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Five things learned from Liverpool’s Man City destruction

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What an awful week for Manchester City.

What a marvelous moment for Liverpool.

[ MORE: Match recap | Roma stuns Barca ]

Job done

It feels a tad insane to call a four-goal margin of victory over two legs scrappy, but there was nothing simple nor easy about Liverpool’s stunning and complete defeat of the Premier League leaders Manchester City.

Jurgen Klopp‘s men were lethal against Pep Guardiola‘s bunch. If you were given the following stat lines before the tie, would you think it ends Liverpool 5-1?

Game 1: Man City 11-9 in shot attempts, 66 percent possession, 8-0 in corners

Game 2: Man City 20-5 in shot attempts, 68 percent possession, 9-2 in corners

Total corners, of course, is an incomplete stat, but there was simply no denying the Reds. They were compact, gritty, and scored on five of 14 shots. That’s bonkers, and it’s why we watch the games.

Momentous loss

Manchester City losing this tie at all would’ve altered the discussion on their legacy, but losing it 5-1 to drop three in-a-row in all competitions is brutal and raises legitimate questions about the legacy of this season.

Yes, they’ll still win the Premier League in dominant fashion, but Pep Guardiola’s men went from arguably conducting the finest season in the history of English top flight soccer to being unquestionably behind Arsenal’s Invincibles while losing three times to one English club and failing in a bid to clinch the title against their crosstown rivals in historic fashion.

Yeah, not good.

There’s still no question that Man City’s style of play and Guardiola’s success in utilizing it to build a champion with it is terrific, but “Could they win the quadruple?” became a double with the weakest jewel of the quartet included in the spoils.

It’s crazy to type this considering there’s still a deserved coronation for one of the best Premier League seasons in history but… maybe next year?

Different tourney, but Salah makes his POY case

His goal early in the second half was one of the easier ones he’ll bag this season, but the red-hot Red continues to make a case to be Premier League Player of the Year (even if the UEFA Champions League shouldn’t really count for voters).

Aided by Fernandinho‘s surprising decision not to get up after hitting the deck in his own box, Salah followed the ball and bagged his 39th goal of the season in the win.

Everybody parks the bus sometime

Heads whipped up to the clock. It read just over two minutes, and Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus had just shaped a shot around the splayed Loris Karius to make the tie’s score line read 3-1 on aggregate.

Liverpool then packed it in for the rest of the half.

This was going to be headline image after 45 minutes of play, before we learned Pep Guardiola had been sent to the stands for arguing a ref and before Jurgen Klopp flipped his game plan on its ear.

(AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

From the moment Gabriel Jesus gave Man City its second minute lead, Klopp’s Reds were penned into their own half.

There was a sense that City needed a second goal before halftime, where Klopp could change his battle stations. And whether by design or instinct, the Reds were able to better high press the ball at the start of the second half.

We won’t know how long the tactic would’ve lasted thanks to the Mohamed Salah goal that changed everything.

No one wants to see Antonio Mateu Lahoz referee again any time soon

It’s a sad thing to be talking about the referee after a match of this magnitude, and the *good* news is he was pretty much universally awful for both sides.

Antonio Mateu Lahoz handed out five yellow cards in the first half. Depending on your vantage point, he missed a foul on Raheem Sterling in the build-up to Man City’s opener, and then looked to have gotten an offside call wrong that would’ve led to a second City goal.

Even though those were canceled out, Lahoz wasn’t done. He sent Guardiola to the stands for the second half and missed a potential Liverpool penalty moments before Mohamed Salah scored. Again, it wouldn’t have changed anything about the outcome.

It’s official: Goalkeeper Alisson completes record transfer to Liverpool

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Liverpool fans finally have a highly-touted goalkeeper to mind the net as they look to continue the upward trajectory under Jurgen Klopp.

After much speculation, courtship, and negotiation, AS Roma accepted a world-record transfer fee of $85 million, the highest ever paid for a goalkeeper. It obliterates the record held for nearly 17 years by Gianluigi Buffon for his $62 million transfer from Parma to Juventus in 2001. According to reports, the breakdown is a $73 million fee plus $12 million in potential add-ons.

Alisson’s Liverpool medical was completed on Thursday, and the deal was complete. First, Roma gave Alisson an official send-off on social media, confirming the Brazilian had left the club.

Then came the official confirmation from Liverpool about a half-hour later.

“In terms of my life and my career, it’s a huge step for me being part of this club and this family,” Alisson said in the official club release. “You can be certain that I’ll give my all.”

Alisson comes highly rated from his time in the Italian top flight. Originally a youth product of Brazilian Serie A club Internacional, Alisson moved to Roma in the summer of 2016 after three professional seasons in his home country. Statistically, Alisson was the best goalkeeper in Serie A last season, with not only the best save percentage in the league (77%) but also the best distribution rate.

At the 2018 World Cup this summer, Alisson started for Brazil and played every minute of their World Cup journey in Russia. While he wasn’t terribly impressive, he didn’t have too many chances to put on a starring performance, but again his distribution out of the back was stellar. Alisson was the only player at the World Cup to play the entirety of his team’s first two matches and not misplace a single pass, reaching all the way to Brazil’s third group stage match against Serbia before failing to complete a pass. He went 31 straight pass attempts over those two-plus matches without a miss.

The 25-year-old will now likely slot straight into the Liverpool starting lineup, and the club will need to figure out what to do with its other goalkeepers Loris Karius, Simon Mignolet, and Danny Ward. Mignolet began last season as the starter before conceding the gloves to Karius who infamously committed a pair of egregious errors in the Champions League final.

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.