Three things we learned: West Ham v. Liverpool

Leave a comment

LONDON — Liverpool dropped two more points in the Premier League title race, as they drew 1-1 at West Ham United.

Pressure does strange things to teams at this part of the season.

Monday’s trip to the London Stadium offered Jurgen Klopp‘s men the chance to open up a five-point gap atop the table, but a spirited Hammers side cancelled out Sadio Mane‘s controversial opener as Michail Antonio grabbed them a well-earned point. And West Ham could’ve easily won the game had they taken their chances.

With Liverpool now drawing to both Leicester and West Ham in their last two games, Manchester City can jump top of the table with a win at Everton on Wednesday and put the pressure back on the Reds.

Here’s a look at what we learned from the London Stadium, as the title race is well and truly on.


LIVERPOOL SHOULD BE HAPPY WITH A DRAW

In the first half West Ham should have been at least 3-0 up. Liverpool were all over the place from defensive set piece situations, holding a high line for no apparent reason. Antonio scored from one situation. Declan Rice somehow nodded wide from another and both Aaron Cresswell and Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez drilled just wide from counters which stretched Liverpool’s defense easily. It was as if Liverpool’s defenders were keen to keep their high-line no matter what, and in the second half they were lucky both Felipe Anderson and Mark Noble lost their cool in the penalty box when big chances arrived. Liverpool had chances themselves, as they always do, but this was far from a game where they played well and had to settle for a draw against a stubborn West Ham side. Klopp’s men got away with one by not losing at West Ham and now they are just three points ahead of Man City atop the Premier League table, and must expect City to beat Everton on Wednesday and slip to second place, albeit with a game in hand. Injuries are impacting Liverpool, but Klopp’s men are showing signs that they are cracking under the pressure. The nervous tension emanating from Liverpool’s fanbase is seeping into the previously carefree players. The 29-year wait for a league title is weighing heavy on everyone connected with Liverpool right now.


WEST HAM COUNTER TO PERFECTION

Man United, Arsenal, Chelsea and now Liverpool have all failed to win at the London Stadium and for Pellegrini this was a perfect response after three-straight defeats for the Hammers in embarrassing fashion. Like Leicester City, the Hammers are one of those teams outside of the top six who frighten the life out of the big boys. When they aren’t forced to possess the ball, create chances and take the games to opponents, that is when they are at their best. Sure, Manuel Pellegrini has brought a certain panache and control to their game since arriving in the summer, but the fact that both Marko Arnautovic and Samir Nasri were missing through injury did them a favor. Anderson, Antonio and Chicharito pounced when they could on the counter and the pace of full backs Cresswell and Ryan Fredericks was helpful in supporting attacks and stopping Mane and Salah from running riot. In truth, West Ham’s wasteful finishing let Liverpool off the hook. Yes, West Ham’s fans want them to be more attractive to watch but when they counter this well, it’s hard to see them not deploying these kind of tactics on a regular basis against the big boys. They lost their impetus when Andy Carroll came on late in the game and that proved what direction the Hammers must move in going forward. They have the squad to hurt teams on the counter and must realize, and play to, their strengths.


INJURIES MOUNT UP FOR KLOPP

The news that Joe Gomez now requires surgery on a fractured leg was bad enough for Liverpool fans to wake up to Monday, but when Jordan Henderson, Dejan Lovren and particularly Georginio Wijnaldum missed the game at West Ham due to injury, the alarm bells were ringing. A midfield trio of Naby Keita, Fabinho and Adam Lallana should have had enough quality to wrestle control of this game but Mark Noble, Robert Snodgrass and Declan Rice won that battle rather easily. Joel Matip appears to frighten the life out of his fellow defenders when he plays and even the usually placid Virgil Van Dijk was caught out as Liverpool’s undoubted defensive leader failed to settle things down. James Milner, playing at right back, was targeted throughout and both Snodgrass and Anderson had a field day drifting out to his flank. Liverpool’s squad is not quite large enough to deal with injuries to five key players, as Milner and Henderson at right back in recent games has shown. Letting Nathaniel Clyne leave on loan in the January window and not adding another defender as back up could be the difference for them in this title race.

USOC wrap: Saint Louis, New Mexico knock out MLS sides (video)

Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images
Leave a comment

USL sides delivered the drama on Wednesday night and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup got five more quarterfinalists to join Atlanta United and Minnesota United.

Still to come Thursday, LAFC and San Jose will decide the eighth slot and a date with Portland Timbers.

[ MORE: VAR will not review GKs on PKs in PL ]


DC United 1-2 New York City FC

Wayne Rooney‘s 32nd minute goal gave the hosts a lead which would only last six minutes, as Alexandru Mitrita and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi made it 2-1 before halftime on the way to an away win at Audi Field.

Portland Timbers 4-0 LA Galaxy

Three goals in nine first half minutes helped spring Portland to an easy win over disinterested LA. Guillermo Barros Schelotto didn’t bring the majority of his first choice stars to Oregon, and the Timbers routed their Western Conference opposition to the tune of a 19-7 edge in shots.

Saint Louis FC 1-0 FC Cincinnati

They won’t be forgetting this any time soon; Saint Louis got a stoppage time goal from Sam Fink against their old USL rivals to book a place in the USOC quarterfinals.

Orlando City 2-1 New England Revolution

What began with stars on the bench and a 0-0 score line through 90 minutes really escalated quickly in extra time. Benji Michel and Tesho Akindele gave Orlando a 2-0 lead through 15 minutes of extra time, but Carles Gil set up Justin Rennecks early in the second frame to up the drama. Ultimately, Nani‘s men had enough despite New England’s 22 shots.

