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Liverpool wins stoppage time thriller

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  • Sturridge opens scoring
  • Mane wins PK, Milner converts
  • Salah giveaway leads to equalizer
  • Firmino saves the day

Roberto Firmino‘s stoppage time goal saved Liverpool blushes after the Reds gave away a two-goal lead but came back to beat Paris Saint-Germain 3-2 in the UEFA Champions League group stage on Tuesday at Anfield.

Daniel Sturridge and James Milner scored first for the Reds, who looked to be on cruise control after a dominant first half.

Thomas Meunier and Kylian Mbappe scored for the visitors set the stage for a grandstand finish.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]

Liverpool was twice denied by the paw of Alphonse Areola within seven minutes of kickoff, with Virgil Van Dijk and James Milner earning corner kicks.

PSG found its first real danger when Edinson Cavani set up Neymar for a drive at Alisson Becker, and Virgil van Dijk helped produce a tame rebound effort.

Sturridge, only starting due to an injury to Roberto Firmino, put the Reds ahead in the 31st minute when he headed an Andy Robertson cross past Areola.

Liverpool headed to the spot for a chance to make it 2-0 when Juan Bernat made a clumsy challenge on Georginio Wijnaldum. That’s Milner’s office, and the two-goal lead arrived at Anfield.

But Meunier was on hand to pull one back when a partially-blocked shot came to him for a left-footed volley inside the 18.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Mohamed Salah believed he had restored Liverpool’s two-goal lead, but Sturridge’s sliding stamp on Areola’s groin was called a foul and a free kick was awarded.

Moments after Sadio Mane came oh-so-close to giving the Reds a two-goal lead, Liverpool collapsed under the weight of a Salah giveaway.

Julian Draxler snagged the ball and fed Neymar, who dribbled towards Virgil van Dijk. The Dutchman got a piece of Neymar’s dribble, but the block went right to Mbappe, who did not miss his chance to best Alisson Becker.

Trent Alexander-Arnold came close to restoring the lead when Marquinhos gave away a free kick on the edge of the PSG box.

But Firmino was the man to give all three points to the Reds.

Klopp backs ‘fantastic, outstanding’ Neymar ahead of Champions League match

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Jurgen Klopp isn’t having any of the criticism of Brazilian superstar Neymar.

Ahead of Liverpool’s Champions League match against Paris Saint-Germain at Anfield, Klopp sang Neymar’s praises and said the team will do its best to cope with “Neymar, the full football package.”

“I don’t think he’s a person who wants to act or something like that, because if you are like that you can’t play the football he plays,” Klopp said in his pre-match press conference on Monday. “So I don’t think about these kind of things, to be honest. He got rested over the weekend so he will be 100% fresh for us, he’s not injured anymore, so we will see the full package, Neymar the football package, so we have to cope with that, and that’s what we’ll try.”

Neymar was criticized throughout the World Cup for his acting, diving and rolling to earn fouls. The Brazilian was the most-fouled player at the tournament at the time of Brazil’s elimination in the Round of 16, and their early departure added more fuel to the fire. Klopp says that while teams in Russia this summer looked to hack Neymar as a purposeful tactic, his side will avoid that strategy during Tuesday’s match.

“We play football. We want to win the ball and we don’t try to act in these kind of things. We try to avoid passes to him, we try to avoid him winning challenges and all that stuff which is a big job to do, to be honest. I’m not sure if it’s even possible to avoid his quality 100%…I’m pretty sure it’s not, so that’s all. He’s a fantastic footballer, an outstanding player.”

Klopp even backed Neymar’s behavior on the pitch, saying, “When I saw a few games at the World Cup…I know what a few people were talking about when it looked like he made a bit more of the situation than it was. That’s, for me, a completely normal reaction because players are really going for him, that’s the truth, and he wants to protect himself and I understand that as well.”

The Liverpool boss said that Neymar was also injured during the World Cup, and claimed that Brazil would have beaten Belgium in the Round of 16 had its superstar been fully fit.

Neymar is just the start of the PSG attacking presence Liverpool will be forced to deal with. Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani also pose serious threats, with the trio combining for 11 goals so far this season. Angel Di Maria also looks on his game, with four goals himself this campaign. PSG was without Neymar and Mbappe this weekend, with the Brazilian rested and his French teammate suspended, and the defending champions still defeated St. Etienne 4-0 with Cavani and Di Maria on the scoresheet plus a goal from Julian Draxler and late substitute Moussa Diaby.

PSG’s Mbappe gets 3-game ban for shove, red card

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Kylian Mbappe has been suspended for three games after the Paris Saint-Germain superstar was sent off in Ligue 1 action at the weekend.

[ MORE: Tim Weah can’t escape famous name on back of PSG, USMNT jersey ]

The 19-year-old, who suffered a late — and malicious — challenge from Teji Savanier in stoppage time during the defending champions’ 4-2 victory on Saturday, received his red card for shoving the Nimes midfielder to the ground. Savanier was handed a five-game ban by the French league’s disciplinary committee.

With four goals and two assists in the first three games of the league season (he started only two of the games and has played just 225 minutes), Mbappe has picked up right where he left off at this summer’s World Cup — and last season in Ligue 1, when he scored 13 goals and assisted 8 more in league play alone.

[ MORE: David Beckham’s Miami MLS team reveals name, logo ]

Mbappe will miss Ligue 1 matches against Saint-Etienne (Sept. 14), Rennes (Sept. 23) and Reims (Sept. 26). He will, however, be eligible to play in PSG’s UEFA Champions League opener against Liverpool on Sept. 18.

