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Liverpool wins 10-goal League Cup instant classic v. Arsenal

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Two second-choice sides provided first-choice thrills as Arsenal and Liverpool accounted for 10 goals on Wednesday at Anfield before penalties helped the Reds advance to the quarterfinal draw.

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Caoimhín Kelleher stopped Dani Ceballos after both sides made their first three shootout attempts.

Gabriel Martinelli scored twice and Mesut Ozil also starred for the Gunners, as Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Lucas Torreira, and Joe Willock also scored to seal a place in the quarterfinals.

Divock Origi scored twice, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner joined an Arsenal own goal on the board for the hosts.


Three things we learned

1. Klopp, Emery not bothered with the League Cup: Whichever manager lost this match was going to have to answer questions after playing extremely weakened sides for a quarterfinal against a Top Four rival. With all due respect to an insanely entertaining match and all the kids who got a chance to wear the Liverpool and Arsenal shirts at Anfield, Jurgen Klopp wasn’t bothered to give his team a fighting shot and Unai Emery cared just a little bit more. Both managers are right to make that call and hope their depth comes through, of course, but it seems like this was the round to start thinking about hardware: three wins from a final and 90 minutes from a draw that will include a third-tier and a fourth-tier side.

2. But the thrills! The old cliche is that high-scoring games make everyone happy but the coaches, and we’ll certainly be including the goalkeepers in this, too. Caoimhín Kelleher and Emiliano Martinez were hung out to dry on several occasions, including a rare mistake from James Milner that allowed Ainsley Maitland-Niles to make it 4-2. Oxlade-Chamberlain’s feats of strength from distance continued with Liverpool’s third, which gave us seven combined goals with a half-hour remaining on the clock. Origi’s equalizer came moments later and was gorgeous, only to be topped by Willock’s wonderful moment.

3. Martinelli keeps making his case: Kids hungry for a chance to shine led to risky challenges and some pretty nice feats, and 18-year-old Arsenal striker Gabriel Martinelli falls in the latter category. Having now scored seven times in seven senior matches including two braces in this competition, Martinelli is ready to contribute now despite being stuck behind Bukayo Saka, Alexandre Lacazette, Nicolas Pepe, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Quite a good problem for Arsenal as it navigates several different competitions.

 

Man of the Match: Origi — The man just keeps showing up at big moments in big games, whether in the right spot for Jordan Pickford‘s Merseyside Derby error, the UCL Final, or with two big goals late in this one. Monster day.


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Where to start? Maybe we just give the quickest of explanations for the goals.

6th minute: Arsenal’s Shkrodan Mustafi stabs at a cross with one leg, sees his other leg score an own goal.

19th minute: Lucas Torreira deposits a rebound to tie the match after Mesut Ozil sets up Bukayo Saka for a fine shot.

26th minute: Martinelli gets his first by roofing a shot from extremely close range to give Arsenal its first lead.

36th minute: Saka causes a turnover and gets it to Ozil again, who sets up Martinelli for his second.

43rd minute: Having made the giveaway on Martinelli’s second, Harvey Elliott hits the deck after a challenge from Martinelli and James Milner scored from the spot.

54th minute: An uncharacteristic bad pass from Milner puts Kelleher in no man’s land and Maitland-Niles makes it work for a 4-2 lead.

58th minute: “The Ox” has been money from distance, and strokes home for 4-3.

62nd minute: Origi’s goal could’ve easily been the goal of the night (see below), a tidy turn and finish from the top of the box, but…

70th minute: Joe Willock, take a bow.

90’+4: Youngsters Rhian Brewster and Neco Williams do plenty of work to set up Origi, who has more to do when he blasts home to force penalties.

Struggling Atleti in unfamiliar territory under Simeone

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MADRID — This is uncharted territory for many Atletico Madrid fans.

Few other times in recent years have they seen their team struggle so much under Diego Simeone.

[ VIDEO: Haaland has played 59 minutes, scored 5 goals for Dortmund ]

Few other times have they seen their coach fail so often while trying to put the team back on track.

Atletico hit a new low under Simeone on Thursday when it was eliminated by third-division club Cultural Leonesa in the round of 32 of the Copa del Rey. The 2-1 loss in extra time was the team’s worst result in the cup competition since losing to third-tier club Albacete at the same stage in 2011-12.

Two days after that loss in 2011, Atletico hired the then-mostly unknown Simeone to replace Gregorio Manzano, a move that kick-started one of the club’s most successful eras and led to a Spanish league title, two Europa League trophies and two Champions League final appearances.

Atletico did go through difficult moments under Simeone, including when the team failed to advance past the group stage of the Champions League a couple of seasons ago.

“There were always complicated moments in past seasons, maybe after we didn’t make it in the Champions League, or when we lost in the Champions League finals,” Simeone said. “After being at the club for so long, things like this can happen, although they shouldn’t happen.”

There is a greater sense of urgency about the team’s struggles this time.

In addition to Wednesday’s embarrassing Copa del Rey elimination, Atletico lost the Spanish Super Cup final to Real Madrid on Jan. 12, and already is eight points off the Spanish league lead after 20 matches.

[ MORE: Report: Man United’s list of possible new strikers revealed ]

Before, there used to be a notion that Simeone would quickly turn things around and put the team back on track, but this time there aren’t many signs things will improve again soon.

