Joe Gomez

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Matip signs new Liverpool deal; Klopp hails ‘world-class center-half’

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Liverpool now has two 28-year-old center backs tied up in deals for the next half-decade.

The Reds announced a new deal for Joel Matip on Friday, one that will keep him with Liverpool through the 2023/24 season.

[ PL PREVIEW: Man Utd v. Liverpool ]

That’s one season beyond the status of Virgil Van Dijk. While there were reports that Van Dijk would sign a new deal with the club, he remains locked into Liverpool through the end of the 2022/23 season.

Jurgen Klopp used the announcement to hail Matip’s journey through the Liverpool ranks. From LiverpoolFC.com:

“I knew what he was capable of from seeing him up close in the Bundesliga and we were certain he could bring that performance level to us. Of course, it is not easy for any player coming to the Premier League, let alone coming to a club the size of Liverpool, so maybe in the beginning there were some questions externally about his consistency. But not anymore. Joel has been operating as a world-class centre-half throughout this year and long may it continue.”

The Reds also have 22-year-old Joe Gomez under contract through 2024, while Dejan Lovren will enter the last year of his contract next season.

Liverpool also signed 17-year-old Sepp van den Berg from PEC Zwolle in the summer.

England struck by poor club form in qualifying blip

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What do you do as a national team manager when the best players in your group are struggling at the club level?

That’s the issue currently facing Gareth Southgate, and it’s spilled over into Euro 2020 qualification as England fell to the Czech Republic 2-1 on Friday, its first Euro qualifying defeat in ten years.

While its obvious England has a massive talent imbalance between offense and defense, the poor form plague has also struck, leaving Southgate with a host of difficult choices both up front and at the back. It has become such a pestilence that Southgate was left with no choice but to admit it after the match.

“In terms of the players, I think there are players who are not playing well for their clubs, but that is the situation we are in at the moment, certainly in a couple of positions,” admitted Southgate in the post-match press conference. “We collectively have to accept the result, but of course, as the manager, then I have got to accept that as well, absolutely.”

The England boss has some serious pondering to do up and down the pitch. Marcus Rashford has become a problem for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the suddenly stagnant Manchester United attack, and he gave way in the England starting lineup to young Jadon Sancho, who was unable to lift England on the day. In midfield, a now-broken Dele Alli was a guaranteed starter at the World Cup two years ago but was left out entirely this international break as Tottenham continues to flounder, while fellow Spur Harry Winks was relegated to the bench. Harry Maguire in defense has begun his Red Devils career well, but beside him was Michael Keane who has been downright poor at Everton thus far. Ross Barkley has lost his place at Chelsea and was left among the substitutes in Prague as well in favor of the in-form teammate Mason Mount, but with England misfiring Barkley was unable to change the tide off the bench.

The problem for Southgate is two-fold, and he’s damned no matter what. In the case of players like Alli, Rashford, and Winks, the England boss chose to replace them with less experienced players, which clearly upset the balance and cohesion within the squad. Yet he chose to stick with Keane, who has started every Euro qualifier thus far, in favor of a younger Joe Gomez and that backfired as well, as Keane toiled ineffectively in Prague. Gomez himself has lost his place at Liverpool to Joel Matip, and would have been another questionable option.

Injuries also played their part no doubt. Key players in Aaron Wan-Bissaka, John Stones, and James Maddison were axed due to injuries or illness, while Callum Hudson-Odoi was not selected as he recently returned from a long-term problem himself. Still, Wan-Bissaka’s absence left Southgate with no choice but to select a replacement, choosing Kieran Trippier on the edge of the back line, who has seen an up-and-down start to his Atletico Madrid career. Even Stones had dipped in form at Manchester City, falling completely out of the matchday squad in favor of Aymeric Laporte and Nicolas Otamendi before succumbing to an unspecified muscle injury.

These problems caused issues tactically for a squad that suddenly had to deal with a deviation from the norm. Southgate deployed a 4-2-3-1 with Mount in the central creative role, but according to Yahoo’s Kieran Canning, the national team has not played in such a formation in two years. Southgate mentioned multiple times in his post-match press conference how displeased he was with England’s off-ball structure and movement, a direct product of mixing and matching. “We tried something [in the second half] to make ourselves a bit more solid without the ball, and that didn’t happen,” he said. “We didn’t look any more solid, and we were poor at using the ball in the first half. That said, at 1-1, at half time, we were able to change that. I think we were better in the second half and we created chances to win the game.”

To make matters worse, the few players in good club form didn’t live up to standards on the international stage. Declan Rice, maybe West Ham’s best player so far this season, was miserable in a pivot with Jordan Henderson and hauled off in the second half. The Mirror says between the midfield pair, they made just one successful tackle through the entire match and completed just 11 passes in the opening 20 minutes of the game. Trent Alexander-Arnold, who has been one of many fantastic Liverpool players this season, was bafflingly left on the bench in favor of Trippier.

