Three things learned: Man United v. Liverpool

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MANCHESTER — Manchester United beat Liverpool 2-1 at Old Trafford on Saturday, as Jose Mourinho secured just his second win in nine outings against Jurgen Klopp.

The Red Devils strengthened their grip on second-place in the Premier League thanks to two first half goals from Marcus Rashford and despite Eric Bailly‘s own goal and an improved displays in the second half, Liverpool fell.

Here’s what we learned from a gripping game as each team dominated a half.


RASHFORD TAKES HIS CHANCE

The local lad stepped up big time to deliver two goals in the first half and grab his chance with both hands.

Rashford probably wouldn’t have started had Paul Pogba not pulled out through injury on Friday, with Mourinho forced into a reshuffled with Rashford on the left, Mata on the right and Alexis Sanchez playing centrally behind Lukaku with just Scott McTominay and Nemanaja Matic in central midfield in a 4-4-2 formation.

We all know Rashford has bags of pace and undoubted talent, but you feared for his development after the arrival of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez this season. We shouldn’t have worried.

Rashford now has eight goals in the Premier League this season and 12 in all competitions, that’s the best return of his career to date. Not bad for a youngster pushed out to the left flank for most of this season when he does most of his best work as a central striker.

It was almost two years ago today that he burst onto the scene and scored twice against Arsenal in a 3-2 home win after being given his chance by Louis Van Gaal. And the stat above shows that Rashford can always be counted on for the big occasion.

Since then, Rashford has scored 31 goals in 111 appearances for the Red Devils and he is finally showing that there could be life for him on the left ahead of Sanchez, Anthony Martial, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard and others.


LUKAKU, SANCHEZ PARTNERSHIP WAY FORWARD

Yes, Pogba’s injury may have forced Mourinho into a change of lineup and personnel, but one thing is clear from Saturday: play Sanchez and Lukaku together up to from here on out.

Before the game all of the talk was about how United could slot Sanchez into their starting lineup and Mourinho admitted they haven’t seen the best of their highest-paid player since his arrival from Arsenal in January. Don’t get me wrong, Sanchez still has a long way to go. He gave the ball away in the second half on multiple occasions when all he needed to do was relieve some pressure on his defense, with the Chilean still looking rusty in possession just as he did on Monday at Crystal Palace when he had more giveaways than any other player on the pitch.

As for Lukaku, well, he is back in midseason form. The Belgian flicked on twice to set up Rashford’s goal and a more direct approach is suiting Lukaku.

During the week Lukaku described himself as a sergeant for Mourinho on the pitch. He did his part admirably on Saturday with his powerful display in the first half. He and Sanchez scared Liverpool’s defense and allowed Mata to find space for what should have been an easy third goal had he headed home instead of gone for the spectacular bicycle kick.

This duo will cause plenty of defenses problems and there’s an inclination that playing just off Lukaku will get the best out of Sanchez.


LIVERPOOL’S FAMILIAR PROBLEMS ARISE

They almost fought back for a point, but it was a case of familiar problems arising for Liverpool. They’ve only lost two of their last 21 games in the Premier League and are still in the hunt for the top four, but this defeat means they’ve fallen five points behind rivals Man United who sit comfortably in second place.

A sluggish start was their downfall as Jurgen Klopp’s men lost the first ball to Lukaku and failed to stop Rashford twice latching on to score. They also couldn’t work out how to mark Sanchez and Mata was drifting in from the right.

On multiple occasions in the first half United breezed through Liverpool’s defense and when Dejan Lovren and Virgil Van Dijk finally figured out how to stop United, they were already 2-0 down.

Liverpool’s clash showed in the second half as they dominated the majority of the 45 minutes with Eric Bailly’s own goal setting up a tense finish for the home fans at Old Trafford.

The Reds will now regroup and they know they have the easiest schedule out of the teams in and around the top four. Still, a defeat at your rivals in this manner will sting.

Video: Mbappe taps home to give France first blood

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The match is really opening up now, and France has begun to assert itself with an opener just beyond the half-hour mark.

[ MORE: Denmark, Australia draw, leaving Group C wide open ]

Kylian Mbappe has given Les Bleus a 1-0 lead over Peru after a deflected Olivier Giroud cross found the Monaco attacker just in front of goal for a tap-in finish.

The sequence began after Paul Pogba dispossessed Peru deep in their own half, before dishing the ball off to Giroud.

The goal for Mbappe is his first at a World Cup, as the 19-year-old continues to impress for both club and country.

American referee Geiger accused of asking for Portugal kit

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Morocco’s World Cup journey will conclude after the group stage, but the African side isn’t pleased with how their second match transpired on Wednesday against Portugal.

[ MORE: Spain gets win after Iran sees equalizer ruled off ]

The Moroccans have lodged a complaint with FIFA against referee Mark Geiger — an American who has become one of the most well-known officials in Major League Soccer.

Geiger was alleged to have asked Portuguese captain Cristiano Ronaldo for his jersey at halftime of the 1-0 win over Morocco, to which Geiger has categorically denied the claims.

FIFA released the following statement on the matter:

The claims stemmed from Morocco player Nordin Amrabat, who addressed the matter in an interview following the match.

“I don’t know what [Geiger] is used to, but he was very impressed by Cristiano [Ronaldo],” Amrabat said. “I’ve been just told by Pepe that in the [first half], he asked if he could have his shirt. Come on, man. What are we talking about? … We are at the World Cup, not a circus here.”

Geiger returned to action on Thursday as video assistant referee for the Denmark-Australia match, which included an important alteration in a call that led to an Australia penalty kick.

Group C wide open as Denmark, Australia settle for draw

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Denmark and Australia settled for a 1-1 draw on Thursday, as this exciting Group C affair had nothing to separate the two nations at the end of 90 minutes.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

As it stands, the Danes lead the group with four points, while Australia earned its first point of the World Cup.

France will meet Peru later on Thursday, with Les Bleus having won its first match and Peru having suffered defeat to Denmark.

The Danes broke through after seven minutes when Nicolai Jørgensen picked out a perfect back-heel pass to Christian Eriksen at the top of the box, before the Tottenham Hotspur attacker volleyed home for a 1-0 lead.

Jørgensen nearly doubled the Denmark advantage in the 24th minute when the 27-year-old had an open header from close range that skewed just wide of the target.

Australia worked its way into the match following the opener, and were awarded a penalty kick in the 37th minute after VAR Mark Geiger altered an initial decision for a handball inside the box.

Mile Jedinak converted the spot kick to level the match at 1-1, giving the Socceroos life.

A dangerous free kick four minutes later almost gave Denmark the lead once again, however, Eriksen couldn’t get a crucial touch on the ball to knock it over the goal line before Ryan collected.

The second half continued with lightning pace from both sides, and Aaron Mooy‘s 71st minute blast came inches away from giving Australia an improbable lead.

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

The two nations will conclude Group C play on June 26, as Denmark faces France and Australia takes on CONMEBOL side Peru.

Video: VAR awards Australia penalty, before Jedinak converts

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The Socceroos battled admirably in the latter stages of the first half, and Australia was rewarded for their efforts.

Australia has leveled the match at 1-1 after a Mile Jedinak penalty kick cancelled out Christian Eriksen’s stunning opener in the seventh minute.

After an initial decision to play on by the head referee, VAR Mark Geiger opted to award a penalty kick to the Aussies after Yussuf Poulsen was caught with his hand away from his body on a Mathew Leckie header.

Poulsen was also shown a yellow card for the infraction, which rules him out for Denmark’s group-stage finale against France.