Liverpool edge past Saints in wild clash

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Liverpool rallied to beat Southampton 2-1 at St Mary’s on Saturday in a wild encounter on the South Coast.

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Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino scored for Liverpool, while Danny Ings scored a crazy goal late on for Saints after a Adrian howler as they set up a pulsating finish.

Ings then whiffed on a glorious chance to make it 2-2 as Liverpool held on for the win.

The wins sees Liverpool make it two from two before they face Arsenal next time out, while Saints have lost their first two games of the season before heading to Brighton.


4 things we learned

1. Red-hot Sadio Mane the difference: He scored a stunner for the first goal, won the ball back for the second and forced Gunn into a brilliant stop from his header and set up Andrew Robertson with an audacious back heel. Mane was the difference and even though he returned late from the Africa Cup of Nations, he looks as a fresh as a daisy.

2. Saints’ defensive issues persist: Southampton were their own worst enemies. They gave Mane too much space for the first goal and then needlessly tried to play out of the back for the second. Saints have brought in Kevin Danso but he didn’t make his debut and moving forward they need to stop silly defensive errors if they’re going to push away from another relegation scrap.

3. Liverpool shake off the rust, just: Jurgen Klopp will not be happy with this display overall. Liverpool turned it on at the start of the second half and almost tore Saints apart, but Adrian’s howler epitomized a shaky display and the Reds were lucky to leave with all three points.

4. Danny Ings should have been the hero: He jumped off the bench to score against his former club and he should have scored a second. Ings whiffed on a great cross from Yan Valery just after he had made it 2-1 and his anger was clear. Ings was left on the bench and came on and made a point, curling just over with another glorious effort. If he stays fit, he is still Saints’ biggest hope of finishing towards the top 10.

Man of the Match: Sadio Mane – Outrageous goal, lovely flicks and tricks and truly showed up against his former club. Wonderful showing from the Senegalese winger.


Saints started well as Che Adams almost nipped in front of Adrian and the goalkeeper then had his clearance blocked by James Ward-Prowse.

At the other end Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain dragged a shot just wide, while Adrian made a fine save to deny Maya Yoshida from close range.

Southampton continued to cause Liverpool problems as Ryan Bertrand‘s cross was pushed away by Adrian and Yan Valery couldn’t finish. Mohamed Salah smashed over on the break as Liverpool struggled to get going in the first half.

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Che Adams nodded just over from inside the six yard box but the home team were then made to pay. Mane was given an extra yard in the box and curled home a stunner against his former club to put Liverpool ahead right on half time.

In the second half Angus Gunn came up with a huge save to deny Salah, who was clean through, while Saints continued to press hard for a way back into the game.

On the break Liverpool were rampant as Mane’s cross found Firmino but the Brazilian striker flicked his effort inches wide of the far post. Danny Ings jumped off the bench and curled inches over the bar as the former Liverpool forward came so close to an equalizer.

Firmino then made it 2-0 up the win as Mane won the ball back and the Brazilian cut inside and finished low. Gunn then denied both Mane and Robertson (the latter was denied after an audacious back heel from Mane) as Liverpool ended the game on fire.

However, Adrian then gifted Saints a way back into the game as he played the ball against Ings who slotted home to make it 2-1. Moments later Ings missed a glorious chance as Yan Valery played him in inside the six-yard box but the former Liverpool man couldn’t handle the bobble and flicked it wide.

Atlanta heads into MLS playoffs looking to defend its Cup

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MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) It’s been a strange season for Atlanta United.

They’ve added more two more cups to their collection.

They’ve endured some rather baffling losses.

[ MORE: Monster deal for Mbappe? ]

After all that, the defending MLS Cup champions are heading into the postseason from essentially the same position as last season.

Atlanta, which was runner-up in the Eastern Conference, will host the New England Revolution on Saturday in the opening round of the playoffs, a rematch of their Oct. 6 game to close out the regular season.

“We’ve put ourselves in a pretty decent spot, as strange as the season has maybe been,” midfielder Julian Gressel said Wednesday after a training session. “We’ve already won two trophies, and now we have a chance for a third.”

In mid-August, United broke out the champagne after a 3-2 victory over Mexican powerhouse Club America to capture the Campeones Cup.

A couple of weeks later, they were celebrating again with a 2-1 victory over Minnesota United in the U.S. Open Cup final, guaranteeing a spot in next year’s CONCACAF Champions League.

“I felt like we were always there and pretty much at our best in those games,” Gressel said. “That’s why I’m pretty confident we’ll be at our best when it really matters.”

But there are reasons to be concerned. Atlanta struggled badly in some league games – especially on the road – and rarely looked like the dynamic team that won the MLS Cup in just its second year under former coach Tata Martino.

With Frank De Boer now at the helm, United got off to a sluggish start and spent much of the season juggling lineups and switching up tactics in a desperate bid to find some consistency. Atlanta never put together an unbeaten streak longer than five games – it had three such stretches a year ago – and finished with 58 points, 58 goals and a plus-15 goal differential. All were short of the 69 points, 70 goals and plus-26 differential from the 2018 season.