The issues facing Southgate are a stark reminder how long two years truly is. This England squad felt far more solid and secure with depth as it reached the semifinals of the World Cup just two year ago. Now, there are glaring holes and numerous questions at a host of different positions. With the starters floundering in Prague, Southgate’s choices off the bench have thinned considerably, and Rashford’s injection of quality off the bench two years ago in Russia 2018 is no longer to be found as he came on with 17 minutes to go on Friday. The rock solid World Cup back-three of Stones, Maguire, and Kyle Walker is nowhere to be found despite the presence of all three in the setup.

Little has changed personnel wise for England, and yet two years on after a promising World Cup run with a host of players in their prime, the squad now feels in flux again as key individuals are forced to fight for their places. Gareth Southgate does not sit in an envious position, looking for answers while keeping faith in some key squad members while making necessary changes elsewhere hoping not to upset the squad chemistry. A visit to Bulgaria on Monday represents a quick turnaround between two road matches, an opportunity to right the ship amid the necessary distraction of travel. Anything less than a convincing performance will allow lingering questions to fester for another month, plenty of time for the sudden dysfunction to become even more chronic.

Liverpool stay perfect, beat Leicester in stoppage time

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Liverpool kept their 100 percent record intact, as James Milner‘s last-gasp penalty kick secured a 2-1 victory against Leicester City.

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After Sadio Mane gave Liverpool the lead, James Maddison equalized late on at Anfield as Brendan Rodgers‘ men looked to have grabbed a point.

But then Milner scored from the penalty spot to stretch Liverpool’s club-record winning streak to 17 league games and eight from eight this season.

Liverpool stay top of the table on 24 points, while Leicester have 14 points.


3 things we learned

1. Liverpool’s luck continues: The Reds haven’t got going this season, and they’ve won all of their opening eight games. It looked like Klopp’s side were finally going to run out of luck on Saturday, as Leicester caught them cold late on but Mane then won a penalty kick. In wins against Southampton, Sheffield United, Chelsea and now Leicester they were lucky to get over the line. In truth, Liverpool haven’t got out of second gear this season. Klopp won’t care. They’re top.

2. Leicester prove top four credentials: It was far from a great display from the Foxes but they were resilient and showed they can grab points against the big boys. They will need to do that if they’re going to finish in the top four, not least the top six. Brendan Rodgers’ side put in a mature display and did him proud on his return to Anfield. This wasn’t a swashbuckling Leicester display, but it was steady and solid, and they were unlucky not to grab a point.

3. Matip missed: Dejan Lovren came into the starting lineup and he looked shaky and Liverpool really missed Joel Matip. The towering center back is out injured and has Joe Gomez struggled recently, meaning Lovren will have to get up to speed quickly for Liverpool. In the end Matip’s absence didn’t cost Liverpool, but they did look a little less solid.

Man of the Match: Sadio Mane – Took his goal really well and dug deep to do plenty of defensive work on both flanks. He continues to stand tall for Liverpool and won the late penalty kick.


Early on Liverpool did all the pressing as Leicester’s Caglar Soyuncu held things together for the Foxes at the back.

A cross from the right caused Liverpool’s defense some issues as Dejan Lovren tried to clear but sent a looping header towards his own goal.

As the first half wore on Leicester batled their way into the game as Ben Chilwell was causing Sadio Mane plenty of problems down the Foxes left flank.

Firmino then missed a great chance as Trent Alexander-Arnold whipped in a lovely ball from the right. At the other end Adrian produced a fine save from Soyuncu’s header after James Maddison whipped in a superb free kick.

Then Liverpool took the lead right on half time. James Milner’s superb long ball found Mane on the break and the Senegalese winger raced clear and finished calmly to make it 1-0.

Just after the goal Firmino pulled the ball back to Mane and his effort was straight at Kasper Schmeichel when he should have doubled Liverpool’s lead.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Schmeichel produced a fine save at the start of the second half as Alexander-Arnold’s cross found Salah and his flick was pushed away by Leicester’s goalkeeper.

Jonny Evans then cleared but the ball hit Mane and almost rebounded in as Liverpool kicked on in the second half. Leicester steadied themselves and started to cause a few problems in attack with half time sub Marc Albrighton a box of tricks. Ricardo Pereira‘s cross from the right was cleared by Alexander-Arnold as that sprung the game into life.

Firmino’s effort squirmed just wide and then Albrighton set Jamie Vardy free but he squandered a great chance at the Kop end. Andrew Robertson then had a great chance but Schmeichel saved well. Dennis Praet then flashed a shot just wide for Leicester as the game finished in an end-to-end fashion, and the Foxes grabbed a late equalizer.

Substitute Ayoze Perez wriggled free and played in Maddison, who had been quiet all game long, and the Englishman finished low past Adrian.

Virgil Van Dijk could have won it for Liverpool late on but he fluffed his lines as he nodded Robertson’s cross over, but just when it looked like the Reds would drop their first points of the season the winner arrived.

