Matthew Doherty

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Europa League: Wolves through to Round of 16, Portuguese sides stunned

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Arsenal and Manchester United are still set to take the field, but there was an early round of Europa League matches that saw nearly half the Round of 16 field set.

Wolverhampton Wanderers knew it had room to breathe, and they made use of that, advancing cooly to the Round of 16 despite a 3-2 loss at Espanyol that saw them advance 6-3 on aggregate. The 4-0 first-leg win set Wolves up nicely, and they held firm behind equalizers from red-hot winger Adama Traore and Matthew Doherty.

 

Jonathan Calleri picked up a hat-trick for the hosts, including the winner in the 91st minute, but it wasn’t nearly enough to see the Spanish side truly challenge the massive deficit.

Elsewhere, Justin Kluivert gave Roma a spot in the Round of 16 with his 29th minute goal that saw the Italian side through via a 2-1 aggregate win over KAA Gent. The 20-year-old got a sumptuous through ball from Henrikh Mkhitaryan who laid it on a platter for Kluivert’s calm finish. The goal answered Jonathan David’s opener four minutes prior and set Roma up for a 1-1 draw that followed their 1-0 home win in the first leg.

USMNT veteran John Brooks started and played the whole 90 minutes as Wolfsburg rode a 3-0 second leg win to a 5-1 aggregate victory over Norwegian side Malmo. 21-year-old Croatian youth international Josip Brekalo was the lone goalscorer in the second leg, finding the net just minutes before halftime to seal advancement to the next round. Yannick Gerhardt and Joao Victor added second-half cherries on top with his 65th minute to put Wolfsburg into the next stage.

Bayer Leverkusen passed a tough test with a 3-1 aggregate victory over Champions League dropouts FC Porto. After a 2-1 home win in the first leg, the German side got an early 10th minute goal from Argentine international Lucas Alario, initially flagged for offside but corrected by VAR. Porto was awful, managing just one shot through the entire first half and conceding twice more after halftime to Kai Havertz and Kerem Demirbay. Mali international Moussa Marega got 65th minute goal for Porto but it was little more than a consolation.

The other Portuguese club in the competition, Sporting CP, suffered an equally disappointing result as they coughed up a 3-1 first-leg lead and to Istanbul Basaksehir in Turkey, falling 4-1 in extra time to complete a 5-4 aggregate defeat. After the hosts brought the aggregate back level, it seemed Luciano Vietto had saved Sporting’s lives, but Edin Visca scored in the 92nd minute to send the match to extra time on a 4-4 aggregate draw. Visca then played hero as he blasted a wonderful penalty in the 119th minute to win the matchup.

Former Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel scored the opener just after the half-hour mark via a corner, nutmegging the goalkeeper with a header on the doorstep. Danijel Aleksic bagged Basaksehir’s second just before halftime with an absolutely incredible free-kick from miles away to put the hosts 2-0 up and level the aggregate at 3-3, with Basaksehir holding the away goal advantage from the first leg. Sporting CP was saved, however, by Vietto who scored with 22 minutes remaining¬†

Dutch side AZ Alkmaar slumped out of the competition to LASK, losing 2-0 in Austria which sealed a 3-1 aggregate defeat. 21-year-old Austrian youth international Marko Raguz hit for a quickfire double just before halftime, including one from the penalty spot, to send LASK through to the Round of 16.

Full Europa League results (bolded team advances)

Espanyol 3-2 Wolverhampton Wanderers
FC Porto 1-3 Bayer Leverkusen
KAA Gent 1-1 AS Roma
Malmo FF 0-3 Wolfsburg
LASK 2-0 AZ Alkmaar
Istanbul Basaksehir 4-1 Sporting CP (AET)
FC Basel 1-0 Apoel Nicosia

Is it time for Man United drop David de Gea for Sergio Romero?

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Manchester United’s 0-0 FA Cup draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers was a net negative in many ways. They mustered zero shots on target from 12 total efforts and were ultimately forced into a replay, adding another fixture to an already clogged month that now has zero free midweeks.

However, there may be some positives to take from the match that otherwise left Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with another disappointing result.

Goalkeeper Sergio Romero, standing in for David De Gea as Cup netminder, played excellently, making a number of big saves to keep the game scoreless. The standout highlight was an absolute stunner on Matthew Doherty early in the match where he poked his right hand out to stop a point-blank hit.

Couple Romero’s performance in Cup play with David de Gea’s spotty showings this season, and suddenly the Manchester United goalkeeping job appears up for grabs.

De Gea, once the most dominant goalkeeper in the Premier League, has been off his best for some time now. He showed signs of decline in the 2018 World Cup as Spain was dumped in the Round of 16 by hosts Russia, and that has continued into the last two Premier League seasons. He has committed six errors leading directly to a goal over the last two seasons, the most in the English top flight. His most recent howler came against bottom-dwellers Watford as a ball slipped right through his hands in what would ultimately result in an embarrassing 2-0 defeat.

