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Three things we learned from USMNT-Canada

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The USMNT reclaimed its driver’s seat status for the CONCACAF Nations League with a 4-1 defeat of Canada in Orlando on Friday.

[ MORE: Match recap ]

Here’s what we gleaned from 90 minutes near Disneyworld.

Berhalter returns the tactical beatdown

Canada coach John Herdman opted to take his most electric attacker, Alphonso Davies, and play him at left back. Yes, he’s played there for Bayern Munich — who is in a defender crisis — but considering what Davies did to the USMNT last month in Toronto, well, what a let off!

Berhalter would’ve learned that he had to punish Canada’s back line, an untested group he didn’t test last month. So while it turned some heads that Gyasi Zardes and Paul Arriola got start over Josh Sargent and Tyler Boyd, they combined with Jordan Morris to bring industry in spades.

It also helped that Weston McKennie was much better, and that Sergino Dest and John Brooks were available, but credit Berhalter for flipping the script after October’s Ontario humiliation. While his seven changes to the lineup were an exaggerated change — he certainly would’ve preferred to play injured Michael Bradley and Christian Pulisic — but it’s good to see the coach recognize the errors of his ways.

Gyasi Zardes flummoxes most of the USMNT fandom

Look: It seemed like next level trolling when Gregg Berhalter called upon his longtime Columbus Crew striker to start over Josh Sargent, but it turned out to be a risk well-rewarded.

The athletic, powerful American striker was a handful for the aforementioned, overmatched back line.

Yes his second goal was deflected past Milan Borjan, and no he’s never going to be the club’s best striker. But considering how often many of us have criticized the continued call-ups of Zardes, he’ll be having an ice cold pint water of water and clinking glasses with Berhalter after the match.

Dest delivers

Ajax right back Sergino Dest is now an American player (“Sandlot” voice) for-ev-er, and the recently-minted 19-year-old was absolute dynamite going forward.

Dest presents a variety of 1v1 moves, as evidenced on a lightning counter that finished short of a goal when he dragged a shot wide of the far post.

If there was any question that the Yanks scored a victory in getting him to commit to the U.S., he answered them all positively. Good on you, Earnie Stewart and Berhalter.

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.

Four things we learned: Liverpool v. Tottenham

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LIVERPOOL — Jurgen Klopp‘s boys regained their six-point lead atop the Premier League table as they fought back from 1-0 down to beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 at Anfield on Sunday, as the Reds are still unbeaten.

Harry Kane gave Tottenham the lead after 47 seconds to stun Anfield, and although Liverpool peppered the Spurs goal in the first half, Paulo Gazzaniga was in inspired form to stop Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Virgil Van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold. In a feisty encounter tempers often boiled over as the repeat of the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League final didn’t disappoint.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

At the start of the second half Spurs almost went 2-0 up as Heung-Min Son rounded Alisson but his shot clipped off the crossbar, and then Liverpool pinned Spurs back further. Gazzaniga twice denied Firmino at the near post but he could do nothing to deny Jordan Henderson who popped up at the back post to make it 1-1.

Georginio Wijnaldum then missed a glorious chance for Liverpool as the Reds piled on the pressure and Spurs occasionally threatened on the break. Serge Aurier then clipped Sadio Mane in the box to give away a penalty kick as Mohamed Salah scored the winner to extend Liverpool’s lead to second-place Man City to six points. Spurs went close through Danny Rose, Son and Kane late on, but Liverpool held on to stay unbeaten.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Here’s a look at what we learned from a dramatic encounter at Anfield.


Man of the Match: Paulo Gazzaniga – Stepping in for the injured Hugo Lloris, the young Argentine goalkeeper was superb as he made a string of fine stops in the first half to keep Spurs ahead. He was confident in possession and when Spurs’ defense was all over the place ahead of him, Gazzaniga kept his cool. The man from Pochettino’s hometown of Murphy, Argentina stood tall on the big stage, even if he couldn’t help his team grab a point.


LIVERPOOL’S INCREDIBLE RUN CONTINUES

Liverpool last lost a Premier League game on January 3 and that is their only defeat in their last 49 games in the competition. They are unbeaten through the first 10 games of the season and they fought back to beat Spurs with another gritty, committed display. Klopp’s side have been far from their best for most of this season but they sit top of the table and the way they dug deep, stayed patient and beat Tottenham proved that they are confident they can go all the way this season. They just aren’t used to losing and like the draw at Man United last week, they never know when they’re beaten. Especially at home as they’ve now gone 45 games unbeaten at Anfield, with Klopp leading the chorus of chants and cheers in the stands with his fist pumps on the sidelines.


