“World class” Liverpool led by Salah again, title dream intact

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SOUTHAMPTON — It was a familiar story. Liverpool won. Mohamed Salah scored a world class goal.

But that oh so familiar script had stopped playing out in recent weeks. But Salah turned on the magic to lift Liverpool back to the top of the Premier League with a hard-fought win at Southampton on Friday.

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If Liverpool are going to win the title, these are the kind of games they have to win. They were away at a fired up side who are scrapping against relegation, but much improved, and Liverpool fell behind early on but then battled their way back into the game.

Drawing 1-1 with 10 minutes to go, Salah broke and ran 50 yards before clipping a delicious shot off the post and in to send Liverpool’s fans wild and move them two points clear of Manchester City (who have played one less game) with five games to go.

Liverpool’s dreams of winning a first league title since the 1989-90 season remain intact, and Salah scored his first goal in nine games in stunning fashion. Speaking after the game about Salah’s recent slump, Jurgen Klopp hailed his Egyptian wizard.

“It was never in doubt about him being a great player, from my side. Goal number 50 for Liverpool, that is an incredible number,” Klopp said. “As a striker you have chances and because each striker is a human being as well, maybe you have better moments and less good moments. He is pretty consistent. The physical things are always there, but it is normal that he has to adapt to the situation, how he always stayed calm to deal with the situations. It is only around us that it is a big thing, we don’t really care but it is a nice moment, and a really good moment for him to score his first goal in a while.”

Salah’s celebration said it all. He whipped off his shirt and surged towards the Liverpool fans. It was one of relief more than delight, as the Egyptian had been struggling but his class shone through at a pivotal moment.

These are the kind of moments Liverpool’s fans will remember most if they do go on and win the title, and Salah forcing a late winner against Tottenham last Sunday and now delivering a moment of sheer class against Saints proves he is back to his pivotal best.

Klopp’s Liverpool struggled early on against Southampton, as they fell behind to a Shane Long goal and could have been 2-0 down had Long finished off a glorious chance. But the longer the game went on, the more Liverpool’s class showed and Naby Keita‘s first half equalizer gave them a foothold in the game.

James Milner and Jordan Henderson came on in the second half to add experience, and late on Salah delivered a moment of brilliance, while Roberto Firmino did superbly to set up Henderson for the third.

Klopp’s trademark smile got wider when he talked about their two late goals to down a spirited Saints.

“The two goals we scored were simply world-class,” Klopp said. “Super, super goal from Mo, Bobby so important to make the run but couldn’t play because the ankle wasn’t so good, fantastic finish. But then Bobby again chasing the whole world pretty much and winning that ball brings it to a one-on-one situation, super pass. 3-1. It was of course close, but that was clear from the first second. Everybody will come here in the future, will feel that. That makes it even more satisfying and brilliant that we could win it. It was really big for us.”

Liverpool have played a game more than Man City, but they have now put the pressure back on the reigning champions who play before them next Sunday.

Klopp’s men are getting the job done, just about, but the fact that Salah is back delivering sensational goals and standing tall when they needed him most will be a huge bonus heading into the final five games of the season.

Kane, Sterling star as England rout Bulgaria

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On a night where racist abuse from the stands in Bulgaria marred the overall spectacle, England’s players produced an incredible result and spectacle for the visiting fans, with all things considered.

Harry Kane scored once and assisted on three others as England rolled over Bulgaria, winning 6-0 on Monday evening in the Vasil Levski Stadium in Sofia, Bulgaria. Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley both scored a brace for the Three Lions and Marcus Rashford’s thunderbolt from a tight angle gave England the opening goal it needed.

The blowout result was the perfect response after England had suffered its first loss in qualifying for a decade, losing on Friday, 2-1 at the Czech Republic. The six goals England put past Bulgaria was also the fourth time out of six games that England had scored at least five goals in a match. The only other time, aside from the defeat, was a 4-0 win last month at Wembley Stadium over Bulgaria.

This story will be updated.

