balance, but that they are hanging by a thread.

HENDERSON MAY SOFTEN BLOW OF GERRARD’S DEPARTURE

It will be extremely difficult, and perhaps virtually impossible, for any one person to replace Steven Gerrard when he leaves Liverpool Football Club in May for the LA Galaxy and MLS. But in vice-captain Jordan Henderson, flashes of brilliance like his stunning 11th minute goal (watch in the video below) which put Liverpool ahead suggest he could fill-in for Gerrard and become a lynchpin for many years to come.

In the first half Henderson drove forward from midfield time and time again and with Adam Lallana (who had two goals disallowed) buzzing around, Coutinho pulling the strings and Raheem Sterling making runs in behind, the Reds looked dangerous. Henderson was more withdrawn in the second half but he sat back and protected Liverpool’s back three with Joe Allen to show maturity as they won the midfield battle and pressed Yaya Toure into a poor second half display. Henderson came up big in a massive game for Liverpool, as his stunning strike set the tempo.

Speaking about the possibility of replacing Gerrard as Liverpool’s skipper, here’s what Henderson had to say.

“Stevie goes to America and we will decide who’s going to be the next captain, but that’s not up to me, it’s up to the manager,” Henderson told The Times. “It will be a huge honor regardless of who’s been captain in the past or who might be in the future. There’s never going to be another Steven Gerrard. In my time here I’ve learnt a lot from him, not only as a player but as a person.”

CITY MUST STOP WITH 4-4-2

After 62 minutes of their UEFA Champions League clash with Barcelona last Tuesday, Manuel Pellegrini switched from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 formation as his team struggled to create chances in the final third. The same happened on Sunday, as James Milner replaced goalscorer Dzeko on the hour mark, as David Silva and Samir Nasri were failing to impact the game from wide positions.

[ VIDEO: Pellegrini bemoans “beautiful goals” in defeat ]

City have an array of attacking talents, but if they aren’t placed in the correct positions to flourish then the whole thing falls apart. Toure and Fernandinho were overrun in central midfield in the second half as Liverpool had the extra man in the middle, while City looked more fluid when James Milner arrived to play out wide and Silva slotted in underneath Aguero. After having just one shot on target and Aguero having another hit the post and come back out, it’s clear that Pellegrini’s persistence to play two up front in yet another massive game was a massive mistake. City could now fall eight points behind Chelsea in the title race. With 11 games to go, their dreams of winning back-to-back titles seems all but over.

La Liga roundup: Atletico Madrid win first opener in four years

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Spain’s top flight is two days into a new season, and here’s a roundup of all of Sunday’s action.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Atletico Madrid 1-0 Getafe

It wasn’t done in aesthetically pleasing fashion, but Atletico Madrid won their first opening season game in four years.

In fact, the first half was rough with both Atletico and Getafe loosing players to straight red cards. Getafe’s Jorge Molina saw red for a studs-up challenge in the 38th minute, while Renan Lodi was asked to leave the field in his debut for Los Colchoneros. 

Summer signing Alvaro Morata proved to be the difference for Atletico, however. Assisted by former Tottenham fullback Kieran Trippier, the team’s academy product scored early on in the 23rd minute – the goal made Atletico one of eight clubs to start the season with three points.

$140 million signing Joao Felix also made his La Liga debut, and impressed the home crowd with a dazzling run in the second half that ended drawing a penalty for Atletico. Morata missed.

Not the smoothest of games for Diego Simeone’s side, but like Real Madrid, they already have an edge on Barcelona.

Espanyol 0-2 Sevilla 

Julen Lopetegui can finally breathe (and coach) in peace.

Following a series of unfortunate events with the Spanish national team and Real Madrid, Lopetegui and Sevilla started their new era in a winning way.

Sergio Reguilon got things started for the visiting side with a tap in inside the six-yard box. And in the final minutes, no stranger to stepping up for Sevilla, Nolito slotted one past Diego Lopez.

