Four things we learned: Liverpool v. Tottenham

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LIVERPOOL — Jurgen Klopp‘s boys regained their six-point lead atop the Premier League table as they fought back from 1-0 down to beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 at Anfield on Sunday, as the Reds are still unbeaten.

Harry Kane gave Tottenham the lead after 47 seconds to stun Anfield, and although Liverpool peppered the Spurs goal in the first half, Paulo Gazzaniga was in inspired form to stop Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Virgil Van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold. In a feisty encounter tempers often boiled over as the repeat of the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League final didn’t disappoint.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

At the start of the second half Spurs almost went 2-0 up as Heung-Min Son rounded Alisson but his shot clipped off the crossbar, and then Liverpool pinned Spurs back further. Gazzaniga twice denied Firmino at the near post but he could do nothing to deny Jordan Henderson who popped up at the back post to make it 1-1.

Georginio Wijnaldum then missed a glorious chance for Liverpool as the Reds piled on the pressure and Spurs occasionally threatened on the break. Serge Aurier then clipped Sadio Mane in the box to give away a penalty kick as Mohamed Salah scored the winner to extend Liverpool’s lead to second-place Man City to six points. Spurs went close through Danny Rose, Son and Kane late on, but Liverpool held on to stay unbeaten.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Here’s a look at what we learned from a dramatic encounter at Anfield.


Man of the Match: Paulo Gazzaniga – Stepping in for the injured Hugo Lloris, the young Argentine goalkeeper was superb as he made a string of fine stops in the first half to keep Spurs ahead. He was confident in possession and when Spurs’ defense was all over the place ahead of him, Gazzaniga kept his cool. The man from Pochettino’s hometown of Murphy, Argentina stood tall on the big stage, even if he couldn’t help his team grab a point.


LIVERPOOL’S INCREDIBLE RUN CONTINUES

Liverpool last lost a Premier League game on January 3 and that is their only defeat in their last 49 games in the competition. They are unbeaten through the first 10 games of the season and they fought back to beat Spurs with another gritty, committed display. Klopp’s side have been far from their best for most of this season but they sit top of the table and the way they dug deep, stayed patient and beat Tottenham proved that they are confident they can go all the way this season. They just aren’t used to losing and like the draw at Man United last week, they never know when they’re beaten. Especially at home as they’ve now gone 45 games unbeaten at Anfield, with Klopp leading the chorus of chants and cheers in the stands with his fist pumps on the sidelines.


KANE PROVIDES CUTTING EDGE FOR SPURS’ MIXED FOUR

Harry Kane produced a fine finish to put Spurs ahead but their front four didn’t click on Sunday. Kane and Son were dangerous throughout but Dele Alli was anonymous and Christian Eriksen had a nightmare. Son hit the bar twice and Kane was a constant menace but Alli and Eriksen look so short in confidence and Pochettino was pulling his hair out on the sidelines over some of their decisions on the ball and with their defensive positioning. These four have only started four games together in 2019 and it showed. They will take some time to get back to their best as a fluid unit. If they ever do.


LOVREN PROVES DOUBTERS RIGHT

Joel Matip has now become indispensable to Liverpool. Dejan Lovren was preferred over Joe Gomez at center back and he had another shaky display as he was caught out on Tottenham’s goal to start a poor performance. From getting beaten for pace by Kane and Son, to taking too much time in possession, every time Lovren got on the ball there was a sharp intake of breath among the home fans at Anfield. Matip and Virgil van Dijk are Liverpool’s preferred center back partnership and Gomez should now start ahead of Lovren.


GAZZANIGA PAPERS OVER POCHETTINO’S PROBLEMS

As we mentioned earlier, Gazzaniga was sublime. But the back four in front of him made sure he had plenty of work to do. Aurier and Danny Rose had tough outings, with both full backs caught out on Liverpool’s two goals. Spurs have tinkered with back threes and fours in recent weeks and Pochettino’s men just don’t seem to be able to defend as a unit. In truth, they should have lost by three or four on Sunday and the scoreline was kind to them. Gazzaniga’s brilliance papered over the cracks. Spurs have so much room for improvement  and the top four seems a long way off, as things stand.

Serie A to impose 33-percent pay cut for players, coaches

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Serie A announced on Monday that it has agreed a 33-percent pay cut for 19 of its 20 clubs’ players and coaching staff for as long as the league’s coronavirus suspension lasts.

[ MORE: Report: Premier League prepares for June return ]

Juventus was the lone club to abstain from voting on the measure after previously agreeing to cut its players’ salaries by an amount equal to the monthly wages of March, April, May and June.

The league said in a statement that the reduction in wages paid to players and coaches was “necessary to safeguard the future of the entire Italian football system.”

