Man City’s Gundogan Wants EPL Title Given To Liverpool

Manchester City’s German midfielder Ilkay Gundogan (L) vies for the ball with Basel’s Czech defender Marek Suchy during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg football match between Basel and Manchester City at the Saint Jakob-Park Stadium in Basel on February 13, 2018.
Patrick HERTZOG / AFP

 

Liverpool should be awarded the Premier League title if the season cannot be completed due to the coronavirus pandemic, says Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan.

Jurgen Klopp’s men were a tantalising two wins away from their first league crown since 1990 when the season was suspended earlier this month.

The shutdown is currently due to last until April 30. Premier League chiefs are due to meet on Friday, with no indications of when football will resume.

Gundogan, whose side trail Liverpool by 25 points, told German broadcaster ZDF that if the season could not be finished, Klopp’s side deserved the title.

“It would be OK for me,” he said. “As a sportsman you have to be fair.”

The 29-year-old German international, who has won the Premier League title with City for the past two seasons, said it was unlikely that he and his teammates could resume training at the end of April.

“Honestly, I can’t imagine (that happening) and also, I don’t know how realistic it is,” he said.

Figures on Sunday revealed that 1,228 people with coronavirus have died in Britain. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is among more than 19,500 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.

president of European football’s governing body UEFA, said on Saturday that the 2019/20 campaign could be “lost” if it could not be restarted by the end of June.

Gundogan conceded that Premier League chiefs were faced with a difficult choice.

“There are different opinions,” he said. “For clubs who have had a very good season, it obviously wouldn’t be nice if it was cancelled now.

“On the other hand, for clubs who aren’t doing as well and are maybe in the relegation places, an abandonment would obviously suit them.”

Cancellation would have a knock-on effect on the second-tier English Championship, with both Leeds United and West Brom occupying the two automatic promotion places.

Gundogan said he would be willing to take a pay cut if English clubs followed the examples of Serie A leaders Juventus and his former club Borussia Dortmund.

“Of course I think it’s OK, that goes without saying — (but) there’s been no discussion in England yet,” he said.

AFP

EPL: Liverpool Left To Wait And Wonder After Virus Strikes

Liverpool’s German manager Jurgen Klopp gestures from the sidelines during the English FA Cup fourth round football match between Shrewsbury Town and Liverpool at the Montgomery Waters Meadow Stadium in Shrewsbury, north-west of Birmingham in England on January 26, 2020. Anthony Devlin / AFP

 

Liverpool could have been crowned Premier League champions on Monday for the first time in a generation at the home of local rivals Everton. Instead, the stadium will be silent.

Jurgen Klopp’s team would have needed Manchester City to lose to Burnley on Saturday to have given them a chance to seal the deal at Goodison Park.

Regardless of whether it would have happened on Monday or over the coming weeks, Liverpool’s first top-flight title for 30 years was a mere formality.

But now fans are wondering when, or even if, they will be crowned champions after the coronavirus laid waste to the global sporting calendar.

The message coming from Liverpool is that there are more important issues than football to talk about, even with the club tantalisingly close to glory.

“I’ve said before that football always seems the most important of the least important things,” Klopp said in a statement on Friday.

“Today, football and football matches really aren’t important at all.

“If it’s a choice between football and the good of the wider society, it’s no contest. Really, it isn’t.”

Klopp’s stance won him the support of World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who thanked him for his “powerful message”.

Liverpool supporters, desperate to reclaim their position at the pinnacle of the English game, agree with their German manager, saying the pandemic overshadows football.

Supporters’ union Spirit of Shankly is focusing on the damaging fallout from the COVID-19 virus.

“In talks with @lfc we asked for assurances that non-playing staff will not lose their pay as a consequence of shifts being cancelled,” it said in a statement.

“We also need to keep in mind those most vulnerable. Cancelling football games means (foodbanks) will be hit hard.”

