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.

Sevilla: Caparros won’t stay as coach for next season

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MADRID (AP) Sevilla says Joaquin Caparros will not be the team’s coach next season.

The Spanish club says Caparros will stay linked to the team but in a different position that will be announced in the future.

The former sports director has coached Sevilla since replacing the fired Pablo Machin in March, leading the club to a sixth-place finish in the Spanish league and a spot in the Europa League.

Caparros was also in charge of Sevilla for the final stretch of last season after Italian coach Vincenzo Montella was fired.

The 63-year-old Caparros last month announced he was fighting chronic leukemia but could keep working normally at the club.

He coached Sevilla in 241 matches in total, more than any other coach.

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

Transfer rumor roundup: Mata to Newcastle; Wilson to Saints

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The Premier League transfer window is officially open again and that means one thing: transfer reports are going to start kicking up a few notches.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Here’s a look at some of the latest gossip from around the PL…


Juan Mata is out of contract at Manchester United this summer, and it appears he could be staying in the Premier League.

The Spanish attacking midfielder has spent the last nine season in the Premier League at Chelsea and Man United, scoring 78 goals in 353 appearances in all competitions.

Mata, 31, has been linked with a free transfer for Newcastle United with the Sun saying that Rafael Benitez is keen to bring in the Spanish midfielder. He will have to use his powers of persuasion with owner Mike Ashley to try and get in the players they need this summer.

Benitez is still not assured of being at St James’ Park himself next season, as talks with Ashley over a new contract are ongoing, but it is clear that the Spanish coach needs to be backed in the transfer market if the Magpies are going to improve on their 13th and 10th place finishes in the last two seasons.

Mata played for Benitez at Chelsea and it is believed he has offers to return to La Liga.

With Matt Ritchie, Miguel Almiron and Ayoze Perez in attack, Newcastle could probably strengthen in other areas of their squad first. However, with Salomon Rondon only on loan from West Brom last season and no deal to sign him permanently currently in place, Benitez will know he needs extra attacking options and must do it on the cheap to appease Ashley.

Given that fact, Mata is a quality player who would demand high wages but no transfer fee is a clincher.


Harry Wilson is a man in demand after his superb loan spell at Derby County this season.

Wilson, 22, is wanted by Newcastle, Southampton and Brighton according to Sky Sports, while the likes of Wolves, Crystal Palace and Bournemouth, as well as several Bundesliga clubs, have all been previously interesting in the Liverpool youngster. Jurgen Klopp has loaned Wilson out to Crewe, Hull and now Derby, and it is unlikely he will break through at Liverpool soon considering the attacking talent they possess.

A fee of $32 million has been suggested for Wilson, as the Welsh international has excelled under Frank Lampard at Derby and has been key in their run to the Championship playoff final against Aston Villa next Monday. His set piece delivery is sensational and Wilson has scored 18 goals and added four assists in all competitions for the Rams this season.

If Derby are promoted, maybe Wilson will remain at Pride Park, but the likes of Southampton, Wolves and Newcastle would seem like a very good spot for him to kick on and prove himself in the Premier League. Saints and Newcastle would offer him guaranteed playing time almost immediately and that has been key in his development this season at Derby.

Ralph Hasenhuttl has been keen to stress Saints will only sign young players or those who are hungry and searching for a first big contract of their career, and Wilson would slot into their attack nicely alongside Nathan Redmond and James Ward-Prowse in support of Danny Ings.

Sarri to discuss Chelsea future

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Maurizio Sarri isn’t sure if he will be in charge at Chelsea next season.

The Italian coach has confirmed that he will sit down and meet with Chelsea’s hierarchy after the UEFA Europa League final with Arsenal next Wednesday.

Speaking ahead of Chelsea’s trip to Baku, Azerbaijan, Sarri was asked about news reports linking him with a return to Italy to manager Juventus.

“It is very exciting to be here, but now it is time to think of the final,” Sarri said. “I have two years of my contract here. I have no contract with other clubs. I have to speak with my club after the final. I want to know if they are happy with me.”

Sarri added that he will discuss the situation in detail, but is extremely happy to remain at Stamford Bridge.

“I’m very happy to stay in the Premier League, with Chelsea, one of the most important clubs in the Premier League. I’m very, very happy but we have to discuss the situation. It’s normal. You have to discuss things with the club. It’s like this,” Sarri said.

Chelsea have hardly set the world alight this season, but finished third in the Premier League as they limped over the line at the end of the season. A top four finish was key for Sarri in his first season, so he achieved that, but the style of play was lambasted by many fans and neutrals, as the predictable, slow build-up play turned out to be easy to defend against. The reports around his future state that Chelsea are quite happy to let him leave this summer if another club wants to pay his $7 million release clause.

Sarri has reached the League Cup final and Europa League final in his debut season in England too, but his downbeat demeanor in press conferences has translated to a negative vibe with supporters.

Many want Frank Lampard — who has excelled in his first season as a manager at second-tier Derby — to replace Sarri this summer and given the impending transfer ban for Chelsea and Eden Hazard leaving, will he be able to improve the squad of players he currently has?

A big few weeks coming up for Sarri and Chelsea and their immediate futures.

Dortmund continue shopping spree, sign Julian Brandt

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That Christian Pulisic money is going far and wide for Borussia Dortmund.

Hot off the heels of signing Thorgan Hazard for $38 million on Wednesday and adding German defender Nico Schulz for $30 million, Dortmund have signed Julian Brandt for $30 million.

Not bad business after getting $73 million for Pulisic…

Brandt, 23, was linked with a move to the Premier League to Tottenham Hotspur and others in recent months but the Bayer Leverkusen winger will remain in the Bundesliga. His combination of speed out wide and cutting inside to finish off moves has seen him become a regular for the German national team.

After finishing second in the Bundesliga this season, Dortmund are wasting no time in stealing a march on Bayern Munich who fought back from a nine-point deficit to win the title on the final day of the season.

Bayern’s offseason plans have seen them add defender Lucas Hernandez for a club record $85 million, while his French national team teammate Benjamin Pavard, who can also play at center back and full back, will also arrive for $38 million.

That said, Dortmund’s early moves this offseason are impressive and may even install Lucien Favre’s men as the preseason favorites to win the German title.