Christian Benteke

Liverpool strike late (again) to beat Crystal Palace

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Liverpool beat Crystal Palace 2-1 at Selhurst Park on Saturday as Jurgen Klopp‘s Premier League leaders secured another dramatic late victory.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Sadio Mane had given Liverpool the lead after VAR drama denied Crystal Palace an opener, but Wilfried Zaha equalized late on as it looked like Liverpool would drop points.

But Roberto Firmino then popped up to secure the win for Liverpool as the leaders make it 12 wins from 13 to start the season and remain unbeaten.


3 things we learned

1. Mane delivers again: Sadio Mane popped up to put Liverpool ahead and he was a constant threat, especially in the second half. Everything they did well going forward, Mane was at the heart of it. The Senegalese forward stepped up with Mohamed Salah out for Liverpool, and proved that he is their main man this season.

2. VAR drama takes center stage: Yes, Jordan Ayew pushed Dejan Lovren, but the Liverpool defender made the most of the contact. VAR was used to rule out James Tomkins‘ goal in the first half and in slow-motion the push looked clear, but in real-time there was a reason the foul wasn’t given. This decision was very harsh on Palace and Liverpool will be very relieved.

3. Liverpool grinding it out: Jurgen Klopp’s side put in their worst display of the season and they still won. They have a great habit of grinding out wins this season and they did it once again. But even after Firmino’s late winner they gave up a big chance which Zaha skied. Liverpool shouldn’t have won this game, but they did. That is why their are the champions elect.

Man of the Match: Sadio Mane – He stood tall in attack without Salah and even though many of his Liverpool teammates failed to perform, he did. Mane is the man of the season for Liverpool.


After a tight start to the game Palace had the first big chance of the game but Jordan Ayew flicked just wide.

Ayew then cleared brilliantly just as it looked like Liverpool would finish off Virgil Van Dijk‘s downward header.

All hell broke loose at the other end of the pitch just before half time as James Tomkins thought he had given Palace the lead but VAR ruled out his goal for a foul by Jordan Ayew on Dejan Lovren. The home fans and players were livid as Lovren went down easily but there was a clear push. No goal as Liverpool survived a huge scare.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Mane was put clean through by Jordan Henderson at the start of the second but he put his effort wide.

Moments later Mane made no mistake.

A ball into the box saw him hit his shot into the ground and although Vicente Guiata got a hand to his shot, the ball hit the post, rolled across the goaline, hit the other past and just squirmed past Patrick Van Aanholt who was trying to clear it.

Palace had a few shots from distance which troubled Liverpool but they became more vulnerable on the break as Mane and Lovren almost got on the end of a ball across the box, then Guaita denied Roberto Firmino on the break.

Former Liverpool striker Christian Benteke came on and had a big impact as his acrobatic effort flew wide.

Benteke was then involved as Townsend teed up Zaha who equalized to send Selhurst Park as it looked like Palace would deny Liverpool victory.

But then, just as they’ve done all season, Liverpool found a way to win when they weren’t at their best.

Van Dijk’s effort caused havoc in the box and the ball eventually found Firmino who slotted home after an almighty scrap. Cue wild scenes in the away end.

In stoppage time Palace almost equalized as Zaha skied an effort over the bar, but Liverpool held on to make it 12 wins from 13.

Crystal Palace comes back for point in drama-filled Arsenal draw

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Sokratis Papastathopoulos scored early but saw his late winner pulled back by a controversial VAR decision as Arsenal threw away a two-goal lead in a 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace at the Emirates Stadium.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

David Luiz also scored for Arsenal, whose defense was a strength in attack and a weakness at the back in providing a 2-0 lead and allowing it to disappear.

Luka Milivojevic and Jordan Ayew scored for Palace, the latter a star in the draw.

Arsenal sits fifth with 16 points, one more than sixth place Palace.


Three things we learned

1. If at first you can’t defend… Arsenal’s oft-criticized center backs took the goals into their own hands, and if you’re up 2-0 within nine minutes it’s gonna be hard to be the goat. Sokratis’ goal came with calm after Granit Xhaka knocked down a clearance off a corner, and he was back post when David Luiz poked home a Lacazette-flicked cross to make it 2-0.

2. …You’re still going to have to defend, though: Arsenal’s backs helped give the lead away within 40 minutes, with Chambers cutting down Zaha — or at least daring VAR to go the other direction — and Luiz losing track of Ayew. Chambers really struggled, picking up a yellow card in addition to some haphazard first half passing, as improved defense in recent weeks appeared to be a magician’s trick after multi-goal concessions to Vitoria and Palace within three days.

