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Early penalty, late strike leads Liverpool to Champions League glory

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Jurgen Klopp finally has the silverware he has craved since taking over Liverpool four years ago.

A controversial penalty given in the first minute of action slotted home by Mohamed Salah set the tone for the match, and Divock Origi killed off the game with three minutes remaining as Liverpool topped Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 in a Champions League final punctuated by poor passing and drab tactical organization.

The game in Madrid started in stunning fashion, with Liverpool earning a penalty after just 21 seconds of play. Sadio Mane‘s chipped cross attempt caught his defender Moussa Sissoko off guard, deflecting off the Spurs midfielder’s chest and rebounding off his outstretched arm in the top corner of the penalty area. Sissoko was clearly pointing instructions to a teammate behind him, and Mane’s cross seemed to come earlier than he expected.

That put Salah on the spot, and he delivered a powerful, thumping penalty just over the outstretched arms of a diving Hugo Lloris who guessed right but had little chance of stopping such a blast. The goal for Salah not only gave Liverpool the lead just two minutes into the game, but made him the fifth African to score in a Champions League final, and

Spurs responded well and proved the better side in the opening stages after the goal. They combined nicely at the top of the penalty area on a number of occasions in the opening 20 minutes, but couldn’t work a good look on net. The game devolved into a nervy showcase of uncertainty, with neither side quite sure what it was trying to accomplish. The atmosphere in the stadium also sported a nervous trepidation, not certain what to make of the first half-hour. Both teams passed poorly and neither team did much of anything in the attacking third. Liverpool played extremely conservative after the early opener and Spurs didn’t trouble the Reds back line much.

Finally, on 38 minutes Andy Robertson took aim from distance on the break and forced Lloris into a leaping save, tipping the ball over the bar. On the ensuing corner, Salah blasted a volley miles over the bar. Christian Eriksen down the other end on the stroke of halftime copied Salah, into a good shooting position in front of the box and ripping it into the seats.

After halftime, not much changed. Spurs held much of the possession but both sides proved sloppy. Lloris made a quality save on Robertson again from distance, beating a streaking Sadio Mane to the ball. Mauricio Pochettino brought in semifinal hero Lucas Moura on for Harry Winks with 25 minutes to go, but it was Liverpool substitute James Milner who had the earlier impact, firing a shot agonizingly wide right with Lloris rooted to the spot. Dele Alli looked to chip the goalkeeper but Alisson was on hand to collect easily.

Sissoko went down injured with 17 minutes to go, replaced by Eric Dier in midfield. Alli had a headed attempt on 78 minutes, but couldn’t get on top of the Trippier cross and struck it over the bar with Joel Matip defending. That woke Spurs up, with Son and Moura both testing Alisson in succession entering the final 10 minutes of the match.

With the momentum seemingly shifting in Spurs’ favor, Pochettino looked to capitalize by bringing on Fernando Llorente in place of Alli. Eriksen forced another fabulous save from Alisson with a close-range free kick in the 85th minute, and Son put the ball over the bar on the ensuing corner but was offside anyways.

Liverpool finally put the game to bed in the 87th minute as Origi, on in place of Roberto Firmino, fired a perfectly placed low effort through the legs of Toby Alderweireld and past a diving Lloris into the far corner. The goal for Origi is his third in the Champions League coming on just his third shot.

The final whistle sounded and saw Liverpool champions of Europe for the first time since beating AC Milan in 2005 on that epic outing in Istanbul. The European title is the first for Jurgen Klopp coming on his third try, losing once each previously with Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool.

Watch Live: Liverpool v. West Ham

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Liverpool v West Ham takes center stage at Anfield on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as the Reds aim to reclaim their 22-point lead at the top of the Premier League table.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

Jurgen Klopp‘s side remain unbeaten this season and with five more wins needed to guarantee the Premier League title, the finishing line is in sight. They are aiming for an 18th consecutive Premier League win which would equal Man City’s record for the most victories on the trot in top-flight history.

As for David Moyes and the Hammers, they are scrapping for their lives at the other end of the table and their daunting run of fixtures makes them one of the favorites for relegation.

Last season the Hammers did draw at home against Liverpool in the PL which was a key factor in the Reds not winning the title last time out but West Ham look extremely far from the team they were last season.

Liverpool v West Ham is first against 18th and all signs point to a big win for the home side as their unbeaten season continues with 25 victories from 26 games so far.

In team news Liverpool are without captain Jordan Henderson who has suffered a hamstring injury and will be out for the next three weeks.

Naby Keita comes in for Henderson in midfield as the rest of the Liverpool team is what you expect.

West Ham are without the injured Ryan Fredericks who suffered a shoulder injury in the 2-0 defeat at Man City on Wednesday.

Teenager Jeremy Ngakia comes in to replace Fredericks, while Felipe Anderson also comes into the lineup.