With only two shots on frame to speak for them, Espanyol was one, two steps behind Los Hispalenses, who look for another top-six finish in Spain’s top-flight league.

Sevilla’s young quest for that continues as they travel to Granada. Meanwhile, Espanyol have no time to waist with a Europa League play-off bout against Ukrainian side Zorya lined up midweek.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Real Betis 1-2 Real Valladolid

Alaves 1-0 Levante

Report: Edinson Cavani set to join Inter Miami next summer

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Edinson Cavani is reportedly set to make a big splash in Florida.

According to Uruguayan journalist Alvaro Izquierdo, Cavani, 32, is set to join David Beckham’s Inter Miami next summer. The club will make their MLS debut next season.

The specifics of the supposed move are not know, but per the report from Izquierdo, Cavani will join Miami on a free transfer after his contract with PSG expires in June. Since joining in 2013, El Matador has been irreplaceable for the French giants, scoring over 160 goals and becoming the club’s all-time leading goalscorer. This season, Cavani is off to a perfect start -scoring in the first two games of the Ligue 1 season.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

The striker is one of the first superstars linked to Miami, but the general vibe given off by owners Jorge Mas and Beckham is that the club will look to spend big – similar to Atlanta United, LAFC and LA Galaxy.

Miami has signed three players so far ahead of their 2020 MLS debut – Christian Makoun, Julian Carranza, and Matias Pellegrini all currently makeup the squad.

‘But hey this is MLS’: Wayne Rooney slams MLS’ travel arrangements

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Wayne Rooney is not a fan of MLS’ travel arrangements.

D.C. United lost 1-0 to the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday in Canada, and had to fly back to the nation’s capital before prepping for a midweek showdown with visiting New York Red Bulls. To the 33-year-old Englishmen the trip should’ve taken six hours, not half a day.

MLS is notoriously known for the lack of charter flights it offers its teams, a mere four per season is the reported amount each team is allocated. Traveling on commercial flights has caused routine delays for a slew of team’s this season, with certain teams arriving only hours before the first whistle in some cases.

Players, however, will reportedly push for better travel in the upcoming CBA negotiations. Not only for Rooney, but for the majority of professional athletes around the world, flying charter is customary.

Upon his arrival to D.C. in 2018, Rooney turned down first-class flights offered by the Black-and-Red, among other fine accommodations. “If you are going to be part of the team, you have to be part of the team,” Rooney said on his decision to reject first-class flights and private hotel rooms. “All in and do the same things. I don’t want special treatment — I wanted to be treated the same as the players. I’m part of this team.”

Rooney, despite being on his way out of D.C. to join Derby County in January, is certainly a part of the team.

He is also now a part of the complex fight for better travel in MLS.

Vela scores 24th, LAFC clinches playoff berth

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SANDY, Utah (AP) – Carlos Vela scored his MLS-leading 24th goal of the season, Tyler Miller had four saves and Los Angeles FC beat Real Salt Lake 2-0 on Saturday night to clinch a playoff berth.

LAFC played a man down after defender Walker Zimmerman, who was shown a yellow card for time wasting in the 17th minute, was given a red for unsporting behavior in the 48th., Real Salt Lake’s Aaron Herrera, who blocked two would-be goals in the first half, was shown a straight red for denial of a goal scoring opportunity on Vela, who then converted from the spot to make it 1-0 in the 64th minute.

Vela, whose 15 assists are tied with Diego Valeri of the Portland Timbers for the league lead, broke the MLS record for combined goals and assists. Sebastian Giovinco’s had 22 goals and 16 assists for Toronto FC in 2015.

Miller has eight shutouts this season for LAFC (18-3-4), who have won four consecutive games and seven of their last eight dating to June 28.

Adama Diomande side-netted a rising right-footer to cap the scoring in the 82nd minute.

Salt Lake (12-10-4) had its six-game unbeaten streak, including three straight wins, snapped and allowed multiple goals for the first time since a 4-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls on June 1.