Brendan Rodgers slams Cesc Fabregas as Liverpool’s top four hopes all but over

Leave a comment

LONDON – On Sunday Liverpool’s hopes of finishing in the top four were all but ended after a battling 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

[ RELATED: Three things we learned ]

Brendan Rodgers’ side took the game to Chelsea in the second half after a slow start which saw John Terry head Chelsea into the lead, but the Reds squandered numerous chances as Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho went close. Rodgers was pleased with his teams display but a challenge from Cesc Fabregas on Sterling in the first minute enraged the Liverpool boss, as he felt Chelsea’s Spanish midfielder should have been shown a straight-red card.

“He [Sterling] recovered exceptionally well. It was a poor challenge by Fabregas. He should have been sent off,” Rodgers said. “Out of control. Diving. Stretching. It was a poor challenge and Raheem has done well to stay on the field and play ever so well in the second half.”

[ VIDEO: Gerrard equalizes for Liverpool ]

That lunging tackle from Fabregas aside, Liverpool’s failure to win on Sunday means they now sit six points behind fourth-placed Manchester United with two games to go. Liverpool also have a inferior goal difference of 14 goals and Rodgers admitted his side are already building towards next season and getting back into the top four. Rodgers admitted it will be tough, like always, to attract the right type of players but he is looking at a summer of heavy recruitment to get Liverpool back in the race for Champions League action.

“Our lack of goals has really hurt us this season but the players have done everything, we want to finish it well but for us, it is pretty clear the areas we need to improve in,” Rodgers said. “If we can do that over the course of the summer, which will be a big summer for us, then hopefully it will set us back on the track again.”

source: Getty Images
Gerrard did battle against Chelsea for one last time in his illustrious PL career.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard continued his superb swansong as he scored for the second-straight PL game running to grab a point for the Reds as his departure to Major League Soccer looms. The ovation he received at the Bridge was warm when he was substituted 10 minutes from the end, despite some derogatory chanting from the home fans throughout the years, and Gerrard was hailed by Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho as a “dear enemy” for the Blues over the years.

“It was brilliant, he has taken a lot of stick here over the years but I think the Chelsea supporters knew deep down, it is only because he is a superstar player who has been a thorn in their side for many years. They showed a great appreciation when we took him off,” said Gerrard’s manager, Rodgers.

Gerrard also appreciated the ovation from Chelsea’s fans but also remembered plenty of times he has been lambasted by fans of the west London club after his costly slip against the Blues last season all but ended Liverpool’s title hopes, and after he turned down a move to Chelsea in 2005.

“It was a nice touch [from the Chelsea fans]. I know they’ve absolutely murdered me for years because I never signed here,” Gerrard said. “It was nice touch but I’m well aware it was only a moment. I’ve had great support from the Liverpool fans, that’s all that matters to me.”

As Gerrard’s time at Liverpool is coming to a close, Rodgers still isn’t sure how, or if, they can replace their legendary captain.

“I’ve said before, he is irreplaceable really,” Rodgers said. “One way or the other whether that is players coming in or players that are here taking a step forward. It is going to be crucial. He is a player who makes the big contributions when needed and has done for many years.”

Rodgers finished up by answering a question on what he thinks of the 2014-15 PL champions Chelsea, and then discussed where Liverpool is at as they look back at a season of struggled which will end without a top four finish.

“I’m not so worried about Chelsea. I am  more worried about my own team. Chelsea are the deserved winners and they brought in three quality players that made a difference for them this year. Simple as that,” Rodgers said. “They have been the best team consistently. For us, we have fought for everything. We sit in fifth place and that’s probably where we are at. If we are going to make the next steps we need to find some acquisitions in the summer that will help us do that but the players I’ve worked with all season have been brilliant. They have given everything and like today, we were very unfortunate.”

As for the boss of the current champions, Mourinho believes that although Liverpool finished outside of the top four this season, the Reds will be challenging for the title once again next season.