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Kids under 12 banned from heading in UK

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LONDON (AP) Children up to the age of 12 will be banned from heading a soccer ball in practice sessions in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland as authorities look to address the potential long-term impact on health of head injuries.

[ MORE: US Soccer bans heading ]

The governing bodies of the three regions announced the new heading guidelines on Monday, months after a Scottish study found former professional players there were less likely to die of common causes such as heart disease and cancer compared with the general population but more likely to die with dementia.

The guidelines say there will be a “graduated approach” to heading in practice for kids from 12-15, while the heading will be restricted to one practice session per week for kids 16 and 17.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

There will be no change in terms of heading in matches, taking into consideration the extremely limited number of headers which actually occur in youth matches.

The Scottish study did not state that heading a ball was the cause of the increased prevalence of neurodegenerative conditions among soccer players, but the decision to update the guidelines was taken to “mitigate against any potential risks”, the English Football Association said in a statement.

“This guidance is a responsible development to our grassroots coaching,” FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said, “without impacting the enjoyment that children of all ages take from playing the game.”

The associations said the guidance had been produced in parallel with the UEFA medical committee, which is seeking to produce Europe-wide guidance later this year.

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

Champions League score predictions: Round of 16

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The 2019-20 UEFA Champions League is finally back as the Round of 16 kicks off this week and two of the four Premier League clubs are in action.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Man City and Chelsea face Real Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively and both know they face tough tasks to advance to the Champions League quarterfinals as they do battle with two European heavyweights.

Glory in the Champions League is now the main focus for Pep Guardiola and Man City following their two-season European ban from UEFA which they are appealing. Frank Lampard‘s young Chelsea side host the Bundesliga leaders and hugely experienced Bayern, with the German giants the favorites to advance.

[ MORE: Which Premier League team(s) will reach last eight? ]

The Premier League sides are up against it but both teams are extremely capable of scoring goals for fun but it is at the other end of the pitch where they struggle as both Real Madrid and Bayern Munich will be hoping their star attackers shine on the big stage once again.

In the other two last 16 clashes this week Napoli host Barcelona as Lionel Messi warmed up very nicely with four goals against Eibar, while Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus head to Lyon for the first leg as the Italian giants are expected to advance with ease.

Both Messi and Ronaldo badly want another Champions League title to their name but Lyon and Napoli are more than capable of picking up big first leg wins at home.

Below we predict the scores for the UCL round of 16 games taking place over the next two days. Feel free to make your own predictions in the comments section below, too.


Tuesday
Napoli 1-1 Barcelona
Chelsea 1-2 Bayern Munich

Wednesday
Lyon 1-3 Juventus
Real Madrid 2-3 Man City

Details for Premier League Mornings Live Fan Fest in Philadelphia

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The NBC Sports and Premier League fan fest is heading to Philadelphia in April and here are all of the details you need to know.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Our crew will be broadcasting live for the latest Premier League Mornings Live fan fest on April 4-5, 2020 and the venue is Dilworth Park, located outside of Philadelphia’s City Hall in Center City.

This is the third and final fan fest of the 2019-20 season after October’s event in Austin, Texas, and December’s event in Miami Beach, Florida.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Over two days in Philly there will be nine Premier League games shown across five different windows, with Manchester City v. Liverpool on Sunday, April 5 at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and Telemundo the main event.

As always, there will be lots going on as the Premier League Trophy will be present plus club mascots and special guests and you can join us for free.

All you have to do is sign up here.

The NBC Sports studio team of Rebecca Lowe, Robbie Earle, Kyle Martino and Robbie Mustoe are heading to the City of Brotherly Love and here are more details about what we have planned:

  • NBC Sports and the Premier League have also teamed up to bring the ePremier League USA Finals, a free-to-play esports tournament operated by Gfinity and FACEIT, to the Philadelphia Fan Fest. Registration for the tournament, which will see competitors battle it out online to reach the Philadelphia finals in April, begins today and can be accessed by clicking here. Online qualification matches on Xbox and PlayStation consoles begin March 4 and the finalists will be flown to Philadelphia for the ePremier League USA Finals at the Fan Fest on April 4-5.
  • The Premier League has an ongoing commitment to bringing unique experiences to its fans and working with NBC Sports on Premier League Mornings Live continues that direct outreach to passionate fans in different cities across the United States. Premier League Chief Executive, Richard Masters, said: “It seems only fitting that we round off our Premier League Mornings Live events for the 2019/20 season by bringing soccer fans together in the city famed for brotherly love, Philadelphia. The event at Dilworth Park will be another exciting chance for NBC Sports and us to bring Premier League action direct to supporters in the US and will be the first time at a Mornings Live Fan Festival where we have hosted an esports final. We hope that this and the other great free activities available to fans will encourage them to come down and get involved.”
  • Soccer fans from across the country can interact with the event by sharing their #MyPLMorning on social media, from wherever they are watching. Select viewer photos will be featured on air throughout the weekend.