Liverpool, Chelsea prove title credentials in gripping clash

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LONDON — When all is said and done this season, both Liverpool and Chelsea will not be far off winning the Premier League title.

[ MORE: 3 things learned ]

That was the main thing we learned on a gripping, intense evening under the “Friday Night Lights” at Stamford Bridge.

With smoke machines, spotlights and blue lasers before the game in west London, everything was box office about this encounter. Their intense rivalry over a record-breaking 53 meetings in all competitions since 2000 has been brewing and now they both seem set to challenge Manchester City, Manchester and Arsenal for the Premier League title this season.

[ MORE: Player ratings | Slow start for Blues ]

With two talented and hungry managers in Antonio Conte and Jurgen Klopp passionately patrolling the sidelines on Friday, their two teams proved there is little between them. Liverpool came flying out of the traps, scoring the opener via Dejan Lovren after a defensive mix up, then Jordan Henderson scored a sublime goal (see above) to make it 2-0 to Klopp’s side.

Despite Diego Costa‘s strike early in the second half to bring Chelsea back into the game, Conte’s side couldn’t grab an equalizer as Liverpool, like Chelsea, now have 10 points from their opening five games.

Are they title contenders like most people are starting to think they are?

“I am really not interested in what people think. I had the same question the game we won here 3-1 last time against Chelsea. My answer was ‘are you crazy?’” Klopp laughed. “Everything is good, we have 10 points that is fantastic. I am really happy after these difficult fixtures but the season is not over, we have to play football. We know we can play football and we are convinced in our quality, that is all the truth. In the end we have to prove it every week.”

As for Conte, he was more reserved post-game as he bemoaned his team’s inability to defend properly as they badly missed injured captain John Terry at the heart of their defense as they lost for the first time this season.

“We conceded the goals in a strange way. They took the free-kick quickly for the first goal and it was a great shot from a long distance for the second but if we are in the right position he must not receive the ball unmarked. When you want to think like a great team you must pay attention in every moment,” Conte said. “We played with good intensity and anger in the second half. We scored a goal and could have scored another with Diego Costa. We played a good second half. I must work more to improve my players. Defeats are never good. We know this, we must work and keep our concentration.”

Chelsea won’t have a bad season like last season. They have enough going forward to beat most teams — which they showed in the second half against Liverpool — in the Premier League but the truth of the matter is that for all of Liverpool’s dominance in the first half, only a Henderson wonder goal separated these two teams.

The main reason both Chelsea and Liverpool will be closer to the title this season then last is because they have no European action to contend with. That will give them an edge over Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Man United and maybe even Man City. Looking at all 20 PL teams overall in the opening five games, Man City are the only side who have been better than Liverpool and Chelsea.

With no Eutopian games to worry about Klopp and Conte will have plenty of time to iron out these defensive mix-ups which have so far been their Achilles heel, and the intense bosses represent two managers tasked with returning their clubs to glory after transitional periods.

Liverpool are further along that route, which is expected after Klopp took charge last October and his side have already beat Arsenal, Leicester City and now Chelsea this season. Liverpool have scored 52 goals in 2016, more than any other Premier League team and Klopp’s methods are clearly working. That feeling of comfort for Klopp was also evident as Conte gesticulated wildly on the sidelines throughout as his team labored in the first half and failed to stop Liverpool’s fluid attacking machine, while his opposite number sat down for most of the first half, observing the brilliance of Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum in the heart of midfield.

As the game wore on Klopp beat his chest like a maniac under the bright lights as he urged his players to give their all for victory. His true colors came out and this is now truly his team. It will take a while for Conte to make his marm at Chelsea and this game was a reality check for how much work he still has to do at Stamford Bridge after a promising start.

Liverpool and Klopp won the battle against Conte’s Chelsea on Friday but when the final battle takes place in the war to win the Premier League this season, troops from both Liverpool and Chelsea will be on the front line.

