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Three things learned: Everton v. Liverpool

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LIVERPOOL — Everton and Liverpool played out a tight, tense 0-0 draw in the Merseyside Derby at Goodison Park on Saturday, with Jurgen Klopp‘s much-changed side huffing and puffing against a resolute, if uninspiring, Everton.

Sam Allardyce‘s side now haven’t won any of their last 17 derbies against Liverpool as Yannick Bolasie had a shot saved by Loris Karius superbly and Cenk Tosun went close late on.

Without the injured Mohamed Salah, Liverpool failed to really take the game by the scruff of the neck despite having large spells of possession.

Here’s what we learned from an edgy encounter at Goodison.


AGITATION GROWS AT EVERTON

“You hardly touched the ball!” sung the Liverpool fans towards the Everton supporters midway through the second half.

Of course, they did touch it, many times, but you get what they’re saying. Everton’s fans appear to be fed up with Sam Allardyce’s direct style of play and the odds of him being in charge next season appear to be growing by the day.

This was a perfect audition for what Everton could become under Big Sam but instead he stuck to his principles as his team set up to defend and did just that with an unadventurous plan. Even a few decent chances at the end of the game which fell to Cenk Tosun and Dominic Calvert-Lewin couldn’t lift the mood among Everton’s supporters.

Their lack of ambition was summed up when Wayne Rooney and Yannick Bolasie were both taken off in the second half and Idrissa Gueye and Calvert-Lewin came on. Rooney, playing in a central midfield role, was livid with the decision and the decision to take Bolasie off was cheered by the home fans after several slack moments despite his curling shot almost giving the Toffees the lead in the first half.

Allardyce has Everton into the top 10 of the Premier League and away from the relegation zone which was his remit when he took over. But that’s not enough for Everton’s fans who were promised a push for UEFA Champions League under new owner Farhad Moshiri.

As Liverpool fans sung sarcastic songs about Allardyce and his style of play, it seemed clear that most of the home fans inside Goodison feel the same. Tosun had little support the entire game and Everton’s defenders were clearly told to lump the ball forward rather than to build from the back. Everton were set up to defend and not to lose but against a Liverpool side who had clearly prioritized their UCL quarterfinal second leg at Man City on Tuesday with their team selection, this was a chance for Allardyce’s side to make a statement. They didn’t. At all.

Big Sam has defended the job he’s done at Everton since he arrived. In the week he compared their situation to that of West Brom’s who sit bottom of the table but where above Everton in the table when he took over.

Ye it’s not about where Everton are in the table. Their performance in Saturday’s Merseyside Derby against a much-changed Liverpool side  proved that Allardyce’s methods aren’t what the fans want and this relationship isn’t working out despite Everton clear of relegation danger.


SOLANKE READY TO STEP UP

Dominic Solanke‘s fourth start in the Premier League was a big moment for him. With Solanke and Danny Ings starting in place of Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, they had huge boots to fill but Solanke was up to the task.

He nodded wide early on and had a snapshot from close range which Jordan Pickford saved superbly, but it was his ability to hold the ball up and link up with Sadio Mane and Ings which impressed.

Despite failing to score in 23 appearances this season in all competitions (19 of them have been as a second half sub, often late in the game) at 20 years of age Solanke is ready to step up and play regularly in the Premier League.

His pace and power caused Everton’s robust defense problems and even if he can’t get ahead of Firmino and Salah at Liverpool, a loan move to another PL club will surely be on the cards for next season. Klopp has been reluctant to loan youngsters out but Solanke has shown considerable progress this season and the next step must be to play regularly in the PL. He can do it. And score goals. No question.


CHAMPIONS LEAGUE NOW LIVERPOOL’S FOCUS

With a top four spot all but secure with five games to go, with got a glimpse of Klopp’s mindset for the final weeks of the Premier League season: the UEFA Champions League will be the focus.

Ings, Solanke, Ragnar Klavan and Georgino Wijnaldum all came in to the starting lineup and youngsters Curtis Jones, Conor Masterson and Rafael Camacho were all on the bench.

Klopp’s comments after Liverpool’s 3-0 win against Man City at Anfield on Wednesday suggested he wasn’t happy with an early kick off on Saturday for this game but he was in a position where he could afford to rotate his team with the second leg in Manchester in mind.

Those who came in did well but tired late on and with the Premier League title gone, Liverpool’s focus is now on at least making the final four of the Champions League rather than finishing second in the PL.

Toronto FC suspends all supporter groups after Ottawa stadium fire

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The Ottawa police were called and the match halted after flares thrown from the Toronto FC supporter section set fire to the stadium and pitch during a Canadian Cup match between Toronto FC and Ottawa Fury on Wednesday night.

Videos caught the Toronto FC supporters holding and throwing flares around the 72nd minute of the match, but things backfired when their flags accidentally caught fire, followed by parts of the bleachers next to them. One video posted to Twitter (shown below) shows the fans scrambling to put out the blazing flags and the fires in the stands where they are sitting.

Toronto FC announced Thursday afternoon that the club was temporarily suspending all supporter group privileges while they conduct an investigation to root out who is responsible.

“The safety of our fans, employees, and supporters is the highest priority for TFC,” said Toronto FC club president Bill Manning in a statement. “The events which took place in Ottawa last night involving TFC supporters were unacceptable and needlessly put the safety of others at risk.”

Due to the seriousness of this incident, we are left with no choice but to suspend all recognized supporter group privileges indefinitely as we conduct a thorough review TFC’s recognized supporter program. We are cooperating fully with the Ottawa Police Department as they investigate this incident and work to identify those responsible.”

Another video posted from a lower angle shows a player attempting to stamp out a small fire on the field of play when a loud bang comes from the Toronto FC supporter section behind him.