Atletico has yet to impress since undergoing its biggest squad revamp under Simeone at the end of last season, when it lost Antoine Griezmann and other veteran players such as Filipe Luis and Diego Godin. Young Portugal forward Joao Felix, who arrived to replace Griezmann after a transfer from Benfica worth more than 120 million euros ($133 million), has yet to meet expectations.

More concerning, Atletico is not being nearly as effective as it used to be, when it always seemed to find a way to win matches despite not playing well.

The team remains solid defensively — it has the second-best defense in the Spanish league with 14 goals conceded — but it hasn’t been able to do much in attack recently.

“Everything is harder when you can’t score,” Simeone said.

Only seven teams have scored fewer goals than Atletico’s 22 in the 20-team standings.

Diego Costa has been mostly out injured, and Victor “Vitolo” Machin and Alvaro Morata haven’t done much in attack. Morata is the team’s leading scorer with 10 goals in all competitions, and no one else has more than five.

“We have to be humble enough to be self-critical,” Simeone said. “We need to keep working to try to be ready for the challenges that we have ahead of us. We have a very good squad and I’m sure that the results that we want will start arriving soon.”

Atletico biggest chance to rebound will come next month against European champion Liverpool in the last 16 of the Champions League. The first leg will be on Feb. 18 in Spain.

Mourinho in favor of PL’s winter break, but says timing all wrong

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Jose Mourinho seems to be quite happy that the Premier League will implement its first-ever winter break next month, allowing players a bit of rest and recovery time during a marathon campaign, but says its timing makes the break almost worthless for clubs competing in European competitions.

[ VIDEO: Haaland has played 59 minutes, scored 5 goals for Dortmund ]

The next four weeks will play out as follows for Tottenham Hotspur: FA Cup against Southampton this weekend; PL fixture against Manchester City next weekend; the following weekend off which results in two weeks without a game; PL fixture against Aston Villa the following weekend; Champions League first leg against RB Leipzig three days later.

In Mourinho’s perfect world, that first round of PL fixtures following the break would be held a week earlier, leaving the seven English clubs competing in the Champions League and Europa League with a week and a half between games before setting out once again to chase European glory. Instead, Tottenham, Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea will all have a quick turnaround from PL action to UCL competition — quotes from the Guardian:

“It is what it is. I’m not happy that the break comes in the wrong moment. The break should be before the Champions League and, in the end, before the Champions League we don’t have the break. We have to play Aston Villa on the Sunday, playing [RB Leipzig three] days later. So we don’t really care about the break, honestly.”

Mourinho’s point is a solid one: if the winter break is going to exist — and it should — then why shouldn’t its benefits be maximized? Non-European sides — typically those with smaller squads — would still have the full two weeks between games, while those in Europe are able to better leverage their slightly larger squads with only 10 or 11 days between games — still a lengthy break relative to the rest of the season.

[ MORE: Report: Man United’s list of possible new strikers revealed ]

It’s only the first year of the winter break in the PL, so perhaps hopefully they’ll receive Mourinho’s criticism — and that of any other managers — constructively.

Serie A: AC Milan extends unbeaten run since Zlatan’s arrival

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BRESCIA, Italy (AP) Ante Rebic scored his third goal in two matches, goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma was superb and AC Milan won 1-0 at relegation-threatened Brescia on Friday to climb into the Europa League places in Serie A.

[ MORE: Report: Man United’s list of possible new strikers revealed ]

Rebic, who scored twice in a win over Udinese last weekend, pounced on a loose ball directly in front of the goal following a cross from Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the 71st minute.

Since Ibrahimovic’s return to Milan over the holiday break, Milan is unbeaten with four wins and a draw across all competitions.

Donnarumma produced several difficult saves to deny Dimitri Bisoli and Ernesto Torregrossa.

Also, Milan fullback Theo Hernandez hit the crossbar in the closing minutes.

The Rossoneri moved up to sixth place, four points behind fifth-place Atalanta.

[ MORE: Solskjaer’s transfer update; positive on rebuild ]

“Our goal is to qualify for Europe,” Donnarumma said. “We’ve got to continue like this and not rest for a moment. There’s another big Italian Cup match coming up with Torino midweek and we want to reach the semifinals.

“We’ll take it one game at a time and try to keep this momentum going.”

Brescia was without Mario Balotelli, who was suspended for two matches after protesting a booking last weekend that ended up with the striker being sent off.

Brescia remained one point above last-place Genoa.

FA Cup: Sheffield Wednesday into 5th round; Derby headed for replay

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Sheffield Wednesday became the first club to reach the fifth round of the 2019-20 FA Cup by beating Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road on Friday.

[ MORE: Report: Man United’s list of possible new strikers revealed ]

The Owls took a 1-0 lead into halftime after Morgan Fox squeezed his shot past the goalkeeper from a tight angle, and Sam Winnall put the EFL Championship side 2-0 up by slotting the ball home just before full-time. QPR pulled a goal back through Nahki Wells just moments later, but it wasn’t enough and the game finished 2-1.

It’s the second time in three seasons that Wednesday has reached the fifth round after doing so just twice in their previous 17 seasons.

[ MORE: Solskjaer’s transfer update; positive on rebuild ]

Elsewhere, fellow Championship side Derby County, featuring Wayne Rooney who played all 90 minutes, couldn’t see off League Two side Northampton Town and will be forced into the dreaded replay after struggling to a scoreless draw away from home.

The draw for the fifth round will be held on Monday at 2:20 p.m. ET, prior to kickoff of Bournemouth v. Arsenal.