– Deserving winners –

Liverpool have stumbled in recent weeks, knocked out of the Champions League by Atletico Madrid and dumped out of the FA Cup by Chelsea.

But they have been peerless in the Premier League, leaving their rivals in their wake to race 25 points clear of defending champions Manchester City.

With Alisson Becker in goal, Virgil van Dijk marshalling the defence and their devastating front three of Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, Klopp’s men have been irresistible.

Paul Hayward, writing in the Daily Telegraph, said Liverpool should be crowned champions for the 19th time even if no more games are played.

“If a season ends too soon, its natural winning line is the point it reached before the halt was called: emphatically so, 29 games into a 38-match campaign, which is a respectable distance,” he wrote.

“‘Voiding’ the 2019/20 football season would be nonsense,” he added. “Handing over the trophy at any point where clubs were forced to give up would feel morally correct.”

Brighton and Hove Albion chief executive Paul Barber said if the season were to be “frozen” it would be unjust on Liverpool.

“Everybody in the game appreciates what a fantastic season they’ve had and what a wonderful team they are,” he told the BBC.

“But equally it would be unjust for teams to be relegated when there are still eight, nine, ten games to play of the Premier League.”

But West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady said if the fixtures could not be completed, the only fair solution would be to declare the season “null and void”.

Writing in the Sun, Brady, whose club are just two places above the relegation zone, said: “Who knows who would have gone down or come up if the games have not actually been played in full?

“A huge blow to Liverpool, who might be robbed of their first title in 30 years.”

Nobody knows when football will return but, when it finally does, many in the game hope Liverpool are given the chance to complete their long journey back to the top.

AFP

Van Dijk Fears Liverpool Will Win Title In Empty Stadium

Liverpool’s Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk acknowledges supporters during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Huddersfield at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on April 26, 2019. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Virgil Van Dijk fears Liverpool will be forced to celebrate their first English title for 30 years in an empty stadium as a result of coronavirus chaos.

All Premier League games have been postponed until at least April 3 due to the spread of the global pandemic.

Premier League chiefs are set to meet on Thursday to discuss if it will be possible to continue the season and, if so, in what format.

Games could be played behind closed doors, which would mean Liverpool, who are 25 points clear of second placed Manchester City, winning the title without their fans being present.

That is a depressing prospect for Liverpool defender Van Dijk.

“If we won it in an empty stadium and the fans weren’t there, I’d be gutted for them,” he told several British newspapers on Sunday.

“Obviously, if there are no fans at Anfield, then it will be a bit of a blow. No one wants to play games without the fans.

READ ALSO: Liverpool Vs Atletico Madrid: It Doesn’t Feel Right Losing – Klopp Admits

“Until a decision is made on how we go on from here, then we just have to deal with it. But when it happens, we are still bringing the title to our fans, definitely.”

Liverpool could have wrapped up the title on Monday with a win at Everton if Manchester City were beaten by Burnley on Saturday, but both those games were postponed, along with the rest of the Premier League programme.

Some have suggested the season should be scrapped for safety reason, which would leave Premier League chiefs to decide if Liverpool should be given the title even though the campaign did not reach its scheduled 38-game conclusion.

Sport is expected to be subjected to further restrictions next week, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson reportedly ready to announce a ban on major public gatherings.

The sporting programme has once again been decimated on Sunday, although the Super League match between Castleford and St Helens, the All England badminton Championship and Olympic boxing qualifiers are still going ahead in Britain.

AFP

Llorente Double Stuns Liverpool To Take Atletico Into Quarter-Final

Atletico Madrid’s Spanish midfielder Marcos Llorente (R) celebrates scoring his team’s second goal during the UEFA Champions league Round of 16 second leg football match between Liverpool and Atletico Madrid at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on March 11, 2020. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Atletico Madrid ended Liverpool’s defence of the Champions League on Wednesday as Marcos Llorente’s double and Alvaro Morata’s late strike stunned Anfield with a 3-2 win after extra time to progress 4-2 on aggregate.

