Maya Yoshida

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Ayoze Perez hat trick leads Newcastle past Southampton (video)

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  • Newcastle now 10 points clear of 18th
  • Perez scores both Magpies goals
  • Southampton five points ahead of drop zone

Ayoze Perez a hat trick as Newcastle United held off Southampton’s second half charge in a 3-1 win at St. James’ Park on Saturday.

Mario Lemina scored a beauty for Saints in a game of high quality goals.

Newcastle goes 12th with 41 points, while Saints remain 16th with 36.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Newcastle wanted a penalty when an early shot from Ayoze Perez was blocked by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg‘s arm.

Miguel Almiron took a Salomon Rondon flick and hit a wayward cross that Angus Gunn slapped wide of the goal.

The dam burst near the half-hour mark, when Perez scored both of his goals.

The first came with a fine, physical dribble right which the Spaniard punctuated with a hard shot across his body and inside the far post.

Then it was 2-0 within four minutes, Perez sliding onto the end of a Rondon cross to slap the ball inside the goal.

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Saints deserved a goal and nearly had one through Maya Yoshida before Lemina answered the bell.

Off the bench, the ex-Juve midfielder scored from 21 yards after Stuart Armstrong and Nathan Redmond combined to set the table.

But Matt Ritchie‘s diving header was redirected by Perez for an 87th minute insurance goal and the completion of a fine hat trick.

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Southampton surprises Wolves, strengthens safety bid (video)

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  • Redmond bags brace
  • Sims, Ings lively in win
  • Boly, Long also score

Southampton moved eight points clear of the drop zone with five to play following a 3-1 win over Wolves at St. Mary’s on Saturday, all-but-completing Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s saintly resurgence.

Nathan Redmond scored twice and Shane Long added a goal in the win, while Willy Boly scored Wolves’ only marker.

The loss hurt Wolves’ seventh-place chances, though Leicester City and Everton also lost this weekend.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Saints were in a hurry to pad their bid for Premier League safety, and Josh Sims took advantage in his first Premier League start of the season. The 22-year-old’s cross was put home by Redmond for a second minute lead.

Sims was lively missing out on a chance to set up Ings before later misfiring after Ings set him up for a shot of his own.

Boly answered in the 28th with a monstrous leap to meet a Joao Moutinho corner kick, but Saints would not be bowed by the equalizer.

Two minutes later, it was Redmond again who cooly beat the keeper after some neat interplay between — you guessed it — Sims and Ings.

Saints put it to bed off substitute Long, who knifed a Maya Yoshida pass past Patricio with the outside of his boot.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

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Salah saves Liverpool with late goal to seal comeback over Southampton (video)

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Liverpool cannot afford a slip, needing perfection down the stretch to keep pace with Manchester City and keep the title hopes alive.

The Reds were far from perfect on Friday at St. Mary’s, battered in midfield and pressed by a Jurgen Klopp clone on the opposing touchline. Ultimately, despite an imperfect performance, they earned a perfect result thanks to Mohamed Salah‘s 80th minute goal that sent Liverpool on its way to a 3-1 victory over Southampton despite falling behind inside the opening 10 minutes.

Liverpool fought back the entire match, as Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s press baffled the likes of Naby Keita and Fabinho. The Reds were exposed at times, but by halftime, they seemed to have sorted things out, and by the hour mark, they were in full control, having made the appropriate substitutions to expose the talent gap.

Southampton went in front just nine minutes in as Shane Long found himself wide open in front of net. A ball in from deep delivered by Ryan Bertrand found Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg who managed to get himself in front of Virgil Van Dijk and flick the ball with his head. It fell perfectly behind him to Long who was waiting, and with Andrew Robertson overplaying the ball, Long was all alone to punch in the finish.

Long nearly had a second in the 18th minute, and probably should have scored, but he somehow whiffed on a cross from the left. Had he connected, he would have been all along in front of goal with just Alisson to beat yet again.

Liverpool drew level on 36 minutes as Southampton cleared two previous attempts, but on the third Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s ball from near the corner flag found Naby Keita at the back post, and he headed Liverpool back level. There was a hint of offside early in the buildup as Mohamed Salah made a run, but it was a

After the break, the Reds maintained possessional control but Southampton continued to prove dangerous on the break. Slowly as the half wore on, the visitors build themselves into the ascendency. Liverpool had a penalty shout as Keita threw himself to ground under contact by Maya Yoshida just before the hour mark, and while the defender made slight contact, the referee let play continue.

By the 67th minute, it was all Liverpool on the attack. Roberto Firimino nearly scored a Goal of the Season candidate, flicking the ball over his defender to put himself clean through, but Yoshida was on hand to make an enormous block. It took 15 more minutes, but eventually Liverpool found the all-important moment.

On the break off a Southampton corner, Salah found himself one-on-one across midfield with the lone Southampton defender back in Bertrand. Redmond also managed to get back, but the Egyptian split the two and unleashed a right-footed effort from the top of the box, putting it past Angus Gunn who appeared somewhat surprised to see Salah shoot rather than pass Firmino to his left.

The goal sent Liverpool through, and they secured the three points on yet another break as a long ball from van Dijk deep in Liverpool’s half found a breaking Firmino down the right, and the Brazilian sensed a teammate streaking down the middle. His cross found Jordan Henderson flying down the center unmarked for an easy finish to put Liverpool 3-1 up.