KANE PROVIDES CUTTING EDGE FOR SPURS’ MIXED FOUR

Harry Kane produced a fine finish to put Spurs ahead but their front four didn’t click on Sunday. Kane and Son were dangerous throughout but Dele Alli was anonymous and Christian Eriksen had a nightmare. Son hit the bar twice and Kane was a constant menace but Alli and Eriksen look so short in confidence and Pochettino was pulling his hair out on the sidelines over some of their decisions on the ball and with their defensive positioning. These four have only started four games together in 2019 and it showed. They will take some time to get back to their best as a fluid unit. If they ever do.


LOVREN PROVES DOUBTERS RIGHT

Joel Matip has now become indispensable to Liverpool. Dejan Lovren was preferred over Joe Gomez at center back and he had another shaky display as he was caught out on Tottenham’s goal to start a poor performance. From getting beaten for pace by Kane and Son, to taking too much time in possession, every time Lovren got on the ball there was a sharp intake of breath among the home fans at Anfield. Matip and Virgil van Dijk are Liverpool’s preferred center back partnership and Gomez should now start ahead of Lovren.


GAZZANIGA PAPERS OVER POCHETTINO’S PROBLEMS

As we mentioned earlier, Gazzaniga was sublime. But the back four in front of him made sure he had plenty of work to do. Aurier and Danny Rose had tough outings, with both full backs caught out on Liverpool’s two goals. Spurs have tinkered with back threes and fours in recent weeks and Pochettino’s men just don’t seem to be able to defend as a unit. In truth, they should have lost by three or four on Sunday and the scoreline was kind to them. Gazzaniga’s brilliance papered over the cracks. Spurs have so much room for improvement  and the top four seems a long way off, as things stand.

Three things we learned: Man United v. Liverpool

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Manchester United and Liverpool played out a tense, absorbing clash at Old Trafford as Adam Lallana snatched a late point for the Premier League leaders.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Marcus Rashford‘s first half goal looked to be leading Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s injury-hit squad to a huge victory over their bitter rivals, but Jurgen Klopp‘s men dug deep to find a way to secure a point.

Here’s a look at what we learned from a nervy encounter.


VAR TAKES CENTER STAGE, GETS BIG MOMENT WRONG

After a Saturday which was dominated by big VAR calls, it was only fitting the big game of the weekend also saw VAR take center stage. Two key moments in the first half shaped this game, and one was incorrect. Rashford’s opener should have been chalked off after Divock Origi was fouled by Victor Lindelof in the build-up. VAR was used but didn’t overturn the goal, with Liverpool livid. As for the other big moment involving VAR, Sadio Mane’s goal just before half time was correctly ruled out. Without VAR, that goal would have stood because the replays clearly showed the Senegalese forward handled the ball and then scored.

We saw the best and worst of VAR on Sunday, and United were on the right side of the new technology. VAR is still far too subjective and the fact Premier League referees aren’t willing to head to the TV screen on the side of the pitch to double check their decisions is taking the decision out of their hands and leaving the decisions down to the subjective views of officials sat in front of a TV in Stockley Park. Fans and players won’t mind if a referee has a quick look on the TV screen to double check and the fact no penalty kick decision (which has been awarded) hasn’t been overturned shows that VAR officials aren’t keen to overturn a refs decision and signal for a ‘clear and obvious’ error.


MAN UNITED’S NEW FORMATION SHOULD STAY

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer caused a shock with a 3-5-2 formation and it worked a treat to lock down Liverpool’s wide players. This looked like a specialist formation to make United better defensively against a stunning attacking team, but they should use it more often. When you have full backs like Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw (when he’s back fit) you have to make the best of their strengths, and that is going forward.

Harry Maguire loves to maraud out of the back, and having two center backs alongside him gave him the license to do that. Midfield is still a problem area for United, but the trio of Marcus Rashford, Daniel James and Andreas Pereira and their movement made up for that with Rashford and James playing centrally unnerving Joel Matip and Virgil Van Dijk. The pressure and pace United’s attackers put on Liverpool’s defense meant United could push themselves higher up the pitch and Solskjaer got his tactics spot on, even if his young team tired and hung on for a draw.

Sometimes you stumble on the right system and Solskjaer should probably stick with these tactics going forward. Yes, United couldn’t hang on for the win, but they played much better than they had in recent weeks and with Pogba, Martial and Shaw to come back in, things will get better. It’s okay to tweak your tactical plan while staying in line with the masterplan. Solskjaer’s youngster did him proud.