3. Xhaka’s Arsenal career meets flash point: Voted club captain to the consternation of many Gooners, Xhaka was booed off the field when he was subbed off at the hour mark. The Swiss enforcer motioned his arms to welcome more boos, then yelled to the crowd to expletive off, cupping his hand to his ear before ripping off his shirt and storming down the tunnel. Things are not good in North London.

4. VAR overrules Sokratis winner for… something? As of publishing time on this post, there’s no clarity as to why VAR found a clear and obvious error that Roger East missed on Sokratis’ winner. Chambers is battling for the ball with several Palace defenders, hands everywhere, as he pushed the ball to Sokratis for what would’ve been a huge winner. There’s a problem here.

Man of the Match: Ayew? Milivojevic? Sokratis? We’ll go with McArthur, who was quite good and supplied the match-drawing assist.


An early corner cause Palace problems and put Arsenal in front, with Granit Xhaka settling Gary Cahill‘s headed clearance for Sokratis Papastathopoulus to hit through traffic for 1-0.

He could’ve had two had Luiz not also been at the back post to poke home a ninth minute corner, as Arsenal had Palace at sixes and sevens.

Lacazette had an effort saved moments later, and Palace fans were right to be concerned for the score line.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Aubameyang missed a chance, too, as Arsenal really should’ve had a massive lead when Zaha won a penalty off of Calum Chambers. Palace penalty usually equals Palace goal in Milivojevic’s world, and this time was no different.

Palace leveled the score just after halftime, as James McArthur‘s cross hung in the air for days. Neither Luiz nor Leno could get there as Ayew headed home.

As poor as he was defensively, Chambers was nearly again an offensive hero before sweeping a shot wide in the 62nd.

Arsenal thought it went ahead through Papastathopoulous, but VAR found a hard-to-pinpoint foul on Chambers as he won what would’ve been a match-winning assist. Baffling.

Wayne Hennessey made a nice stop on a Lacazette header as the match headed toward its final half hour. He’d late stop Luiz in the 89th with a result-saving stop. Zaha came close to equalizing when he turned a Christian Benteke flick toward goal and burned Chambers.

Ederson as the league’s best? Increased action, stats make the case

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Christian Benteke rose above a pack of players, snapping a header toward the far post and, perhaps, a Crystal Palace lifeline against Manchester City.

The view from outside the 18 best tells the story of what happened next, as City goalkeeper Ederson appears from behind the fray to stop the ball from reaching its location with a remarkable save.

He had a few of those in Saturday’s win, the latest in which City’s Brazilian backstop kept a clean sheet behind cobbled together back line.

One of his makeshift center backs, Fernandinho, labeled the performance “superb,” while Pep Guardiola said the saves were “incredible.”

We’re seeing a lot more love for Ederson these days, mostly it seems because City is conceding more shots and the Brazilian has to play a bigger role.

The PL’s second place side and two-time reigning champs are one of five clubs to allow less than 10 goals this Fall, helping City stay within reasonable distance of Liverpool in a bid for a three-peat.

Brought for his skills in possession, Ederson has completed a league-high 90 percent of his passes and 65 percent of his long balls. Only three others are above 80 percent on all passes and just Kasper Schmeichel is above 50 percent on long balls.

Ederson, though, has been so much busier in dangerous spots, with his 19 saves inside the box behind only the backstops for three much weaker teams in Norwich City’s Tim Krul, Brighton’s Mat Ryan, and Newcastle’s Martin Dubravka.

[ MORE: Pulisic Watch  | Sargent scores ]

Perhaps this should then serve as a warning signal as City waits for Nicolas Otamendi to be fully fit, let alone star center back Aymeric Laporte‘s long-term return.

According to SofaScore, only the outstanding Bernd Leno and Ryan rate better than Ederson on the whole, and the incredible passing numbers take him over the top.

Silva’s sensational goal highlights Man City win over Palace

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Manchester City scored twice in two first half minutes to dispatch hosts Crystal Palace in a 2-0 win with plenty of flash points at Selhurst Park on Saturday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

David Silva and Gabriel Jesus scored the goals and Ederson made a number of stylish saves in the victory, with Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva supplying assists.

City moves back into second place with 19 points, five behind leaders Liverpool who visit Manchester United on Sunday.

Palace will finish the weekend sixth on 14 points.