“Last season they were almost there, they finished second and this season they finish fifth. Somebody else will finish fifth next season. This is the Premier League. Last year it was Manchester United out of the top four, this season it is Liverpool and next season it will be somebody else. We have to make sure that Chelsea is not the one.”

Serie A: Juventus win 5th straight; Napoli cruise past Verona (video)

Photo by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images
Leave a comment

A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ LA LIGA: Real Madrid lose to Mallorca; Messi, Suarez, Griezmann send Barca top ]

Juventus 2-1 Bologna

Juve were made to work a bit — but not too much — en route to a 2-1 victory over Bologna. It’s their fifth straight win in league play and again puts them four points clear of Inter Milan, who are yet to play this weekend.

Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring with a pinpoint finish from a tight angle in the 19th minute, but Bologna hit back just seven minutes later when Danilo smashed home a half-volley after Juve failed to clear a corner kick. It was 1-1 at halftime, but not much longer than that. Miralem Pjanic picked out the near post and slotted home past the goalkeeper in the 54th minute to give Juve their deserved winner.

Napoli 2-0 Verona

Napoli, on the other hand, had their backs against the wall early when Verona visited the San Paolo Stadium. Goalkeeper Alex Meret was the hero early on with a fantastic double-save before Carlo Ancelotti’s side settled in and took control of the game.

Arkadiusz Milik got on the end of Fabian Ruiz’s cross right in front of goal, leaving the Polish forward with the simplest of tap-ins to make it 1-0 in the 37 minute. Milik made it 2-0 when he got a glancing touch on a sensation free kick from Lorenzo Insigne in the 67th.

The victory sees Napoli hang onto fourth in the league table and move to within two points of second-place Inter.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Lazio 3-3 Atalanta

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Sassuolo v. Inter Milan — 6:30 a.m. ET
Sampdoria v. Roma — 9 a.m. ET
Udinese v. Torino — 9 a.m. ET
Cagliari v. SPAL — 9 a.m. ET
Parma v. Genoa — 12 p.m. ET
AC Milan v. Lecce — 2:45 p.m. ET

Sounders top Dallas in all-time, extra-time playoffs classic (video)

Andy Bao/The Seattle Times via AP
Leave a comment

The game in 200 words (or less): How about one word? Insanity. Simply put, an all-time classic in MLS Cup Playoffs history. It’s a small sample size, no doubt about it, but MLS’s new single-elimination playoff format appears to have solved the problem of uninspiring early-round action. Seattle advanced to the Western Conference semifinals, where they’ll face the winner of Real Salt Lake versus Portland Timbers, with a 4-3 extra-time victory, but it wasn’t without 120 minutes of nonstop drama. Seattle went from 2-0 up inside the first 25 minutes, to level at 2-2 inside 65, to 3-2 up 10 minutes later, to level again with under 10 minutes of regular time remaining. They needed 113 minutes to do it, but Seattle broke the deadlock for the final time when Jordan Morris completed the first hat trick of his career.

[ MORE: Lampard “pleased for Pulisic,” praises subs in Chelsea win ]

What did we learn?

  • Sounders making magic out wide: No matter how many times they saw it, Dallas simply couldn’t slow down the Sounders wide attackers and full backs from creating superb scoring chances from out wide. This has been one of the Sounders’ greatest strengths for a couple seasons now, yet Dallas seemed wholly unprepared for it. The speed and crossing ability they have out wide is a huge problem for a lot of teams, especially when Morris and Raul Ruidiaz are moving around freely in the box.

