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PL roundup: Liverpool falter late; Man Utd inch closer to top-four

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A roundup of Monday’s action in the Premier League…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Sunderland 2-2 LiverpoolFULL RECAP

Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds blew a pair of one-goal leads, each time wiped out by Jermain Defoe penalty kicks, as they opened the door for Chelsea to go eight points clear of their closest title challengers at the end of Matchweek 20. Daniel Sturridge put the visitors ahead after 20 minutes, and Sadio Mane restored the advantage on 72 minutes, but Defoe hit back not long after on both occasions. The draw pulls Sunderland to within a point of 17th-place Crystal Palace and the freedom of relegation that would come with overtaking them.

West Ham United 0-2 Manchester UnitedFULL RECAP

If it weren’t for Chelsea, who have won 13 straight games, the PL’s in-form side would be Man United, who topped West Ham and moved to 11 games without a defeat, including six straight wins of their own. Sofiane Feghouli was dubiously sent off in the 15th minute, making it an uphill fight for the Hammers, but they held on for more than an hour, until Juan Mata (63rd minute) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (78th minute — 13th PL goal of the season) did their part to move the Red Devils level on points with fifth-place Tottenham and a single point back of fourth-place Arsenal (neither north London side has played their Matchweek 20 fixture).

STRATFORD, ENGLAND - JANUARY 02: Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Manchester United at London Stadium on January 2, 2017 in Stratford, England. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

Manchester City 2-1 BurnleyFULL RECAP

Gael Clichy and Sergio Aguero scored two minutes either side of the hour mark, as a 10-man side Man City side moved back ahead of Tottenham and Arsenal for third in the league table. Pep Guardiola opted to rotate half of his attacking quartet, leaving Aguero and David Silva on the bench for the first 45 minutes, but calling on them after the halftime interval. They duly delivered, and City maintain their three-point advantage on the red side of Manchester. Ben Mee grabbed the Clarets’ consolation prize in the 70th minute.

Everton 3-0 SouthamptonFULL RECAP

The last laugh belongs to Ronald Koeman (for now). After losing on his return to St. Mary’s in November, Everton executed the textbook smash-and-grab against Southampton on Tuesday, scoring three times in 16 minutes, all after the 70th minute. Enner Valencia, Leighton Baines and Romelu Lukaku got the goals, and the Toffees remain seventh, leading the middling pack of sides a full nine points back of the top-six.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 02: Romelu Lukaku of Everton celebrates scoring his team's third goal during the Premier League match between Everton and Southampton at Goodison Park on January 2, 2017 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

West Bromwich Albion 3-1 Hull CityFULL RECAP

Hull took a 1-0 lead into the halftime interval at the Hawthrons, and proceeded to concede three times in the second half — Chris Brunt, Gareth McAuley and James Morrison did the damage — as Mike Phelan‘s Tigers blew their chance to move level on points with Palace.

Middlesbrough 0-0 Leicester CityFULL RECAP

In theory, Leicester could probably draw their way through the rest of the season and avoid relegation. Now on 21 points after Monday’s scoreless draw at the Riverside Stadium, the defending champions finally have a bit of breathing room (three places and six points) between themselves and the relegation zone. Boro, meanwhile, have just one point from their last three games, and Sunderland lurk just two places and four points back.

Tuesday’s PL schedule

Bournemouth vs. Arsenal — 2:45 p.m. ET
Crystal Palace vs. Swansea City — 3 p.m. ET
Stoke City vs. Watford — 3 p.m. ET

Wednesday’s PL schedule

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Chelsea — 3 p.m. ET

Ronaldo explains his new chin hair at World Cup

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Now that Cristiano Ronaldo has taken to sporting a reasonable hairstyle atop his head, people are talking about the foliage on his face.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

Ronaldo, 33, drew speculation when he stroked his chin following a goal in his hat trick performance against Spain in the World Cup opener. Some said he was demonstrating defiance against Lionel Messi posing with a goat (Greatest Of All Time) in a recent photograph.

Ronaldo scored again on Wednesday, and there was seemingly little doubt his goatee was a wink to the speculators. But what did it mean, CR7? From ESPN:

“This goatee? It’s a joke I had with [Ricardo] Quaresma. “We were in the sauna [before Friday’s match against Spain] and I started to shave and I left the goatee. I said if I score tomorrow, I would leave it for the rest of the tournament. And it gave me luck.

“I scored in that game, I scored in this one, so it stays.”

Personally, I like to imagine Ronaldo starting to get as wild with his facial hair as he did his head hair.

Perhaps a beatnik style, or something like Serj Tankian from System of a Down. Get nuts, C-Ron.

Report: Southampton could sell Tadic to Ajax for $20m

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Could Southampton be selling one of its most creative forces?

Dusan Tadic, 29, is in the middle of a World Cup run with dark horse Serbia, but the Saints star is also being talked about as a purchase item for Ajax.

[ MORE: Serbia tops Costa Rica ]

The celebrated Eredivisie has traditionally been a selling club for the Premier League, but could be a $20 million buy for Ajax.

The report says director of players Marc Overmars and financial director Jeroen Slop have flown to Southampton to work out a deal.

Tadic starred for Dutch sides Groningen and Twente between 2010-14 before moving to St. Mary’s for a reported $12 million.

He’s scored 24 goals with 35 assists in 162 appearances for Saints, 21 and 30 of which came in the Premier League.

Toronto locks down USMNT backstop Bono with extension

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Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono is going to stay Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The newly-capped USMNT backstop, 24, has been attracting interest from abroad since breaking past Clint Irwin to win the TFC job and guiding the club to multiple MLS Cup Finals.

Now general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has locked down his young goalkeeper to an undisclosed contract extension. From TorontoFC.com:

“Alex was a big part of our success last season. He set club records for wins and clean sheets and was a critical piece of our championship team,” said Toronto FC Sr. Vice-President, Soccer Operations & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Since joining the club as a first round pick in 2015, Alex’s ability to make key saves in big moments has been critical to our success.”

The Syracuse-born product of Syracuse University has made 64 appearances for the Reds.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 8 — Argentina on the edge; France aims for berth

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France, Denmark, and Croatia can clinch knockout round berths on Thursday in Russia, the last nation also holding the opportunity to help deprive the World Cup of an extended Lionel Messi run.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Messi’s Argentina drew Iceland in its opener, the megastar infamously missing a penalty, and will look to beat a Croatian side that looked quite good in dispatching Nigeria.

That’s the final match of the day, which begins with Denmark facing Australia and continues with a tasty match-up between France and Peru.

Below is Thursday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group C
Denmark vs. Australia: Samara, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
France vs. Peru: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group D
Argentina vs. Croatia: Nizhny Novgorod, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE