‘Historic’ game as Liverpool stun Man City

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LIVERPOOL — We were treated to one of the truly great Premier League games on Sunday.

The roar from the Kop grew louder and louder in a stunning nine-minute spell in the second half as Liverpool ripped apart Manchester City and handed Pep Guardiola‘s men their first defeat of the season in the Premier League.

[ RECAP: Liverpool 4-3 Man City | 3 things ] 

Games, and atmospheres, like the one we witnessed at Anfield on Sunday are what the Premier League is all about. Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola, true soccer purists, were expected to tell their teams to go all-out attack and that’s exactly what they did, even if the defending was shambolic at times.

Like a great defensive duel in Serie A and a titanic tussle in La Liga, the end-to-end, pulsating nature of this game summed up what should be adored about the Premier League. This was not a defensive stalemate between top four rivals scared of losing. Both teams played their part in a mouth-watering, absorbing seven-goal thriller and both wanted to win. It was all wonderfully refreshing and lived up to the drama of recent end-to-end encounters in the PL between Chelsea and Arsenal and Arsenal and Liverpool over the festive period.

All-out attack is now becoming the go-to mode for these heavyweight encounters.

With a tight game locked at 1-1 heading into the final 30 minutes, first Roberto Firmino chipped home to put Liverpool 2-1 up. Two minutes later Sadio Mane lashed home to make it 3-1. Then Mohamed Salah scored from 40-yards out to put Liverpool out of sight. Or so they thought…

Manchester City came roaring back late on — well, more so Liverpool forgot how to defend — scoring with six minutes to go and then in the first minute of stoppage time to make it 4-3 and all of a sudden the jubilant Anfield turned into a palace of nerves. The agony and ecstasy of the Premier League was bundled up into 90 minutes of pure, exhilarating action.

Speaking after the game, Klopp hailed the play from both teams and believes this is a game we will be talking about two decades from now as his side extended their unbeaten run to 18 games in all competitions and moved up to third in the PL table.

“You can watch it as a manager or as a football fan and I prefer to do that – wow! What a game!” Klopp told the BBC. “Two teams, full throttle. This was a historical game you will talk about in 20 years because it looks like City will not lose another one this year. People watched this game all over the world and this is why – take your heart, throw it on the pitch and play like this, both teams.”

All of the talk before this game was about two blockbuster attacks going all out for the win. It’s tough to deliver that when the expectations were so high, but both teams did and their philosophy and identity is now firmly embedded.

Despite the disappointment of losing their unbeaten run of 30 Premier League games and seeing their hopes of an unbeaten season fall, Pep Guardiola saluted Liverpool as his side showcased their defensive deficiencies and succumbed to the cauldron of noise created at Anfield.

“My first words is congratulations to Liverpool for the victory. It was a good game,” Guardiola said. “They start well. We lose a lot of balls, the wide players so aggressive without the ball. After that we start to play much better. We have good chances and especially in the second half we start good. We play good until the goal from Firmino and after that we lost a bit our control for many reasons. You have to try and be stable. We lose that a little bit but we are still fighting and we found two goals so it is our first defeat. You need to live those situations to realize what we have done. Football is unpredictable. You lose today against a fantastic team. You have to be sure to win the next one and fight til the end to win the Premier League.”

Guardiola’s men hadn’t lost all season but they’ve shown signs of cracking against the likes of Crystal Palace and second-tier Bristol City in recent weeks as teams brave enough to attack them came close to ending their run.

Liverpool were brave enough, and good enough, to prevail. They tried to go toe-to-toe with City in September at the Etihad but they lost 5-0 after Sadio Mane was sent off in the first half and Guardiola’s men ruthlessly punished them. Liverpool fought fire with fire again and it was the only way they were going to win.

“You have actually non alternatives to beat City,” Klopp said. “Yes, you can win the lottery and they tackle each other and you can stand deep in your own box and hope in the end that nothing happens but that’s actually not really likely. We are Liverpool. We should not try this way. Then you don’t have a lot of alternatives. You need to be brave. You need to play football. I’m really happy about that.