The win sent Liverpool back to the top of the Premier League table by two points, and while Manchester City still holds the advantage thanks to its game in hand, the pressure is back on Pep Guardiola to take care of business. Had Liverpool dropped points, the title race would have swung heavily in City’s favor owning a lead plus the game in hand.

Three things learned: Saints v. Liverpool (video)

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SOUTHAMPTON — It wasn’t pretty, but it was gritty as Liverpool surged to a late 3-1 win at Southampton to go back to the top of the Premier League.

[ MORE: “World class” Liverpool led by Salah

Saints took a shock lead through Shane Long, but an equalizer from Naby Keita was followed by late goals from Mohamed Salah and Jordan Henderson to send Liverpool two points clear of Manchester City with the latter having a game in hand. The title race will go down to the wire.

Here’s what we learned from a gripping clash at St Mary’s, as the win was far from routine for Liverpool.


SALAH KEEPS TITLE BID ON TRACK

For most of the evening, Mohamed Salah’s performance summed up Liverpool’s display. He huffed and puffed, but there just wasn’t an end product. Until he won the game. 10 minutes from time Salah burst free after Saints had a corner, ran almost 50 yards with the ball and clipped home a delightful finish for his first goal in nine games for Liverpool. He loves playing against Southampton, and has now scored in all four of his PL appearances against Saints with five goals in total.

His stunning goal showcased the Salah of last season, as he tore off his shirt in delight and Liverpool’s title bid was back on track after a tense 80 minutes where Southampton threatened to hold them to a draw. Salah has now scored 50 goals in 69 Premier League appearances for Liverpool, and that is the fewest number of games of any player in club history to reach half a century. Salah is back delivering moments of top quality, and his latest sent Liverpool back to the top of the league.


KEITA CAN DELIVER MIDFIELD DYNAMISM

With stalwarts James Milner and Jordan Henderson left on the bench, there was plenty of pressure on the shoulders of Fabinho and especially Naby Keita. In his 28th appearance for Liverpool, Keita popped up with a massive goal towards the end of the first half which swung the game in their favor. He didn’t play particularly well, but he made a difference, and with Klopp criticized for his ultra-defensive lineups in central midfield in recent months, this was a chance for Keita to show he has a role in this team.

The Guinean midfielder didn’t see a lot of the ball early on, with Fabinho and Georginio Wijnaldum caught in possession and Keita looking a little lost tucked in on the left side of midfield. But what you could see was that his runs into the box were timed well, and that is exactly what happened on the goal. He arrived to head home Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s marvellous cross and that kind of dynamism and end product is why Liverpool paid $70 million for him last season. In the second half he ran into the box and was clipped by Maya Yoshida and was lucky not to win his team a penalty kick. We haven’t seen those kind of moments anywhere enough from Keita in his debut campaign in England, and although he struggled overall, there is hope he can offer Liverpool a different midfield dynamic late in the season.


SAINTS TO MARCH ON

Shane Long gave Southampton a shock lead, but in truth, it was what they deserved. They rattled Liverpool’s cages often, and particularly early on, with Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s famed high-pressing in full flow on several occasions as Saints won the ball back high up the pitch. Long should have converted a second early on, and even though Saints failed to grab anything from the game they proved they have made significant progress in Hasenhuttl’s 17 games in charge. Had Danny Ings been able to play (his loan from Liverpool meant he was ineligible) it could have been a different story. They ran out of steam and kept giving the ball back to Liverpool, but with a more fluid attack, they could have caused even greater problems.

There is a plan to their play, an identity and Southampton’s young squad can challenge the big boys again. For so long Saints have upset the odds with four-straight top eight finishes before a bad season last season where they just avoided relegation. Saints are back on track and the turnaround Hasenhuttl has made with only the struggling players he inherited and no money spent deserves huge praise. Against the teams outside of the top six they will fare well, but Liverpool were just too good late on. There is no shame in that for Saints, who went toe-to-toe with an exceptional Liverpool team until Salah’s moment of magic.

Asian Cup: Japan, Iran advance to semifinals

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For the first time since winning the tournament in 2011, Japan has returned to the semifinals of the AFC Asian Cup.

Japan recorded a 1-0 win over Vietnam in the quarterfinal round, thanks to a VAR-determined penalty kick goal in the second half by starlet Ritsu Doan. It was Japan’s fifth straight win in the competition, all by a one-goal margin. Japan now advances to face Iran, who recorded a 3-0 win over China in the second match of the day.

[READ: Chelsea advance to League Cup final]

Captained by Maya Yoshida, Japan’s defense has continued to improve throughout the tournament, shutting out both Saudi Arabia and the technically gifted Vietnam in the last two rounds.

It was an even bigger milestone for Iran. For the first time in 15 years, Team Melli is heading to the semifinal round. Iran took advantage of a mistake by China defender Feng Xiaoting when Sardar Azmoun picked his pocket as the last defender, squaring it to Mehdi Taremi for the opening goal in the 18th minute. Iran doubled the lead in the 31st minute through another defensive error from China on a long ball, as Azmoun rounded the goalkeeper to score. Yet again, another defensive miscue led to Iran’s third goal, with Karim Ansarifard providing the finishing touch.

China striker Yu Dabao and We Lei were each held scoreless, despite scoring two goals each so far in the tournament.