The holders looked to have ended Atletico’s dogged resistence when Roberto Firmino put them ahead in the tie after Georginio Wijnaldum’s first-half header forced the game into an extra 30 minutes.

However, Liverpool were made to rue a host of missed chances to kill the tie off in 90 minutes as Llorente twice curled home from outside the box before Morata twisted the knife by breaking away to score in added time of extra time.

Defeat ends Jurgen Klopp’s proud record of never losing a two-legged European tie as Liverpool manager.

However, it remains to be seen if and when the last eight will even be able to take place due to the chaos caused across the continent by the new coronavirus.

A packed Anfield played its part in trying to roar Liverpool onto another famous Champions League conquest as, unlike in numerous countries across Europe, no restrictions have so far been put on supporters attending games in the United Kingdom.

But it was the nearly 3,000 travelling fans in attendance, despite the fact games in Spain will be played behind closed doors for the next two weeks, that celebrated a stoic rearguard display from their side.

The European champions did not manage a single shot on target in a 1-0 defeat in Madrid three weeks ago, but Jan Oblak was quickly put to work.

Wijnaldum’s flicked header offered a warning for Atletico of what was to come before Oblak parried Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s driven effort.

Just as the Spaniards thought the job was half done with no damage done, Wijnaldum’s powerful downward header left Oblak with no chance two minutes before the break.

 Oblak keeps Liverpool at bay 

The goal did not change Atletico’s approach as they played a risky game and relied on Oblak to keep them in the game.

The Slovenian saved from Mohamed Salah, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Firmino as Liverpool missed a number of chances that ultimately came back to cost them.

Andy Robertson came closest to the knockout blow with a close-range header that came back off the bar before he, Mane and Salah all fired over.

Atletico thought they had stolen the tie with the last touch of the 90 minutes when Saul Niguez headed home a free-kick, but the Spanish international was flagged offside to send the tie to an extra 30 minutes.

Despite Liverpool being on the brink of a first Premier League title in 30 years, their number nine Firmino had not scored at home all season until four minutes into extra-time.

The Brazilian’s header from Wijnaldum’s cross came back off the post and perfectly back into his path to slot home with Oblak grounded.

However, no sooner had Liverpool gone in front for the first time in the tie than Atletico hit back with a sucker-punch.

The visitors had barely tested stand-in Liverpool goalkeeper Adrian, but the loss of Alisson Becker to a hip injury eventually proved Liverpool’s downfall.

Adrian fired a simple clearance straight to Joao Felix, who fed Llorente and he found the bottom corner.

Llorente had joined Atletico from bitter rivals Real Madrid in a controversial move in June.

But the man whose father and great uncle, Francisco Gento, also played for Real, made himself a Rojiblanco hero with a second that secured Atletico’s place in the last eight with another precise low finish in added time at the end of the first half of extra time.

Another former Real player Morata then sealed a famous win as Liverpool were caught on the counter-attack to lose at home in the Champions League for the first time since October 2014.

Liverpool Bounce Back To Beat Bournemouth

Liverpool’s Senegalese striker Sadio Mane (L) celebrates with Liverpool’s Brazilian midfielder Roberto Firmino (R) and Liverpool’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah scoring his team’s second goal during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Bournemouth at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on March 7, 2020.
GEOFF CADDICK / AFP

 

Liverpool recovered from back-to-back defeats and conceding the opening goal on Saturday with a 2-1 win over Bournemouth to move to within three wins of ending a 30-year wait for the Premier League title.

Callum Wilson’s controversial early opener sent shockwaves around Anfield after a run of three defeats in four games in all competitions.

However, the prolific duo of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane quickly turned the game around and a heroic goal-line clearance from James Milner in the second half secured the win to open a 25-point lead at the top of the table.