Ligue 1: Mbappe scores, gets sent off as PSG beat Nimes

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PARIS (AP) Kylian Mbappe scored a brilliant late goal and got sent off right at the end of Paris Saint-Germain’s pulsating 4-2 win at Nimes in the French league on Saturday.

Two weeks after coming off the bench to score twice against Guingamp, he bailed out PSG with an unstoppable 77th-minute strike to make it 3-2 after Nimes clawed back from 2-0 down and then hit the crossbar.

Chasing down a high ball on a PSG counterattack, Mbappe cushioned it expertly on the inside of his right foot without breaking strike, directing the ball into his path so he could then lash a fizzing shot into the roof of the net.

Striker Edinson Cavani added a fourth in injury time after being set up by winger Angel Di Maria, who earlier scored direct from a corner.

With seconds remaining, Mbappe reacted to a late challenge from midfielder Teji Savanier and shoved the player forcefully to the ground.

Referee Jerome Brisard, who showed Mbappe a yellow card for petulantly kicking the ball away in the first half, instantly brandished a red. Mbappe stomped off, looking unhappy. But the 19-year-old star of France’s World Cup-winning campaign was berated by his own goalkeeper Alphonse Areola for his wild reaction. Savanier was also sent off.

In the first half, Di Maria spotted a gap inside the near post and expertly curled the ball in from the left corner flag for 2-0. Moments earlier, Neymar tapped in right back Thomas Meunier’s cross after 36 minutes.

Two weeks ago, confusing VAR decisions helped PSG win at Guingamp 3-1. In that game, the home side had a goal disallowed by a contentious VAR decision when leading 1-0 and a blatant penalty not reviewed with the score 1-1.

This time, VAR did not spare PSG.

PSG seemed to be getting another reprieve when leading 2-1 with 20 minutes remaining. Brisard waved away penalty claims, after Thiago Silva caught the back of midfielder Theo Valls’ leg as he turned inside the penalty area.

But he changed his mind after reviewing the images and Savanier equalized from the spot in the 71st, drilling a low shot inside Areola’s right post.

Areola was well beaten by midfielder Antonin Bobichon, who struck in the 63rd with a curler from the edge of the area into the top right corner.

After Nimes equalized, PSG was firmly on the back foot against the club with the smallest budget in Ligue 1 and which had not played in the top flight since 1993.

Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, replaced for this game by Areola, shouted at his PSG teammates from the bench in a bid to wake them up. But Nimes was on a roll and almost made it 3-2 as defender Sofiane Alakouch hit the crossbar. Then, Areola saved his side with a leaping stop.

But pushing up for a winner against PSG comes with a risk, since it leaves huge gaps for the electric Mbappe to exploit with his searing pace.

Later Saturday, Dijon looked to join PSG on four straight wins with a home victory against Caen.

Ligue 1: Mbappe scores two as PSG win 3-1 with help from VAR

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PARIS (AP) World Cup star Kylian Mbappe’s lethal finishing and confusing VAR decisions helped Paris Saint-Germain to a second straight win at the start of its French title defense.

Mbappe came off the bench to score twice in a 3-1 win at Guingamp on Saturday but the victory was overshadowed by a contentious VAR decision in PSG’s favor, and a seemingly clear penalty not given to Guingamp with the scores level.

“It’s true I added something,” Mbappe said. “But the whole team wanted to change things after the first half.”

PSG trailed 1-0 at halftime, which could have been 2-0 only for referee Clement Turpin to be alerted by the video assistant referee as to a possible foul in the buildup to a goal. He disallowed the header by midfielder Nicolas Benezet.

The 19-year-old Mbappe, who helped France win the World Cup last month , came on at halftime and instantly sparked PSG’s attack.

Eight minutes later, Neymar’s trickery with the ball led to him earning a penalty, which he took himself for 1-1.

But with about 10 minutes left, PSG defender Thomas Meunier clattered into Guingamp winger Marcus Coco as he charged into the area.

Although Meunier sent Coco tumbling heavily, Turpin did not give the penalty and — more surprisingly — VAR officials did not alert him to review the incident.

Two minutes later, the clinical Mbappe put PSG ahead and then finished off Guingamp in the 90th minute.

He curled his first into the bottom corner and deftly chipped the second over the goalkeeper from close range.

Just like in last weekend’s 3-0 win against Caen, coach Thomas Tuchel again started three of PSG’s youth academy players, with 19-year-old Colin Dagba at center half, 19-year-old Antoine Bernede in midfield and 18-year-old U.S. international Timothy Weah in attack.

But they struggled as Guingamp, a small town in Brittany, dominated the first half.

PSG goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon made a sensational early save from striker Nolan Roux’s close-range shot. Buffon looked beaten as he dived to his left but the 40-year-old Italian showed incredible reflexes to stick out his right hand and push the ball onto the crossbar.

But there was nothing even he could do when Guingamp scored in the 20th minute, with Dagba’s mistake leading to Roux’s 70th top-flight goal but the first for his new club.

Dagba chested the ball and then, thinking center half partner Thiago Silva was coming across to cover, he hesitated. Coco sprinted into the gap and squared the ball to Roux, who finished neatly.

Buffon was beaten again five minutes later when Coco flicked the ball from the left to Benezet, who headed in. Turpin disallowed the header and went for a video review after being alerted by VAR officials. He disallowed it for an apparent trip by Benezet on Dagba as they contested the ball, although there appeared to be only minimal contact, if any.

Weah, the son of current Liberia President and former PSG striker George Weah, made way for Mbappe.

Teenagers Weah and Mbappe combined are three years younger than Buffon — who hugged Guingamp striker Marcus Thuram after the game.

The reason?

Buffon was teammates with his father, the robust defender Lilian Thuram, at Italian side Parma — the city where Marcus was born in 1997.