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Brazil can’t get by Panama in 1-1 friendly draw

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Brazil boasted Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, and Casemiro in the starting lineup, but it wasn’t enough to get past Panama in a 1-1 friendly draw in Portugal.

Lucas Paqueta scored just past the half-hour mark to put Brazil in front, but they were pegged back just four minutes later and never recovered, managing just four shots on target despite an enormous 78% possession.

The AC Milan youngster opened the scoring in the 32nd minute, meeting Casemiro’s deep cross at the far post after having snuck behind Michael Murillo. His shot was slowed by goalkeeper Luis Mejia but he couldn’t keep it out, instead deflecting it into the back of the net. It marks the first international goal for the 21-year-old at the senior level, a moment to savor.

That could have sent Brazil on their way as Panama could hardly find a touch, but set-pieces proved their undoing. On a free-kick from the middle-third, Eric Davis floated in a deep delivery down the middle that met the head of Adolfo Machado who lept to barely meet the ball. His contact was perfection, looping the ball over the head of Ederson and into the top-left corner.

The match is Brazil’s first since they fell to Belgium in the knockout round of the World Cup, and it was used in part as an experiment, especially at the back. Regular defensive starters Thiago Silva and Marquinhos were on the bench as Tite chose to start 21-year-old Porto center-back Eder Militao in his club’s home stadium alongside 34-year-old Miranda. World Cup goalkeeper Alisson also saw the bench in favor of Manchester City starter Ederson, who was troubled by just two shots on target the entirety of the match.

Most notably, Neymar was absent from the squad as he recovers from a broken metatarsal that has kept him out since late January.

Messi magic as Barcelona crushes Lyon (video)

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Lionel Messi put on another masterclass as Barcelona buried Lyon 5-1 on Wednesday at the Camp Nou to advance to the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals.

Messi saw Ronaldo’s hat trick versus Atletico Madrid, and raised him a Man of the Match display of his own with two goals and two assists.

Ousmane Dembele, Gerard Pique, and Philippe Coutinho also scored for Barca in the win, while Lucas Tousart scored for Lyon.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes was always likely to be a key component of any French upset, and stopped Lionel Messi inside of the first five minutes.

Former Man City man Jason Denayer took down Luis Suarez after Messi slipped him into the box, and Messi made no mistake with a chipped penalty after VAR upheld the decision.

Coutinho made it 2-0 in the 31st minute, on the scene to push a goal home after Suarez cut through the Lyon back line.

The French side didn’t walk away, though, and scored its goal through Tousart in the 65th minute.

But have you guys and girls heard of this Messi character? He scored the side’s third goal before cueing up Pique and Dembele for their insurance tallies.

Why are Liverpool stumbling in title race?

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With a 0-0 draw in the Merseyside derby at Everton on Sunday, Liverpool have now dropped 11 points in their last nine Premier League games.

[ MORE: Klopp blames the weather ]

Something is not quite right with Jurgen Klopp‘s side, as they have now drawn against Leicester, West Ham, Man United and Everton in their last six games. They aren’t playing badly, but they just aren’t themselves consistently.

What are the key problems for Klopp to solve in the final nine games of the season?

Here’s a look at the main issues troubling Liverpool, who could have led Manchester City by seven points had they beat Leicester on Jan. 30 at Anfield.

Instead, a few weeks later they are now one point behind City heading into the final stretch.


Lack of midfield creativity

This has been an issue all season long for Liverpool. Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum, James Milner, Fabinho and Jordan Henderson are very good at what they do. The issue is, they all do the same thing. Liverpool can break up the play and shield their solid defensive unit well. But when it comes to keeping hold of the ball and having midfielders running past Salah, Firmino and Mane, it doesn’t happen that often. Naby Keita was supposed to do that but he’s struggled to adapt to the Premier League, and Klopp’s resistance to play Adam Lallana or Xherdan Shaqiri more prominently could come back to haunt him. Not signing Nabil Fekir in the summer could also leave him with plenty of sleepless nights as Liverpool just don’t have a central midfielder (a la Philippe Coutinho) who can turn the game and unlock an opposition defense with a moment of magic. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may be risked in the final weeks of the season, as he has those qualities Klopp badly needs from at least one of his central midfield players.


Salah not trusting instincts, as front three stall

Mohamed Salah isn’t as sharp as he was last season. That has been clear for much of this campaign and he has scored just once in his last seven outings for Liverpool. His form has flitted in and out, but in recent weeks some self-doubt has creeped into his game. Last Sunday he was hooked off at Man United in the 0-0 draw as Luke Shaw had him in his back pocket, and although Salah started well at Everton he isn’t taking chances like he did in his incredible 2017-18 campaign.

Klopp summed up Salah’s recent hesitancy best: “He is doing everything right until the last moment, that last millisecond.”

And that is pretty much all it is. Salah was clean through twice on Sunday but delayed that split-second longer to give Jordan Pickford and Michael Keane a chance to deny him. Last season he was letting his instincts take over. He wasn’t thinking about his finishes. This season he is.

“I felt we created enough chances to win. We defended well but of course we are disappointed because want to win every game. We just need to be a bit more clinical,” Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson said, as his side have now failed to score in three of their last four games in all competitions.

