Raheem Sterling

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Southgate on Sterling punishment: ‘We are like a family’

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Gareth Southgate called an impromptu press conference at England’s St. George’s Park training base on Tuesday to discuss one thing.

Raheem Sterling v. Joe Gomez.

[ MORE: Sterling issues public apology ]

According to multiple reports, on Monday the Man City winger was sat in the players’ canteen at England’s training base when Gomez, the first of several Liverpool players to arrive, walked in and was laughing. Sterling then reportedly said “you’re the big man now are you?” and confronted Gomez, trying to grab him around the neck as the two were separated.

This all came after Sterling clashed with Gomez in Liverpool’s 3-1 win over City at Anfield on Sunday, as the England winger was booed heavily by the home fans and also clashed with England teammates Jordan Henderson and Trent-Alexander Arnold during the game.

After a tumultuous 24 hours, Southgate kept calm as he discussed why he had decided to punish Sterling by making him unavailable for the EURO 2020 qualifier against Montenegro on Thursday.

“I love all of my players. We are like a family. The important thing is for a family to communicate and work through problems,” Southgate said. “I don’t expect as a manager to not have to deal with issues. In the end I have to find the right solution for the group. That’s a difficult line, you try to be fair when dealing with all players. I won’t always get that right but I am the manager. Raheem is very important for us but I felt it was the right thing.”

Southgate has been criticized by the likes of Rio Ferdinand and other ex-England players for making the spat public, but others believe he has handled it well and sent a clear message out to the rest of his squad.

Sterling is England’s best player, on current form, so leaving him out is a big call for Southgate. England’s manager is a big fan of Sterling and has praised his ability on the pitch and his maturity off it in recent months.

But Sterling was wrong to go at Gomez and he has since admitted it on social media.

Southgate wanted to nip this in the bud and he is in full control of the situation. What damage this incident, and the way he reacted, does in the long-term remains to be seen. But Southgate is a man who sticks to his principles and he doesn’t want England’s players going at each other due to club matters.

If he sent out a weak message following Sterling’s actions it would have told the rest of the squad it was fine for them to act in a similar manner.

Sterling out of England squad after Gomez bust-up

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Raheem Sterling will be left out of the England squad versus Montenegro after a bust-up with teammate Joe Gomez.

Sterling went head-to-head with the Liverpool center back on Sunday in City’s 3-1 loss to the Reds at Anfield, and couldn’t leave the tension with his club.

The Daily Mail’s Matt Hughes and Sami Mokbel report that Sterling tried to grab Gomez by the neck at St George’s Park on Monday.

[ MORE: Liverpool 3-1 Man City ]

Ex-Liverpool winger Sterling played physical on Sunday and was confrontational on plenty of occasions, too, including a heated exchange with Gomez late in the contest.

England boss Gareth Southgate said the move comes “with the agreement of the entire squad.” Man City center back John Stones is on the Three Lions roster.

From The Daily Mail:

Sterling was sat down in the canteen when Gomez arrived and leant over from behind to shake his hand, leading him to attempt to grab his team-mate by the neck. The rest of the England players initially thought Sterling was joking, but it soon became clear that he had lost control and the pair were separated. The incident was particularly surprising to the other Liverpool players present as Sterling and Gomez had made the peace following the game at Anfield with an embrace following the final whistle.

Wild stuff, and a bad look for Sterling. He’s been England’s best player for some time, and the club is on the verge of qualifying for EURO 2020 but hasn’t achieved that goal yet.

England hosts Montenegro on Thursday and visits Kosovo on Sunday.

Where does this leave Sterling in the England set-up? He’s one of the best attackers in the world, but Southgate runs a tight ship and the Three Lions will likely qualify without him (and there are plenty of English wingers who will queue up for the job). He’ll get another chance almost surely, maybe even on Sunday, but there’s a slippery slope.

Guardiola’s postmatch stubbornness is petulant, not defiant

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“What happened today, we showed why [we] are champions,” Pep Guardiola said with a shake of the head, his arms crossed and wry smile creeping across his face. “I am so proud of my team, more than ever. We can be proud of how we played against the strongest team in Europe. We played like back-to-back champions.”

[ MORE: PL title is Liverpool’s to lose ]

Those were his words after a comprehensive 3-1 defeat at Anfield where Liverpool yet again confounded one of the game’s greatest managers at maybe his most imposing House of Horror. Manchester City was time and again ripped apart at the back by Liverpool’s class on the ball and cunning off it.

Yet here was Pep Guardiola, fresh off a vigorous handshake with the referees at the final whistle that dripped with the sarcasm of a child having recently been grounded, claiming his team produced “one of the best performances we have played.”

Liverpool was, to put it simply, better than Manchester City on the day. The players Guardiola picked in the team struggled mightily, with his full-backs Angelino and Kyle Walker both culpable on Liverpool goals while Joao Cancelo looked on from the bench and expensive Frenchman Benjamin Mendy wasn’t even in the squad. Sergio Aguero toiled through yet another fruitless performance at Anfield and Gabriel Jesus was too little too late as the only Man City substitute of the day. 34-year-old midfielder Fernandinho was preferred to natural defender Nicolas Otamendi at center-back alongside John Stones.

