Arsenal 3-4 Liverpool: Coutinho stars in season’s first heavyweight bout

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  • Walcott gave Arsenal a 1-0 first-half lead
  • Reds scored 4 goals in a row
  • Gunners nearly brought it back level

Liverpool did not play well across the first 45 minutes, but they have Philippe Coutinho, and with the Brazilian spark plug, the fuse can ignite at any moment.

Coutinho scored a pair and assisted another as Liverpool won a free-flowing game 4-3 at the Emirates. The game swung back and forth, as the Gunners were up 1-0 most of the first half, the Reds scored four goals in a row to take control, and then the home side came just short of completing a remarkable late comeback.

The match began with a cagey nature, with Arsenal holding a fair amount of possession but being pressured by the Jurgen Klopp press. The first chance fell to the Gunners on 15 minutes when a long ball from Monreal was not cleared properly by Alberto Moreno, who instead headed directly into the path of Aaron Ramsey. The Reds defender made up for his mistake with a pinpoint tackle to see out the chance.

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Liverpool pressed well, but their attack seemed disjointed, finding themselves in offside positions or misplaced passes that killed chances early. The Reds had their first opportunity on 23 minutes, when Georgino Wijnaldum won the ball back from Monreal, leading Jordan Henderson to deliver a ball in to a free Roberto Firmino, but Hector Bellerin just put Firmino under enough pressure to see him bungle the chance.

Arsenal should have gone in front when given a penalty in the 29th minute. Moreno needlessly dropped Theo Walcott at the edge of the area, and the referee pointed directly to the spot. Simon Mignolet produced a fantastic save on the penalty, as Walcott looked to poke it into the low corner. Walcott would atone minutes later, however, as he’d get behind Moreno. Alex Iwobi found him on the right, and the English international found the far corner for a 1-0 Arsenal lead.

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Liverpool’s physical nature of play began to build up the card count, with Moreno earning himself a yellow card for his foul on Walcott, and both Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren picked up first-half cautions. The Reds appeared second-best for much of the first half, but Philippe Coutinho single-handedly brought them back level on the stroke of halftime.

Into first-half injury time, Coutinho won a questionable free-kick, and took the strike from well outside the area, and from at least 30 yards out he deposited an absolutely outrageous strike into the top corner past a helpless Petr Cech. The goal is the second straight on opening day for Coutinho, having scored the 1-0 winner against Stoke City last season.

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Following the break, Liverpool looked much more cohesive, and they were duly rewarded. Coutinho cut into the left edge of the box and plucked a beautiful flick to a waiting Adam Lallana on the far side. The England international chested it down and finished cooly from a tight angle for a 2-1 lead just four minutes after the break.

Just minutes after that, Coutinho would get his second goal and put the Reds 3-1 up as Nathaniel Clyne whipped in a pacey cross and the Brazilian easily touched home from point-blank range. Arsenal looked shell-shocked, and it would get worse. Sadio Mane ran straight around Calum Chambers and ripped an off-balance scorcher into the top corner for a 4-1 Liverpool lead.

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The Reds weren’t able to celebrate their stunning scoreline for long, as the Gunners picked up a lifeline in what turned into a goal fest. Substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored just 56 seconds after Mane’s goal, emulating his predecessor by flicking the ball past Nathaniel Clyne and beating Simon Mignolet at his near post.

Coutinho was removed on 70 minutes after cramping up suddenly on a one-on-two breakaway, replaced by Emre Can. Arsenal brought on debutant Granit Xhaka to shore up the midfield, and the Gunners would grab a lifeline. With 15 minutes remaining, a beautiful curling free-kick from substitute Santi Cazorla glanced off the head of a rising Chambers in the box, and the Gunners were suddenly back within one.

The home side poured numbers and pressure forward, but it wasn’t enough as the Gunners were downed by Liverpool at home for just the second time in their last 21 meetings.

LAFC’s Adama Diomande voluntarily enters MLS’s health program

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Los Angeles FC forward Adama Diomande has entered Major League Soccer’s substance abuse and behavioral health program.

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MLS announced Diomande’s voluntary decision Friday.

Diomande won’t play for LAFC at least until the program’s doctors complete their evaluation and he is cleared by program officials.

The 29-year-old Norwegian scorer has eight goals and seven assists in 25 appearances this season, including 15 starts. He has played a valuable complementary offensive role alongside MLS scoring leader Carlos Vela.

[ MORE: Report: Netherlands FA to meet with Sergiño Dest ]

Diomande is in his second MLS season after joining LAFC from Hull City. He also previously played under LAFC coach Bob Bradley in Norway.

LAFC (19-4-7) has clinched the Western Conference title, and it leads the overall MLS table by seven points despite a four-game winless streak.

Premier League Preview: Newcastle v. Brighton

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  • Early-season relegation battlers meet on Saturday
  • 18th-place Newcastle to host 16th-place Brighton
  • Brighton won at Newcastle, drew at home last season

Newcastle United and Brighton & Hove Albion, a pair of Premier League sides with just two wins from the first five weeks of the season between them, will meet at St. James’ Park on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com) for what could prove to be a retrospective relegation six-pointer when May rolls around.

