Fernando Llorente

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Napoli scores on late penalty, rare Van Dijk error in 2-0 win

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The good news is that Liverpool lost to Napoli last season in the UEFA Champions League, then went on to win the whole darn thing.

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Jose Callejon won a late penalty that Dries Mertens converted, and Fernando Llorente took advantage of a Virgil Van Dijk error to pad the lead as Napoli held serve at home with a 2-0 win over Liverpool on Tuesday.


Three things we learned

1. Goalkeepers immense: No, he’s not Alisson Becker, but Adrian is probably the biggest reason Liverpool didn’t open its UCL defense with a blowout loss. He made a pair of early stops on Dries Mertens before a show-stopping effort in the second half. Napoli got two fine saves from Alex Meret, including a terrific denial of Mohamed Salah in the 65th.

2. Salah, Mane can’t deliver in key moments: Take away Salah’s penalty in the UCL Final, and Liverpool’s two top threats have not accounted for a goal in four matches inside the competition. Mane was mostly good on the day, but misled Salah on an early second half pass which would have almost certainly been a goal. Salah simply had an off day

3. Callejon sells the drama: Liverpool’s Andy Robertson lost a 50/50 with Jose Callejon, who ran into the fulback and hit the deck to win a penalty. That was the difference here, as Mertens beat Adrian.

Man of the Match: Meret was especially good, the 22-year-old Italian goalkeeper big in several key moments to edge Mertens for the honor.


Napoli thought it had gone ahead through El Tri star Hirving Lozano, who nodded over the line following two Alisson Becker saves on Dries Mertens, but the Mexican was offside.

Sadio Mane had a 20th minute chance at the other end, but pumped a point blank low shot to Napoli keeper Alex Meret which led to a corner kick.

Fabinho intervened in the 53rd minute as Napoli emerged from the locker room with energy, but the best chance of the early second half was flubbed in uncharacteristic fashion: Sadio Mane was through 2v1 with Mohamed Salah but made a miserable pass to his teammate.

The first goal arrived when Callejon tapped the ball past Robertson and leapt into the defender to earn a penalty from referee Felix Brych.

It was 2-0 in stoppage time when Fernando Llorente ran onto a Virgil van Dijk error and passed beyond Adrian.

Pep laments VAR heartbreak: ‘It was offside. It was cruel’

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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola leapt high into the air, his sweater jacket billowing out as he joined the Etihad Stadium in celebrating Raheem Sterling‘s stoppage time winner.

Only it wasn’t a winner. VAR checked its angles and found that the goal resulted from an offside start, and Guardiola is still coming to grips with Tottenham Hotspur advancing over Man City due to away goals following a 4-3 win but 4-4 draw on aggregate.

[ RECAPS: Man City-Spurs | Porto-Liverpool ]

‚ÄúIt was offside,” Guardiola said. “It was cruel. The moment we celebrate and we are so close to the semi-finals. It is what it is.”

Now City turns its attention to what still could be a treble if it defenders its Premier League title and adds the FA Cup to its League Cup win.

And his challenge to the City fans was met: The Etihad was roaring for his men all afternoon long.

“We missed a penalty in the first leg but I am so proud of the players and the fans,” Guardiola said, referring to Hugo Lloris‘ stop on Sergio Aguero back in North London.

[ MORE: JPW’s 3 things | Spurs react ]

“I have never heard noise like that since I have been in Manchester but football is unpredictable. … Today is tough and tomorrow will be tough too but the day after we will be ready.‚ÄĚ

Guardiola also was upset that VAR did not determine Fernando Llorente to have handled what stood as the match-deciding goal. From the BBC:

“I support VAR but maybe from one angle Fernando Llorente‘s goal is handball, maybe from the referee’s angle it is not.”

He’s long been a proponent of VAR, and will feel stung by it today, but it’s implementation will get things right more often than not. The fact that it saps some drama from the moment while also injecting a different kind of emotion is what we’ll debate for the rest of time.

On Wednesday, it was cruel (unless you’re a Spurs supporter).

Three things: Man City v. Tottenham

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This will go down as one of the greatest, and most dramatic, games in the history of the UEFA Champions League.

In their quarterfinal second leg at the Etihad Stadium Manchester City beat Tottenham 4-3 on the night but drew 4-4 on aggregate and lost on the away goals rule, as their dream of winning an unprecedented quadruple is over.

