Stoke 1-2 Liverpool: Coutinho, Firmino launch comeback

Leave a comment
  • Goal each for Coutinho, Firmino
  • Stoke led 1-0 through Walters
  • Liverpool move on to 63 points
  • Stoke winless in four

Liverpool launched a steely second half comeback at the bet365 Stadium to keep their Premier League top four hopes on track

Jonathan Walters have Stoke the lead just before the break but two half time subs changed the game for Liverpool with Philippe Coutinho equalizing and Roberto Firmino scoring a stunning volley to win it for Liverpool, their first away win of 2017.

With the victory Jurgen Klopp‘s side move to 63 points, nine points clear of fifth-place Arsenal, while Stoke remain on 36 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

Stoke started well with Xherdan Shaqiri having the ball in the back of the net but he was offside, then Glen Johnson surged forward but couldn’t get his cross right and Erik Pieters had a shot well blocked as Liverpool struggled to get going.

The chances kept coming for the Potters too.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Stoke continued to push forward before half time as Arnautovic was set free over the top but slammed his effort into the side-netting at the near post as half of the stadium thought he’d scored. Liverpool barely got forward in a woeful first half for the Reds as the Potters pinned them back.

Then a moment of real controversy arrived as Ben Woodburn went down in the box under a challenge from Pieters but no penalty was awarded and then Stoke took the lead moments later.

Shaqiri skipped past a tackle and clipped the ball into an unmarked Walters who nodded home at the near post. 1-0 to Stoke and Klopp was misery personified on the sidelines as both Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan were caught out.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

At half time both Coutinho and Firmino came on for Liverpool, replacing youngsters Alexander-Arnold and Woodburn, and Klopp’s changes paid off. Big time.

After the break Dejan Lovren hit the crossbar with a header, while Stoke should have scored through Charlie Adam by Simon Mignolet denied him superbly.

Liverpool pushed hard to get back into the game but Stoke looked dangerous on the break and were calling for a red card for Klavan who hauled down Shaqiri but no second yellow card was handed to him.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score

Coutinho recovered from sickness and jumped off the bench to turn the game as he equalized with just under 20 minutes to go. Liverpool smelt blood in the water.

Less than two minutes later Georginio Wijnaldum‘s superb long ball forward found Firmino and the substitute smashed home an unstoppable volley to turn the games on its head and make it 2-1 to

Moments later Mignolet pulled off a superb stop as Arnautovic whipped in a cross from the left which Berahino connected with at the back post but Liverpool’s Belgian goalkeeper clawed the ball away brilliantly.

Liverpool held on for the win as Klopp and his players celebrated a major comeback and a major step towards a top four finish.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Fekir negotiations back on; Chelsea waiting on transfer targets; and more

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Could Liverpool get its star attacking midfield target after all?

That’s what seems to be the case, as the agent for Lyon and France midfielder Nabil Fekir told French TV channel LCI Monday evening that negotiations aren’t over between Liverpool and Lyon.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

“He didn’t sign because um… it is not over! This is not the end of the story,” Fekir’s agent, Jean-Pierre Bernes reportedly said.

It was just two weeks ago when Lyon president Jean-Michael Aulas stated that Fekir, Lyon’s captain, would remain with the club for the upcoming season, after negotiations with Liverpool fell through. According to the Liverpool Echo, the Reds wanted a second opinion on a previous knee injury, and had balked at the $70 million price tag.

But now it appears Liverpool and Aulas could still be in conversations to try and find a mutually accepted fee.

At the same time, stirring up transfer drama is in Bernes interest, as it could drive other teams into the race to sign Fekir and raise his transfer fee, meaning more money to him, Fekir (if he gets a cut) and Lyon. Watch this space for more to come during and after the World Cup.

Here’s some more transfer rumors from across the Premier League and Europe:

(more…)

Japan upsets ten-man Colombia in Group H opener

Getty Images
Leave a comment

On paper, the 61st-ranked team in the world beating the 16th-ranked team in the world is a massive upset. But considering the circumstances within the game, perhaps this wasn’t an upset after all.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

Two set pieces were the difference as Japan defeated ten-man Colombia, 2-1 on Tuesday morning in Saransk. Colombia played with ten men for nearly the entire match, after Carlos Sanchez was sent off for a handball in the box and a denial of a goal scoring opportunity.