“The intervention … foresees a reduction of one third of the total gross annual salary in the event that it is not possible to resume sporting activity, and a reduction of one sixth… if the remaining matches of the 2019/2020 season can be played in the coming months.”

The statement also reiterated all sides’ desire to continue and compete the 2019-20 season once it is deemed safe for all involved parties to do so.

“There is a confirmed willingness to bring this season to an end and to get back to playing, without running any risks, only when the sanitary conditions and the government’s decisions will allow so.”

U.S. prosecutors allege bribes in 2018, 2022 World Cup votes

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NEW YORK (AP) — Prosecutors revealed new details of alleged bribes paid to FIFA executive committee members to gain their votes for Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup and charged a pair of former 21st Century Fox executives with making illegal payments to win broadcast rights for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments.

[ MORE: Former U.S. TV execs indicted on charges of World Cup bribery ]

An indictment unsealed Monday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn says Nicolás Leoz, then president of the South American governing body CONMEBOL, and former Brazil federation president Ricardo Teixeira received bribes to vote for Qatar at the 2010 FIFA executive committee meeting.

Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago, president of the North and Central American and Caribbean governing body CONCACAF, received $5 million in bribes to vote for Russia to host in 2018 from 10 different shell companies that included entities in Anguilla, Cyprus and the British Virgin Islands, the indictment alleged. Guatemala federation president Rafael Salguero was promised a $1 million bribe to vote for Russia, according to the indictment.

Leoz, who died last August, avoided extradition, as have Warner and Teixeira. Salguero pleaded guilty in 2018 to two counts of wire fraud conspiracy and one count each of racketeering conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy.

Alejandro Burzaco, former head of the marketing company Torneos y Competencias, testified in 2017 that all three South Americans on the FIFA executive committee took million-dollar bribes to support Qatar, which prevailed over the U.S. 14-8.

[ MORE: Report: Premier League prepares for June return ]

Former 21st Century Fox Inc. executives Hernan Lopez and Carlos Martinez were charged Monday with making payments to CONMEBOL officials to obtain broadcast rights bidding information from a co-conspirator whose identify was not identified in the indictment.

ESPN had U.S. English-language television rights to the World Cup from 1994-2014, but Fox in 2011 gained the rights for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments. After the 2022 tournament in Qatar was shifted from summer to late autumn, a time when it is likely to get less attention in the U.S., FIFA awarded Fox rights for 2026 without competitive bidding.


Also charged in the indictment, handed up by a grand jury on March 18, are former Imagina Media Audiovisual CEO Gerard Romy; and the Uruguayan sports marketing company Full Play Group SA.

The indictment includes charges of wire fraud and money laundering. The charges against Romy and Full Play also allege racketeering conspiracy.

“The profiteering and bribery in international soccer have been deep-seated and commonly known practices for decades,” William F. Sweeney Jr., assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York field office, said in a statement. “Over a period of many years, the defendants and their co-conspirators corrupted the governance and business of international soccer with bribes and kickbacks, and engaged in criminal fraudulent schemes that caused significant harm to the sport of soccer. Their schemes included the use of shell companies, sham consulting contracts and other concealment methods to disguise the bribes and kickback payments and make them appear legitimate.”

Since the first indictments were announced in May 2015, there have been 26 publicly announced guilty pleas, many from former soccer officials, including CONCACAF general secretary Chuck Blazer.

[ MORE: Son Heung-min to complete military service in South Korea ]

CONMEBOL president Juan Ángel Napout and Brazil federation president José Maria Marin were convicted following trials. Napout is in prison in Florida and Marin was released from a prison last week. Some individuals await sentencing.

Lopez was CEO of Fox International Channels, a 21st Century Fox subsidiary, and Martinez was president of Fox International Channels and an executive of Fox Latin American Channel Inc. They are accused of joining with Full Play to pay million of dollars in bribes to CONMEBOL executives in exchange for rights to the Copa Libertadores, South America’s annual club championship.

“It’s shocking that the government would bring such a thin case,” Lopez’s lawyer, Matthew D. Umhofer, said in an email. “The indictment contains nothing more than single paragraph about Mr. Lopez that alleges nothing remotely improper. Mr. Lopez can’t wait to defend himself at trial.”

Steven J. McCool, Martinez’s attorney, said in an email: “We are certain a jury will swiftly exonerate Carlos, as the charges against him are nothing more than stale fiction.”


Carlos Ortiz said Full Play intends to plead not guilty at Thursday’s arraignment and his client “looks forward to vigorously defending itself against all of the charges at trial.”

A lawyer for Romy did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Fox Sports also did not respond to a request for comment.

Romy is accused with joining his alleged co-conspirators to pay a $3 million bribe to Jeffrey Webb, the former president of the North and Central American and Caribbean governing body CONCACAF, for media and marketing rights to home World Cup qualifiers in the Caribbean for the 2018 and 2022 cycles. Webb pleaded guilty on Nov. 23, 2015, to several counts and awaits sentencing.

