Southampton’s late show rekindles belief

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SOUTHAMPTON — For the first 60 minutes Southampton’s players were being heckled and booed by their own fans.

30 minutes later they were given a standing ovation off the pitch after launching a heroic comeback to secure their first home win since April and beat relegation rivals Watford 2-1 in a pivotal clash at St Mary’s.

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Boy, did Southampton need this. They now have belief they can get out of the bottom three and salvage their season as they have four crucial games coming up against Norwich, Newcastle, West Ham and Aston Villa.

Speaking after the game Ralph Hasenhuttl puffed out his cheeks as he sat down in the press conference room. Relief was the key word.

“There is a tonne of weight falling off the shoulders, there were tonnes of weight here today, you could feel it from the first moment. We couldn’t move. It was completely different to last weekend,” Hasenhuttl told Sky Sports. “The subs had a good impact and gave us fresh energy. Then it was a completely different second half, an unbelievable turnaround for the table. Sofiane Boufal on one side and Moussa Djenepo on the other gave us good quality.”

Southampton’s players were relieved at the final whistle and local lad Danny Ings, who has now scored eight goals in his last nine games in all competitions, added that the way the atmosphere turned inspired the players.

“It’s a massive result. It has been a very tough week for everyone at the club. To go 1-0 down and then to comeback and win shows the character of the lads. The atmosphere was great in the end and we deserved the points,” Ings told Sky Sports.

Hasenhuttl was asked if the atmosphere early on at St Mary’s impacted the performance of his team, and he issued a rallying cry to his players.

“We didn’t show that we create chances. We need chances to lift them and when we had a small one they were immediately there. We have to create them and you cannot demand them supporting you if you don’t show them anything,” Hasenhuttl said. “You have to show them then you get something. In the second half we showed and they were immediately there. This is what lifts everybody. First we must look at ourselves and what we can do better and the rest comes by the side.”

Saints were a team transformed in the second half as Moussa Djenepo and Sofiane Boufal pushed on down the wings, Danny Ings was a menace in the middle and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg won the ball back time and time again as they pinned Watford back.

Hasenhuttl admitted the second half was how he wants Saints to play all the time as they enter a season-defining few weeks in their season.

“We wanted to play like this from the beginning, it was the same shape. The players didn’t play how we want them to play and like they can play and we conceded a goal in that moment. I have analyzed more than I wanted to,” Hasenhuttl said. “It is more important to have this win now, to have this first three points at home. Last two games from a results side were okay, now we have a big home game against Norwich where we have to do it again.”

Brave is a word Hasenhuttl has being using a lot lately and his Southampton players dug deep at a crucial period late in the game against Watford.

He knows this is only the start but if they continue to be brave, Saints’ belief that they will stay in the Premier League will continue to rise.

“We have chances to take points every weekend and we must be more brave like today and when we are we have our quality to score, and we have our quality to win games,” Hasenhuttl added.

Christian Pulisic named USMNT Player of the Year

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Who else could it be? Christian Pulisic has been named the USMNT player of the year for 2019.

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The Chelsea star, 21, excelled for club and country over the past 12 months and after taking a few months to settle into life in England, he’s now taking the Premier League by storm on a weekly basis.

Pulisic has now won this award for a second time after first winning it in 2017 and he becomes the youngest player in U.S. men’s national team history to win the award twice.

His achievements over the last 12 months are numerous, as he dragged a struggling USMNT to the 2019 Gold Cup final and also became the youngest player to reach double figures in goals for the USMNT.

MLS veteran Sacha Kljestan signs with hometown LA Galaxy

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Carson, Calif. (AP) Veteran midfielder Sacha Kljestan has signed with the LA Galaxy as a free agent.

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The 34-year-old U.S. national team contributor officially returned to his native Southern California on Wednesday.

Kljestan has scored 49 goals over 10 MLS seasons in a career that began as the fifth overall pick by defunct Chivas USA, the Galaxy’s former stadium partners. After a successful five-year stint with Belgium’s Anderlecht, he spent the past five seasons with New York Red Bulls and Orlando City.

