Premier League Playback: Should we be surprised by Steven Gerrard’s madness?

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GERRARD’S RED-MIDST, MATA’S MAGIC

Steven Gerrard strode onto the Anfield pitch at half time to take part in his last-ever match against Manchester United for Liverpool. 38 seconds later, the Liverpool skipper walked straight back off as the rid-midst descended and he inexplicably stamped on Ander Herrera, who laid on the floor, just after delivering a crunching tackle on Juan Mata.

[ RELATED: Gerrard apologizes for red card ]

Gerrard was shown a straight red card, while Herrera was shown a yellow for his tackle on Gerrard, and hamstrung his team as they battled hard but lost 2-1 to United to leave them five points off of fourth place with eight games to go. Speaking to Sky Sports right after the game, watch in the video above, Gerrard apologized to the fans as he will now miss at least three of his final nine matches for the Reds through suspension.

“I need to accept it; the decision was right. I’ve let down my team-mates and the fans. I take full responsibility,” Gerrard said. “I don’t know what caused it. Probably just a reaction to the initial tackle [by Herrera]. I shouldn’t say more about it really. I’ve just come out here to apologize to the dressing room and supporters.”

Everyone everywhere was simply wondering “why?” when they saw Gerrard purposely stamp on the leg of Herrera right under the nose of referee Martin Atkinson. Gerard had no complaints about the red card and rightly so. But let’s not act like he’s an angel on the pitch and hasn’t been involved in contentious moments before. As a youngster he was close to being hooked out of Liverpool’s academy for crunching tackles and had to curb the physical side of his game.

During his illustrious career Gerrard has been sent off eight times, four of those reds have been in derby games against Merseyside rivals Everton or Manchester United. On all four occasions he has been sent off for reckless challenges but when you earn your living as a marauding central midfielder, you run that risk. The fact that this was Gerrard’s last-ever game against bitter rivals United before he moves to the LA Galaxy and calls an end to his 17-year career definitely played a part in his crazy decision to stamp on Herrera. So did the fact that he was left on the bench for United’s biggest game of the season and that he is no longer deemed a regular by Brendan Rodgers after spending almost six weeks on the sidelines.

[ RELATED: Mata scores stunning goal of the season contender ]

The pent up frustration in Gerrard cost his team a shot at beating United on Sunday as they rallied but had no answer for Mata’s brilliance. This will be painful for fans of Liverpool to accept, but Gerrard’s slip at home to Chelsea played a pivotal role in the Reds not winning the title last season and his silly challenge on Herrera could cost them a top four spot this season. Leaving after 38 seconds on a red card was not they way Gerrard wanted to go out in his last game as Liverpool’s leading man versus fierce rivals United, but that’s what happened.

On the other side of the fence, Juan Mata had his best game in a United short. Above is a moment of pure genius produced by  the majestic Mata.

He dug out this beauty in the 59th minute as time almost stood still inside Anfield when the Spaniard sprung himself in the air and volleyed home an incredible acrobatic effort from an almost impossible angle. That goal will be close to the hearts of United fans for the rest of time, as Mata’s two strikes on Sunday delivered a marvelous win which keeps them in pole position to finish in the top four.

[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]

After the game Louis van Gaal hailed Mata’s display, as the Spaniard who cost $45 million from Chelsea last January is finally fitting in at Old Trafford and becoming an integral part of LVG’s plans. Even if the Dutchman is slightly reticent to admit it and is a little uneasy about dishing out praise…

“Juan is one of my better players,” van Gaal said. “I looked for balance and now I have found a position where he plays very good and he also scores two goals and marvelous goals.”

Marvelous. Majestic. Mercurial. Mata is finally making his mark at Manchester United, and did so on Sunday in the biggest game of their season so far as one of the fiercest rivalry matches in world soccer did not disappoint. See the highlights, below.

Premier League Schedule – Week 30

Result Recap & Highlights
Aston Villa 0-1 Swansea Recap and watch here
Hull 2-3 Chelsea Recap and watch here
Liverpool 1-2 Man United Recap and watch here
Man City 3-0 WBA Recap and watch here
Newcastle 1-2 Arsenal Recap and watch here
QPR 1-2 Everton Recap and watch here
Saints 2-0 Burnley Recap and watch here
Stoke 1-2 Crystal Palace Recap and watch here
Tottenham 4-3 Leicester Recap and watch here
West Ham 1-0 Sunderland Recap and watch here

REFS MUST GET VIDEO HELP

After two minutes of Manchester City’s game against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, Wilfried Bony went down outside the box in a challenge from Craig Dawson as he went through on goal. Clear red card. However referee Neil Swarbrick, as I’m sure you are aware of now, sent off Gareth McAuley instead of Dawson in a clear case of mistaken identity.