Guardiola’s rage stemmed mostly from an early penalty decision that went against the visitors, with the ball clearly striking Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s arm in the box just moments before Fabinho‘s sixth-minute opener. Referee Michael Oliver had an excellent view of the incident and judged Alexander-Arnold’s arm to be in a natural position, and while that original decision could be coherently argued as controversial (not by this article’s author), VAR finally handled a judgement call correctly by not reviewing the incident, as the debate proves the potential refereeing error was far from “clear and obvious.”

After Guardiola’s embarrassing post-match handshake, he was naturally asked about the early decision. While the City boss averted the question, he made his thoughts clear enough by calling out not the on-field referee Oliver, but instead the booth officials in his thinly veiled deflection “ask [PGMOL chair] Mike Riley and the guys who are in the VAR, don’t ask me.” He believed the decision should have been reviewed. Sorry Pep, but quite plainly, it should not, and was not. Move on.

The manager was far from the only party to shoulder blame in defeat. Kevin De Bruyne‘s usual brilliance eluded him from the opening whistle through the final push. Raheem Sterling, who has so often shouldered Man City’s burdens the past two seasons, was dangerous throughout but lacked a finishing touch. Ilkay Gundogan‘s laziness contributed heavily to the Liverpool opener. Even Man City’s best player Rodri was yellow carded for dissent on a frustrating day.

The flaws of the defending champions were on display for all to see. Injuries have ravaged this team’s back line with defenders Aymeric Laporte and Oleksandr Zinchenko out long-term, while goalkeeper Ederson was felled midweek in Champions League play. Jose Mourinho made a handful of enemies during his Premier League tenures by claiming his teams played well when they clearly did not, and Guardiola’s post-match defiance was a page out of Mourinho 101. The Spaniard has not yet gone down that road entirely, but he would be wise not to take more steps in that direction, for it is petulance, not defiance, that his post-match antics oozed after Sunday’s humbling loss.

The season is far from over – an eight-point lead in November is far less than many have made it out to be in yesterday’s aftermath. How quickly we forget just last season City’s title run included erasures of a seven-point deficit by New Year’s and a five-point Liverpool advantage in early February. Still, for the Man City boss to pass a sound defeat as “so good” and cast doubt on solid refereeing is not a show of fortitude, it is a child-like tantrum that denies the eyes and ears of the fans who watched, clear as day, their two-time defending champions beaten soundly at a stadium that continues to get the best of Pep Guardiola.

Liverpool smacks Man City, puts both hands on title fate

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Liverpool put both of its hands around the Premier League title race in dismissing sloppy Manchester City 3-1 at Anfield on Sunday.

The win boosts the Reds eight points clear of the field and nine points ahead of fourth place City, the two-time reigning Premier League champions.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Fabinho and Mohamed Salah scored first half goals for the Premier League leaders, and Sadio Mane salted away the result early in the second half.

Bernardo Silva scored a late goal for City, providing some drama for the final dozen minutes


Three stars, three duds

Star No. 1: Fabinho was an absolute monster in every third, scorching the match-opening goal and making life miserable for the City attackers and midfielders alike in the heart of the pitch. He may be the MVP of the title campaign so far.

Star No. 2: Mohamed Salah was electric in the first half, timing his run perfectly to send the Reds ahead by two and making himself a menace in the decisive first half.

Star No. 3: The goalkeeper didn’t have to make too many saves, and Alisson Becker certainly cannot be blamed for Bernardo’s vicious, unmarked back post lash to make it 3-1. Alisson was calm in collecting the ball and commanded his area.

Dud No. 1: VAR and/or referee Michael Oliver. Liverpool deserved this win, make no mistake about it, but the non-call on Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s handball moments before the Reds took a 1-0 lead was a tough one to take for anyone other than Liverpool and its fans.

Duds Nos. 2 and 3: Raheem Sterling was shook in his old home, booed at every turn and simply miserable in possession. His frustration got the best of him, his body language betraying him. Credit to the Englishman for continuing to fight for goals well after Sergio Aguero was withdrawn, the Argentine just not anywhere near his best and missing multiple chances to get on the board.

Bonus Dud: City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo had a difficult job to do, and he did it poorly, making just one key positive play while allowing a trio of Reds goals.


Liverpool scored with its only moment of the first 7 minutes, which came after Trent Alexander-Arnold went unwhistled for a handball in the box.

The moment was electric; Fabinho smashed a shot past Claudio Bravo for 1-0.

City was still all over Liverpool, with Raheem Sterling nodding wide and John Stones failing to get on the end of Kevin De Bruyne‘s 12th minute free kick.

Bravo was beaten again when Salah got on the end of a cross through the box and headed past the Chilean keeper.

