Three things learned: Saints v. Liverpool (video)

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SOUTHAMPTON — It wasn’t pretty, but it was gritty as Liverpool surged to a late 3-1 win at Southampton to go back to the top of the Premier League.

[ MORE: “World class” Liverpool led by Salah

Saints took a shock lead through Shane Long, but an equalizer from Naby Keita was followed by late goals from Mohamed Salah and Jordan Henderson to send Liverpool two points clear of Manchester City with the latter having a game in hand. The title race will go down to the wire.

Here’s what we learned from a gripping clash at St Mary’s, as the win was far from routine for Liverpool.


SALAH KEEPS TITLE BID ON TRACK

For most of the evening, Mohamed Salah’s performance summed up Liverpool’s display. He huffed and puffed, but there just wasn’t an end product. Until he won the game. 10 minutes from time Salah burst free after Saints had a corner, ran almost 50 yards with the ball and clipped home a delightful finish for his first goal in nine games for Liverpool. He loves playing against Southampton, and has now scored in all four of his PL appearances against Saints with five goals in total.

His stunning goal showcased the Salah of last season, as he tore off his shirt in delight and Liverpool’s title bid was back on track after a tense 80 minutes where Southampton threatened to hold them to a draw. Salah has now scored 50 goals in 69 Premier League appearances for Liverpool, and that is the fewest number of games of any player in club history to reach half a century. Salah is back delivering moments of top quality, and his latest sent Liverpool back to the top of the league.


KEITA CAN DELIVER MIDFIELD DYNAMISM

With stalwarts James Milner and Jordan Henderson left on the bench, there was plenty of pressure on the shoulders of Fabinho and especially Naby Keita. In his 28th appearance for Liverpool, Keita popped up with a massive goal towards the end of the first half which swung the game in their favor. He didn’t play particularly well, but he made a difference, and with Klopp criticized for his ultra-defensive lineups in central midfield in recent months, this was a chance for Keita to show he has a role in this team.

The Guinean midfielder didn’t see a lot of the ball early on, with Fabinho and Georginio Wijnaldum caught in possession and Keita looking a little lost tucked in on the left side of midfield. But what you could see was that his runs into the box were timed well, and that is exactly what happened on the goal. He arrived to head home Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s marvellous cross and that kind of dynamism and end product is why Liverpool paid $70 million for him last season. In the second half he ran into the box and was clipped by Maya Yoshida and was lucky not to win his team a penalty kick. We haven’t seen those kind of moments anywhere enough from Keita in his debut campaign in England, and although he struggled overall, there is hope he can offer Liverpool a different midfield dynamic late in the season.


SAINTS TO MARCH ON

Shane Long gave Southampton a shock lead, but in truth, it was what they deserved. They rattled Liverpool’s cages often, and particularly early on, with Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s famed high-pressing in full flow on several occasions as Saints won the ball back high up the pitch. Long should have converted a second early on, and even though Saints failed to grab anything from the game they proved they have made significant progress in Hasenhuttl’s 17 games in charge. Had Danny Ings been able to play (his loan from Liverpool meant he was ineligible) it could have been a different story. They ran out of steam and kept giving the ball back to Liverpool, but with a more fluid attack, they could have caused even greater problems.

There is a plan to their play, an identity and Southampton’s young squad can challenge the big boys again. For so long Saints have upset the odds with four-straight top eight finishes before a bad season last season where they just avoided relegation. Saints are back on track and the turnaround Hasenhuttl has made with only the struggling players he inherited and no money spent deserves huge praise. Against the teams outside of the top six they will fare well, but Liverpool were just too good late on. There is no shame in that for Saints, who went toe-to-toe with an exceptional Liverpool team until Salah’s moment of magic.

Bologna draws 3-3 at Lazio to secure Serie A safety

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ROME (AP) Bologna secured Serie A football for another season after drawing at Lazio 3-3 in a thriller on Monday.

Bologna moved four points clear of the relegation zone with one match remaining.

Lazio was still celebrating winning the Italian Cup midweek and Joaquin Correa fired the capital side in front in the 13th minute.

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

However, two goals in the space of a minute from Andrea Poli and Mattia Destro saw Bologna take the lead early in the second half.

Bastos curled in a stunning effort to level for Lazio in the 59th but Riccardo Orsolini restored Bologna’s lead shortly after.

Substitute Sergej Milinkovic-Savic secured a draw for Lazio with a sensational free kick 10 minutes from time.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Choosing a USMNT XI for the Gold Cup

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Noting that most positions on the international stage are up for grabs based on form, there are special opportunities on the wing, right back, and center back when it comes to the USMNT at the Gold Cup this summer.

That’s because of two related things, one fact and one close to it:

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

  1. DeAndre Yedlin and John Brooks are missing from the lineup due to injury. Brooks is easily the Yanks’ No. 1 center back, and Yedlin is a right back when Tyler Adams is unavailable and good enough that Gregg Berhalter tries to shoehorn him in at right wing when Adams is manning that spot.
  2. Mexico’s the overwhelming favorite to win the tournament with more in-form club players in Europe than the U.S., including would-be Premier League Best XI forward Raul Jimenez of Wolves. And who’s going to have to deal with Raul? You guessed it, the big American center backs.

Presuming Berhalter is still wed to Adams as the part-fullback, part distributing midfielder role, that has our lineup for important Gold Cup matches with few sure things.