[ MORE: USMNT player ratings ]

Still, United’s second-place showing in the East behind New York City FC matches last year’s finish, guaranteeing the team at least one home game in the playoffs and another in the conference semifinals should it beat the Revolution.

That’s a crucial edge for a franchise that has essentially broken every MLS attendance record and again averaged more than 52,000 per game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, doubling up every team in the league except Seattle and Cincinnati. In 17 home games, Atlanta lost only twice.

While United closed out the season with a 3-1 victory over New England, the Revolution has been one of the league’s hottest teams over the second half of the season.

Atlanta will be further tested by the possible absence of its best defender, Miles Robinson, who is dealing with a strained left hamstring sustained during a workout with the U.S. national team last week.

If Robinson can’t go, United will have to change up their lineup once again and possibly adopt a more defensive approach to Saturday’s game.

“If I do push up, it’s more so getting back a little faster than I normally would, things like that,” said midfielder Darlington Nagbe, one of those who may be affected if Robinson can’t go. “Just feel the game out and see how it plays out.”

In the regular-season finale, Ezequiel Barco got the start over Pity Martinez, a lineup that de Boer might go with again in the playoffs.

Barco played only 15 league games this season because of injuries and a lengthy stint with Argentina at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, but he provided the sort of spark de Boer was looking for against New England. Martinez, who was the 2018 South American player of the year and Atlanta’s major acquisition during the last offseason, has struggled to find his nice in MLS with just five goals in 32 appearances.

“We have to see,” de Boer said. “The only thing that concerns me is to win the playoffs.”

MLS switched up the playoff format this season. Instead of the top two teams from both the East and the West receiving byes and two-legged rounds to determine the winner of conference semifinals and finals, only the first-place finisher gets the opening round off and every step of the playoffs is a single-game elimination.

There is no room for error.

“If you have an off day, you might be out,” Gressel said. “I feel like it’s a format that favors the underdog a bit more, or gives the underdog a bit more hope.”

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 His work can be found at https://apnews.com

Zlatan paces MLS jersey sellers, offers fresh quip on Minnesota challenge

AP Photo/Chris Carlson
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Zlatan Ibrahimovic: He’s like a more charming, less anarchist version of Tom Hardy’s Bane.

The LA Galaxy man was revealed to again have the top-selling jersey in Major League Soccer on Wednesday, days before the club begins its 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs run with a match in Minnesota.

[ MORE: Monster deal for Mbappe? ]

Snow is in the forecast, but Zlatan is not bothered by such weather.

“I’m from Sweden I was born in the snow. When it snows, I’m a viking. When it’s warm, I’m a lion. We adjust for every condition there is.”

Back to the jerseys, the MLS MVP finalists are 1-2-3 in sales. Ibrahimovic is first, followed by Atlanta’s Josef Martinez, and LAFC’s Carlos Vela.

The top sellers amongst Americans are Seattle’s Jordan Morris (7) and Cristian Roldan (12). Chris Wondolowski of San Jose is 13th, while other domestic names on the Top 25 include Sebastian Lletget, Brad Guzan (!?!), Dom Dwyer, Jozy Altidore, and Graham Zusi.

Midweek El Clasico possible in December following political unrest

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Political unrest in Catalonia has both La Liga and the Spanish government looking to move the first El Clasico of the season.

Barcelona and Real Madrid are scheduled to meet at the Camp Nou on Oct. 26, but the jailing of nine Catalan separatists has caused uproar in-and-around Barca.

In fact, Barca as a club has denounced the imprisonment, so it plays more than a peripheral role in the controversy.

[ JPW: What now for Berhalter, USMNT? ] 

Players heading to and returning from international break have faced in challenges in getting to the club.

Instead, Marca says that we may see a midweek match played in Madrid on Wednesday, Dec. 18, with the reverse fixture in March moved from Madrid to Barcelona.

Dec. 18 would give both teams three matches in eight days before La Liga’s winter break. Barca would play Real Sociedad, Real Madrid, and Alaves, while Real would play Valencia and Real Betis in addition to the Clasico. Both difficult runs, but fairly even.

Reports claim Allegri linked with Manchester United, Spurs

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The international break can be a slow time for news, but what to make of multiple reports claiming that Max Allegri is in discussion with a pair of struggling traditional Premier League powers?

Tuttosport claims that Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur have interest in hiring the Italian manager, adding that United has had “intensified” contact with him.

[ MORE: Monster deal for Mbappe? ]

Noise out of Old Trafford continues to back Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, while there is no real buzz that Mauricio Pochettino is on the verge of leaving Spurs.

The 52-year-old Allegri has won Serie A once with AC Milan and five times with Juventus, claiming a Serie C title with Sassuolo in 2007-08.

Is there anything to it? He’d be a great hire for either side. In United’s case, he’d be a marked upgrade on their current boss.