Ottawa Fury released a statement of their own after the match, seemingly downplaying the incident after the flares were smuggled in past security checkpoints.

“Upon seeing smoke and fire, which appeared to be more serious than they were, fans in other parts of the stadium notified Ottawa Police and Ottawa Fire that an incident had occurred and emergency services quickly responded,” the Ottawa Fury statement said. “Upon arrival they confirmed the incident had been resolved and returned to their respective stations.”

“All members of the visiting supporters group had been subjected to bag checks and security scans prior to entering the stadium and no fireworks or other devices were detected. TFC has apologized for the behavior of the members of the supporters group responsible for igniting the fireworks. Ottawa Police have launched an investigation into the incident.”

Canadian media is reporting that the ownership group of the stadium will be fined for allowing the flares to enter the stadium undetected. The match was temporarily halted while the incident was sorted, and the fans were reportedly ejected from the match. The game ended in a 1-0 road victory for Toronto, with the second leg of the semifinal to come.

Scottish club Hearts fields ineligible player in Cup match

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Scottish club Hearts of Midlothian has issued a statement saying they are “embarrassed” after fielding an ineligible player in a League Cup match against 5th-tier semi-pro team Cove Rangers on Wednesday.

18-year-old Hearts youth product Andrew Irving entered in the 65th minute as a substitute for Olly Lee, but was ineligible due to what the club is calling an “administrative error.” Irving, according to the Hearts statement, signed a contract extension back in January but the paperwork was never correctly submitted to the league, hence leaving Irving as unregistered.

“It is with much embarrassment that we have to advise that during last night’s Betfred Cup group stage match away to Cove Rangers, Hearts inadvertently fielded an ineligible player,” Hearts Chief Executive Ann Budge said in a statement on Thursday morning.

“While stringent processes are already in place to try to prevent something of this nature occurring, clearly mistakes can happen.  An additional step in our internal procedures will be implemented immediately to try to ensure this cannot happen again. The club would like to apologize to its supporters, to Cove Rangers Football Club and to the footballing authorities for this inadvertent breach of the rules.”

Since the Scottish League Cup – currently known as the Betfred Cup – has utilized a group stage format the last few years, it is possible that the club will be docked points instead of ejected from the tournament. Previously, clubs such as Brechin, Dunfermline, and East Stirling were all disqualified in the past for similar offenses, according to Mark Donaldson of ESPN. The league will hold a hearing on Monday to determine the appropriate sanctions.

Hearts won the match 2-1 on a 57th minute goal by former Cardiff City, Plymouth, and Rangers striker Steve MacLean.

This is the second incident of this nature of late, as Major League Soccer club LAFC is under investigation for potentially fielding an illegal seven international players in a US Open Cup match against Portland Timbers on Wednesday. As a result, US Soccer postponed the draw for the semifinals until the investigation is complete.

6 clubs fined, risk FIFA transfer bans for debts to players

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ZURICH (AP) Clubs from Russia and Qatar are among six fined by FIFA and warned they risk one-year transfer bans for failing to settle debts to players.

[ MORE: Steffen to England? ]

FIFA says the clubs also face deductions of six league points if they fail to pay the debts in 30 to 90 days.

The clubs are: Kuban of Russia; Al Arabi and Al Kharaitiyat of Qatar; Zamalek of Egypt; Al Jazira of the United Arab Emirates; and Mersin Idman Yurdu of Turkey.

FIFA says all failed to comply with rulings by FIFA or the Court of Arbitration for Sport “to pay significant overdue amounts of money to players.”

They were fined between 15,000 and 30,000 Swiss francs ($15,000 and $30,000).

FIFA says national soccer federations face disciplinary cases if they fail to enforce the verdicts.

Premier League friendlies: Liverpool meets BVB; Everton in Portugal

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The Premier League is three weeks and one day from opening its 2018-19 slate, when Leicester City will visit Old Trafford for a Friday afternoon match with Manchester United.

The end of the World Cup has eyeballs trained on friendlies, with 19 Premier League teams doing work over the weekend.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

The International Champions Cup has a pair of matches on the docket.

Friday sees Pep Guardiola and Manchester City, sans many of their World Cup stars, mixing it up with Christian Pulisic and Borussia Dortmund in Chicago.

Then Sunday will see Borussia Dortmund switching gears and time zones, tangling with Liverpool in North Carolina as Pulisic renews acquaintances with old pal Jurgen Klopp.

Manchester United takes on San Jose on Sunday, two days after facing Club America.

Other marquee friendlies of the weekend include Bournemouth facing American back Shaq Moore and Levante on Friday, with Fulham hosting Lyon on Saturday, and Everton meeting Lille and Porto on consecutive Portuguese days Saturday and Sunday.

Friday

Bournemouth vs. Levante
Burnley vs. Macclesfield Town
Burnley vs. Curzon Ashton
Cardiff City vs Torquay
Manchester City vs. Borussia Dortmund (in Chicago)

Saturday

Brighton and Hove Albion vs. AFC Wimbledon
Crystal Palace vs. Oxford United
Everton vs. Lille
Fulham vs. Lyon
Huddersfield Town vs. Real Betis
Huddersfield Town vs. Roy-Weiss Essen or Werder Bremen
Leicester City vs. Notts County
Southampton vs. Derby County
Watford vs. Fortuna Dusseldorf
West Ham United vs. Preston North End

Sunday

Everton vs. Porto
Huddersfield Town vs. Darmstadt
Liverpool vs. Borussia Dortmund (in North Carolina)
Manchester United vs. San Jose Earthquakes (in Santa Clara)
Wolverhampton vs. TBD