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In the Mixed Zone: Liverpool v. Man United

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LIVERPOOL — To make sure you have every angle covered for the marquee Premier League games, our new feature “In the Mixed Zone” will take you behind-the-scenes and into the tunnel areas to hear from the star players moments after their magic has decided games or drama has ensued.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

The idea is to set the scene of being inside the tunnel area in Old Trafford, by the dugouts at Stamford Bridge and in the swanky new players area in Tottenham Hotspur’s stadium as Premier League stars walk out of the dressing room and break down the game with media members around the world.

We will tell you what they are saying and the kind of antics going on amid the hubbub of the mixed zone as players from both teams have their say on the 90-plus minutes of action we’ve just witnessed.

[ MORE: Rashford injury update

Here’s the scene from deep inside Anfield in the hour or so after the full time whistle blew between Liverpool and Manchester United as the Reds won 2-0 and now sit 16 points clear, with a game in hand, at the top of the Premier League table.

Safe to say one set of players were more keen to stop and chat with us than the other…


6:35 p.m. (local time): Mixed zone open as Virgil Van Dijk is shown on the TV screens speaking to Jamie Carragher preaching “one game at a time” for Liverpool’s title push. Come on, Virgil. Start picking your suit out for the big celebration in May. More from Virgil later on in the mixed zone as he stops to speak with Pro Soccer Talk…

6:42: A Liverpool legend is hanging around the press room. His assessment of the game and Liverpool’s dominance over Man United? “The perch is looking very strong again…” Liverpool’s 19th title, one short of United’s record 20, is in reach.

6:45: The pitch-side monitor for VAR is rolled out by one man, who is crouching over. Not used today, and only used once across the 229 Premier League games so far. What a lonely, lonely job setting up that equipment must be…

6:47: Okay, here come the lads. First up, a coupe of Brazilian midfielders are talking. Fred and Fabinho hug each other then speak to Brazilian TV. Fred has his match shirt in a bag, Fabinho has his suitcase on wheels with a No.3 luggage label on it. Fred’s sneakers have some fancy metals studs on the back of it. Fred was Man United’s best player.

6:52: Luke Shaw talking to our partners Sky Sports that United were just pleased to stay in the game until the final minute: “Very disappointed. We didn’t really deserve that – especially 2-0. When it was 1-0 it was really good. We had that chance with Anthony Martial. The lads gave it their all. We didn’t have many chances, but those that came we should have taken them. We know their qualities, and there were periods where we had to defend well. Last 30 minutes we controlled it. We didn’t take our chances and they took them. Van Dijk is a massive guy and threat for them on set-pieces. It’s disappointing for us. In the first half, over the past year – Liverpool have blown teams away in the first 20 minutes. We were still in the game until the 90th minute.”

6:55: “USA, USA!” Liverpool’s American owner John W. Henry and his wife Linda Pizzuti stroll past us and then disappear through a side door. More from them to come.

7:02: Man United’s players keep trudging through. Local lads Mason Greenwood, Jesse Lingard and Brandon Williams are all downbeat as they walk through. Aaron Wan-Bissaka is not far behind with his headphones on and hood up.

7:05: Hello. The referees now roll through. Craig Pawson looks like a deer in the headlights, which seems to be his default look. Fourth official Jon Moss looks far from delighted, which seems to be his default look.

7:06: Owner John W. Henry is back and he and his wife greet the assembled media. One journalists asks “How many games do you reckon, John?” in reference to how many games until Liverpool win the title. His response while wearing a wry smile: “There are 16 games left, right?” The billionaire from Illinois has played this game before…

7:09: Man United’s players are now coming through at a rapid rate as captain Harry Maguire gives it a simple “not today, mate” when asked for an interview.

7:15: Andy Robertson stops to speaks to us and during his interview Ole Gunnar Solskjaer walks out of the main press conference and pats him back. They then shake hands. Lot of mutual respect there.

As for Robertson on the game: “We had so many chances we could have put this game out of sight. A really good performance from us but luckily Mo just topped it off at the end and we could relax for 20 seconds! Today, looking back at the game there is room for big improvement. Some of the stuff we did was excellent. I thought our midfield three were different class today and ran the game and that was so important. We were a wee bit sloppy in possession, particularly me in the first half, a few of the balls went out. But we got the goal and I think the goal that got disallowed was a bit soft but that’s football. We started the second half really well, we had them pinned back and it looked like a matter of time until we got the goal. But when you don’t get the goal Man United start to get a bit of confidence from that and we should have killed them off in that moment, but we did in the end.”

7:17: Robertson asked about Liverpool edging closer to winning a first title in 30 years: “We are not getting carried away. Until the champions sign is above our head we don’t believe anything because, yeah, it is a comfortable lead, 16 points, but we know how tough this league is. We beat Man United and then we go away to Wolves who are flying and it is an incredibly tough game. We know in a couple of weeks the table can change. It is up to us to stay 100 percent focused and not allow that to happen.”