  • Sounders’ defensive struggles unsolved: For all the chances they created on one end, Seattle couldn’t control the game or even slow it down in middle and defensive thirds. Whether it was on the counter-attack, through sustained possession by Dallas or set pieces, Seattle struggled in the worst way. Even after going ahead in extra time, Seattle stood idly by as Dallas created a couple of golden scoring chances and were so close to finding themselves level again at 4-4. They won’t have (m)any more “get out of jail free” cards to play as they advance to the latter rounds.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Jordan Morris

Goalscorers: Ruidiaz (18′), Morris (22′, 74′, 113′), Cannon (39′), Hedges (64′), Acosta (82′)

La Liga: Real Madrid shocked by Mallorca; Messi, Suarez, Griezmann send Barca top

AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos
Leave a comment

A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Lampard “pleased for Pulisic,” praises subs in Chelsea win ]

Eibar 0-3 Barcelona

Lionel Messi goal – check; Luis Suarez goal – check; Antoine Griezmann goal – check; clean sheet – check. If there exists a perfect recipe for a Barcelona victory this season, the Blaugrana put it to good use en route to a fourth straight La Liga victory and top spot in the league table on Saturday.

Griezmann opened the scoring in the 13th minute, followed by Messi in the 58th and Suarez in the 66th. Marc-Andre ter Stegen didn’t have to make a single save as Eibar managed just five shots in the game.

Mallorca 1-0 Real Madrid

Real Madrid’s unbeaten start to the season was snapped at eight games on Saturday, when Los Blancos went to Mallorca and suffered a hugely underwhelming 1-0 defeat. Zinedine Zidane’s side — already without the likes of Gareth Bale (calf), Luka Modric (bruise), Toni Kroos (adductor) and Marco Ascensio (knee), among others — finished the game with 10 men after Alvaro Odriozola earned his second yellow card in the 74th minute. The defeat sees Madrid fall off the top spot, now sitting second behind Barca.

Lago Junior scored the game’s only goal in the 7th minute and Mallorca held on for 83 more, allowing just four shots on target (12 in total). The early goal was Mallorca’s only shot on target over 90 minutes.

Atletico Madrid 1-1 Valencia

Atleti coughed up a late lead and settled for a 1-1 draw with Valencia, but the worst news of the day comes in the form of an injury suffered by Joao Felix. The 19-year-old’s ankle buckled underneath him late in the second half. Atleti finished with 10 men after their $140-million superstar was forced off.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Getafe 2-0 Leganes

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Alaves v. Celta Vigo — 6 a.m. ET
Real Sociedad v. Real Betis — 8 a.m. ET
Espanyol v. Villarreal — 10 a.m. ET
Athletic Bilbao v. Real Valladolid — 12:30 p.m. ET
Sevilla v. Levante — 3 p.m. ET

Haringey Borough abandon FA Cup qualifier after racist abuse

Photo by Nigel French/PA Images via Getty Images
2 Comments

LONDON (AP) An FA Cup qualifier between Haringey Borough and Yeovil Town was abandoned Saturday when the home team walked off the field after one of its players was racially abused.

[ MORE: Analyzing a day of VAR drama in the Premier League ]

Haringey, a London-based non-league club, walked off in the 64th minute after claims its Cameroonian goalkeeper Valery Pajetat had been targeted by racial abuse by visiting fans minutes earlier, when Yeovil took a 1-0 lead from a penalty.

Haringey manager Tom Loizou told BBC Radio 5 Live that defender Coby Rowe was also racially abused, and that “there was no way I could let him continue.”

The match at Coles Park Stadium was in the fourth qualifying round for the FA Cup, with the winner advancing to the first round of the tournament.

[ MORE: Lampard “pleased for Pulisic,” praises subs in Chelsea win ]

“The abuse a few of my players got was disgusting,” Loizou said. “Yeovil’s players and manager were different class. Their team tried to calm their supporters down, they tried their best and they supported us. They said, ‘If you’re walking off, we’re walking off with you.’ I took the decision to take my team off and I don’t want Yeovil Town to get punished for it. If we get thrown out of the FA Cup and they go through, there is no hard feelings there.”

The incident comes four days after England’s European Championship qualifier in Bulgaria was stopped twice in the first half as home fans hurled racial abuse at England’s black players. However, England decided to play on and won 6-0.

In a statement on Twitter, the football anti-discrimination charity Kick It Out praised the “swift and decisive action” taken by the Haringey manager Tom Loizou and his players.