Three things we learned: Man City v. Liverpool

1 Comment

MANCHESTER — The Premier League title race is now officially back on. The atmosphere at the Etihad Stadium was crackling in what felt like a cup final and the home team delivered.

[ MORE: Klopp keeps the faith ]

Manchester City beat Liverpool 2-1 Thursday, as Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sane moved the hosts to just four points behind leaders Liverpool who had briefly looked like grabbing a point through Roberto Firmino‘s equalizer.

In their 21st game of the 2018-19 PL campaign, Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool lost for the first time this season and Pep Guardiola and Man City will now be smelling blood in the water as they hunt down the league leaders following a crucial victory.

Here’s what we learned from a pulsating encounter.


CITY’S OLD GUARD DELIVERS

Sergio Aguero delivered another big moment for Man City, as the Argentine has now scored in all seven of his home league games against Liverpool. Since the start of the 2011-12 season, Aguero has scored 37 Premier League goals for Man City in meetings between ‘big six’ clubs, which is 16 more than any other player. Mr. Clutch set them on their way with a wonderful finish and was a constant pest. But Aguero had help as the old guard stood tall and set the tone for the hunger and determination City showed throughout. Vincent Kompany made several crucial, well-timed tackles (aside from the lunge on Mohamed Salah in the first half). And Fernandinho was phenomenal in breaking up City’s attacks and setting up counters. When City needed them most, all three delivered colossal displays to drag them back into the title race. Leroy Sane scored a fine winner and Bernardo Silva was everywhere as he surprisingly launched into tackles, but it was the experienced trio who dug deep and inspired a wonderful City display as they overcame their defensive injuries and changes to secure a deserved victory.


LACKLUSTER LIVERPOOL NOW UNDER PRESSURE

From the first few minutes it was clear that Liverpool weren’t at the races. Alisson‘s shaky clearances out of play. Klopp screaming at Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino for their poor positioning. This wasn’t a Liverpool side in control. The only chance they had in the first half fell to Mane who hit the post and then John Stones somehow cleared, but in the second half they improved after Fabinho came on and a tactical switch saw Mohamed Salah pushed into a central position to support Firmino. Despite the latter pulling Liverpool level, they didn’t deserve to get anything from this game and now the pressure is on. Dejan Lovren switched off for City’s first goal as Aguero finished superbly, then Liverpool conceded the key goal just when they were on top as they committed too many men forward.

With their lead atop the table now down to just four points with 17 games to go, Liverpool’s nerves will be jangling. And they are now in a month where historically they’ve struggled under Klopp — they have lost 10 of the 25 games in January since his arrival — and this stat will feel Liverpool’s fans with dread.

Liverpool topped the Premier League table by seven points at the turn of the year, and no team in history has failed to win the English top-flight title with such a lead coming into the new year. Man City, and maybe Tottenham, will push Liverpool all the way this season and the title race is on.


THIS LIVED UP TO THE HYPE

Given the fact that a draw would have been a great result for Liverpool, Klopp’s defensive starting lineup was understandable. But it handed the initiative to Man City. A midfield three of James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum just didn’t work and handed City’s trio of Fernandinho, David Silva and Bernardo Silva the advantage in midfield. Guardiola was bold with his selection of Sane ands Sterling and he got his tactics spot on. Klopp didn’t and only when he introduced Fabinho did Liverpool have any control in this game. This game lived up to the hype in so many ways. City’s fans created a great atmosphere. Both sets of players launched themselves into tackles and there were huge saves, big misses and high levels of drama as Guardiola and Klopp went wild on the sidelines. This had it all and it was a wonderful advertisement for everything that is good about the Premier League.

U-20 WC roundup: Barco’s golazo paces Argentina to big win

Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A roundup of all of Saturday’s action at the U-20 World Cup in Poland…

[ TRANSFER RUMORS: Man United after Portuguese duo; Spurs want Lo Celso ]

France 2-0 Saudi Arabia

While France enjoyed nearly 70 percent of possession, thanks to playing 78 minutes with a man advantage, they were anything but dominant and overwhelming in their 2-0 victory over Saudi Arabia.

