Liverpool smacks Man City, puts both hands on title fate

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Liverpool put both of its hands around the Premier League title race in dismissing sloppy Manchester City 3-1 at Anfield on Sunday.

The win boosts the Reds eight points clear of the field and nine points ahead of fourth place City, the two-time reigning Premier League champions.

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Fabinho and Mohamed Salah scored first half goals for the Premier League leaders, and Sadio Mane salted away the result early in the second half.

Bernardo Silva scored a late goal for City, providing some drama for the final dozen minutes


Three stars, three duds

Star No. 1: Fabinho was an absolute monster in every third, scorching the match-opening goal and making life miserable for the City attackers and midfielders alike in the heart of the pitch. He may be the MVP of the title campaign so far.

Star No. 2: Mohamed Salah was electric in the first half, timing his run perfectly to send the Reds ahead by two and making himself a menace in the decisive first half.

Star No. 3: The goalkeeper didn’t have to make too many saves, and Alisson Becker certainly cannot be blamed for Bernardo’s vicious, unmarked back post lash to make it 3-1. Alisson was calm in collecting the ball and commanded his area.

Dud No. 1: VAR and/or referee Michael Oliver. Liverpool deserved this win, make no mistake about it, but the non-call on Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s handball moments before the Reds took a 1-0 lead was a tough one to take for anyone other than Liverpool and its fans.

Duds Nos. 2 and 3: Raheem Sterling was shook in his old home, booed at every turn and simply miserable in possession. His frustration got the best of him, his body language betraying him. Credit to the Englishman for continuing to fight for goals well after Sergio Aguero was withdrawn, the Argentine just not anywhere near his best and missing multiple chances to get on the board.

Bonus Dud: City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo had a difficult job to do, and he did it poorly, making just one key positive play while allowing a trio of Reds goals.


Liverpool scored with its only moment of the first 7 minutes, which came after Trent Alexander-Arnold went unwhistled for a handball in the box.

The moment was electric; Fabinho smashed a shot past Claudio Bravo for 1-0.

City was still all over Liverpool, with Raheem Sterling nodding wide and John Stones failing to get on the end of Kevin De Bruyne‘s 12th minute free kick.

Bravo was beaten again when Salah got on the end of a cross through the box and headed past the Chilean keeper.

Alisson made a fine two-handed parry on Sergio Aguero in the 25th. Angelino saw a deflected strike hit the post when he lost Jordan Henderson but couldn’t beat Van Dijk for a clean strike in the 29th.

Bravo parried a Firmino drive in the 38th minute, Liverpool continuing to thrive on the counter.

Kyle Walker tore a shot well wide in the 39th, and Aguero dragged a shot wide of the far post in the 42nd.

Salah came close with a distance effort in the 45th minute, but Bravo made an outstanding save.

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The second half started with more for City, a deflected shot earning a corner that was played short and wound up with Alisson.

Mane to put the match to bed out of nothing, Liverpool’s first meaningful attack of the second half defying Bravo. Jordan Henderson’s cross caught him out, and Mane’s header was pushed into the side panel by the Chilean.

Man City tried to answer through Sterling, whose shot was blocked by Dejan Lovren for a corner which again came to nothing.

Bernardo grabbed one back in the 78th, and Sterling had Gabriel Jesus cued up for a second in the 80th but it caught the Brazilian off balance.

Walker missed a back post bid from the influential Angelino, and City couldn’t break through Liverpool’s set-in side.

Van Dijk: Liverpool proved ‘everyone is ready’ for decisive December, January

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Liverpool will play as many as 13 more games between now and the end of January — a period which is sure to go a long way toward deciding the fate of their season, including the Premier League title — and superstar defender Virgil Van Dijk insists that Wednesday’s 5-2 thrashing of rivals Everton proved “everyone is ready” to step up and do their part.

[ MORE: Lampard: Pulisic can reach “top level of world football” ]

Manager Jurgen Klopp made five changes to the team that faced Everton, matching the number of goals his side scored. According to Van Dijk, that level of squad rotation was only a preview of what’s the come over the next eight weeks — quotes from the Guardian:

“The players who came into the team don’t play regularly at all. Look at Divock [Origi], [Xherdan] Shaqiri, they did fantastic. We played Adam [Lallana], Milly [James Milner]; everyone is contributing and we need everyone. That is the key message and it is good. The season is very long. This month is very long — January as well — so we need everyone to be ready.

“We have a big squad and everyone is part of what is going on at the moment. Everyone is happy with the situation we are in. And everyone is also feeling responsible as well, ready to play or if you are on the bench. Everyone is part of the success we have and that is the message to everyone and so far, so good.”

Liverpool’s schedule for December and January breaks down as follows: eight games in the PL, one each in the UEFA Champions League, FA Cup and EFL Cup, and up to two in the FIFA Club World Cup. The Reds’ PL fixture against West Ham United was also rescheduled due to their participation in the Club World Cup.