Jurgen Klopp’s decision to make seven changes for Tuesday’s 2-0 defeat at Chelsea in the FA Cup had been questioned as Liverpool lost the chance to build some momentum heading into a big week.

READ ALSO: Esperance Fail To Win Third Consecutive CAF Champions League Title

Atletico Madrid visit fortress Anfield in the Champions League on Tuesday hoping to defend a 1-0 first-leg lead and despite the enormity of that clash, Klopp only rested Andy Robertson although first-choice goalkeeper Alisson Becker was also sidelined by a hip injury.

The spread of coronavirus could have a big impact on the Reds’ title celebrations in the weeks to come with the possibility of games being played behind closed doors. But the abandonment of the normal pre-match ritual of handshakes was the only disruption to the Premier League calendar this weekend.

Liverpool’s dip in form has coincided with a lack of clean sheets for Klopp’s men after a run of 10 in 11 league games between early December and mid-February.

The hosts’ backline was breached again after just nine minutes, although Klopp was rightly furious that VAR did not intervene to disallow the goal.

Joe Gomez was knocked off balance by Wilson to start the move and the Bournemouth striker then had the simple task of tapping home Jefferson Lerma’s cross.

The defeat leaves the Cherries still in the bottom three. They were left to rue not making even more of a bright start as stand-in goalkeeper Adrian turned over Nathan Ake’s powerful header.

Bournemouth played a large part in their own downfall and settled Liverpool’s nerves when substitute Jack Simpson gifted possession to Mane in a dangerous position. Despite a poor pass from the Senegalese, Salah steered the ball into the bottom corner to mark his 100th Premier League appearance for the club in style.

Eight minutes later, Liverpool led when Bournemouth again gave the ball away cheaply. Virgil van Dijk released Mane in behind and he kept his cool to slot into the far corner.

The champions-elect still needed a brilliant clearance from Milner to secure all three points as he sprinted back to clear Ryan Fraser’s lob over the stranded Adrian on the hour.

Wilson and Ake also passed up a huge chance to level in the final minute.

However, Liverpool could easily have had more goals. Mane curled a brilliant long-range effort off the bar and Roberto Firmino fired over with a glorious chance for his first league goal at Anfield this season.

AFP

Liverpool Suffer Second Defeat As Chelsea Advance To FA Cup Quarter-Finals

Referee Chris Kavanagh (C) shows a yellow card to Liverpool’s Brazilian midfielder Fabinho (2R) during the English FA Cup fifth round football match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge in London on March 3, 2020. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

 

Chelsea inflicted a third defeat in four games on Liverpool to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals as goals from Willian and Ross Barkley gave Frank Lampard’s men a much-needed lift at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

Liverpool remain well on course for a first league title in 30 years with a 22-point lead at the top of the Premier League, but run the risk of their competitive campaign coming to an early end once the title is sewn up unless they can overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League next week.

Jurgen Klopp made seven changes to the Liverpool side beaten for the first time in 45 Premier League games at Watford on Saturday, but still named a far stronger side than the youthful teams that had seen off Everton and Shrewsbury to reach the fifth round.

The European champions seemed keen to make amends and keep their chances of a treble alive early on, but were denied by the returning Kepa Arrizabalaga in the Chelsea goal as the first of a string of saves from the Spaniard denied Sadio Mane.

The return of the world’s most expensive goalkeeper was one of six Lampard made from a 2-2 weekend draw at Bournemouth with Willian also coming back into the team.

A run of five wins in 16 league games and a 3-0 thrashing at home by Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie last week meant the pressure was on Chelsea to keep their hopes of silverware this season alive.

And they got the lift they needed from the opening goal as Liverpool’s understudy goalkeeper Adrian undid the good work of a brilliant save from Willian within a minute.

The Brazilian was gifted possession again just outside the Liverpool box and this time Adrian could only turn his powerful drive into the bottom corner.