The game took a massive turn in the third minute, as Colombia centerback Davinson Sanchez failed to control a pass and Yuya Osako found himself free on goal. His shot was parried away by Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina but Kagawa’s rebound shot was clearly blocked by Sanchez’s right arm. The referee, Damir Skomina immediately pointed to the penalty spot and went to the back pocket, sending Sanchez to the showers.

Kagawa stepped up and cooly sent Ospina the wrong way to put Japan on top.

Late in the first half, after both teams had chances on target, Colombia came back and evened the scoreline.

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

Juan Fernando Quintero, starting in place of the recovering James Rodriguez, smartly took a free kick and fired it low, under the wall as it jumped. Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima reacted late and although he arrived as the ball was crossing the line, he couldn’t keep it from going over, tying the game in the 39th minute.

Ultimately, despite its efforts, Colombia began to tire and on a corner kick, the Blue Samurai took back the lead and control of their destiny in Group H. A corner kick from Keisuke Honda was re-directed past Ospina by Osako, who jumped well over Santiago Arias, to give Japan a 2-1 lead in the 75th minute.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Rodriguez was introduced in the 57th minute but try as he did, Colombia was unable to find the final pass in the box, and Japan held on for the unexpected victory.

With the win, Japan top Group H ahead of a meeting with Senegal, while Colombia will have to regroup to face Poland.

In a World Cup full of unexpected results, Tuesday brought yet another memorable win for an underdog.

New Zealand women footballers rebel against national coach

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Wellington, New Zealand (AP) Only weeks after New Zealand Football made headlines by signing a revolutionary equal pay deal with its female players, the organization is facing a mutiny by members of its women’s team against the national coach.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

New Zealand Football confirmed on Tuesday it had received a letter signed by a number of New Zealand players complaining about the methods and tactics employed by Austria-born coach Andreas Heraf.

The complaints follow the New Zealand team’s recent 3-1 loss at home to Japan. Heraf angered his players, and fans of the Football Ferns national team, by taking an entirely defensive game plan into the rare home international.

Heraf then further angered his players with comments defending his approach.

He said there was “a big difference in quality” between the New Zealand and Japanese players and that New Zealand “will never have that quality” to compete with top teams like Japan. He said the scoreline might have been 8-0 if New Zealand had not adopted a defensive approach.

One of New Zealand’s leading players, United States-based Abby Erceg, retired after playing 132 matches for New Zealand, citing Heraf’s approach in previous international matches.

She later told New Zealand media: “I couldn’t stand to wear that (national symbol) on my chest any more when his vision was to cower in a corner and not get beat by too much.”

New Zealand Football defended Heraf against the media and public criticism but admitted his comments were “strange” and “wrong” and did not accurately reflect his views. Heraf later apologized and said he had not expressed himself clearly.

But efforts to dampen the controversy have failed. New Zealand Football said in a statement it had “received a letter from the NZ Professional Footballers Association (NZPFA) last night with a number of complaints from the players of the Football Ferns.”

The mutiny comes only weeks after New Zealand gained international headlines for a deal which gives female pay parity with their male counterparts.

New Zealand Football signed the deal which provided female players with equal match payments, travel arrangements and prize money.

At the time, New Zealand women’s captain Ali Riley said the deal meant New Zealand would “be able to compete against the top teams, to be able to do well at a World Cup and the Olympics – this is what we needed.”

VIDEO: Colombia sees red, Japan takes early lead

Getty Images
1 Comment

The first red card of the World Cup came just moments after fans took their seats in Saransk.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news

After David Ospina blocked a breakaway opportunity from Yuya Osako in the third minute of the match, Japan star and former Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa fired the rebound on goal. But his shot was blocked by the arm of Colombia midfielder Carlos Sanchez, which earned him a straight red card from referee Damir Skomina and an early trip to the locker room.

Kagawa then stepped up to the spot and calmly sent Ospina the wrong way to give Japan the shock early lead.

Colombia will play the rest of the match with ten men and no James Rodriguez, who was named to the bench for this match as he recovers from a reported calf injury.