7:20: Brazilian TV sum up what Fred said to them earlier: “We should have taken our chances” was his assessment of Man United, who somehow hung in there until the 90th minute. To be fair, United did have one or two glorious chances.

7:23: Virgil van Dijk stops for a chat as we ask him about the fans finally chanting “We’re going to win the league!” and if he agrees with that sentiment. Safe to say VVD isn’t getting carried away.

Focusing on Liverpool’s display against Man United, was this about staying focused as they dominated but didn’t score a second until stoppage time?

“Obviously we want to score more goals. We had quite some opportunities to make it easier but in the end you need to find a way to win a game. We defended a little bit deeper at times because they kept pressing, they kept players up and you need to find a way and we did but we could have made it easier.”

As for his goal, the Dutchman towered above Man United’s Harry Maguire and Brandon Williams to head home the opener to set the tone for a dominant win. Did Liverpool target United on set pieces?

“Obviously every game we try to look at the set-pieces to score. We have players that can be very dangerous including myself but it is not always easy and today I think it was a perfect set-piece. We wanted to target the near post and I’m happy it was very important.”

7:28: James Milner and Adam Lallana then walk through in different directions with their kids. Lallana’s kid in full kit. Good effort. Maybe Lallana Jr. was almost on the bench for the FA Cup win against Everton a few weeks ago…

7:30: Okay, all of the players have gone home. Cameras are turned off. The Mixed Zone is closed.

Player Ratings from Liverpool 2-0 Manchester United

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Liverpool might’ve needed a stoppage time goal to put Manchester United away, but the Reds outclassed their rivals on Sunday at Anfield.

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It was a righteous beatdown of the visitors, who were without Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford but looked more like a relegated-threatened side than one of the most successful clubs in football history.

[ MORE: JPW’s Three Things ]


Liverpool

Alisson — 9 — One of the world’s best gets an extra point for assisting Mohamed Salah‘s insurance goal.

Andy Robertson — 7 — Typical strength from the hard-working Scot.

Joe Gomez — 7

Virgil Van Dijk — 8 — Scored the decisive goal and was almost imperious at the back.

Trent Alexander-Arnold — 7

Georginio Wijnaldum — 7

Jordan Henderson — 8 — One of his best days in the shirt, winning numerous tackles and deprived of a delightful goal by De Gea.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Out 66′) — 7

Sadio Mane (Out 83′) — 5 — If he’s anywhere near his average self, he has a first half hat trick.

Mohamed Salah — 7 — Tied for a match-high shots with Mane, but had more of an edge and found a deserved goal late.

Roberto Firmino (Out 83′) — 7 — A game-high six dribbles to go with plenty of industry.

Subs 

Adam Lallana (66′) — 7

Divock Origi (83′) — N/A

Fabinho (83′) — N/A


Manchester United

David De Gea — 7 — An incredible save on Jordan Henderson on a day he had so little help.

Luke Shaw (Off 87′) — 5

Harry Maguire — 4 — Tried to do too much in his first match as full-time United captain.

Victor Lindelof — 4

Aaron Wan-Bissaka — 6 — One of few standouts on the day, with loads of energy and few ready to meet his level.

Brandon Williams (Out 75′) — 6

Nemanja Matic — 6

Fred — 7 — One of the few United players to bring effort and sharpness, but his shooting was off. Only Van Dijk attempted more passes.

Andreas Pereira (Out 75′) — 3 — Don’t let his ability to produce an edge of your seat moment detract from 16-of-26 passing and dreadful inconsistency.

Daniel James — 5

Anthony Martial — 4 — Blazed a perfect chance to tie the match over the bar, and effort wasn’t there.

Subs 

Juan Mata (In 75′) — N/A

Mason Greenwood (In 75′) — N/A

Diogo Dalot (In 87′) — N/A

Liverpool players react to Club World Cup glory

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Liverpool won the FIFA Club World Cup in Doha, Qatar on Saturday and celebrations continued long into the night among the players and staff.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Roberto Firmino’s goal in extra time won the Reds their first-ever World Club Cup and Jurgen Klopp‘s side are the first English team to hold three continental trophies at the same time with the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup.

Goalscorer Firmino, who scored the winner in the semifinal and final and is the first Liverpool player to score in a Club World Cup final, was overwhelmed by the win.

“To be world champions is incredible,” Firmino said. “It’s a unique feeling. Wearing the badge of world champions for the next year will be amazing.”

Left back Andy Robertson summed up what it means to the players and the club to etch their name into club history.