The hosts needed Kepa to show why they spent £72 million ($92 million) on him just over 18 months ago as he made three reaction saves in a matter of seconds to deny Mane, Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino what seemed a certain equaliser.

Chelsea then lost Mateo Kovacic and Willian to injury either side of half-time to further deplete Lampard’s midfield options.

But that may provide the opportunity Barkley needs to kickstart his flagging career at the Bridge.

The England international doubled Chelsea’s lead in spectacular style midway through the second half as he galloped forward from inside his own half, leaving Fabinho in his wake, before smashing past Adrian from outside the area.

Moments later Chelsea should have been out of sight as a mix-up in the Liverpool defence allowed Pedro Rodriguez to run clean through on goal. The 32-year-old does not have the pace of his prime at Barcelona, though, and with Gomez closing in, he fired too close to Adrian.

Klopp threw on Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah, and James Milner in the final 20 minutes, but the German is yet to win a domestic cup competition in his five seasons at Anfield and that wait will go on.

Despite the changes, it was Chelsea who continued to look the more likely team to score again as Adrian produced a brilliant save to turn Olivier Giroud’s strike onto the bar.

AFP

African Players In Europe: Sarr Sparkles As Watford Stun Liverpool

Watford’s Senegalese midfielder Ismaila Sarr (C) celebrates. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

 

Ismaila Sarr overshadowed fellow Senegalese Sadio Mane by scoring twice as lowly Watford won 3-0 to end the 44-match unbeaten Premier League streak of runaway leaders Liverpool.

Mane has been among the key figures as the Reds march toward a first league title in three decades, but he had to take a back seat at Vicarage Road as Sarr blossomed.

His pace and trickery unsettled Liverpool and he was rewarded with two goals before setting up Troy Deeney for the third.

ENGLAND

ISMAILA SARR (Watford)

The Hornets’ record signing was up against his idol Mane and stabbed home the opener at the near post and then showed his pace and poise to chip Alisson Becker for Watford’s second. Sarr then turned provider for the third as he teed up Deeney to complete a famous win that lifted Watford out of the bottom three.

JORDAN AYEW (Crystal Palace)

Ayew scored the only goal as Palace got the better of rivals Brighton to ease any fear of being dragged into a relegation battle. The Ghanaian’s strike took his league tally for the season to seven — matching his best tally for a single campaign in England.

MBWANA SAMATTA (Aston Villa)

Samatta did Tanzania proud by scoring in the League Cup final against Manchester City, but his diving header at the near post just before half-time was merely a consolation for Villa as City won 2-1 to lift the trophy for a third straight season.

SPAIN

YOUSSEF EN-NESYRI (Sevilla)

En-Nesyri scored a 93rd-minute winner as Sevilla beat Osasuna 3-2 to move up to third in La Liga. The Moroccan striker, who joined Sevilla from Leganes in January, opened the scoring with a guided shot into the corner before Lucas Ocampos made it two on the stroke of half-time. Osasuna came back in the second half through goals from Aridane and Roberto Torres, only for En-Nesyri to snatch victory for Sevilla in injury-time with a close-range finish.

GERMANY

RAMY BENSEBAINI (Borussia Moenchengladbach)

Algerian Bensebaini scored a crucial early goal for Moenchengladbach as they beat Augsburg 3-2 to keep pace with the top of the Bundesliga table. Bensebaini, in his first start in 2020 after returning from injury, headed home a cross from Lars Stindl to put the visitors 1-0 up. When asked how it felt to be back in the Foals’ line-up after the match, he simply replied “it was fun”.

ACHRAF HAKIMI (Borussia Dortmund)

Having made his name as one of Dortmund’s best going forward this season, the Real Madrid loanee was called on to do more than his fair share of defending against a stubborn Freiburg side. Working on the edge of a four-man midfield, Hakimi’s pace was valuable during the 1-0 win as he snuffed out several Freiburg counter attacks. He did have a shot on goal deflected in the dying stages but was unable to add to his tally of two Bundesliga goals this season.