[ RELATED: Latest PL standings ]

Swarwick has since apologized and the Professional Game Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL) have called for video technology to be used to help out their officials in tight situations.

“We need to see what technology we can use to help get referees’ decisions more accurate. Football as a whole has to look at it,” Mike Riley, head of the PGMOL said. “All it takes is a split-second lapse in concentration. Neil had four or five elements to judge in half a second and it is that type of situation that would lend itself to technology.”

[ RELATED: English refs want video help ]

In essence it was the correct decision for a red card and a PK (just not to the right player) so West Brom can’t argue about the outcome too much as they got off to the worst possible start in their 3-0 defeat. But having video technology with the fourth official on the sidelines — or perhaps an official watching a TV screen in some neutral location like they do for contentious calls in NHL — would make the most sense.

It takes 10-15 seconds to take a quick look and see if the right player was sent off and if a decision regarding a penalty kick was for a dive or not. (Maybe that will help to get rid of diving too?) Those worried about every decision being placed under video scrutiny, I hear you. But perhaps a challenge system could be brought in so coaches have three of them during a match, but mostly this technology would be used to overturn incorrect decisions by a referee if the fourth official has clear video evidence to show that a mistake has been made.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Referees sending off incorrect players hasn’t happened a whole lot, but in the past 12 months it has occurred three times which is three more times than it should happen. With Kieran Gibbs given a red when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain handled on the line for Arsenal against Chelsea last season and Wes Brown was sent off instead of John O’Shea for Sunderland at Manchester United earlier this campaign, big mistakes have been made. With the pace of the game and scrutiny on officials from pundits, fans and outsiders who can see every angle in a replay close to 10 seconds after the incident in question took place, why can’t referees get that kind of technology to help them out?

Below are the views of our panel as to how referees can be helped out.

KANE DESERVES CHANCE TO LEAD ENGLAND

On Saturday Harry Kane scored another Premier League hat trick to take his tally in the PL to 19 this season, and 29 in all competitions as the man named PL Player of the Month for January and February kept his insane hot-streak going in the 4-3 win over Leicester City. 

Kane, 21, was called up to England’s full national team squad this week for the first time and the Tottenham Hotspur forward deserves the chance to lead the line for the Three Lions in their upcoming games against Lithuania and Italy, not just sit on the bench for the “experience.”

[ RELATED: Premier League schedule ]

Moving through England’s youth ranks and scoring goals at every level, it’s about time he got his chance after a season of blossom few would have predicted last August. Sure, Kane had potential, but the rapid rate of his development has stunned observers and provided Roy Hodgson with a welcome selection dilemma up front.

How do you fit Daniel Sturridge, Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Kane into and England lineup? Hint: you play Kane up top on his own. With Sturridge still easing his way back into things after injury, Rooney a guaranteed starter and Welbeck a little off the boil, Hodgson’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, or a variation of 4-3-3, would suit Kane in the lone central role and allow Rooney the freedom to create in behind him. On the wings Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge would provide pace, trickery and balance, as Kane and Sturridge could well interchange as we often see both drifting out wide for their club teams to create havoc.

Simply put, Kane’s time is now. Yes, he is just 21 but at the moment he is carrying Tottenham’s top four hopes and is a talisman who a team can be built around. England awaits the Hurri-Kane.

AMERICANS ABROAD

Tim Howard was the only U.S. national team player to taste success in the Premier League this weekend. Geoff Cameron went the full 90 at right back, hear his thoughts on the Potters chase for their best-ever PL finish in the video above, but Crystal Palace made Stoke pay for slack defending.

Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan couldn’t help his side shutout Swansea as a late goal saw Villa’s winning-streak end at three in all competitions as the Midlands clubs are still entrenched in a relegation battle. As for Howard, he helped Everton squeak by QPR to ease their relegation concerns after a tough exit from the Europa League last Thursday.