Spurs will play Ajax in the UCL semifinals, and Man City were knocked out at the quarterfinal stage by a fellow Premier League club for the second-straight season.

After two goals a piece from Heung-Min Son and Raheem Sterling kicked off a wild opening 21 minutes where five goals were scored, VAR drama in stoppage time saw Man City score, as they thought they had won 5-4 on aggregate. But Sterling’s goal was chalked off and Pep Guardiola‘s men were beaten by Mauricio Pochettino‘s battling Spurs who were without top goalscorer Harry Kane but Son and Fernando Llorente delivered the goods.

Good news for neutrals: Man City host Tottenham on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) in a crucial Premier League game for both clubs.

Here’s what we learned from a wild encounter, which will go down as one of the most incredible 90 minutes in the history of European action.


HISTORIC START SETS TONE FOR INSTANT CLASSIC

Five goals were scored in the opening 21 minutes of the game, which set a new record for the quickest time five goals have been scored in a single Champions League game. Aside from that wild opening period, which ended in Raheem Sterling putting Man City 3-2, the entire game was played at a frantic pace which will see it go down as one of the greatest games in Champions League history. Both teams threw caution to the wind and just went for it.

This was playground football. One team scored, another went up the other end to score. One team attacked, the other then launched a counter. Guardiola and Pochettino will have been far from happy with the standard of defending throughout, but this was one of those games people will be talking about for years and was a real “I was there” moment for anyone at the Etihad Stadium.

Man City went 4-2 up, and thought they had it in the bag, then Fernando Llorente made it 4-3 after a lengthy check with VAR, and then came Sterling’s hat trick goal in the 93rd minute which sparked pandemonium inside the Eithad… only for VAR to correctly show the goal was offside.

This game had it all and it will be shown again and again for the next few decades.


STERLING, KDB SUBLIME BUT CITY’S QUADRUPLE DREAM OVER

Raheem Sterling is having the season of his life and has now scored four goals in his last two games, and on top of Sterling’s goals, the return to form and fitness of Kevin De Bruyne has been a huge bonus for Guardiola’s side despite their heartbreaking exit to Spurs. De Bruyne has now assisted on six of City’s last eight goals, with the Belgian midfielder taking games by the scruff of the neck and making up for lost time after his lengthy spells out this season.

City thought they had sealed yet another dramatic late win, one that would rival Aguero’s amazing last-gasp goal to win them the Premier League title in 2012, but it wasn’t to be.¬†They dominated the game and beat Spurs fair and square in the second leg, but Aguero’s missed penalty kick in the first leg and slack defending from Vincent Kompany and Aymeric Laporte in the second leg ended their chances of winning a historic quadruple.

City’s Champions League jinx has continued for another season, and it was made even crueler by knowing they deserved to go through and thought they had before VAR denied them. Guardiola has long been a fan of VAR technology, but he must feel sick to his stomach as City once again came up short in Europe. He will hope that disappointment will now fuel them to complete the domestic treble, but it is likely this defeat to Spurs over two legs will haunt this group of players for at least the next few months, if not years.


SPURS, SON, DEFIED BELIEF

Losing Harry Kane in the first leg and Moussa Sissoko in the second leg hit Spurs hard in both games, but with Heung-min Son stepping up to score three of their four goals and almost adding a few others, the South Korean star and Tottenham didn’t really deserve to get knocked out of the Champions League.

This was the moment Son truly arrived as a world-class player. He has been criminally underrated in the past few seasons and has stepped up in Kane’s absence again, big time. Llorente, only on for the injured Sissoko, turned out to the hero for Spurs, as they dug deep and rode their luck at City.

As for Spurs’ run to the Champions League last four, for so long it looked like the “Spursy” tag would strike again in this second leg after they chucked away a 2-1 lead by giving up three-straight goals. But they did it. And they’re in the semifinals of the European Cup for just the second time in club history. This is Pochettino’s greatest-ever achievement as a manager, and many will forget that Spurs didn’t win any of their opening three group games, and were 12 minutes from being eliminated but rallied to beat PSV at home in their fourth group game.

Given their injury-hit squad, not playing at their home stadium until the final weeks of the season and not signing a single player in the past two transfer windows, Pochettino has worked miracles. They beat Man City, the favorites to win the Champions League, fair and square over two legs and despite Ajax’s young stars stunning both Real Madrid and Juventus in the last two rounds, Tottenham will be the favorites to advance to the UCL final in Madrid on June 1.

