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Jimenez, Neves lead Wolves past Liverpool in FA Cup

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It’s one-and-done for Liverpool in the FA Cup.

Wolves beat a weakened Liverpool 2-1 at the Molineux Stadium on Monday to cap off the third round of the FA Cup.

[ MORE: Celtic takes Weah on loan ]

Raul Jimenez and Ruben Neves scored for the hosts, with Divock Origi scoring for Liverpool.

It was an even-enough match in terms of chances. Liverpool started the match with Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, and Roberto Firmino on the bench, the latter two emerging as subs with Liverpool trailing in the second half.

Virgil Van Dijk did not make the trip to the Molineux, and a sixth-minute injury to Dejan Lovren meant 16-year-old Ki-Jana Hoever paired with Fabinho at center back.

A James Milner mistakes helped cue Jimenez up for the opener, but Origi responded with a pretty goal through traffic to make it 1-1.

But Neves, who’s proven capable of stunners, added another goal from distance to restore Wolves’ lead.

And Xherdan Shaqiri‘s late free kick was just altered by a flying John Ruddy and hit the post and bounded away from goal.

The Reds also bowed out of the League Cup in the first match, falling at home to Chelsea.

Lovren injury leaves Fabinho paired with 16-year-old for Liverpool

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Liverpool’s injury-hit back line needed just six minutes to take another blow in Monday’s FA Cup match against Wolves at the Molineux Stadium.

Dejan Lovren left the game with a hamstring injury in the sixth minute, where he was performing in a center back duo with Fabinho.

[ MORE: PL clubs transfer needs ]

You read that right.

While Fabinho is perfectly capable of playing center back, his new partner is in unchartered waters.

Sixteen-year-old Ki-Jana Hoever is the youngest Liverpool player to pull on the club’s legendary shirt for an FA Cup match.

So if we told you that Wolves took an early lead, you might expect it came through a Hoever error. Yet it was a James Milner mistake that allowed Raul Jimenez to give Liverpool a 1-0 lead.

A Netherlands U-17 back, Hoever moved to Anfield from Ajax in September.

Klopp has ‘so much faith’ but pressure builds on Liverpool

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MANCHESTER — The pressure is now on Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool, as their lead atop the Premier League table was cut to four points after losing their first game of the season at Manchester City.

A 2-1 defeat at the home of the reigning champs is hardly a low point for Liverpool, but this was a pivotal game in the story of the 2018-19 season.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

From Sadio Mane‘s shot which hit the post and was somehow cleared by John Stones, to shots cleared off the line late on and Leroy Sane’s game-winner hitting the post and going in, Klopp’s men just didn’t get the rub of the green as their 20-game unbeaten run to start the season was ended.

Asked by Pro Soccer Talk in the press conference after the game about the pressure now on his team to react to this defeat, Klopp’s belief in his players was unwavering.

“I have so much faith in my players you can’t imagine. If someone had told me after both games after Man City we were four points up, I would have paid money for it like you cannot believe. It’s something that is not possible. You wanted to tell us if this happens, if that happens, Pep said something similar very nice, that their season would be over if they lose tonight. Football is like this. If we win this and are 10 points ahead and from that point win no game any more, then nothing happens. For us it is really important that we just take it game by game, because there is no other chance.”

Yet he knows the coming months will be tough.

Klopp has lost 10 of his 25 games in the month of January as Liverpool boss, and how his team reacts to this damaging defeat with the whole world questioning their title credentials will tell us how much more about them than their 20-game unbeaten run to start the season.

His team selection for the game at City showed how cautious Klopp was about losing, with James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum starting as the midfield three. They were overrun by Man City’s midfield trio and the initiative was handed to Liverpool’s opponents early on.

Liverpool’s manager complained about Vincent Kompany‘s robust, lunging tackle on Mohamed Salah in the first half but admitted City had more control of the game in key areas. He knew his team had missed a big chance to pull clear of City and Tottenham.

The pressure is on, but Klopp seemed frustrated that everyone expects his team to know how to clinch a title and trophies when they haven’t been in that situation before.

Liverpool haven’t won a league title in 29 years and Klopp and his squad have yet to win a trophy together. And he knows that experience is crucial to getting a team over the line.

“If we would have won the title five times in the last 10 years, then we could go 100 percent, but we don’t have the experience. Why should we behave like somebody who won all the time?” Klopp said. “It is true the club hasn’t won it for a long time. We never won it as a team, that is how it is. We want to finish the season as good as possible. We can do that. We are still in a pretty good position, so it is all fine for us. Not in the moment, it feels really bad, but it is only a moment. Then tomorrow morning, we wake up and still feels average, then we have an opportunity to work on it and work on it for the next game.”

With 17 games to go they are still in a fabulous position to win their first-ever PL title, but Klopp now looks like a man who knows his team will have to do it the hard way if he’s going to be parading the trophy around Anfield on the final day of the season with that trademark large grin on his face.

Three things we learned: Man City v. Liverpool

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MANCHESTER — The Premier League title race is now officially back on. The atmosphere at the Etihad Stadium was crackling in what felt like a cup final and the home team delivered.

[ MORE: Klopp keeps the faith ]

Manchester City beat Liverpool 2-1 Thursday, as Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sane moved the hosts to just four points behind leaders Liverpool who had briefly looked like grabbing a point through Roberto Firmino‘s equalizer.

In their 21st game of the 2018-19 PL campaign, Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool lost for the first time this season and Pep Guardiola and Man City will now be smelling blood in the water as they hunt down the league leaders following a crucial victory.