Premier League Playback comes out every Monday as PST’s Editor and Lead Writer takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here

Griezmann: Playing for Barcelona is ‘not the easiest’

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Over the summer, Barcelona shelled a whopping $135 million to land Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid.

It was a match made in heaven; the rest was supposed to be history.

Only that hasn’t been the case for the Frenchman in Barcelona.

Despite scoring a brace in his debut at the Camp Nou, Griezmann’s impact and influence on the field has quickly dwindled. In 11 league appearances with the Catalan giants, the 28-year-old has scored four goals and added three assists, signs that the World Cup winner is, in fact, struggling with his new team.

Speaking to Telefoot, Griezmann revealed that playing for Barcelona is not an easy thing to do, but that with hard work, his fortunes will turn around for the best:

“It is hard, I knew it would be, it is not the easiest place. This is a new team, a new club, new tactics, a new position. I have to work, try to understand my team-mates, after they will understand me too and it will work just like that… Critics will always be there. But I am good, I am proud of where I am. Only work pays off. I have to take confidence and it will all come just like that.”

This season, Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has frequently deployed the Frenchman as a left winger, with the hope that he will link up with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. The positives form such an ideology have yet to be reaped, however. Griezmann is scoring a goal every 224 minutes, a career worst.

The 28-year-old, too, has played in a central role on a couple of occasions, specifically during the absences of Messi and Suarez, but it hasn’t worked out for a player that has made a career from roaming that part of the field.

The building clamor at the Camp Nou is borderline justifiable – mainly because it’s now evident that Griezmann is wrestling with adapting to the expectations and systems in place in Barcelona.

But the high-flying attacker has proven he’s worth the price time and time again, and now he’s on the record saying that he’ll do everything in his power to do so with his new club.

Real Monarchs beat Louisville City to win first ever USL Cup

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Real Monarchs scored three unanswered goals as they routed Louisville City 3-1 at Lynn Stadium to win their first ever USL Cup title.

Noah Powder’s goal in the 66th minute sealed the deal for the visitor’s, adding to the goals scored by defenders Erik Holt and Konrad Plewa in the first half.

Surprisingly enough, it was Lou City who got off to a superb start on Sunday night, though.

Only six minutes after the initial whistle, Lou City’s leading goalscorer, Magnus Rasmussen, scored the game’s first goal, breaking a record for the fastest goal in a USL Cup final.

The defeat brings an end to Lou City’s historic run of consecutive USL Cup-winning seasons.

On July 1, former Real Salt Lake defender, Jamison Olave, took over as the Monarchs interim coach following Martin Vasquez’s unexpected resignation.

Man arrested after English soccer player reports homophobia

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TRANMERE, England — A footballer in England’s third tier reported being subjected to homophobic abuse from the stands, leading to police making one arrest.

Wycombe goalkeeper Ryan Allsop told the referee of the abuse at halftime of the League One soccer game at Tranmere as his team won 2-0.

Tranmere says it is very disappointed to learn of a homophobic comment made.

In a statement, Merseyside Police condemned abhorrent incidents.

Police Chief Inspector Jason Crellin added that “hate crime has no place in our communities, and not least at a showcase sporting event attended and watched by many people.”

Brazil beat Mexico to win U-17 World Cup (video)

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Brazil became Under-17 world champions for a fourth time in dramatic fashion as Lazaro Vinicius Marques’ scored a 93rd-minute winner to edge Mexico 2-1 at Estadio Bezerrão on Sunday.

Brazil’s comeback started in the 84th minute when Kaio Jorge converted from the penalty spot, following VAR’s decision which ruled contact on the tournament’s Golden Ball winner, Gabriel Veron, inside the 18-yard box.

With Brazilian legends Ronaldo and Cafu in attendance, the host’s had the better of chances throughout the first 45 minutes. Without any luck, however, Brazil were unable to get the ball past Eduardo Garcia, instead hitting the bar on several occasions.

Then in the 66th minute, Mexico – winners of the tournament in 2005 and in 2011 – stunned the home crowd when Bronze Ball winner Eugenio Pizzoto’s cross into the box was headed into the back of the net by Bryan Alonso Gonzalez Olivan, breaking the deadlock between two sides that had met in the same game back in 2005.

What was going to be a stunning, underdog victory for El Tri, turned into a heartbreaking night for Marco “Chima” Ruiz and company.

Brazil, on the other hand, are now only one championship away from tying Nigeria’s record of five championships.