Write this Tottenham team off at your peril.

Spurs outlast Man City in chaotic UCL 2nd leg

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  • Four goals in first 11 minutes
  • Sterling, Son score two each
  • Aguero gives City first lead of tie in 59th
  • Llorente puts Spurs back in front

Fernando Llorente’s 73rd minute goal withstood the review of VAR and Raheem Sterling‘s stoppage time finish did not, as Tottenham Hotspur advanced past Manchester City in an all-timer of a UEFA Champions League semifinal second leg.

It finished 4-3 to City on the day and 4-4 on aggregate, with Spurs scoring the only away goals. Tottenham will meet Ajax in the semifinal.

Heung-Min Son scored twice for Spurs, with Llorente’s winner overcoming a glance off his arm.

Sterling scored twice for City, who also got goals from Bernardo Silva and Sergio Aguero. The quadruple hunt is dead.

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It didn’t take long for City to level the tie, a third minute pass from Kevin De Bruyne finding Sterling. The English winger cut inside as Kieran Trippier gave him room to fire a shot just inside the far post and into the side netting.

Son then demanded City score at least twice with an eighth minute marker to make it 2-1 on aggregate when Aymeric Laporte‘s poor intervention fell to the South Korean. Ederson got the a piece of it, but not enough to stop the ball from heading into the goal.

Then, again! Lucas Moura played Son into the left of the box, and Son curled one side netting to put City in an awful place after less than 10 minutes.

City was unbowed, a long pass finding Bernardo Silva in line for an 11th minute goal to make it 2-2 on the day and 3-2 to Spurs over two legs.

But wait, there’s more.

Sterling finished from an acute angle — really, though, it was a tougher task than we’ve made it sound — after De Bruyne swung a delightful cross over the fray.

The match made it an absurd (not really) 25 minutes without a goal, making it to halftime with the most notable occurrence being Moussa Sissoko‘s injury.

Son gave away a free kick to De Bruyne outside the 18, and Spurs faced a nervy moment in the 48th minute. But the Belgian sent an arrow just over the goal and it remained 3-3 on aggregate.

Sterling then forced a great save out of Lloris, with Danny Rose getting away with a tug on Bernardo as the pair went for the rebound.

Lloris then made a tremendous parry with his left arm to deny De Bruyne, and Ilkay Gundogan‘s corner led to more City possession but no immediate threat.

Spurs countered with great danger in the 58th, Ederson stymying a half-strength header from Fernando Llorente and then collecting a Christian Eriksen shot.

That’s when Aguero struck to take their first lead of the tie, taking a lay-off from De Bruyne and blasting inside the near post. 4-2, 4-3.

Son’s run tested Ederson in-tight to give Spurs a 72nd minute corner, which led to a goal.

Llorente put Spurs back in front on the day to bring the tie to 4-4 with Spurs claiming the only away goals, the goal defying a slight touch of the Spaniard’s elbow upon VAR review.

Bernardo then won City a corner as the match entered its final dozen minutes plus stoppage. Gundogan blazed over goal, and an Aguero header was soon claimed by Lloris.

Sterling then struck in the third minute of stoppage time, but the goal was taken off the board for offside by VAR!

Son, Llorente lead Spurs comeback win (video)

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  • Spurs one of only 2 Top Six teams to win
  • Cathcart gives Watford lead
  • Spurs net twice in second half

Heung-Min Son and Fernando Llorente brought Tottenham Hotspur back for a win and a very successful Premier League midweek.

Injury-hit Spurs answered Craig Cathcart‘s early goal to beat Watford 2-1 at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday, moving seven points back of Liverpool and two behind Man City.

Watford remains ninth with 33 points.

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Cathcart nodded a corner kick into the goal with the crown of his head. It didn’t look pretty, but it beat Hugo Lloris for 1-0 in the 38th.

In the second half, Toby Alderweireld forced Ben Foster into a good save and then set up Fernando Llorente for a chance the Spaniard headed over the goal.

Then Watford’s Ben Wilmot made a goal line clearance on Danny Rose as Spurs pushed for an equalizer.

Son did the trick, lashing a shot through traffic to fool Foster. And then Llorente nodded in the excellent Rose’s cross before celebrating with his manager on the touch line.

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