Three things we learned

1. Fits and starts for odd CB pairing: Pep Guardiola was without an injured Nicolas Otamendi and perhaps not ready to put 90 minutes on returning John Stones, so he deployed center mids Rodri and Fernandinho at center back. There were several dicey moments for the pair, who also did well at times in the clean sheet, but perhaps most glaring was Rodri’s absence from the midfield. He’d go there for the final 10 minutes when Stones subbed into the match. If you doubted that Pep would make his employers open the checkbook in January, this lineup may have settled that for you.

2. VAR is so weird: Wilfried Zaha shoved Kevin De Bruyne to turf with two hands, turning the playmaker on his route to the turf. Anthony Taylor didn’t see it, but hey, that’s why we have VAR, correct? Incorrect. VAR backed up the ref on the field and Palace remained in the match. Truly head-scratching on a bad day for the system.

3. Zaha not all there but shows flashes of brilliance: Crystal Palace’s Ivorian star wants out of South London, and it’s affecting his play. The winger disputes every touch from the opposition — he is fouled a lot — who knows they can get to him. He’s produced just one assist this season, and he simply doesn’t have the right desire to get things done for Roy Hodgson.

But, my, when he’s ready to roar. Zaha had several mazy dribbles in the final third and was denied a smashing goal by a flying Ederson in the 89th minute. It wasn’t enough to offset the headaches, like when he followed referee Anthony Taylor around the pitch begging for a yellow card following a tactical foul.

Man of the Match: Sterling — A killer at both ends, even if he missed a would-be third goal in the 87th.


[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

City flew out of the gates, and Palace’s heads were spinning over the first 10 minutes despite the reigning champions’ lack of finish.

Palace’s business was in the counter, and Wilfried Zaha raced down the pitch for a chance only to see Fernandinho intervene and cut out the danger in the 19th.

Raheem Sterling made an incredible recovery run to track Zaha after Rodri slipped to the pitch just inside his own half and allowed the Ivorian a path toward glory.

City’s breakthrough came before halftime, as Jesus dove to turn a header off the post and into the goal from a Bernardo Silva cross.

And it was 2-0 within a couple of minutes in marvelous fashion, Sterling scooping a pass over the defense and David Silva spotting the ball in front of him to lash home.

This is sensational stuff.

Joao Cancelo had one of his better performance since joining City from Juventus, and played a 1-2 with Jesus which ended with an amazing save from Wayne Hennesey.

Palace had a vivid spell of possession and nearly pulled one back off a Christian Benteke header which Ederson flew to slap off the crossbar.

At the other end, it should’ve been put to bed when Gabriel Jesus had the ball at the near post and Kevin De Bruyne raced into space for an easy tap-in. Jesus shot instead and was saved.

De Bruyne headed an Ilkay Gundogan pass off the far post with 10 minutes to play.

Zaha saw a rip saved by Ederson, who was fantastic, as time dwindled in South London.

Euro 2020 qualifying roundup: Belgium qualifies

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Belgium became the first national team to qualify for the 2020 European Championships and boy did the Red Devils do it in style.

Belgium routed lowly San Marino, 9-0 at the Stade Roi Baudouin in Brussels to ensure qualification. Romelu Lukaku scored a brace and assisted on another as Belgium was able to spread the goals around.

[READ: Tactical Analysis – How to Beat Man City]

Seven different players scored for Belgium, plus an own goal from San Marino’s Cristian Brolli. Even Eden Hazard, who set up a pair of goals, didn’t score himself before earning an early break in the 63rd minute.

Nacer Chadli, Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld, Leicester City’s Youri Tielemans, Crystal Palace’s Christian Benteke, Yari Verschaeren, and Timothy Castagne all scored along with Lukaku.

Russia thrash Scotland

In what’s becoming the norm, Scotland again succumbed to a crushing defeat. This time it was to Russia, which beat Scotland, 4-0, at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

The Scotland centerback pairing of Liam Palmer and Charlie Mulgrew couldn’t deal with big Russian striker Artem Dzyuba, who finished with a brace. Magomed Ozdoev and Aleksandr Golovin both scored as well to put Scotland away.

Here’s a look at the rest of Thursday’s qualifying action.

Thursday’s EURO 2020 qualifying results

Group C

Belarus 0-0 Estonia

Netherlands 3-1 Northern Ireland

Group E

Croatia 3-0 Hungary

Slovakia 1-1 Wales

Group G

Austria 3-1 Israel

Latvia 0-3 Poland

North Macedonia 2-1 Slovenia

Group I

Kazakhstan 1-2 Cyprus

Belgium 9-0 San Marino

Russia 4-0 Scotland