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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

Zidane quizzed on Pogba: “We know what we want to do”

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Zinedine Zidane’s open flirtation with Paul Pogba continues, as the Real Madrid manager was asked about Manchester United’s star midfielder again on Saturday.

“We need to respect everybody, but the only thing I can say from the club is we know what we want to do,” Zidane said. “Something could happen before the end of August. We could have some changes.”

[ MORE: Wolves beat Man City in pens ]

On paper the purchase of Pogba makes sense to reloading Real, but the problem here is the sheer amount of paper the Madrid side has spent on players this season.

While sales of James Rodriguez, Dani Ceballos, and Gareth Bale could put Real in okay position regarding Financial Fair Play, buying Pogba would move the needle hard in the other direction considering the club has bought Ferland Mendy, Eden Hazard, Eder Militao, Luka Jovic, and Rodrygo.

Plus, Florentino Perez likes to buy only one Galactico per transfer session, and Hazard is undoubtedly this summer’s model.

That said, Real has assets that United could use in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s overhaul of the Old Trafford set.

UEFA gives partial stadium bans to Bulgaria, Romania for fan racism

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NYON, Switzerland (AP) Bulgaria will have to close part of its national stadium for European Championship qualifiers against England and the Czech Republic because of fan racism.

UEFA issued the order, saying Bulgarian fans were racially abusive during a 2-1 loss to the Czech Republic and a 3-2 loss to Kosovo last month.

Bulgaria hosts England on Oct. 14 and the Czech Republic on Nov. 17.

Romania has also been ordered to close part of its home stadium for a future under-21 game after UEFA ruled its fans behaved in a racist manner during the European under-21 championship last month.

Another racism case against Latvia was dropped.

UEFA also handed out various fines to Romania, Ukraine, and Greece for rowdy behavior by fans.

Transfer rumor roundup: Everton join Zaha chase; Matuidi to Man Utd?

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A roundup of Saturday’s biggest transfer rumors from around the world, including those involving a few Premier League clubs…

[ MORE: PL refs told to defer to VAR more, go to the monitor “sparingly” ]

Wilfried Zaha is one of the most wanted men in England, with Arsenal reportedly hot on his trail all summer. An deal between the Gunners and Crystal Palace is yet  to transpire, though, which has perhaps left the door open for Everton to sneak through and sign the 26-year-old Ivory Coast international.

Arsenal would obviously pay more in wages, but are yet to meet Palace’s valuation of their talisman. If Everton is the club that calls with the requisite figures on offer, it wouldn’t be the worst landing place for Zaha. With Arsenal yet to make a meaningful signing this summer, and the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny already gone or on their way out, the 2019-20 season could see the Gunners take a step back, opening the door for — you guessed it — Everton to break into the top-five… or -four.


Speaking of Ramsey, his arrival at Juventus has perhaps made Blaise Matuidi surplus to requirements, which means he could be available for cut-rate price.

Manchester United seem to be perennially in need of influential central midfielders, especially this summer after the departure of Ander Herrera and the failure of a signing that was Fred last summer. Man United have reportedly been in contact with Juve about the 32-year-old, as have Paris Saint-Germain and Everton.


Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is another midfielder who’s been linked with United, but he’ll likely just as much as, if not more than, the $59-million fee paid for Fred. Milinkovic-Savic seemed a surefire target for the world’s top clubs after a star’s showing at last summer’s World Cup in Russia, but the 24-year-old remained at Lazio and is still yet to move 12 months later.


Patrick Cutrone was one of Europe’s breakout stars of the 2018-19 season, now the 21-year-old AC Milan forward is reportedly high atop Wolverhampton Wanderers’ shopping list this summer. He won’t come cheap — Milan are expected to demand nearly $30 million — but he could offer some serious insurance in the event of an injury to Raul Jimenez.

PL refs told to defer to VAR more, go to the monitor “sparingly”

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Premier League interim chief executive Richard Masters says that referees have ben instructed “to use the referee review area a bit more sparingly” and rely on the numerous video-assistant referees (VAR) at their disposal to make simple calls upon review when video review is instituted in the PL next month.

[ MORE: Lukaku latest: Man United reject $67-million bid from Inter Milan ]

Following the 2019 Women’s World Cup, where far too many trip to the monitor were made by the center referees, the PL is keen on ensuring that “the Premier League or English football [is not] interrupted, or the pace of the game [is not] changed.” It sounds very much like a “less is more” approach  — quotes from the BBC:

“I think fans want to see those clear and obvious mistakes changed and put right. But they don’t want to see the Premier League or English football interrupted, or the pace of the game changed.

“I think the only difference you might see is the referees using the referee review area a bit more sparingly and relying more on the VAR for the more subjective decisions.

“But we are putting something new into the Premier League and if it needs to be refined or improved or tweaked we will look at it when the moment arises.”

In theory, this should work quite well for the PL. Many of the decisions that referees go to the monitor to review themselves could easily be made by the “fifth official.” If it’s obvious to the VAR and he/she can make the call with 100 percent certainty, the center ref should always take their decision in the name of keeping the game flowing. If the VAR isn’t so sure, or it’s a more subjective call that should be made by the person making 99 percent of the game’s calls, go to the monitor. But do so quickly.