Mane was brought down by Albrighton in the box and Milner kept his cool to make it eight wins from eight as Liverpool remain perfect.

Abraham, Tomori named in England squad

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England boss Gareth Southgate has named his 25-man squad for the EURO 2020 qualifiers in October and Chelsea youngsters Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham have both been called up by the Three Lions.

Both players have other options at international levels, but more recently they’ve been part of England’s U21 setup.

Tomori is able to represent Canada, Nigeria and England, while Abraham had previously been non-committal about representing either England or Nigeria at full international level. Mason Mount and Ross Barkley complete a Chelsea quartet in the England squad.

Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard and Kyle Walker are all out of the Three Lions squad, while Aaron Wan-Bissaka is not called up after falling ill in recent weeks and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is a surprise omission.

England face the Czech Republic and Bulgaria, both away from home on Oct. 11 and Oct. 14 respectively, as Gareth Southgate’s men aim to keep their 100 percent record in qualifying for EURO 2020.

If they beat the Czech Republic in Prague they will confirm their spot at EURO 2020.


FULL ENGLAND SQUAD

GOALKEEPERS: Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Burnley), Tom Heaton (Aston Villa)

DEFENDERS: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Kieran Trippier (Atletico Madrid), Joe Gomez (Liverpool), Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa), Harry Maguire (Man United), Fikayo Tomori (Chelsea), Michael Keane (Everton), Ben Chilwell (Leicester City), Danny Rose (Tottenham)

MIDFIELDERS: Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Ross Barkley (Chelsea), Fabian Delph (Everton), James Maddison (Leicester City), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Declan Rice (West Ham), Harry Winks (Tottenham)

FORWARDS: Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Man United), Callum Wilson (Bournemouth), Raheem Sterling (Man City), Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund), Tammy Abraham (Chelsea)

Salah saves Liverpool after Red Bull Salzburg erases 3-0 deficit

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Mohamed Salah‘s second goal saved his defense blushes as Liverpool threw away a 3-0 lead at Anfield before finding all three points in a 4-3 win over Red Bull Salzburg on Wednesday in the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Salah was joined by Andrew Robertson and Sadio Mane on the score sheet, and Roberto Firmino had two key assists in the win.

Hee-Chan Hwang scored a goal and an assist en route to 3-3, with young phenom Erling Braut Haland delivering a goal off the bench.

Takumi Minamino also scored for Salzburg, who has the same amount of points as Liverpool. Napoli leads the group with four points.


Three things we learned

1. Liverpool defense needs to get back to basics: Virgil Van Dijk is a tower, a force, a marvel… and just as capable as any other defender of being sent to the concessions stands by a sick cut. Hwang Hee-Chan cooked up the Dutch center back to fire Salzburg back to within two after Salah had stake the Reds to a 3-0 lead.

Perhaps “Van Dijk on Ice” is a fitting way to make a point that may not hold up. Liverpool has now played 12 matches this season and kept clean sheets in just three of them, allowing 13 goals. One clean sheet was against MK Dons, the other two versus Burnley and Sheffield United. Clean sheets don’t matter that much, we suppose, when you’re running teams off the pitch, but the chances have been there and this team has so far been less sound than its predecessor.

2. Salah, Mane, Firmino sensational: The Egyptian King delivered a poacher’s goal off a rebound in the first half before darting onto a Firmino flick to restore Liverpool’s lead in the second. Mane scored the sensational early marker off another Firmino assist, and could’ve easily had it 5-3.

The Reds’ most electric players were on it on Wednesday, and should not be paying for their meals tonight.

3. Marsch enjoys the moment: The twice-capped USMNT midfielder from Wisconsin looked set to see the reverse of a tournament-opening 6-2 score line, but full credit to Marsch’s men in a deserved come back. When the match hit 3-3, Salzburg was out-shooting Liverpool (again, this was at Anfield). The coach celebrated the second and third goals with vigor, leaping into his players’ celebrations at the equalizer. Even in the loss, he’ll be the toast of Austria tonight.

Man of the Match: Salah — Over Firmino, and just.


Liverpool was ready to go from Moment No. 1, with Mane blazing down the left side to work a 1-2 with Roberto Firmino. The Brazilian used perfect speed to cue up Mane’s show.

The Reds earned their second goal via fullback to fullback love, with

Hwang pulled a goal back for Salzburg in the most electric of fashions, putting Van Dijk on skates before finishing for 3-1.

Hwang could’ve easily made it 3-2 on a dynamic team move in the 53rd minute, but flubbed his effort well wide of the goal.

And then it was 3-2, with Minimino belting a bouncing shot past Adrian with Liverpool ignoring an entire half of the field.

Marsch was feeling it now, and introduced leading scorer Erling Braut Haland. The youngster took advantage of half-effort stuff from Van Dijk and Joe Gomez to make it 3-3.

The Reds turned to their stars to deliver the victory, as Mane’s backheel to Salah turned into a partially cleared cross. Firmino soon flicked Salah on goal for 4-3 and Liverpool’s first points of the tournament.