This intense battle between two rivals lived up to the hype and proved both have what it takes to win it all.

Pepi scores again as USMNT beats El Salvador to win Nations League group

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The USMNT got another goal from Ricardo Pepi to secure a 1-0 victory over El Salvador in Orlando on Monday and win Group D of the CONCACAF Nations League, booking their place in this summer’s finals.

[ MORE: USMNT player ratings vs Grenada | Recap/highlights ]

Mexico and the USMNT are the first two (of four) sides through to the final round, with Panama and Canada currently in pole position to finish atop their respective groups when they conclude play on Tuesday.

It was a frustratingly slow start by the USMNT on Monday, as El Salvador refused to let the Americas get comfortable or play their game. Long balls over the top of the USMNT defense created a few nervy moments early on, but interim head coach Anthony Hudson’s side looked a completely different side after halftime.

The USMNT’s first real scoring chance came in the 46th minute, when Gio Reyna cut in from the left wing, worked his way past two defenders and fired a shot low and hard toward the near post. The ball smashed the front of the post and the rebound ricocheted back into play, just out of Alejandro Zendejas’ reach atop the six-yard box.

[ MORE: Folarin Balogun to USMNT? “It’s something that will come to me”

Zendejas went close to opening the scoring just two minutes later, as he audaciously — but necessarily — lobbed the ball over a frazzled Mario Gonzalez in goal, only to pull it just wide of the far post.

The Yanks kept the pressure up as the second half wore on, and eventually got their reward in the 62nd minute. A minute after Pepi came into the game, Weston McKennie found the 20-year-old forward making a dangerous run in behind the Salvadoran defense, but Gonzalez saw it early as well and came out to close down his angles as Pepi jostled with the last defender. Pepi went for the cheeky chip over the ‘keeper, to go with the two goals he scored against Grenada on Friday.


How to watch USMNT vs El Salvador live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 7:30pm ET
Stadium: Exploria Stadium – Orlando, Florida
TV in English: TNT
TV/streaming en Español: Universo/Peacock

[ LIVE: CONCACAF Nations League scores – USMNT vs El Salvador ]


USMNT squad

Goalkeepers (3): Ethan Horvath (Luton Town), Zack Steffen (Middlesbrough), Matt Turner (Arsenal)

Defenders (8): Sergino Dest (AC Milan), Mark McKenzie (Genk), Tim Ream (Fulham), Bryan Reynolds (Westerlo), Antonee Robinson (Fulham), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), Joe Scally (Borussia Monchengladbach), Auston Trusty (Birmingham City)

Midfielders (7): Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo), Weston McKennie (Leeds United), Yunus Musah (Valencia), Alan Sonora (Juarez), Djordje Mihailovic (AZ Alkmaar)

Forwards (6): Taylor Booth (Utrecht), Daryl Dike (West Bromwich Albion), Ricardo Pepi (Groningen), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Alejandro Zendejas (Club America)


EURO 2024 qualification live! EURO qualifiers schedule, updates, standings

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EURO 2024 qualifying is here, and you’re in the right spot for groups, fixtures, and results.

Italy outlasted England in penalty kicks to win EURO 2020 and is bidding to become the first repeat winner since Spain in 2008 and 2012.

[ MORE: Breaking down Premier League title race ]

England is still seeking its first European Championship and will be favored to emerge from Group C with aforementioned Italy as well as Ukraine, North Macedonia, and Malta.

Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions started off 2024 qualifying well as Harry Kane snapped a tie with Wayne Rooney atop England’s all-time goals list with a 2-1 win in Italy, the nation’s first in the country since 1961, and then Bukayo Saka led the Three Lions to a 2-0 win over Ukraine on Sunday.

Netherlands and France are also in a spicy group that has dark horse Republic of Ireland and former champions Greece, as well as Gibraltar.