FRANCE

STEPHANE BAHOKEN (Angers)

The Cameroon striker was rewarded with a start for his team at Brest after coming off the bench against Montpellier last weekend and scoring the winner a minute later. He delivered again in Brest, although he needed a full 43 minutes to bag the only goal of the match this time.

MAX-ALAIN GRADEL (Toulouse)

Ivory Coast winger Gradel, 32, returned to the Toulouse starting line-up last weekend for the first time in a Ligue 1 game since early December following injury. He kept his place and wore the captain’s armband but could not prevent the division’s bottom side from going down 2-0 at home to Rennes. They have now taken just a single point from their last 17 league games and are heading fast towards relegation.

KARL TOKO-EKAMBI (Lyon)

Cameroon forward Toko-Ekambi, who joined Lyon on loan from Villarreal in January, came off the bench and contributed to their 2-0 win over derby rivals Saint-Etienne. Having earlier had a goal disallowed for offside, he won the late penalty which Moussa Dembele scored to seal the victory. Toko-Ekambi had started the 1-0 Champions League last-16, first leg win over Juventus in midweek and hit the bar in the first half against the Italians.

AFP

Klopp Seeks Lessons From Watford Defeat

Liverpool's German manager Jurgen Klopp (L) and Liverpool's Scottish defender Andrew Robertson react at the final whistle during the English Premier League football match between Watford and Liverpool at Vicarage Road Stadium in Watford, north of London on February 29, 2020. Justin TALLIS / AFP
Liverpool’s German manager Jurgen Klopp (L) and Liverpool’s Scottish defender Andrew Robertson react at the final whistle during the English Premier League football match between Watford and Liverpool at Vicarage Road Stadium in Watford, north of London on February 29, 2020. Justin TALLIS / AFP

 

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp hopes his side’s stunning 3-0 defeat at Watford will serve as a lesson not to let their standards slip in the final few months of the season.

The Reds are still well on course for a first league title in 30 years with a commanding 22-point lead at the top of the table.

But they were beaten for the first time in 45 Premier League games and in comprehensive fashion at Vicarage Road as Ismaila Sarr’s double and Troy Deeney’s measured finish completed a famous win for Watford.

“Of course sometimes a little knock is important,” said Klopp. “So I don’t see anything negative in it. From time to time if you are not good enough you need to see effect.”

Liverpool need a maximum of four wins from their last 10 games to guarantee the title but could still go on to win five trophies this season.

The Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup have already been claimed, while Klopp’s men travel to Chelsea in the FA Cup fifth round on Tuesday and trail Atletico Madrid 1-0 from the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

“We can start again with whatever we did before, and we will,” said Klopp. “We cannot say now we will react in this way or that. We have to show it in the next games.”

Dejan Lovren was one of those blamed by the Liverpool support for a rare defeat as Deeney relished the battle with the Croatian international.

And Lovren is also hoping a “wake-up call” inspires Liverpool in the final stages of the season.

“Maybe it is a wake-up call for us,” he said. “It can be a benefit to help us get to the end of the season.

“We know there is always an end for everything. It is here where our unbeaten run ended. We will not look at this result and think it was a bad season because of losing here. One performance won’t ruin everything, but this is always a learning process.

“The last couple of games hadn’t been the best performances but we won. This one, it didn’t happen. This one was like someone hit us in our faces — and we deserved it.”

 

AFP

PHOTOS: Watford’s Moments In 3-0 Triumph Over Liverpool

Watford’s Senegalese midfielder Ismaila Sarr (R) scores his team’s second goal past Liverpool’s Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson Becker during the English Premier League football match at Vicarage Road Stadium in Watford, north of London on February 29, 2020. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

 

 

Relegation-threatened side Watford heaved a sigh of relief on Saturday after their 3-0 win over English Premier League leaders Liverpool.