“Pressing in the second half, around the goals, was on a different planet. Just outstanding. Playing football first half, against a really good organized team. If you talk about City, you always talk about how good they are out playing wise but they are brilliantly organized. Against an organized team like that, playing football in the spaces we played, with the situations we created, chances and good moments, there is no alternative to play against them. That’s why we tried it again.”

Man City will still be at least 12 points clear atop the Premier League table at the end of Week 23, and they are still the overwhelming favorites to win the Premier League title.

Liverpool may well be the best of the rest as they sit level on 47 points with second-place Manchester United who are above them only on goal difference. Despite selling Philippe Coutinho to Liverpool for $197 million, this performance showed that Klopp doesn’t need to replace him right away as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain dazzled with his opening goal and a superb all-around display.

With Virgil Van Dijk (out injured for Sunday’s game) set to shore up Liverpool’s defense, the Reds will only improve and their attack showed it can rip apart any defense in the Premier League.

Liverpool have won more points, and games, against the so-called “top six” since Klopp arrived in October 2015 and their devastating attacking display on Sunday created an incredible atmosphere at Anfield, which rivaled some of the great occasions of the past.

Klopp summed up how we all felt as his team were rewarded for their bravery.

“It was just a joy to watch,” Klopp said. “It is just a nice a commercial for Premier League football. The whole world was watching and if is somebody didn’t like football up until now then probably they will say ‘ah, that’s why you watch it all the time.’ So, I’m really happy about it.”

So was the rest of the watching world.

Preview: Brazil v. Mexico in U-17 World Cup final

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There will be plenty of 2005 U-17 World Cup final shades at Estadio Bezerrão on Sunday.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

On that clear night in Lima, Peru, the likes of Carlos Vela and Giovani dos Santos wrote history for Mexico, as they powered El Tri to its first-ever World Cup title over a favorite Brazilian side, who was composed of Marcelo, Renato Augusto, and Anderson, in a 3-0 win.

14 years and some change later, both youth powerhouses meet again in the same tournament, for the same silverware, and with the same pressure looming over them from entire nations who expect nothing but excellence from their respective teams.

But of course, to the Brazilians, there is a sense of added pressure given the fact that they’re on home soil.

“We’re familiar with Mexico’s quality,” Brazilian forward, Veron, said ahead of the final. We know they are a great team. But we’re Brazil, and we have five stars on our chest. We intend to play our best match and get the result that makes history.”

As it stands, Mexico is the clear-cut underdog, having barely crept into the knockout stages and being composed of players with far less notoriety to its Brazilian counterpart, who boast three players with three goals or more in the tournament.

That said, Mexico pose as a balanced, reliable, and pragmatic team under coach Marco “Chima” Ruiz. Throughout the six games this tournament, El Tri have found the back of the net 14 times and have conceded a mere three goals (two of which came against Italy). With four goals and two assists in only 344 minutes, Los Angeles Galaxy’s Efrain Alvarez has proven to be the team’s most productive player going forward.

Asked who he would rather take between France or Brazil in the final, the Mexican American answered with the same confidence that has made him one of the most exciting players in the tournament.

“It doesn’t matter which of the two it is, we’ll beat them,” he said.

It’s 90 minutes for either team to make history, again. A win for Brazil will raise the number of U-17 stars to four, while Mexico can claim its third with another historic performance. Will Brazil’s high-flying attack crack Mexico’s solid defense? If Alvarez starts, will he rise to the occasion and guide Mexico to another U-17 title?

That has yet to be seen; the second final between two, routine winners awaits the first whistle.

Report: Man City considering Kingsley Coman as Leroy Sane replacement

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Pep Guardiola and Manchester City are considering Bayern Munich’s Kinglsey Coman as a replacement for injured Leroy Sane if he were to leave for the defending German champions over the summer, according to a report from Sky Sports.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Sane, who is projected to be out until February or March with an ACL injury, was the subject of a $176 million move to Bayern Munich over the summer, but a move never came to fruition, largely due to the aforementioned injury. If negotiations between Sane’s camp and the defending Bundesliga champions pick up again this summer, City have a replacement in mind: 23-year-old Coman.