 

Racist abuse delays England v. Bulgaria qualifier

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England raced out to an impressive 4-0 lead at Bulgaria by halftime, but the wonderful attacking display was marred by horrendous incidents from the crowd.

The match in the Vasil Levski Stadium in Sofia, Bulgaria was stopped on two occasions with announcements being made to ask sections of the crowd to stop their abusive language. This comes with the stadium already serving a partial stadium closure due to racist chanting from the crowd in previous qualifiers.

Below is UEFA’s protocol on how to intervene in these situations, and what transpired from lead writer Joe Prince-Wright.

Tottenham re-signs goalkeeper Vorm

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With Hugo Lloris set to miss at least another two months of action with a broken elbow, Tottenham has turned to a familiar face to provide some cover between the pipes.

Tottenham announced Monday it had re-signed goalkeeper Michel Vorm to a contract through the end of the 2019-2020 Premier League season. Vorm spent five seasons with Tottenham after signing from Swansea City in 2014. However, after playing second-fiddle to Lloris and later serving as the third backup behind current Tottenham No. 2, Paulo Gazzaniga for the past couple of seasons, Vorm was released at the end of last season.

Its certainly a boost for Tottenham that a player with a long history at the club and plenty of experience was available to help in this situation. Similar to Liverpool picking up Adrian after Alisson Becker’s injury, Tottenham know what it’s getting in Vorm and may play him a few times if Gazzaniga needs a night off in the next few months.

According to Vorm, he had been home in his native Netherlands and was watching the game when he saw Lloris get injured.

“Obviously I saw straight away that he had a bad injury and at the time I thought about how bad it was, Vorm told Tottenham’s website. “After the game I spoke with Jan (Vertonghen), he told me what was going on and I spoke also with Toni (Jimenez, our goalkeeping coach) and, yes, during the week I got the phone call to ask if I was open to come back and help out. I’ve kept in contact with a lot of the players and also with Toni. We were speaking quite regularly and on Thursday he called me, we had the conversation and from there on, it went very quickly.”

In his five seasons with Tottenham, Vorm made a total of 47 appearances in all competitions. He saw plenty of time in the League Cup, FA Cup, UEFA Europa League and Champions League during his stay at White Hart Lane.

In-form striker Duvan Zapata injured on international duty

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This international break has been particularly brutal to clubs who have seen a host of key players go down with injuries, and there’s still a few days of matches remaining.

The latest player to succumb to injury is Atalanta striker Duvan Zapata who returned from Colombia duty with an adductor strain and will miss at least three weeks, according to Sky Sports Italia (via FootballItalia). Zapata went down 23 minutes into Colombia’s 0-0 friendly draw with Chile on Friday and was sent back to Italy for tests at his club.

Those tests have reportedly confirmed the initial fears. The loss of Zapata is a massive one for Atalanta, as the 28-year-old has been steadily building for years and is having a breakout start to this campaign, scoring six Serie A goals in seven matches plus one more in Champions League play, currently on a run of four consecutive games with a goal across all competitions. With Zapata’s help, Atalanta sits third in the Serie A table, having bagged the most goals of any team with 18 through seven games.

Zapata becomes the latest high-profile injury from this international break, joining Colombia teammate Alexis Sanchez who went down late in the same match and is reportedly out until 2020 with a serious ankle injury. Chelsea has been hit the hardest, with Andreas Christensen, Mateo Kovacic, and Reese James all pulling up while N’Golo Kante was injured in France warmups but he is expected to be fit for the weekend. Luka Modric may miss time after going down in a Euro qualifier against Wales, while Gareth Bale also picked up a knock in that match. Neymar went down in Brazil’s match against against Nigeria, which forced manager Tite to explain his reasoning for the selection in a friendly. Sergio Aguero is apparently struggling to train with Argentina thanks to a mystery injury confirmed by Lionel Scaloni. Arsenal’s Dani Ceballos withdrew from Spain training earlier in the week with “hamstring overload.” Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson left USMNT camp with a hamstring problem with the MLS playoffs on the horizon.