It seemed like another sad day for The Hornets when they hosted Jurgen Klopp’s side at the Vicarage Road Stadium in Watford.

The match had ended in a goalless draw after half time before Ismaila Sarr grabbed the lead for the hosts just nine minutes after the restart.

Sarr made it two six minutes later while Troy Deeney extended the lead in the 72nd minute to end Liverpool’s unbeaten run.

READ ALSO: Relegation-Threatened Watford End Liverpool’s Unbeaten Run

Liverpool fell to Watford, who went into the game sitting 19th on the table, after winning 26 of their last 27 league matches with one draw.

It was the first time the Champions League title holders would be defeated in the Premier League since January 2019.

Despite the loss, Klopp’s men still enjoy a 22-point lead at the top of the table, although their sluggish return from a two-week winter break earlier in February was finally punished.

Some of the moments of the match are captured in the pictures below:

UPDATED: Relegation-Threatened Watford End Liverpool’s Unbeaten Run

Watford’s Senegalese midfielder Ismaila Sarr (2R) scores the team’s first goal during the English Premier League football match between Watford and Liverpool at Vicarage Road Stadium in Watford, north of London on February 29, 2020. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

 

 

English Premier League leaders Liverpool ended their unbeaten run after they fell to 19th-placed rivals Watford on Saturday.

The match, which was Liverpool’s 28th league game, ended 3-0 in favour of The Hornets.

Coach Jurgen Klopp’s side recorded their first defeat of the season after winning 26 of their last 27 league matches with one draw.

The match had ended in a goalless draw in half time before Ismaila Sarr’s double and Troy Deeney’s strike, all in less than 20 minutes, dashed Liverpool’s hopes of winning the title unbeaten unlike ‘The Invisibles’ of 2003-04 season.

It was the first time the Champions League title holders would fall to a defeat in the Premier League since January 2019.

PHOTOS: Watford’s Moments In 3-0 Triumph Over Liverpool

Despite the loss, Klopp’s men still enjoy a 22-point lead at the top of the table, although their sluggish return from a two-week winter break earlier in February was finally punished.

 

The Big Win

After single-goal victories over struggling Norwich and West Ham either side of a Champions League defeat at Atletico Madrid, Liverpool were thrashed by a relegation-threatened side at Vicarage Road.

A 55-point gap separated the sides before kick-off, but the out-of-sorts visitors failed to muster even a single effort on goal in the first 45 minutes.

Gerard Deulofeu’s dipping effort just did not come down in time as it landed on the roof of the net before he teed up Abdoulaye Doucoure, who saw his shot deflected behind by Virgil van Dijk.

Deulofeu then had to be stretchered off with a nasty looking knee injury that seems certain to end his season.

Watford’s heads did not drop without one of their most dangerous players, though, as only Alisson Becker’s fleetness of foot allowed the Brazilian international to save from Deeney deep into first-half stoppage time.

Andy Robertson’s driven effort finally forced Ben Foster into a save early in the second half, but just as Liverpool were beginning to build up a head of steam, they were stung by two quick strikes by Sarr.

Firstly, the Senegalese beat Robertson to Doucoure’s low cross to stab home at the near post.

Six minutes later, Sarr had too much pace for a flat-footed Liverpool defence as he raced onto Deeney’s through ball and showed fantastic composure to lift the ball over the advancing Alisson.

Sarr also had a big part to play in Watford’s third as he pounced on a short passback and had the vision to pick out Deeney, who lofted the ball nonchalantly over Alisson to make it 3-0.

Watford had thrown away a lead in three of their last four Premier League games to fall back into the bottom three.

But they never looked in any danger of doing so again as they moved back out of the relegation zone on goal difference.

Sarr should even have had a famous hat-trick with his final touch as he curled wide when one-on-one with Alisson.