And it’s not just the errors that have become an issue. De Gea’s shot-stopping in general has seriously declined. Per Statsbomb, de Gea is underperforming his expected goals allowed this season by about 0.2 xG per 90, which doesn’t sound like much, but adds up to a significant 7.6 extra goals conceded over the course of the year.

He also has conceded the most direct free-kicks in Premier League play since the 2011/12 season, although that has just as much to do with his comparatively large sample size over that timespan as his struggles against set-pieces.

While Manchester United has pressing issues up and down the pitch (especially up front where they also happen to be underperforming their expected goals) would a switch between the sticks provide the Red Devils with some much-needed consistency at the back? At the very least it may give de Gea a breather; he’d be far from the first starting goalkeeper boosted by a spell on the bench.

Wolves 0-2 Liverpool: Salah, Van Dijk send Reds top through Christmas

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  • Salah scores PL leading 11th goal
  • Van Dijk nets first PL goal in Liverpool shirt
  • Liverpool still unbeaten in PL play, with 11 clean sheets

Just once in the last nine seasons has the Premier League leader on Christmas morning not gone on to win the title. Liverpool in 2014 remains the lone outlier in that set, and now the Reds have a chance to turn the tables on that disappointing finish.

Liverpool ensured the club would sit atop the Premier League table through the holiday as the Reds tamed a dangerous Wolves side 2-0 behind Mohamed Salah‘s 11th goal of the season and Virgil Van Dijk‘s first Premier League goal in a Liverpool uniform. The hosts were often threatening at Monlieux, but could not produce a noteworthy finish and were made to pay.

Wolves proved the more dangerous side in the opening 15 minutes, as Adama Traore and¬†Romain Saiss each had good chances on the break, with the latter’s shot saved and parried by Alisson into a dangerous area near the penalty spot in the 16th minute, but it was cleared by the defense.

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Despite the positive attacking mentality from the hosts, they were undone on the other end inside the opening 20 minutes, putting the underdogs behind. Fabinho played a one-two with Sadio Mane on the right-hand flank, and it led to a fizzling low cross from the Brazilian. Salah was on the doorstep to latch on, and he tapped in the cross from the top of the six-yard box.

As the rain came down in sheets at Monlieux, the hosts had another big chance as the game crept closer to halftime, but Raul Jimenez was hesitant to shoot when the opportunity arrived, and eventually his effort was blocked by a recovering Liverpool defense. Alisson was then on hand to save a shot on the break from Matthew Doherty, who may have done better by crossing to an open Jiminez in front of net.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

After halftime, Liverpool was dealt a blow as Naby Keita was withdrawn due to injury, replaced by Adam Lallana. Nuno countered by removing Portuguese international Joao Moutinho and replacing him with , also withdrawing Adama Traore for fresh legs in Ivan Cavaleiro.

Liverpool looked to extend its lead past the hour mark, as Salah and Mane worked a good attempt for Lallana from the left that was blocked out for a corner. The ensuing set-piece was played short, and it eventually came to Salah who produced a delicious delivery for van Dijk who beat his mark and tapped home past a helpless Rui Patricio for a 2-0 lead with 22 minutes to go.

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Wolves, knowing they had to produce some kind of final product to have any chance at a result, pushed forward with even more urgency. They pressed Liverpool hard and won the ball in positive areas, but were unable to get past the Reds defense.  A mistake by Andy Robertson in the 89th minute nearly saw Wolves substitute Morgan Gibbs-White free on goal, but the young English international was unable to find the back of the net, firing just wide of the gaping goal. Georginio Wijnaldum missed a wide-open chance for Liverpool on the stroke of the final whistle.

As the final whistle blew, Liverpool moved to 48 points, four above Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table. Liverpool is yet unbeaten in Premier League play, with 15 wins in 18 matches. The Reds also have 11 clean sheets on the season and have conceded just two goals in their last seven matches.

Meanwhile, Wolves remain in seventh with 25 points, still an overwhelmingly positive position for a newly promoted team. The loss snaps a three-game winning streak, and leaves Wolves with four days rest before a festive period that features four matches in eight days.

Newcastle 1-2 Wolves: Doherty wins it late

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  • Perez cancelled out Jota before the break
  • Yedlin sent off in 57′ for last-man foul
  • Doherty heads home deep into stoppage time

Newcastle looked strong at home as they worked to move further from the relegation zone, but a critical second-half call proved deadly as DeAndre Yedlin was sent off with 33 minutes to go, and while Newcastle nearly held on in front of a strong Martin Dubravka, Matthew Doherty struck four minutes into stoppage time to seal the Wolves win. Diogo Jota was vicious all match, proving the difference in the attack.

Wolves picked up where they left off against Chelsea midweek, and it was the hero then who opened the scoring on Sunday. Jota was on the receiving end of a cross from Helder Costa, who delivered a perfect ball into the box that somehow sailed over the head of Jamaal Lascelles in no man’s land. Jota was there on the doorstep, and he chested down and touched past Martin Dubravka with ease for the opener.

That lead, however, was short-lived. Off a set-piece, Salomon Rondon hit the bar with his free-kick, and while fans all looked to the referee to see if the ball had crossed the line, Rondon sent the ball back in from the other side and Ayoze Perez cleaned things up with a fabulous header to level the match.