[ MORE: Live scores, updates, standings from EURO 2024 qualifying ]

A number of nations have guaranteed themselves no worse than a playoff spot due to their performances in the UEFA Nations League: Netherlands, Greece, Italy, Spain, Scotland, Georgia, Croatia, Turkey, Serbia, Kazakhstan.



EURO 2024 qualifying schedule

Thursday, March 23

Kazakhstan 1-2 Slovenia
Slovakia 0-0 Luxembourg
Italy 1-2 England – Video, player ratings as Kane breaks Rooney record
Denmark 3-1 Finland
Portugal 4-0 Liechtenstein
San Marino 0-2 Northern Ireland
North Macedonia 2-1 Malta
Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-0 Iceland

Friday, March 24

Bulgaria 0-1 Montenegro
Gibraltar 0-3 Greece
Moldova 1-1 Faroe Islands
Serbia 2-0 Lithuania
Austria 4-1 Azerbaijan
Sweden 0-3 Belgium
Czech Republic 3-1 Poland
France 4-0 Netherlands

Saturday, March 25

Scotland 3-0 Cyprus
Israel 1-1 Kosovo
Armenia 1-2 Turkey
Belarus 0-5 Switzerland
Spain 3-0 Norway
Croatia 1-0 Wales
Andorra 0-2 Romania

Sunday, March 26

Kazakhstan 3-2 Denmark
England 2-0 Ukraine — Video, player ratings as Saka leads Three Lions
Liechtenstein 0-7 Iceland
Slovenia 2-0 San Marino
Slovakia 2-0 Bosnia and Herzegovina
Northern Ireland 0-1 Finland
Luxembourg 0-6 Portugal
Malta 0-2 Italy

Monday, March 27

Montenegro 0-2 Serbia
Netherlands 3-0 Gibraltar
Poland 1-0 Albania
Austria 2-1 Estonia
Sweden 5-0 Azerbaijan
Moldova 0-0 Czech Republic
Hungary 3-0 Bulgaria
Republic of Ireland 0-1 France

Tuesday, March 28

Georgia vs Norway — Noon ET
Wales vs Latvia — 2:45pm ET
Romania vs Belarus — 2:45pm ET
Switzerland vs Israel — 2:45pm ET
Kosovo vs Andorra — 2:45pm ET
Turkey vs Croatia — 2:45pm ET
Scotland vs Spain — 2:45pm ET


EURO 2024 qualifying standings

Group A

Spain — 3 pts, +3 GD
Scotland — 3 pts, +3GD
Georgia
Norway — 0 pts, -3 GD
Cyprus — 0 pts, -3 GD

Group B

France — 3pts, +4 GD
Greece — 3 pts, +3 GD
Republic of Ireland
Gibraltar — 0 pts, -3 GD
Netherlands — 0 pts, -4 GD

Group C

England — 6 pts, +3 GD
Italy — 3 pts, +1 GD
North Macedonia — 3 pts, +1 GD
Ukraine — 0 pts, -2 GD
Malta — 0 pts, -3 GD

Group D

Turkey — 3 pts, +1 GD
Wales — 1 pt, 0 GD
Croatia — 1 pt, 0 GD
Latvia
Armenia — 0 pts, -1 GD

Group E

Czech Republic — 3 pts, +2 GD
Faroe Islands — 1 pt, 0 GD
Moldova — 1 pt, 0 GD
Albania
Poland — 0 pts, -2 GD

Group F

Austria — 3 pts, +3 GD
Belgium — 3 pts, + 3GD
Estonia
Azerbaijan — 0 pts, -3 GD
Sweden — 0 pts, -3 GD

Group G

Serbia — 3 pts, +2 GD
Montenegro — 3 pts, +1 GD
Hungary
Bulgaria — 0 pts, -1 GD
Lithuania — 0 pts, -2 GD

Group H

Slovenia — 6 pts, +3 GD
Northern Ireland — 3 pts, +1 GD
Denmark — 3 pts, +1 GD
Finland — 3 pts, -1 GD
Kazakhstan — 3 pts, 0 GD
San Marino — 0 pts, -4 GD