However, that was the only gloss missing from a glorious night for Watford as Liverpool remain four wins away from the title.

AFP

Liverpool Rake In $54m Profit Despite Transfer Spending

Liverpool flag

 

Premier League leaders Liverpool made a pre-tax profit of £42 million ($54 million) last year despite a record £223 million investment on players, figures showed on Thursday.

While that top line is well below the record £125 million profit for the year ending May 2018, the rewards are being felt on the pitch, with the club just four victories away from winning their first league title in 30 years.

Figures released for the financial year to May 31, 2019 incorporate the big-ticket purchases of Alisson Becker, Naby Keita, Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri.

They also include the increased costs of new contracts for 11 players, including those for captain Jordan Henderson, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, who have all played a key role in helping Jurgen Klopp’s champions-elect establish a 22-point lead at the top of the table.

Some of that cost was offset by sales including Danny Ings, Dominic Solanke and Danny Ward.

Income was also boosted by the club’s success in winning a sixth Champions League title, although as victory in the final in Madrid came in June the prize money will be counted in the current financial year.

“This continued strengthening of the underlying financial sustainability of the club is enabling us to make significant investments both in player recruitment and infrastructure,” said chief operating officer Andy Hughes.

“Being able to reinvest over £220 million on players during this financial period is a result of a successful business strategy, particularly the significant uplift in commercial revenues.”

Turnover increased during the period by £78 million to £533 million. Media revenues and commercial revenues were significantly higher and match revenue was also up.

The rise is a result of a new Champions League broadcasting deal, finishing a close second to Manchester City in the Premier League and higher partnership and merchandising value, with Liverpool signing their first training kit sponsorship deal with AXA.

“What we’re seeing is sustained growth across all areas of the club which is aligned to the recent performance on the pitch,” said Hughes.

“Since this reporting period we have continued to reinvest in the club’s infrastructure, and we look forward to the opening of our new (£50 million) training base at Kirkby ahead of the new season, which will provide first-class facilities for our players and staff.

“We have also just completed a second-phase consultation on a proposed expansion of the Anfield Road stand, which could see an increase in the stadium’s capacity.”

AFP

Van Dijk Praises Liverpool’s Mental Strength

Liverpool’s Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk acknowledges supporters during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Huddersfield at Anfield in Liverpool, north-west England on April 26, 2019. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Virgil van Dijk says Liverpool’s ability to stay calm under pressure is the key to their astonishing Premier League title charge after they came from behind to beat West Ham 3-2.

Jurgen Klopp’s side are 22 points ahead of second-placed Manchester City and need just four more wins to guarantee to win their first top-flight title for 30 years.

Despite the huge points gap, Liverpool have had to overcome some threats to their season-long unbeaten record in recent weeks.

They were 2-1 down to the Hammers on Monday with 22 minutes to go while they beat Norwich with a solitary 78th-minute goal earlier this month.

Defender Van Dijk praised the mental strength of his teammates, who have won 26 and drawn just one of their 27 Premier League matches.

“Not being nervous, that is the main thing,” he said. “Keep going and keep playing and keep pressing. There will be moments when the opponent is going to have problems if we keep doing the same thing.

“They (West Ham) were a little bit better in the second half than the beginning, they played quite well but I think not being nervous is the main thing.”

West Ham’s opening goal by Issa Diop was the first conceded at Anfield in 11 hours and 27 minutes.

“We all want the clean sheet, we all want eight goals, that is what every footballer wants but in reality sometimes you have difficult nights,” said the Dutch international.

“We had a difficult night but we kept our cool.”

Since returning from their mid-season break, Klopp’s side appear to have lacked some of their previous fluency, labouring to beat Norwich and West Ham and losing to Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie in Spain.

But Van Dijk said the time off had not dulled their fire.

“I think we should take advantage of the break we had,” he added. “Everyone had their time off, we all enjoyed it and we are all ready for the second part of the season.”

AFP