That sprung Newcastle to life, and Rondon forced a Rui Patricio save moments later. The Magpies were strong headed into the break, and came out of halftime in the ascendency as well. Newcastle was forced into a change at the break, as an injured Federico Fernandez came off, replaced by Javier Manquillo.

The game changed just before the hour mark when U.S. international Yedlin was sent off for a tackle on Jota. it was an incredibly controversial call, as Yedlin brought Jota down just outside the top-left corner of the box, and while referee Mike Dean judged it to be a last-man foul, Jota was cutting in front the left flank at an angle, and Newcastle had two defenders closing from the other side of the box.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Jota was lucky to stay on the pitch himself with 17 minutes to go as he stomped hard and brought down Perez at the top of the Newcastle box after a heavy touch got away. Replays showed Jota stepped sideways into an oncoming Perez to send him tumbling.

Wolves got its best chance since gaining a man advantage in the 76th minute as substitute Raul Jimenez smacked the bar with a vicious strike from near the same spot Rondon did the previous half. They forced a fabulous Dubravka save with 10 minutes to go as Wolves hit on the break and a Jota cutback went through a Morgan Gibbs-White dummy to the feet of Doherty who rifled a curling effort that the Newcastle shot-stopper lept to parry.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

It appeared Newcastle had rode out the disadvantage, but Wolves struck with one final counter-attack. Jota marauded forward over the midway line and into the penalty area, and his initial shot was saved athletically by Dubravka, but the rebound fell right to Doherty at the far post who headed into the empty net on the doorstep.

The win moved Wolves into the top half of the table, sitting 10th with 22 points, level with Leicester City but behind on goal difference. Newcastle remains in 15th with 13 points on the season, just five points above the relegation zone.

Wolves 2-0 Southampton: Championship winners up to 8th

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  • Wolves scored 2 goals in the final 12 minutes
  • Rui Patricio made 6 saves
  • Wolves up to 8th in the Premier League table

Wolverhampton may be newly promoted, but teams already know not to take last year’s Championship winners lightly. It still didn’t matter.

The home side didn’t exactly have the greatest performance, but they held Southampton at bay and made the Saints pay down the stretch as substitute Ivan Cavaleiro scored just two minutes after entering the match, and Jonny earned his first Premier League goal to put the game away late.

It wasn’t pretty at times, but Wolves weathered moments of Southampton pressure to stay the course and earn three more points at Monlineux. Ivan Cavaleiro scored the winner on his Premier League debut having come on just two minutes later.

Wolves proved dangerous early on, as Ruben Neves took a pair of free-kicks in threatening positions inside the opening 10 minutes, and the latter produced an open header for defender Matthew Doherty but he put it harmlessly wide left.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Again Wolves had a big chance on the 10-minute mark as Helder Costa completely roasted a defender and picked out a run down the left, and while the cross was deflected, it fell right to Jonny who found himself unmarked on the penalty spot, but Alex McCarthy produced a spectacular save to deny the effort.

The home side continued to hound the Southampton midfield, bursting forward on numerous occasions and forcing the Saints defenders to foul them in the attacking third. Finally, Southampton began to build itself into the game past the 25-minute mark, and Joao Moutinho was lucky to get away without a caution after a sliding tackle through the back of Mohamed Elyounoussi.

Elyounoussi beat Jonny on a right-sided run, and was found by Nathan Redmond, but Rui Patricio came off his line to smother the chance. Southampton continued to grow, and Danny Ings just missed the top-right corner with an audacious curler from a good distance out. Neves had a half-chance on the break but put his shot from distance well wide left.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Neither team had another serious effort on net before the half, and after the break, the home side was the first to take the initiative. A Moutinho run drew a yellow card for Ryan Bertrand blocking him off, while Diogo Jota earned himself one seconds later for chopping down Mario Lemina.

Southampton remained the more assertive side after the break, but they wouldn’t produce much on net, and would be made to pay. With 12 minutes remaining, Wolves went in front thanks to the persistence of substitute Adama Traore and the unselfishness of Raul Jiminez. Traore, signed this summer from Middlesborough, burst down the right and beat two defenders in style. He worked space for a cross that found Jiminez on the doorstep, but with his back to net he chose a layoff to substitute Ivan Cavaliero who powered a bullet into the back of the net for a debut goal.

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McCarthy was required to keep the deficit at just one, denying Jiminez a bullet header with a stunning save as he dove to his right with the post bearing down. Unfortunately for the visitors, that second would come to put the game away. Doherty got past Stuart Armstrong all too easy down the right, and from that point he poked to Jonny on the doorstep who slid the ball through the legs of McCarthy for the second. Armstrong’s defending was a mess, leaving Southampton wide open.

That would draw curtains on the match, leaving Wolves with a less than stellar performance but a win nonetheless, pushing the newly promoted club all the way to eighth in the Premier League table with 12 points on the young season. Southampton, meanwhile, moves up one spot to 15th despite the loss thanks to Fulham’s poor showing at Goodison Park.