Group I

Switzerland — 3 pts, +5 GD
Romania — 3 pts, + 2 GD
Israel — 1 pt, 0 GD
Kosovo — 1 pt, 0 GD
Andorra — 0 pts, -2 GD
Belarus — 0 pts, -5 GD

Group J

Portugal — 6 pts, +8 GD
Slovakia — 4 pt, +2 GD
Iceland — 3 pts, +4 GD
Bosnia and Herzegovina — 3 pts, +1 GD
Liechtenstein — 1 pt, -7 GD
Luxembourg — 0 pts, -10 GD

Antonio Conte, Tottenham part ways

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Antonio Conte’s belabored but seemingly inevitable exit from Tottenham Hotspur was just that, as Spurs announced the Italian legend’s exit late Sunday.

Conte went off on everyone at the club following a 3-3 draw with Southampton in Premier League Matchweek 28, and the international break did nothing to calm or rectify the situation.

“I see selfish players, I see players that don’t want to help each other and don’t put their heart [into the game],” Conte said at one point, later criticizing ownership, coaches, and staff. See the full press conference atop this post.

Cristian Stellini will stay on and oversee the season as “Acting Head Coach” with longtime Spurs man Ryan Mason assisting the Italian.

[ MORE: Saka, Kane scored as England cruises past Ukraine ]

Conte, 53, was appointed Spurs boss on Nov. 2, 2021 following the firing of Nuno Espirito Santo, and helped Tottenham to a top-four finish and a return to the UEFA Champions League.

Spurs went unbeaten in their first seven matches to open the 2022-23 season, only losing away to West Ham and Chelsea, but a 3-1 loss at Arsenal in the North London derby started a run of ups and downs not normally associated with Conte teams.

After beating Brighton and Everton, Spurs failed to win consecutive Premier League matches between October 19 and late January, when Spurs beat Fulham and Man City on consecutive match days.

Tottenham was on a 5W-1D-2L Premier League run when Conte launched into his incredible rants following the Southampton draw. That, combined with a lifeless Champions League exit against AC Milan, was far too much to sustain him at the club.

Tottenham Hotspur statement on Antonio Conte

From TottenhamHotspur.com:

“We can announce that Head Coach Antonio Conte has left the Club by mutual agreement. We achieved Champions League qualification in Antonio’s first season at the Club. We thank Antonio for his contribution and wish him well for the future.

“Cristian Stellini will take the team as Acting Head Coach for the remainder of the season, along with Ryan Mason as Assistant Head Coach.

Daniel Levy, Chairman: ‘We have 10 Premier League games remaining and we have a fight on our hands for a Champions League place. We all need to pull together. Everyone has to step up to ensure the highest possible finish for our Club and amazing, loyal supporters.'”

What now?

It’s very strange that Spurs would wait one week into the international break and then announce that Conte was leaving without a new coach in place (Stellini was a long time Tottenham assistant).

Spurs are currently in fourth place on the table with 49 points, one point behind Manchester United, but Newcastle (47 points) and Liverpool 42 points) both have two matches-in-hand on Stellini’s men. Brighton’s also on 42 points and has three matches-in-hand on Spurs.

Stellini actually may have a pretty easy task presuming he didn’t follow up Conte’s comments about the players by yelling, “Yeah, I agree!”

There are points to be had along the way as Spurs return from break to meet Everton, Brighton, and Bournemouth, but the relatively soft landing ends with Newcastle, Manchester United, and Liverpool in the following three PL matches.

Palace, Villa, Brentford, and Leeds wind down the fixture list, so it’s reasonable to think Spurs will return to the Champions League if they can get through Liverpool on April 30 with a look at the top four.

Premier League top scorers: Who is leading Golden Boot race?

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Harry Kane scored twice on Saturday to give him 20 goals on the Premier League season, and impressive figure with 10-plus matches left for the teams of the Premier League this season.