Alisson made a fine two-handed parry on Sergio Aguero in the 25th. Angelino saw a deflected strike hit the post when he lost Jordan Henderson but couldn’t beat Van Dijk for a clean strike in the 29th.

Bravo parried a Firmino drive in the 38th minute, Liverpool continuing to thrive on the counter.

Kyle Walker tore a shot well wide in the 39th, and Aguero dragged a shot wide of the far post in the 42nd.

Salah came close with a distance effort in the 45th minute, but Bravo made an outstanding save.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

The second half started with more for City, a deflected shot earning a corner that was played short and wound up with Alisson.

Mane to put the match to bed out of nothing, Liverpool’s first meaningful attack of the second half defying Bravo. Jordan Henderson’s cross caught him out, and Mane’s header was pushed into the side panel by the Chilean.

Man City tried to answer through Sterling, whose shot was blocked by Dejan Lovren for a corner which again came to nothing.

Bernardo grabbed one back in the 78th, and Sterling had Gabriel Jesus cued up for a second in the 80th but it caught the Brazilian off balance.

Walker missed a back post bid from the influential Angelino, and City couldn’t break through Liverpool’s set-in side.

Three things we learned: Liverpool v. Man City

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LIVERPOOL — This was billed as a decisive day in the Premier League title race and it duly delivered.

Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool now have one hand on the Premier League trophy after a 3-1 win against Manchester City, as they moved nine points clear of Pep Guardiola‘s reigning champs and eight points clear of second-place Leicester City.

Liverpool remain unbeaten through the first 12 games of this season, they have lost once in their last 51 Premier League games and they are unbeaten in their last 29 games in the competition.

Here’s what we learned from a dramatic battle at Anfield, as the lopsided scoreline doesn’t tell the whole story.


VAR DRAMA ‘HANDS’ LIVERPOOL HUGE TITLE ADVANTAGE

Man City should have had a penalty kick but 20 seconds later they trailed 1-0. There was a clear handball in the box as Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s outstretched arm flicked onto his leg and as Sergio Aguero stopped and remonstrated with the officials, Liverpool broke and the ball was half cleared to Fabinho who drilled home to make it 1-0. VAR was then used to have a look at the goal and although Bernardo Silva did touch the ball with his arm just before Alexander-Arnold did, there was no advantage to be gained as it was clearly accidental as his arm wasn’t in an unnatural position like TAA’s was. Unlike the IFAB rules which were made clearer after Aymeric Laporte handled in the build up to Gabriel Jesus‘ later winner was chalked off against Spurs in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal second leg last season.

VAR got this big call wrong. Referee Michael Oliver had a clear view of the situation but waved away the penalty calls from Man City. VAR didn’t deem it to be a clear and obvious error. It was. VAR has become a farce and it set the tone for Liverpool to take the lead early on and go nine points clear of Man City in the title race. Pep Guardiola and his staff were livid in the technical area all game long as a few other penalty calls were checked and waved away by VAR. The first one was the most clear and obvious and it was obviously, and clearly, a mistake.


MAN CITY WERE THE BETTER, MORE DANGEROUS TEAM

In the first half alone Alisson denied Sergio Aguero twice, Aneglino hit the post and Kevin De Bruyne flashed across some wicked deliveries which John Stones and Fernandinho couldn’t get on the end of. In the second half Raheem Sterling was denied by a great block and Aguero somehow missed the ball totally when he was two yards out and the goal was gaping. Man City weren’t clinical enough and Liverpool made them pay. That coupled with VAR calls going the other way on Liverpool’s two first half goals culminated in a lopsided defeat for Man City.

Pep Guardiola’s side controlled the game, Fernandinho and John Stones looked fairly assured and although Claudio Bravo was partly at fault for the third goal he looked solid enough. After this game Man City will be scratching their heads as to how on earth they lost. But they did, and Man City have now failed to win on any of their last 17 Premier League trips to Anfield. Sergio Aguero has never scored there. Klopp has beaten Guardiola more times than any other manager. Man City’s players were cagey at times with Sterling, De Bruyne and Aguero all guilty of uncharacteristic mistakes. City played well enough but the reigning champions were taught a ruthless lesson by the champions elect.


LIVERPOOL A DIFFERENT MACHINE AS TITLE GLORY AWAITS

This Liverpool team are ruthless. When they sense an opportunity to win, they take it. And they did just that on Sunday. That is why they will win the Premier League this season. They are a different machine in 2019-20. Klopp’s side are eight points clear atop the table and yes, there are still 26 games to go, but something absolutely unfathomable would have to happen for them not to be crowned Premier League champions this season. Liverpool have addd a steely edge to their play, a ruthless streak which enables them to make the most of their opponents weaknesses.

They now bend but don’t break. It’s crazy to say this, but Liverpool weren’t at their best on Sunday and they haven’t been for much of this season. But they are nine points ahead of Man City and beat them 3-1 to extend their unbeaten run at home to 46 games. These are the kind of results which sum up why teams are destined to win titles. Liverpool’s 30-year wait for a title is so close, but still so far, from being over.