Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Brazil tests Willian up front with Neymar and Jesus

Leave a comment

TERESOPOLIS, Brazil (AP) Brazil’s second pre-World Cup training featured Willian in the attack with Neymar and Gabriel Jesus on Thursday, a hint that coach Tite might change his starting lineup.

Willian played with the two star strikers for about one hour in the first training with footballs at the Granja Comary ground in Teresopolis, outside Rio de Janeiro.

[ MORE: Commisso “hopeful” of $500m USSF deal ]

Tite did not use his starting midfield to play with the trio. He also used defenders Marquinhos and Miranda during the entire hour, suggesting former captain Thiago Silva will be on the bench for the moment.

If Willian is brought on to the team, Tite could remove midfielder Renato Augusto from the starting lineup, put Philippe Coutinho in his place, and open a gap for Willian.

Since last year, Tite has said he needs a “pacemaker,” and considers Coutinho one of his main options for the role.

Beijing Guoan’s Augusto is under pressure after unconvincing performances in Brazil’s midfield.

Augusto’s spot is also eyed by Fred, one of the surprises of Tite’s squad.

The midfielder said he admired Brazil players who began a World Cup on the bench and later became starters, such as Mazinho (1994) and Kleberson (2002).

“We can get inspiration from them, these players worked very hard to get their spot,” Fred said. “But if I have to be out I will keep working hard.”

Fred also said he was torn between a transfer to Manchester United or Manchester City.

Fred said he had an offer from City in January, and both were now talking to his Shakhtar Donetsk club about a transfer.

“Maybe after the World Cup I will make the choice,” the midfielder said. “Now I am only thinking about the World Cup.”

Fred said he believes his future is outside Ukraine, and doing well in the English Premier League like other Brazilians such as Chelsea’s Willian.

Tite is counting on only 18 of the 23 players in his squad at training in Teresopolis.

Winger Douglas Costa and Fagner are still recovering from injury.

Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino and Real Madrid’s Casemiro and Marcelo will only join on Monday after the Champions League final.

Training on Thursday was attended by four-time World Cup winner Mario Zagallo.

Klopp: Liverpool “changed the system” to beat PSG

AP Photo/Dave Thompson
Leave a comment

Bullet dodged via Roberto Firmino, Liverpool can reflect on a thrilling start to a new UEFA Champions League season.

The Reds built a two-goal lead against Paris Saint-Germain and very much looked the part of the favorite even after allowing Thomas Meunier to pull the visitors back to 2-1 before the break on Tuesday at Anfield.

[ RECAP: Liverpool 3-2 PSG ]

But a Mohamed Salah giveaway led to a Kylian Mbappe goal, and the Reds were in danger of giving two points away to start life in a group which also includes Napoli and Red Star Belgrade (who played to a 0-0 draw in Serbia).

Enter the man they call Bobby, who came off the bench days after a scary eye injury that earned reports of possible long-term damage.

A goal, and an eye-patch celebration that will live in the Anfield memory for some time.

That the match needed late heroics was a sign of some worry for Liverpool, who have taken their foot off the gas more than a few times in recent seasons. For example: the blowing a pair of leads in draws against Sevilla in last season’s group stage.

That’s not a trend, but a complete win over Paris Saint-Germain would go a long way to cementing the Reds’ status as a UCL finalist threat. And that would need

“It was really important we started like we did,” said Jurgen Klopp. “We were so strong and good with the ball. We changed the system because we expected a change from them. We needed all of our focus and we covered a lot of yards and closed all of the gaps.”

Liverpool came out of the gates with vigor, and showing an urgency which laid plain their angst from last season’s final loss to Real Madrid.

“This club and the fans have been waiting for the Champions League to come back since May,” said Andy Robertson.

The Reds scored early from Daniel Sturridge, then took advantage of a lazy Juan Bernat challenge to get a penalty conversion from Mr. Reliable, James Milner.

Faced with another disappointing stalemate, Firmino stepped up. And it’s possible that winning in the manner they did may mean more to their hopes than cruising to 2-0 or 2-1.

“It is the perfect start for us,” Milner said. “Hopefully we can build on that. I think it would have been very disappointing not to win. They didn’t create too many and we had a number of chances.

“I can’t say enough good things about Bobby (Roberto Firmino). To come off the bench after his injury at the weekend is incredible really.”

Next up: a visit to Southampton, followed by a League Cup date at Chelsea, a Blues visit to Anfield, and then a trip to Napoli.

Liverpool wins stoppage time thriller

Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images
Leave a comment
  • Sturridge opens scoring
  • Mane wins PK, Milner converts
  • Salah giveaway leads to equalizer
  • Firmino saves the day

Roberto Firmino‘s stoppage time goal saved Liverpool blushes after the Reds gave away a two-goal lead but came back to beat Paris Saint-Germain 3-2 in the UEFA Champions League group stage on Tuesday at Anfield.

Daniel Sturridge and James Milner scored first for the Reds, who looked to be on cruise control after a dominant first half.

Thomas Meunier and Kylian Mbappe scored for the visitors set the stage for a grandstand finish.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]

Liverpool was twice denied by the paw of Alphonse Areola within seven minutes of kickoff, with Virgil Van Dijk and James Milner earning corner kicks.