Van Dijk wants to be remembered as ‘a Liverpool legend’

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Virgil van Dijk is setting his sights as high as possible, aiming to first bring the Premier League title back to Liverpool and to then be remembered as a “legend” and “one of [the club’s] greatest servants” when his playing career is finished.

[ MORE: Former US TV execs indicted on charges of World Cup bribery ]

The 28-year-old Dutchman is well on his way to following up last season’s PFA PL Player of the Year award with Liverpool’s first top-division title since 1990 — provided the 2019-20 season is completed after being suspended due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic — and he appears to have a keen interest in how he will be remembered in the hearts and minds of the club’s most ardent supporters for years and decades to come.

[ MORE: Report: Premier League prepares for June return ]

Van Dijk wasn’t at all hesitant to throw around the L-word when speaking to Spanish media outlet Sport this week:

How would you like to be remembered?

“As a Liverpool legend. I want to achieve incredible things here. We have a fantastic team, we don’t lack anything, we have all the tools necessary to on winning: a coach that we identify with, a versatile squad, a style of play that breeds victories, a stadium and supporters that play their part. Yes, I would like to be one of those players that return to Anfield after retiring. I see club legends at games and I feel part of a really big family.”

I have read that you love Disney. It’s quite a contrast to your life as a footballer…

“I like Disney films and I love taking my kids to Disneyland. Seeing them so happy makes my day. I was seven or eight when I went there for the first time and it was fantastic but we did not go much as it was so expensive. I took my wife when we first started dating. We got drunk in a hotel… it was memorable. I like simple things so why complicate things? Why be negative when you can enjoy life and be positive? That’s something I have learned with the years. I always try to be positive. Life is too short to always look at the negatives.”

Another few years of performances at his current level, and Van Dijk should have no trouble talking his way back inside Anfield anytime his heart desires for as long as he lives.

Former U.S. TV execs indicted on charges of World Cup bribery

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NEW YORK (AP) A pair of former sports marketing executives of 21st Century Fox have been indicted on charges they paid bribes to soccer officials to obtain confidential bidding information during FIFA’s sale of U.S. television rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

[ MORE: Report: Premier League prepares for June return ]

Charges were unsealed Monday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn against former 21st Century Fox Inc. executives Hernan Lopez and Carlos Martinez. They are accused of making payments to officials of the CONMEBOL, South American soccer’s governing body.

ESPN had U.S. English-language television rights to the World Cup from 1994-2014, but Fox in 2011 gained the rights for 2018 and 2022 tournaments. After the 2022 tournament in Qatar was shifted from summer to late autumn, a time when it is likely to get less attention in the U.S., FIFA awarded Fox rights for 2026 without competitive bidding.

Also charged in the indictment, handed up by a grand jury on March 18, are former Imagina Media Audiovisual CEO Gerard Romy; and the Uruguayan sports marketing company Full Play Group SA. The Justice Department said the indictment includes charges of wire fraud and money laundering. The charges against Romy and Full Play allege racketeering conspiracy.

“The profiteering and bribery in international soccer have been deep-seated and commonly known practices for decades,” William F. Sweeney Jr., assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York field office, said in a statement. “Over a period of many years, the defendants and their co-conspirators corrupted the governance and business of international soccer with bribes and kickbacks, and engaged in criminal fraudulent schemes that caused significant harm to the sport of soccer. Their schemes included the use of shell companies, sham consulting contracts and other concealment methods to disguise the bribes and kickback payments and make them appear legitimate.”

[ MORE: Son Heung-min to complete military service in South Korea ]

Lopez and Martinez are accused of joining with Full Play to pay million of dollars in bribes to executives of CONMEBOL in exchange for rights to the Copa Libertadores, South America’s annual club championship.

“It’s shocking that the government would bring such a thin case,” Lopez’s lawyer, Matthew D. Umhofer, said in an email. “The indictment contains nothing more than single paragraph about Mr. Lopez that alleges nothing remotely improper. Mr. Lopez can’t wait to defend himself at trial.”

Steven J. McCool, Martinez’s attorney, said in an email: “We are certain a jury will swiftly exonerate Carlos, as the charges against him are nothing more than stale fiction.”

Lawyers for Romy and Full Play did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Fox Sports also did not respond to a request for comment.

Romy is accused with joining his alleged co-conspirators to pay a $3 million bribe to Jeffrey Webb, the former president of the North and Central American and Caribbean governing body CONCACAF, for media and marketing rights to home World Cup qualifiers in the Caribbean for the 2018 and 2022 cycles. Webb pleaded guilty on Nov. 23, 2015, to several counts and awaits sentencing.