Zack Steffen (if healthy)

Adams — XXXXX — XXXXX — XXXXX

McKennie — Bradley

XXXXX — Pulisic — XXXXX

Altidore

Now you may not like that I’ve assumed Bradley and Altidore’s places here, but there’s little doubt both are still quite capable against CONCACAF competition and also have the experience in this exact competition and against Mexico. Surely both are motivated for a bit of redemption as well.

Friendlies against Jamaica and Venezuela will give Berhalter a chance to try out players like Tyler Boyd, Marlon Fossey, and Miles Robinson should they impress amongst a 40-player field (although the Jamaica match on June 5 in Washington, D.C. is a day before the final rosters are due for the Gold Cup).

Now what we are trying to solve here is who is the best bet to help the Yanks win the dang thing.

Defenders: Aaron Long, Matt Miazga, and Tim Ream are the favorites to start at the two center back spots and left back, but Daniel Lovitz will try to push Ream after a rough season at Fulham. Both Walker Zimmerman and Omar Gonzalez are in good form, and you can bet Berhalter will give Cameron Carter-Vickers a chance to earn some time. A flat back four role gives Antonee Robinson hope in place of Ream, and if Adams moves into the midfield, Nick Lima did alright in his right back role in January.

Midfielders/Wingers: The spots around Pulisic should be filled by those who can keep the width of the field but also serve somewhat as enforcers for the No. 10. Sebastian Lletget gives them a good shot on one side, and Paul Arriola provides a similar spot. While Joe Gyau, Josh Sargent, Duane Holmes, and Djordje Mihailovic can hope to challenge, the MLS vets with experience outside the country are good bets to get the gigs.

Zack Steffen (if healthy)

Adams — Miazga — Long — Ream

McKennie — Bradley

Arriola — Pulisic — Lletget

Altidore

Does that get the job done against Mexico? Probably not, but it’ll give Tata Martino’s men a hassle.

Report: Man City could use Gabriel Jesus to get Rodri

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At the root of this report is a question to which we don’t know the answer: How highly does Pep Guardiola rate Gabriel Jesus?

A report from Spanish outlet AS says Guardiola could use his young striker to lure Atletico Madrid into a swap deal, landing Manchester City their stirring defensive midfielder Rodri.

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

Rodri is a nearly year older than 22-year-old Jesus, and is more instrumental to his current club. One of Atletico Madrid’s top talents, his $78 million release clause is an obvious route for City.

If Guardiola doesn’t see Jesus as a huge part of the club’s future, however, the manager may be able to go nearly like-for-like money-wise.

Jesus scored nearly every other game for City in all competitions, nabbing 21 goals in 47 matches, and has 13 goals in 27 caps for Brazil. Those are good numbers, especially with still-electric Sergio Aguero turning 31 this summer.

At his relatively tender age, Jesus has appeared 100 times for Man City and his 45 goals are made more impressive by less than 5600 total minutes in those matches.

Giving up on him to complete his midfield is a tough one. We think it’s more likely Guardiola pays the release clause… unless the manager simply doesn’t rate the player.

Players to watch at the U-20 World Cup

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The U-20 World Cup begins this week in Poland, and there are a bevy of future stars to watch, as well as several who will make their names during the tournament.

We’ll focus on the former. While England’s failure to qualify somewhat limits the Premier League starlets on show, there are still plenty from the English top flight.


Tim Weah, United States (PSG) — After a loan at Celtic and time with the full USMNT, how much can he dominate back in his age group?

Alban Lafont, France (Fiorentina) — At age 20, he’s already the starter between the sticks for his Serie A mainstays.

Diego Lainez, Mexico (Real Betis) — Eighteen with 12 league appearances for Real Betis, Lainez is a massive part of El Tri‘s future and carries four caps to his name.

Ruben Vinagre, Portugal (Wolves) — Wolves were promoted, and Vinagre actually made eight more appearances (17) than he made in the Championship.

Ezequiel Barco, Argentina (Atlanta United) — His sophomore season for the Five Stripes has been better than his debut campaign, though that’s not saying a ton given the hype.

Evan N’Dicka, France (Eintracht Frankfurt) — Plenty of playing time in the Bundesliga at the age of 19 for this towering center back.

Paxton Pomykal, United States (FC Dallas) — Looking good in MLS. How much should that translate on this stage?

Andriy Lunin, Ukraine (Real Madrid) — Won’t be wearing the white of Madrid in meaningful action any time soon, but made four appearances on loan for Leganes as a 20-year-old.

Sebastian Soto, United States (Hannover 96) — Not the American-born Bundesliga starlet we expected had we created this list months ago, but Soto has made his Bundesliga debut, so there’s a lot to like while Josh Sargent works with the full USMNT.

Dan Zagadou, France (Borussia Dortmund) — The left- and center back has 25 first team appearances for BVB at 19.

Diogo Dalot, Portugal (Manchester United) — Red Devils supporters know about this fella, who was purchased under the watch of Jose Mourinho last summer.

Mickael Cuisance, France (Borussia Monchengladbach) — Took a step back after his blockbuster ‘Gladbach breakthrough in 2017-18, but will be a key piece for the favorites.

Moussa Sylla, France (Monaco) — The winger is already a factor for AS Monaco, even if they struggled this season.

Bonus: Erling Håland, Denmark (Red Bull Salzburg); Ronald Araujo, Uruguay (Barcelona); Tom Dele-Bashiru, Nigeira (Manchester City).