Through 15 games in the PL, Liverpool hold an eight-point lead on second-place Leicester City and an 11-point advantage on third-place and two-time defending champions Manchester City.

Italian newspaper condemned for “Black Friday” headline featuring Lukaku, Smalling

Photo credit: Corriere dello Sport
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Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport has been widely condemned after printing the headline “Black Friday” on top of photos of Inter Milan forward Romelu Lukaku and Roma defender Chris Smalling, former Manchester United teammates set to face one another in Serie A action on Friday.

[ MORE: Lampard: Pulisic can reach “top level of world football” ]

The sub-headline went on to read: “Lukaku and Smalling, former teammates at Manchester United and today idols at Inter and Roma, this is the battle within the battle tomorrow with the scudetto and a Champions League place at stake.”

Both clubs were quick to put out statements condemning the newspaper’s coverage.

[ MORE: Ole gushes over “the best performance Rashford has had under me” ]

Per the Guardian, an excerpt of the article which appeared to attempt to highlight Serie A’s problem with racism, saying, “We are all trying to tackle the issue of racism in Italian football,” before making a racially insensitive statement of its own:

“In the faces of those idiots who boo, tomorrow everyone must instead go ‘oooh’ like children. It will be a Black Friday, but this is not an end-of-season sale.” It went on to describe Lukaku and Smalling as “two giants of color.”

This comes less than a week after Serie A’s 20 clubs put out a joint statement “acknowledging a serious problem with racism” in the Italian game, while providing little or no concrete plan for action to rid the game of the very racism they acknowledged.

Lukaku has scored 10 goals in 14 league games since joining Inter this summer and Smalling has become a mainstay for Roma in recent months, scoring twice and leading the defense to a much improved record of goals conceded and five victories in six games.

Orlando City tabs Pareja as new coach

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Oscar Pareja is returning to Major League Soccer for a third stint.

The former Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas coach will now be plying his trade for Orlando City SC, leading Nani and Dom Dwyer as the fourth full-time coach in six MLS seasons.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

A longtime Dallas player and assistant, Pareja led the Rapids to the playoffs in 2013 before leaving for the head job at his former club.

FCD won the Supporters’ Shield and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup under his watch before he left for Club Tijuana in 2018, where he went 23W-4D-21L.

Here’s Pareja, via OrlandoCitySC.com:

“The future of this Club is extremely bright, with so many opportunities to grow and succeed at all levels of the Club – from the new training facility to the world-class stadium and from the Development Academy all the way to the MLS side. Orlando is an incredible soccer city, with an especially passionate and dedicated fan base. I can’t wait to get started.”

Pareja should be a huge asset in developing the club’s top young talents into professionals, but he’s got a lot of work to do in building a competitive roster. Orlando finished eight points out of the playoffs in a league in which making the playoffs isn’t that difficult of a proposition.

PL preview: Arsenal-Brighton; Blades-Newcastle

Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images
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The Premier League’s midweek fixture list has two more on the docket, with mid-table positioning at play in South Yorkshire and London.

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Both host sides can advance into sixth with wins, while the visitors will also be dreaming of the top half of the table.

Arsenal v. Brighton and Hove Albion — 3:15 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Freddie Ljungberg will have his hands full at home, as Graham Potter‘s Seagulls have been anything but a walkover even in a three-match losing skid versus Manchester United, Leicester City, and Liverpool.

Arsenal, meanwhile, saw its winless run reach eight matches in all competitions with a weekend draw at Norwich City. The Gunners only outshot the Canaries by a 16-15 margin, something that will have Potter daydreaming of ways to break down the sloppy Arsenal defense.

Will Ljungberg finally start Nicolas Pepe?

“Nico is someone who is a very, very good player but sometimes when you come from a different league it takes time to adapt; off the pitch and on the pitch. But Nico is someone I plan on talking to. I’m going to have a little chat with him about what I expect and how I want to play.”

Sounds like no, which is good news for Brighton. #FreeNicolasPepe.

Sheffield United v. Newcastle United — 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold

Chris Wilder‘s remarkable Blades haven’t lost since September, and will like their chances against a Newcastle side which likes to cede possession.

The Magpies are coming off a remarkable 2-2 draw against Man City, though don’t expect Steve Bruce to keep things the same. He has hinted he’ll ring in the changes and trust his squad depth, with Florian Lejeune, Emil Krafth, and Yoshinori Muto among those tipped for opportunity.

“We are going to have to,” Bruce said. “When you look at the games it is a ridiculous schedule. We will have to adapt and need a bit of freshness.”

Newcastle can join its hosts on 19 points with a win, but would likely accept a draw to take them three points clear of 18th place Everton.