NERVOUS LIVERPOOL MISSED SALAH

Liverpool’s winning streak came to an end at 17, as they failed to match Man City’s record for most consecutive Premier League wins and their 100 percent start to the season is over. In truth, they never looked like winning this game but they will bee happy with a point. Klopp cut a frustrated figure on the sidelines as Liverpool’s attack didn’t fire and they looked nervous in possession and made bizarre decisions in midfield. Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane had both been touted as Liverpool’s new leading men in attack, but they missed Mohamed Salah.

The Egyptian winger was out injured over the international break after Hamza Choudhury‘s late challenge on him two weeks ago, and although Salah’s form has been up and down this season Liverpool didn’t look the same without him. Adam Lallana got them out of jail late on after Firmino’s dummy and Klopp will be happy enough to grind out a point without playing well. Liverpool are six points clear at the top of the table and they’ve yet to get out of second gear this season. Man City will stay in touching distance and Klopp knows he needs Salah fit and back to his best to help Liverpool kick on in the winter months. Liverpool know they have to play much better than this if they’re going to win the Premier League title this season.

Three things we learned: Chelsea v. Liverpool

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LONDON — Liverpool beat Chelsea 2-1 at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, as Jurgen Klopp‘s men stay top of the Premier League table with a perfect record after six wins from six. 

First half goals from Trent Alexander-Arnold and Roberto Firmino set them on their way, with a disallowed goal for Chelsea, via VAR, causing plenty of debate. N’Golo Kante’s sublime strike in the second half set up a tense finish and Chelsea should have at least grabbed a point.

[ MORE: Match recap | Klopp reacts ]

Here’s what we learned from a dramatic encounter at Stamford Bridge.


VAR DELIVERS ALMIGHTY MOMENTUM SWING

In the space of about 60 first-half seconds Chelsea went from scoring a deserved equalizer to trailing 2-0. An almighty momentum swing was delivered, courtesy of VAR, and Chelsea never quite recovered. The fact Mason Mount‘s toe was offside made the pill even tougher to swallow, as just like the incident involving Heung-Min Son for Spurs at Leicester on Saturday, it knocked the stuffing out of Chelsea.

They had recovered after going 1-0 down to a piece of magic from Alexander-Arnold, but after prolonged celebrations following Cesar Apzilicueta’s ‘equalizer’ the moans and groans around the Bridge reflected how the home players felts as their shoulders slumped in unison. Premier League teams are still dealing with the momentum swings VAR decisions bring, and Chelsea’s youngster didn’t cope well with it at all. Initially.

In fairness, they roared back in the second half and should have grabbed a point from this game. But VAR is delivering the correct decisions, no matter how close the calls are, and players aren’t quite able to cope with the loss of momentum.


LIVERPOOL GRIND OUT YET ANOTHER WIN

Liverpool have now lost just once in their last 45 PL games, and are unbeaten in 23, their longest run in PL history. The last time they were unbeaten in 23 league games was back in 1990.

1990 was the last time they won the title.

It is now six wins from six this season and 15 victories Premier League victories in a row for Jurgen Klopp’s side. And just like the rest of this season, so far, Liverpool barely had to get out of second gear. That is the scary thing about this team.

The fact Jordan Henderson was barking at Alexander-Arnold for a slightly misplaced pass when Liverpool were 2-0 up tells you about the desire of this team. They aren’t happy with simply winning. They are becoming perfectionists and their five point lead atop the table feeds into that narrative. They are perfect six games in, and bigger tests than beating an inexperienced Chelsea side await. But the ease with which Liverpool are brushing aside their opponents is becoming all too familiar.

We are only six games into the season but Klopp’s side are a well-oiled machine who will push Manchester City all the way for the title once again. They were far from their best at Chelsea but they have a very handy habit of winning regardless of their performance.


DEFENSIVE ISSUES HOLDING CHELSEA BACK

Sure, Emerson Palmeri and Andreas Christensen went off injured in the first half and Antonio Rudiger is out, but the basic errors Chelsea are making continue to cost them. Lampard’s men could do nothing about TAA’s moments of magic from a free kick but to allow Firmino a free header six yards out is just not on. Chelsea have now conceded the second-highest number of goals (13) in the Premier League this season and unless they can somehow shore up their leaky defense a top four finish seems unlikely.

N’Golo Kante’s stunning strike gave the scoreline the look it deserved and his return from injury solidified midfield, as Liverpool’s famed speed on the counter barely surfaced. Chelsea are a work in progress under Lampard and the biggest area he has to work on is at the back. After creating numerous chances going forward, they won’t be worried about scoring goals this season. Keeping them out is their Achilles heel.

Lampard’s side were applauded off the field at the final whistle and the home fans are encouraged by the progress this young side is making. It wasn’t enough to get the past Liverpool, but if Chelsea can cut out silly defensive errors, the rest of their game is looking good.