Coman, who has played in 10 league games for the Bavarian club this season, was managed by Guardiola during his time with the club and flourished during the title-winning 2015-2016 season. In 2017, the Frenchman revealed that the Spaniard’s departure was tough on him, saying, “I found life easier at Bayern Munich under Pep Guardiola.”

As expected, Coman is not the only option City are exploring.

Real Sociedad’s Mikel Oyarzabal, who has a reported $82 million release clause, is also on the Premier League giant’s shortlist. Txiki Begiristain, City’s director of football, has strong ties to La Reala that goes back to his first day in the sport.

At the Etihad, the general feeling from Guardiola’s players is that the German winger is one foot out of England, and is instead focused on a move to Bayern and a return back home. With his contract in the final 12 months this summer, it is expected that the release clause for Sane will not be as lucrative as before. 

In 134 appearances for City, Sane has scored 39 goals, while Coman has scored on 28 different occasions in 139 appearances.

Abidal: Barcelona, Messi negotiating a new deal

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Lionel Messi and his representatives are in talks with Barcelona over a new contract, the defending champion’s sporting director Eric Abidal confirmed  to Mundo Deportivo in an exclusive interview.

“They are already talking,” Abidal, the former Barcelona defender, said. “I do not know if we will have news soon because the decision will depend on the player, but for us as a club I hope it is sorted as soon as possible.”

Messi – a five-time Ballon d’Or winner and Barcelona’s all-time leading goalscorer – joined the club’s well-known academy, La Masia, at the age of 13 and is under contract until 2021 but was recently questioned about his future after Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu revealed that the Argentine can leave Camp Nou on a free transfer due to a clause in his contract.

Asked when he expects an announcement to be made on a new and improved contract, Abidal made it clear he’s unsure but hopes it happens: “It will be known when it is known, but I am positive.”

Throughout seven games in La Liga this season, Messi has scored eight goals and assisted in four occasions. In his latest appearance for the Catalonian side – a 4-1 win over Celta Vigo – the No. 10 scored a first-half hat-trick.

Abidal also confirmed that Barcelona are in talks with breakout teenage starlet Ansu Fati and his camp on a new deal.

“We are also talking to him,” Abidal said. “He is a young player that we have to protect. We have to talk to his family and representatives.”

Earlier this year, the 17-year-old became the youngest player in the league’s history to score and assist in the same game.

EURO qualifying wrap: Germany, Austria, Croatia join Netherlands in qualifying

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Like the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and Croatia qualified for EURO 2020 after wins on Saturday.

[ READ: Netherlands qualify to first EURO since 2012 ]


Germany 4-0 Belarus

With goals from Matthias Ginter, Leon Goretska, and a second-half brace from Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos, Germany routed an uncompetitive Belarus side 4-0 at Borussia-Park. The scoreline, however, should have been more lopsided, as the home side easily won the possession battle and outshot the visitor’s with a total of 31 shots (10 on target). Leaders of Group C, Germany is an early favorite for next summer’s tournament. Not hard to believe that, right? 

Austria 2-1 North Macedonia

Qualifying for Europe’s main tournament is becoming a norm for Austria.

Bayern Munich’s David Alaba scored early while Stefan Lainer added his own three minutes into the second half, as Austria edged North Macedonia 2-1 at Ernst Happel Stadion. Das Team, who stand second in Group G with 19 points after nine games, have now clinched a berth for the EURO on back-to-back occasions.

Croatia 3-1 Slovakia

When all was said and done, Croatia was too much for a 10-man Slovakia, who, initially, broke the deadlock in the 32nd minute.

Bayern Munich’s Ivan Perisic scored the home side’s third and final goal of the match, which punched Croatia’s ticket in next summer’s tournament. Nikola Vlasic and Bruno Petkovic also contributed goals in the second half for Croatia.

Elsewhere

Russia 1-4 Belgium

Azerbaijan 0-2 Wales

Cyprus 1-2 Scotland

Israel 1-2 Poland

Armenia 0-1 Greec