FC Dallas 1-2 New Mexico United

FC Dallas took the lead through U-20 World Cup star Brandon Servania, but Kevaughn Frater scored again, and ex-Colorado Rapids draft pick Sam Hamilton added the match winner.

Copa America: Messi penalty saves Argentina point, Colombia wins

Photo by Pedro Vilela/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The 2019 Copa America isn’t going much better for Argentina than the 2018 World Cup, with a slow defense and a lack of playmakers in the middle of the park keeping the Albiceleste from making a real difference in the tournament.

Argentina followed up its 2-0 defeat to Colombia with a 1-1 draw against Paraguay, Wednesday evening at the Estadio Mineirão in Belo Horizonte. Lionel Messi scored the lone goal for Argentina on a penalty kick after the referee had consulted with the video assistant referees on a potential handball on a shot from Messi that was deflected wide by a flailing arm.

[ MORE: VAR will not review GKs on PKs in PL ]

That means Argentina though still hasn’t scored a goal in open play after 180 minutes with the likes of Messi, Sergio Aguero and Giovanni Lo Celso on the field.

Paraguay looked dangerous throughout the night, with speedy wingers like Almiron and attacker Derlis Gonzalez making life oh so difficult for Nicolas Otamendi, who ended up having to take a yellow card in the second half after being beaten for pace and not wanting to give up a breakaway.

It was one of those attacks in transition which led to the first goal. Miguel Almiron picked up a pass in his own half and went on a bursting, marauding run down the left wing all the way to the byline. Almiron then crossed into the middle where Richard Sanchez arrived and sliced a strike home.

Argentina was given a lifeline early in the second half after an attack that nearly produced a goal. Sergio Aguero chipped a ball into the middle where Lautaro Martinez had a shot go off the crossbar. Messi corralled a rebound, turned and fired in the 50th minute but his show went wide.

A VAR check though showed that it was deflected off the arm of Paraguay defender Ivan Piris, leading to an Argentina penalty kick, one Messi blasted home to tie the game.

Two minutes later, Paraguay could have taken the lead as Otamendi lost Gonzalez and tackled him from behind, making it an easy decision for the referee. However, Gonzalez produced a poor penalty and it was easily saved by Argentina’s Franco Armani.

Argentina now heads into basically a must-win game against Qatar if it wants to advance.

Earlier, Colombia topped Qatar, 1-0, in a pretty evenly-played game. However, it was the world class passing of James Rodriguez that made the difference.

The Colombian’s delightful chip into the box found the head of big-bodied Duvan Zapata, who powered a header home in the 86th minute to give Colombia the win, and earn it a place in the knockout round.

PGMOL: No goalkeeper VAR review on Premier League penalties

Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Thank you, PGMOL.

Professional Games Match Officials Limited will not, and we repeat not, use Video Assistant Referee to review goalkeeper positioning on penalty kicks in the Premier League.

We may bake a cake.

There’s a new FIFA law which states that at least one foot must be on the goal line during penalty kicks, which has caused delays, controversy, and frankly nothing positive during the Women’s World Cup amongst other summer events.

According to Sky Sports, PGMOL says VAR is “an ongoing process and will continue to be looked at during the season.”

The rule will be enforced by on-field officials.

Scotland’s World Cup hopes were dashed by a blown 3-goal lead against Argentina which included a VAR-awarded penalty. That kick was retaken after a Lee Alexander save because she left her line.

Nigeria suffered the same fate earlier in the tournament, and the U-20 World Cup has also experienced such fun.

Gold Cup: Mexico secures place in knockout round with win over Canada; Martinique over Cuba

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Mexico National Team at the 2019 Gold Cup has been very focused on introducing inexperienced players into the squad, and yet, it was a veteran on Wednesday that reminded everyone how much he still has left in the tank.

Mexico captain Andres Guardado, who came off the bench for the injured Erick Gutierrez in the first half, scored a brace as Mexico held off a surging Canada late in the match. Guardado’s first goal was an absolute golazo from 30-yards out, while his second showcased his poise and calm in the box.

[READ: Transfer Rumor Roundup]

Mexico – as is custom for El Tri – controlled possession and looked very confident on the ball, zipping it around midfield and at times, playing on a faster speed than Canada, it seemed. However, with Canada sitting in a low defensive block, it took until the 40th minute for Mexico to get on the board through Roberto Alvarado finishing into an empty net after a big save from Canada goalkeeper Milan Borjan.

Canada pushed higher up the field in the second half and seemed to be turning the tide before Guardado picked up a loose ball – and there may have been a foul on Canada – and el Principito unleashed a rocket that Borjan had no chance to keep out.

Canada made six changes in the starting lineup from its first game and it was the introductions of Scott Arfield, Jonathan Osorio and Jonathan David in the second half that began to get Canada back into the game. A mistake by centerback Nestor Araujo in the 75th minute, trying to be fancy with a Cruyff turn allowed David to advance down the Mexico goal on a breakaway. After a cutback, David played Luca Cavallini in the box and Cavallini scored to cut it to 2-1.

However, Guardado, and LA Galaxy winger Uriel Antuna, put the game away for good two minutes later. Antuna got around his defender and centered to Guardado. The wily midfielder took three Canada defenders out of the play with a quick touch to his right, before scoring a deflected goal off the post and in.

Earlier in the evening, Martinique recorded a dominant 3-0 victory over ten-man Cuba. Star striker Kevin Parsemain didn’t score, though he did play a role in Martinique’s third goal with an outstanding back-heel pass.