Here’s what we learned from a pulsating encounter.


CITY’S OLD GUARD DELIVERS

Sergio Aguero delivered another big moment for Man City, as the Argentine has now scored in all seven of his home league games against Liverpool. Since the start of the 2011-12 season, Aguero has scored 37 Premier League goals for Man City in meetings between ‘big six’ clubs, which is 16 more than any other player. Mr. Clutch set them on their way with a wonderful finish and was a constant pest. But Aguero had help as the old guard stood tall and set the tone for the hunger and determination City showed throughout. Vincent Kompany made several crucial, well-timed tackles (aside from the lunge on Mohamed Salah in the first half). And Fernandinho was phenomenal in breaking up City’s attacks and setting up counters. When City needed them most, all three delivered colossal displays to drag them back into the title race. Leroy Sane scored a fine winner and Bernardo Silva was everywhere as he surprisingly launched into tackles, but it was the experienced trio who dug deep and inspired a wonderful City display as they overcame their defensive injuries and changes to secure a deserved victory.


LACKLUSTER LIVERPOOL NOW UNDER PRESSURE

From the first few minutes it was clear that Liverpool weren’t at the races. Alisson‘s shaky clearances out of play. Klopp screaming at Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino for their poor positioning. This wasn’t a Liverpool side in control. The only chance they had in the first half fell to Mane who hit the post and then John Stones somehow cleared, but in the second half they improved after Fabinho came on and a tactical switch saw Mohamed Salah pushed into a central position to support Firmino. Despite the latter pulling Liverpool level, they didn’t deserve to get anything from this game and now the pressure is on. Dejan Lovren switched off for City’s first goal as Aguero finished superbly, then Liverpool conceded the key goal just when they were on top as they committed too many men forward.

With their lead atop the table now down to just four points with 17 games to go, Liverpool’s nerves will be jangling. And they are now in a month where historically they’ve struggled under Klopp — they have lost 10 of the 25 games in January since his arrival — and this stat will feel Liverpool’s fans with dread.

Liverpool topped the Premier League table by seven points at the turn of the year, and no team in history has failed to win the English top-flight title with such a lead coming into the new year. Man City, and maybe Tottenham, will push Liverpool all the way this season and the title race is on.


THIS LIVED UP TO THE HYPE

Given the fact that a draw would have been a great result for Liverpool, Klopp’s defensive starting lineup was understandable. But it handed the initiative to Man City. A midfield three of James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum just didn’t work and handed City’s trio of Fernandinho, David Silva and Bernardo Silva the advantage in midfield. Guardiola was bold with his selection of Sane ands Sterling and he got his tactics spot on. Klopp didn’t and only when he introduced Fabinho did Liverpool have any control in this game. This game lived up to the hype in so many ways. City’s fans created a great atmosphere. Both sets of players launched themselves into tackles and there were huge saves, big misses and high levels of drama as Guardiola and Klopp went wild on the sidelines. This had it all and it was a wonderful advertisement for everything that is good about the Premier League.

Premier League preview: Liverpool v. Arsenal

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There’s more than enough on the line to go around as Arsenal travels to Anfield to take on Liverpool at 12:30 p.m. ET live on NBC or live online at NBCSports.com.

While unbeaten Liverpool is in a high-profile battle for the Premier League title – leading Tottenham by six points and Manchester City by seven – Arsenal is also deadlocked in a fight for a Champions League place. Unlike Liverpool though, Arsenal owns a deficit in its battle, two points behind and looking up at fourth-placed Chelsea.

[ WATCH LIVE: Liverpool vs. Arsenal live on NBCSports.com ]

Much of that deficit is down to a defensive crisis facing the Gunners, and they’re still in the midst of their injury troubles. Rob Holding is a long-term absentee, while Hector Bellerin will also miss out and the status of both Nacho Monreal and Shkodran Mustafi is unclear. Laurent Koscielny is in line to play, however, after suffering a small foot injury last time out and will likely partner with Sokratis yet again in central defense.

Aside from the defensive frailties, Mesut Ozil did not make the trip north and will not be available for Arsenal after suffering a knee injury against Brighton, withdrawn from that match at halftime. He looked sluggish throughout the opening 45 minutes of that game, and the Gunners attack was slightly neutered without him at full strength.

For the Reds, James Milner will be unavailable yet again due to a leg injury that kept him out of the Boxing Day win over Newcastle, but otherwise they are near full strength. Jurgen Klopp partnered Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum in central midfield as Liverpool slammed Newcastle, but with the festive period jammed full of fixtures, it’s possible that Naby Keita or Fabinho – or both – find the starting lineup this time around.

What they’re saying

Klopp on leading the PL table: “Not much [has changed], really. We didn’t think about the distance to other teams before [leading] it because it is just too early to think about it. If we are six points ahead with one game to go it is a big moment! In the moment, nothing happens.”

Emery on Liverpool winger Salah: “We spoke about the possibility to sign Salah to Paris St Germain when he was playing at Roma. We had some doubts – and then he signed for Liverpool and these doubts he has broken at Liverpool. Now, if you are speaking about the five top players in the world, one is Salah.”

Prediction

With Liverpool continuing to prove difficult to stop, Arsenal’s defensive difficulties will play right into the Reds’ hands. Still, the Gunners have improved their team unity under Unai Emery and will be a tough out for the Reds. Fixture congestion can throw results into the mixer, and this one finishes in a 2-2 draw after an exciting match.