Each side replaced its manager — Steve Bruce for Rafa Benitez at Newcastle; Graham Potter for Chris Hughton at Bright — in the summer and neither of the new bosses has had a particularly enjoyable start to the 2019-20 campaign. Brighton won on the opening day of the season, but have taken just two points from the following four games. Newcastle lost their first two games, won their third, and have drawn and lost again since. It’s the kind of form that’ll see both sides stuck in the high-teens of the PL table if they don’t find their footing in the coming weeks.

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Things are particularly worrying for Newcastle, who didn’t they’d be without Benitez until the end of June and didn’t appoint Bruce until mid-July. Key players had already left the club and reinforcements for few and far between. Forward Joelinton joined for $50 million and is one of four players with a single goal scored thus far.

Last week was nearly fruitful for the Seagulls, until the conceded a stoppage-time equalizer and settle for a point at home against Burnley. Summer signing Neal Maupay bagged his second goal for Brighton earlier in the game, giving Potter a potential trump card over a handful of other relegation-threatened sides without a consistent goalscorer.

Injuries/suspensions

Newcastle: OUT – Matt Ritchie (ankle), Florian Lejeune (knee), Dwight Gayle (calf); QUESTIONABLE – DeAndre Yedlin (groin)

Brighton: OUT – Leandro Trossard (groin), Jose Izquierdo (knee), Ezequiel Schelotto (knee)


Projected lineups

Newcastle: Dubravka – Krafth, Schar, Lascelles, Dummett, Willems – Almiron, Hayden, Shelvey, Atsu – Joelinton

Brighton: Ryan – Duffy, Dunk, Webster – March, Stephens, Propper, Burn – Gross, Maupay, Murray


What they’re saying

Joelinton, on Andy Carroll: “It’s always great to have experienced players in the group, and he’s one of them. He can help the club, he can help the young players. Andy Carroll has scored a lot of goals in the Premier League, and it’s great to be playing alongside him. He’s a calm guy. I still haven’t spoken to him a lot because my English isn’t great! But every day he’s trying to help. He’ll help me before the games, he’ll give me positional advice and suggest what I’ve done both good and bad.”

Graham Potter, on the trip to Newcastle: “Newcastle away is a tough game just like all the others. We don’t target particular matches — it’s about what we need to do to get a positive result. They have an experienced manager who I came across last year and he’s someone I have a lot of respect for. They have good quality players and we know it can be a hostile environment, it’s a big club and we know we have to play well to get something.  Steve has a lot of games under his belt – he’s had a lot of success and he’ll understand the challenge that lies ahead.


Prediction

Newcastle haven’t scored multiple goals in a game yet this season, and they’ve conceded twice as many as they’ve scored (four). It’s hard to trust them to be anything resembling consistent from game to game. It wouldn’t be surprising if they battled to a boring 0-0 draw, or conceding three times before halftime. It’ll probably be closer to the former, a 1-1 stalemate.

AC Milan announces internal anti-racism task force

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MILAN (AP) AC Milan has announced it will establish an internal task force to address racism in Italian football.

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The club says the task force will be supported by “an external consultancy” and “develop a program of activities to increase awareness, monitor and address racist behavior on social media and in the stadium, and drive the adoption of global best practices on diversity and inclusion.”

The move comes after reports of racist chants directed at Milan midfielder Franck Kessie, who is black, during a match at Hellas Verona last weekend.

Milan says the anti-racism initiative will be launched during Saturday’s derby against Inter Milan.

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Inter striker Romelu Lukaku was subjected to racist chants in a match at Cagliari this month.

Milan CEO Ivan Gazidis, who is South African, says: “Italian football needs to wake up and take a strong stance against racist behaviors. AC Milan will take a leadership position on this issue. . We believe that we have a moral obligation to do everything we can to address this issue.”

Slow start dooms Southampton again: ‘We lost the game in first half’

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Slow starts are, ironically, quickly becoming the story of Southampton’s Premier League season. It happened again on Friday, resulting in a 3-1 home defeat to Bournemouth in the Premier League‘s budding south coast rivalry

[ Premier League Previews: Leicester City v. Tottenham | Man City v. Watford ]

Through six games, Saints have conceded the first goal four times. In those four games, they have taken just one point. When scoring the game’s first goal, they have two wins and two clean sheets.

It would appear that Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s side is set up to play one way, and one way only. Speaking after Friday’s defeat, Hasenhuttl lamented his side’s slow start, conceding that the game was all but lost when they fell 2-0 behind in the 35 minutes — quotes from the BBC:

“The finish was not important anymore. If you lose 2-1 or 3-1 it does not make too much difference. We lost the game in the first half.

“In the second half, we were sharp. Had about 26 shots to six from Bournemouth but the most important stat is the goals. They scored three, we scored once.

“We weren’t aggressive enough and too easy in the first half. It is not easy to be 1-0 down after 10 minutes. We had a lot of blocked shots and misses near the post. It was a good performance in the second half but without a result.

“For the second goal was had a lot of players in our attacking box so it was not easy to defend.

“We showed a good reaction because we knew we needed to be brave. We changed our shape and were aggressive for the second ball. It gave us 64% possession and we had a lot of shots. Maybe we didn’t deserve to take something because of our first half.”

Southampton’s next chance to start a game quickly will come in an away bout with Tottenham Hotspur next Saturday.