Sadio Mane has blown hot and cold, Firmino has been out injured and Salah’s struggles are well documented. Liverpool’s defensive solidity is clear for all to see with five clean sheets on the spin, but the success of their team is built around the front three delivering and it isn’t clicking at the moment. Salah needs to think less and shoot more. The other attackers will follow suit if he regains his mojo.


Klopp being too conservative

Now, Klopp didn’t like being asked about this after the game. At all. After being sarcastically applauded off the pitch by an Everton ballboy, who he confronted, Klopp was then asked in his post-match press conference about not taking enough risks with his team selection.

“Do you think we didn’t take enough risks today? That’s a really disappointing question… do you think it’s Playstation? Bring an extra attacker, and everything changes?” Klopp said. “Football is not like that. We don’t lose our nerve, not like you obviously. A question I don’t get.”

Klopp was scoffed at after this game for blaming the “wind coming from all directions” at Goodison, as it mirrored other comments he made about the weather after poor displays during his time at Liverpool.

But what about himself? The German coach is being conservative with his lineup choices. There’s no doubt about it. With 15 minutes to go against Man United last week he sent on Xherdan Shaqiri for Jordan Henderson. On Sunday at Everton he only made like-for-like replacements and failed to ‘go for it’ and mix up his formation or chuck an extra body up top. Liverpool are just one point behind Man City in the title race, but right now Klopp is setting his team up as if they have a 10-point lead at the top.


Nerves from fans filtering to the players

This is a small but significant factor, and if you scan Twitter on Sunday evening you’ll see that a lot of Liverpool’s fans are fuming at the build-up of draws in recent weeks after so many wins throughout the early months of the 2018-19 campaign. 29 years without a league title is a long time for a club of Liverpool’s stature. So often the pressure of expectation is talked about at Anfield, as players can crumble under the weight of expectation that ‘this year will be our year’ to finally win the title again. This year could still be their year, but the fans need to somehow curb their negativity because in this age of social media dominance their frustration and fear is drifting towards the players. Try as they might, Liverpool’s players are only human beings and the pressure is now on them as they’ve given up a lead and Man City have the advantage in the title race. If City win out, Liverpool can’t do anything.

Vinicius Junior called up for Brazil for first time

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RIO DE JANEIRO — Vinicius Junior has been called up to the Brazilian national team for the first time for friendly matches against Panama and the Czech Republic.

The 18-year-old striker has become a key player for Real Madrid this season.

[ MORE: PL relegation picture in focus ]

Brazil coach Tite also called up midfielder Felipe Anderson and striker Richarlison.

Brazil is preparing to host the Copa America in June.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Alisson (Liverpool), Ederson (Manchester City), Weverton (Palmeiras)

Ddefenders: Alex Sandro (Juventus), Danilo (Manchester City), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid), Eder Militao (Porto), Dani Alves (Paris Saint-Germain), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain), Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain), Miranda (Inter Milan)

Midfielders: Allan (Napoli), Arthur (Barcelona), Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona), Casemiro (Real Madrid), Fabinho (Liverpool), Felipe Anderson (West Ham), Lucas Paqueta (AC Milan)

Forwards: Everton (Gremio), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Richarlison (Everton), Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid)

Lyon strong at home, hold Barcelona to 0-0 draw (video)

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Barcelona were always comfortable, but rarely imposing, en route to a 0-0 draw away to Lyon in the first leg of the two sides’ UEFA Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Spain revamps Super Cup (and others should follow suit) ]

Lyon were organized and determined in defense, never once offering the heavily-favored Barca a clean look at goal. They’ll have a mountain to climb in the second leg at the Camp Nou, but the Blaugrana are far from through to the quarterfinals.

Lionel Messi and Co., were the nonstop aggressors, taking the game to the home side with wave after wave of possession and build-up. Despite peppering Lyon’s penalty area with 13 first-half shots, though — many of which were little more than hopeful efforts from long-distance — Barca managed to put just two on target, both of which were quite comfortably saved by Anthony Lopes.

It was actually Lyon who were first to truly threaten an early breakthrough, forcing Marc-Andre ter Stegen into a pair of superb saves inside the game’s opening 10 minutes. First, it was Houssem Aouar who fired low and hard for bottom-90 to Ter Stegen’s left, but the big German goalkeeper was quick to get down and make the save. Then, just three minutes later, Martin Terrier unleashed a rocket from nearly 25 yards out, but Ter Stegen was perfectly positioned and sprang to the rescue in the nick of time, reaching up to tip the ball onto the crossbar and collect the ricochet.

[ MORE: CONCACAF Champions League returns with TFC, Houston ]

Barcelona’s first great scoring chance didn’t arrive until the 70th minute, and even then Luis Suarez couldn’t redirect Philippe Coutinho‘s cross on target. The Uruguayan uncorked and un-savable, left-footed strike from 15 yards out, but didn’t get his foot quite far enough around the ball and pushed it just wide of Lopes’ right-hand post.

Barcelona nearly stole a late winner through Sergio Busquets’ 86th-minute strike from the edge of the penalty area, but Lopes saw the ball through a sea of bodies to push the ball over the bar and keep the well-earned clean sheet intact.