Les Bleus‘ opener came just before halftime, when Youssouf Fofana (Strasbourg) volleyed home from the edge of the penalty area. Saudi Arabia went dangerously close to equalizing just seconds later, but Illan Meslier (Lorient) made a stellar save to his left to deny Turki Al-Ammar.

The 1-0 scoreline remained all the way until the 75th minute, when finally Amine Gouiri (Lyon) hit a shot off the hands of the goalkeeper and watched as it bounced over the goal line for a 2-0 lead and to complete the scoring.

France will take on Panama in their next Group E game on Tuesday.

Argentina 5-2 South Africa

Ezequiel Barco might have made himself — and Atlanta United — a few million dollars on Saturday, thanks to an otherworldly golazo in Argentina’s 5-2 victory over South Africa.

The 20-year-old hit the following volley from just inside the penalty area to make it 3-1. All you can do is sit back, watch in awe and count up all the extra dollars Atlanta United are now set to make when Barco inevitably moves to Europe, following in the footsteps of Miguel Almiron and his $30-million move to Newcastle United in January.

Fausto Vera (Argentinos Juniors) opened the in just the 4th minute, followed by Barco’s first of the game — from the penalty spot — in the 63rd. The golazo came eight minutes later, followed by late tallies from Julian Alvarez (River Plate) and Adolfo Gaich (San Lorenzo) in the 78th and 90th minutes, respectively.

Next up, Argentina will face Portugal in a battle for Group F supremacy on Tuesday.

Portugal 1-0 South Korea

Much like France, Portugal were made to work mightily hard for their tournament-opening victory over South Korea.

Trincao (Braga) scored the game’s only goal in the 7th minute, when he timed his run perfectly to get on the end of Jota’s (Benfica) through ball. The counter-attack was lightning quick, and Trincao’s finish cool and precise. Portugal had the ball in the back of the net again in the 19th minute, but a look at video review revealed that Rafael Leao (Lille) was offside during the build-up before he picked out Trincao with his cross.

Elsewhere in the U-20 World Cup

Panama 1-1 Mali 0 [ HIGHLIGHTS ]

Sunday’s U-20 World Cup schedule

Mexico v. Japan — 9:30 a.m. ET
Ecuador v. Italy — 12 p.m. ET
Senegal v. Colombia — 12 p.m. ET
Poland v. Tahiti — 2:30 p.m. ET

De Rossi pens emotional farewell to Roma fans before final match

Getty Images
Leave a comment

After 18 years with the club, Daniele de Rossi is playing in his final AS Roma match on Sunday before his contract expires.

Ahead of the game, the 35-year-old midfielder wrote a detailed thank you to fans, team employees, and teammates before his sendoff. “Please, let me say thank you to everyone at Roma that I came to know,” he said before beginning his list of appreciation.

First, Rossi credited his playing mentor Damiano Tommasi, who was at the club from 1996-2006 and made 262 appearances for Roma. The midfielder suffered a knee injury in 2004 which saw Rossi break into the team full-time after making his professional debut in 2002. “[to] Damiano, without whom I would certainly have made fewer appearances for this club,” de Rossi wrote.

He also thanks former captain Francesco Totti by saying, “Thank you to Francesco. The captain’s armband I wore was inherited from the arm of a brother, a great captain and the most incredible footballer I have ever seen wear this shirt. Not everyone gets to play alongside their idol for 16 years. Now, with respect, I will pass this armband on to Alessandro [Florenzi]. Another brother, one that I know is equally worthy of the honor.”

De Rossi mentions Davide Astori, the Fiorentina player who passed away tragically in March of last year, saying, “Thank you Davide, I know you will be alongside me for the rest of my life too.” He also thanks Roma academy director Bruno Conti, saying, “[to] Bruno, who saw something special in me and brought me into this club’s fantastic academy.”