The Huntington Beach native also has made 51 appearances for the U.S. team, playing in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Kljestan will provide veteran leadership for a Galaxy roster in transition after the departures of its top two goal-scorers: Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Uriel Antuna.

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

Liverpool in talks to activate Minamino’s release clause

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On the face of it, this move makes perfect sense for everyone concerned. Especially Liverpool, who get a bargain.

Multiple reports state that the Premier League leaders are in advanced talks to sign Japanese winger Takumi Minamino from RB Salzburg.

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Minamino, 24, has a release clause of just $9.5 million and it has been reported that he will move to Liverpool in January with talks going well over a five-year contract.

RB Salzburg sporting director Christoph Freund confirmed talks are ongoing about the transfer, with Bayern Munich and Marseille also said to be interested in signing the tricky winger.

“I can confirm that there are talks with Liverpool at the moment. It is an honor [for us] to see the caliber of clubs who are interested in our players.”

Minamino’s goals, pace and trickery pushed Salzburg to within one game of reaching the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds and he impressed against Liverpool in both games in the UCL group stage as he scored at Anfield and gave their defense plenty of problems in the return game. His skillset would perfectly suit the way Liverpool play with his direct running, pace and nose for goal seemingly perfect for Jurgen Klopp‘s side.

With Klopp and his RB Salzburg counterpart Jesse Marsch hugging on the sidelines after Liverpool’s win in Austria on Tuesday, plus Klopp’s kind words on the job the American coach is doing at Salzburg, it’s safe to say there’s a strong connection between the two teams and their styles of play are very similar.

That’s an even better reason for Minamino to head to Liverpool as the Japanese star would slot in seamlessly and he would become the third former RB Salzburg player at the Reds alongside Naby Keita and Sadio Mane.

From the style of play of both player and the club, to the small transfer fee, this works out very well for everyone involved. Even Salzburg will be happy to become known as a feeder club to Liverpool and Europe’s other big boys as that will help them with their future recruitment.

Raul Jimenez’s future at Wolves uncertain

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Raul Jimenez has been talking about playing for one of Spain’s big boys.

That sound you can hear is Wolves fans everywhere sobbing.

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The Mexican striker was quoted by Spanish outlet Marca saying that he would one day like to return to Spain and play for one of the La Liga giants.

“I would never rule out returning to Spain. I have good memories, and I would like to go back at some point,” Jimenez said. “I want to try out LaLiga once more, as I didn’t get to play much the previous time. Returning is not off the agenda. I have played at the Nou Camp and the Bernabeu.”

Jimenez, 28, previously played for Atletico Madrid before moving to Benfica who loaned him to Wolves in the summer of 2018, and he has since made the switch to the West Midlands permanent for $40 million.

However, his manager Nuno Espirito Santo has moved to calm down fears the El Tri star will move at the end of this season.

“What he is doing is amazing – every day of his life is dedicated to Wolves so we are delighted with it,” Santo said. “Being ambitious and dreaming is something all of us have. But our present is very good with Raul here.”

The powerful Mexican striker has been superb over the past two seasons and has proved to be a phenomenal target man in the Premier League. He’s scored 32 goals in 71 appearances in all competitions for Wolves, leading them to an FA Cup semifinal appearance and seventh-place PL finish last season and his goals this campaign (15 in 27 appearances in total) have catapulted them into the top six and the last 32 of the UEFA Europa League. Aside from his goals Jimenez’s hold-up play has been vital to Wolves’ success.

It is worth pointing out that Jimenez revealed he is very happy at Wolves but the fact he is so ambitious and fancies moving on to either Real Madrid and Barcelona is a good thing for the club. This means Jimenez is striving to improve and do all he can to take his game to the next level.

Yes, Wolves will be desperate to keep hold of the Mexican star who is a fans favorite at Molineux. But if he continues to score goals and one of Spain’s big boys, or a title-chasing team in the PL, were to come calling, can they stand in his way?