PSG found its first real danger when Edinson Cavani set up Neymar for a drive at Alisson Becker, and Virgil van Dijk helped produce a tame rebound effort.

Sturridge, only starting due to an injury to Roberto Firmino, put the Reds ahead in the 31st minute when he headed an Andy Robertson cross past Areola.

Liverpool headed to the spot for a chance to make it 2-0 when Juan Bernat made a clumsy challenge on Georginio Wijnaldum. That’s Milner’s office, and the two-goal lead arrived at Anfield.

But Meunier was on hand to pull one back when a partially-blocked shot came to him for a left-footed volley inside the 18.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Mohamed Salah believed he had restored Liverpool’s two-goal lead, but Sturridge’s sliding stamp on Areola’s groin was called a foul and a free kick was awarded.

Moments after Sadio Mane came oh-so-close to giving the Reds a two-goal lead, Liverpool collapsed under the weight of a Salah giveaway.

Julian Draxler snagged the ball and fed Neymar, who dribbled towards Virgil van Dijk. The Dutchman got a piece of Neymar’s dribble, but the block went right to Mbappe, who did not miss his chance to best Alisson Becker.

Trent Alexander-Arnold came close to restoring the lead when Marquinhos gave away a free kick on the edge of the PSG box.

But Firmino was the man to give all three points to the Reds.

UCL wrap: USMNT’s Pulisic, McKennie shine

AP Photo/Francisco Seco
Leave a comment

Christian Pulisic can score by blocking clearances and Weston McKennie won’t stop running, as Americans made their impacts felt in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday.

[ MORE: PL Player Power Rankings ]

Of course, Spurs and Liverpool threw away leads and only the latter recovered to get a result on a busy night in Europe.

Inter Milan 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur RECAP

Christian Eriksen scored for Spurs, as the North London side had a 1-0 lead in the 53rd minute. But Inter struck twice in the final few minutes, including Matias Vecino’s winner in the second minute of stoppage. That will leave Spurs licking their wounds after a third-straight loss.

Barcelona 4-0 PSV EindhovenRECAP

Lionel Messi now has more hat tricks than anyone in Champions League history — for now — nabbing his eighth in moving ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus plays Wednesday). And Ousmane Dembele scored a gorgeous dribble and finish in the win.

Liverpool 3-2 Paris Saint-GermainRECAP

The Reds went ahead 2-0 through a Daniel Sturridge header and James Milner penalty, and controlled much of the proceedings. Thomas Meunier’s 40th minute goal seemed destined to mean very little when Mohamed Salah gave away the ball late in the second half.

Kylian Mbappe made it 2-2, but it only set the stage for Roberto Firmino.

Schalke 1-1 Porto

USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie turned provider on the match’s first goal, sliding across for Breel Embolo’s fortunate offspeed finish (see below). But Salif Sane conceded a penalty to the visitors, and Otavio finished his chance for a share of the points.

Monaco 1-2 Atletico Madrid

A goal from diminutive Serge Grandsir gave the hosts an early lead, but Diego Costa and Jose Maria Gimenez scored before halftime to give Diego Simeone’s men all three points.

Red Star Belgrade 0-0 Napoli

The Serbians send a message that no one’s coming to their house and getting an easy night. Napoli managed 20 shots to Red Star’s six, but a 7-save performance from Canada’s Milan Borjan got a point for the hosts at the Stadion Rajko Mitic.

Galatasaray 3-0 Lokomotiv Moscow

Garry Rodrigues and Erden Derdiyok scored on either side of halftime to give the Turkish powers a win at the Turk Telekom Arena.

Club Brugge 0-1 Borussia Dortmund

Christian Pulisic began the game on the bench, entering for the final 20 minutes or so of his 20th birthday to make his 100th BVB appearance.

Happy birthday, kid.

Pochettino: “Best performance of season” in 2-1 loss

Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Tottenham Hotspur came within minutes of picking up an unexpected away win at Inter Milan to kickoff live in this UEFA Champions League season.

[ RECAP: Inter Milan 2-1 Spurs ]

Christian Eriksen had given Spurs a lead it held until the 85th minute. That’s when Mauro Icardi’s wonderful volley leveled the score line before a Matias Vecino header in stoppage time gave Inter a 2-1 win at the San Siro.

Serge Aurier did not appreciate the result, according to Football Italia.

“Every player played well but we conceded two stupid goals,” Aurier said. But we stay focused and we stay together for the next week. You just have to stay focused, I’m sad for my team today because every player wanted to win the game.”

His manager struck a different tone despite the set back.

Mauricio Pochettino loved his team on the day, and said it was better than it was when it handed Manchester United a 3-0 loss last month.

From Football Italia:

“I’m happy with the performance, we dominated until the end but it’s so cruel,” Pochettino told BT Sport.

“For me it was the best performance of the season. I’m happy with the performance but so disappointed and so annoyed, because we deserved more but we conceded twice in two actions.

“We made a mistake and we paid for that mistake, sometimes you don’t but in the last few games we’ve been punished for our mistakes.”

Pochettino said Spurs have to be patient during this “negative period,” which has the club losers of three-straight in all competitions.

Next up: Away to Brighton and Hove Albion in the Premier League on Saturday, then home to Watford in the League Cup.