Finally, he thanks the Roma supporters, saying, “Thank you to every Roma fan, my fans. Today, at least, I’ll allow myself to call you ‘my fans’ – because I was one of you, out there on the pitch, and the love you have always shown me helped me to keep on doing that. You are all the reason why I chose this city, this life, time and time again. Sunday will be the 616th time I make that choice, the right choice.”

The emotion poured out in the final paragraph of his letter, referencing a tough time in Roma history where the club finished outside the top four for the third straight season and lost in the Coppa Italia final to Lazio. “A few years ago, May 26 became a day where we all thought we would never be able to smile again. I thought that too, at least until I saw a tattoo one fan had inked that read, ’27 May 2013, and yet the wind continues to blow’. I don’t know the owner of that particular tattoo, but I do know that the wind will still blow again on this May 27. I have never felt your affection like I have done in these last few days, it has truly overwhelmed me and touched me to my core.”

“Never have I seen you all united for a cause like you have been for this. But now, the greatest gift you can possibly give me is to leave that pain and anger to one side, and start again in full support of the only thing we all care about, the one thing that comes before everyone and everything – Roma.”

What a legend this man is. Roma sure knows how to produce a type of player not seen much around the rest of the world.

Celtic win Scottish Cup to secure unprecedented domestic treble-treble

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Celtic came from behind to top Hearts 2-1 in the Scottish Cup final, completing an unprecedented “treble-treble.” They are the first team in Scottish top flight history to win each of the league title, Scottish Cup, and League Cup in three straight seasons.

After a scoreless first half, Ryan Edwards put Hearts in front in the 52nd minute, pouncing on a messy backheel from Sean Clare and scoring the first goal Celtic had conceded all competition.

That jumpstarted the Glasgow giants, with an Odsonne Edouard double leading the way. His first came from the spot in the 62nd minute, just sneaking his penalty past Zdenek Zlamal for the equalizer before he won it with eight minutes to go. The moment came off a powerful Mikael Lustig header from near the halfway line that sprung Edouard free on goal, and the 21-year-old buried the one-on-one.

The victory gave Celtic its third major domestic trophy of the campaign for the third consecutive season, marking the historic achievement. Earlier in the season they had secured the league title by an eight-point margin and beaten Aberdeen 1-0 in the League Cup final, all despite losing manager Brendan Rodgers midway through the year to Leicester City, with Neil Lennon taking over and leading the finish.

Celtic has now won the Scottish Cup a record 39 times, with 50 league titles and 18 League Cups to go along with it.

Derby sued by Middlesbrough over alleged financial transgressions

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Middlesbrough has opened legal proceedings against playoff finalists Derby County over what they allege to be a breach in the Football League’s financial rules.

Boro owner Steve Gibson is taking action over what he believes to be Derby County’s intentional circumvention of financial sustainability regulations by posting an $18.6 million profit last season despite Derby owner Mel Morris selling the club’s ground Pride Park and then leasing it back.

Derby, however, has maintained its innocence, with the club even providing a written offer to all other clubs to review their books, an offer which Derby alleges Middlesbrough declined to take advantage of. “Middlesbrough were offered by us in writing to come with their advisors to go through our submissions for profitability and sustainability, [but] they declined.”

Gibson also attempted to force Derby to submit their financials to an independent inquiry, but all other Championship clubs voted it down. The Middlesbrough owner went after Aston Villa in late April, with Tony Pulis confirming the owner is “not happy” over “rules being broken.” Gibson attempted the same maneuver, hoping to force Villa to submit to an independent financial inquiry, but the other Championship clubs also turned that motion down.

Reports of Morris’s financial troubles with the club came to a head around that time in March when a report suggested Morris wanted out of the club, looking for a buyer after suffering losses of nearly $3.8 million per month as Derby owner. At that point Derby sat seventh in the Championship table and fell to ninth by the end of the month. Now, having recovered to earn a playoff position at the death, they now sit in the playoff final, set to play Aston Villa on Sunday for a spot in the Premier League.