Then Erling Haaland converted a penalty at Crystal Palace to give him 28 on the season, reminding the country that the Golden Boot race remains in fait accompli territory.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ] 

There is something somewhat dull about knowing the identity of the 2022 Golden Boot winner, the lone curiosity being the final number of his final tally, we get it, but most of what Haaland is doing this season is simply marvelous and to be admired without much fear.

Haaland’s Premier League-leading 28 goals have him seven goals clear of the next closest challenger: Tottenham’s fantastic and firing Harry Kane.

The Norwegian star piled up 20 goals in a single Premier League season faster than any player in history… by seven games (Kevin Phillips of Sunderland did it in 21). Now he’s within five goals of equalling Kevin Phillips’ record for most goals in a debut Premier League season.

And the later this season goes with him projected so far over the current record, the less chucking is accompanied by marking out the pace (especially considering Haaland was not beaten up by the World Cup, as Norway was not in the tournament). And even though Haaland is currently overperforming his expected goals total, it’s clear that projecting him for the Premier League record is rather realistic.

Which records can Haaland break?

Haaland may not be likely to hit 50 goals given the schedule congestion to come for Man City, but the Premier League record is very well under assault and that figure isn’t entirely absurd. He’s played in 23 of Man City’s 24 games, scoring 26 goals.

Mohamed Salah holds the 38-game season record with his 32 goals scored for Liverpool during the 2017-18 season, while Newcastle’s Andy Cole and Blackburn’s Alan Shearer bagged 34 during 42-game seasons in the 20th century’s final decade.

Haaland also could topple the record for goal involvements (goals plus assists) in a single season, including beating the 42-game record. Alan Shearer put up 47 over 42, while Thierry Henry holds the 38-game record with 44.

Other records that Haaland could legitimately tie or topple:

  • 30 goals in a first Premier League season (Kevin Phillips, Sunderland, 1999-2000)
  • Goals in 24 different Premier League matches (Salah, Liverpool, 2017-18)
  • Most goals in a Premier League match (Five tied with five)
  • 11-straight Premier League games with a goal (Jamie Vardy, Leicester, 2014-15)

Read on to see the latest Premier League goal totals for the 2022-23 season, as Haaland looks to claim a Golden Boot in his first PL season.

Premier League 2022-23 Golden Boot race

    1. Erling Haaland, Man City — 28
    2. Harry Kane, Tottenham — 21
    3. Ivan Toney, Brentford — 16
    4. Marcus Rashford, Manchester United — 14
    5. Gabriel Martinelli, Arsenal — 13
    6. Bukayo Saka, Arsenal — 12
    7. Miguel Almiron, Newcastle — 11
    8. Aleksandar Mitrovic, Fulham — 11
    9. Mohamed Salah, Liverpool — 11
    10. Rodrigo, Leeds United — 11
    11. Martin Odegaard, Arsenal — 10
    12. James Maddison, Leicester City — 9
    13. Phil Foden, Man City — 9
    14. Ollie Watkins, Aston Villa — 9
    15. Harvey Barnes, Leicester City — 9
    16. Leandro Trossard — Brighton/Arsenal — 8
    17. Danny Ings, Aston Villa/West Ham — 8
    18. Darwin Nunez, Liverpool — 8
    19. Roberto Firmino, Liverpool — 8
    20. Callum Wilson, Newcastle — 7
    21. Brennan Johnson, Nottingham Forest — 7
    22. Alexis Mac Allister, Brighton — 7
    23. James Ward-Prowse, Southampton — 7
    24. Kai Havertz, Chelsea — 7
    25. Solly March, Brighton — 7
    26. Wilfried Zaha, Crystal Palace — 6
    27. Pascal Gross, Brighton — 6
    28. Kaoru Mitoma, Brighton — 6
    29. Heung-min Son, Tottenham — 6
    30. Phillip Billing, Bournemouth — 6
    31. Alexander Isak, Newcastle — 6