“We were so determined to win this,” Robertson said. “A week before Christmas, coming away from your families and it’s a tough time of year being away from them for that long, but it has all been worth it. Now we go back as champions and put this trophy in a cabinet it has never been in before. We’ve written history in Liverpool’s long history and it’s a fantastic feeling, nobody can take that away from us.”

Below are a few messages Liverpool’s players posted on social media.

Liverpool react to UCL advancement v. familiar Salzburg

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Liverpool knew the score and the scene when it walked into Red Bull Arena Salzburg for a UEFA Champions League decider versus Jesse Marsch’s Austrian champs, so they weren’t surprised when it remained 0-0 nearing the hour mark.

[ RECAP: Salzburg 0-2 Liverpool ]

“We knew they were trying to make history for their club,” said Andy Robertson (video at bottom). “They feel as if they’re a Champions League team and they are very confident. It was all about coming here, riding that wave, and we had the biggest chances in the first 45. We knew if we kept going chances would come.”

A pair of former Red Bull Salzburg players changed the fortunes of their current and former club, as Sadio Mane and Naby Keita scored within two minutes to provide the lone goals of the game and a spot for the Reds in the UCL knockout rounds.

Jurgen Klopp was brimming with praise for both his side and the hosts, saying of Keita and Mane, via ProSoccerUSA.com’s Manuel Veth:

“Both were excellent. It appears [Salzburg] produce some very good players. Keïta, in particular, was very good. I moved him to the ten and that improved his performance. He was a bit tired towards the end but very good.”

Mane admitted it was both a joy to return and a bit bittersweet to be tasked with ousting the club which catapulted him to the attention of PL suitors Southampton.

“Always nice to come back here because it’s where everything started for me and really grateful to this club and the fans,” Mane said. “Sorry guys, but it’s football we have to do it, and that’s it.”

Liverpool draws Napoli, takes UCL fate to last match day

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Napoli drew Liverpool 1-1 on Wednesday to push the Reds’ knockout round qualification hopes to the final match day.

Liverpool will advance with a draw or better in Austria against Red Bull Salzburg on Dec. 10. It could also advance with a loss if Napoli fails to beat Genk in Italy.

Salzburg lost 4-3 at Anfield during the first meeting but carries three away goals in case it wins and a tiebreaker is required.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Dries Mertens scored in the first half, but Dejan Lovren leveled the score in the second half.

Premier League teams would love to have a word with Napoli, or subscribe to their diet or something; The Serie A side has now a 2-1-1 record against the reigning UCL champs dating back to last season.


Three things we learned

1. VAR doesn’t save Reds from opening concession: There were two reviews of Dries Mertens opener, but neither stopped the “1” from staying on the visitor’s side of the scoreboard as the Belgian scored for the second-straight match against Liverpool. Mertens timed his run perfectly well, though at first glance it looked like offside would be the call. Also, as good as the finish was, it was helped by a rare mistake from Alisson Becker. The Liverpool goalkeeper was married to his post.

2. Reds have trouble getting going: Napoli’s plan was to punch Liverpool in the mouth. No, literally. The Neapolitan set had the Reds off balance in the first half hour or so, but goalkeeper Alex Meret was called upon twice in the final 10 minutes to keep the advantage 1-0. The second half was much better, and the Reds could’ve found more than their lone tally.

3. Fabinho injury a worry: Liverpool’s midfield monster walked off the pitch and straight into the tunnel with an apparent hip injury. He was already going to miss this weekend via suspension, so if it’s something small he’ll have some time to heal before the Merseyside Derby on Dec. 4. If it’s not something small, the Reds will have some problems navigating a terribly congested December.

Man of the Match: There wasn’t a true star in this one. Obviously Lovren and Mertens delivered the goals, and Kalidou Koulibaly was good at the back for Napoli. But we’ll give it to James Milner, who left in the 78th minute with an assist to go with 89 percent passing, two tackles, three aerials won, and two dribbles.


Napoli took the lead when Van Dijk was momentarily hobbled while rising above Mertens for an aerial win.

Mertens took off as Napoli gained possession, and the Belgian’s run to meet a Giovanni di Lorenzo through ball was immaculate in beating the line set by Andy Robertson. As noted above, Alisson wasn’t at his best and would’ve needed to be in order to stop a terrific strike.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Liverpool came to life and might’ve won a penalty due to some Sadio Mane tomfoolery that the referee was correct to dismiss as embellishment (no card, though). The Senegalese star would later rifle a shot that Meret turned away to keep it 1-0 heading to the break.

Mohamed Salah pumped a shot into Meret’s belly at the hour mark as Liverpool fought for an equalizer. Oxlade-Chamberlain then cued up Roberto Firmino for a header that was probably put off by Kostas Manolas.

Liverpool found its answer off a corner kick, James Milner sending it in and Lovren finishing the play.