Mane caps thrilling Liverpool fightback to sink Villa

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and Aston Villa’s Tyrone Mings during their Premier League match in Birmingham on Saturday. (Reuters)
Updated 03 November 2019

Mane caps thrilling Liverpool fightback to sink Villa

  • The Reds keep their six-point lead at the top of the Premier League over Manchester City
  • iverpool has not lost in the league since a 2-1 defeat to Manchester City in January.

BOURNEMOUTH, UK: Mane scored a stoppage-time winner as Liverpool came from the brink of defeat to beat Aston Villa 2-1 on Saturday and keep its six-point lead at the top of the Premier League over Manchester City.

Left-back Andy Robertson charged in from the flank to meet Mane’s cross in the 87th minute with Liverpool facing the imminent end of its unbeaten record in the league. Seven minutes later, Mane scored a dramatic second goal with a header.

Liverpool had earlier missed a succession of chances to level the game following Mahmoud “Trezeguet” Hassan’s goal for Villa.

The hosts snatched the lead in the 21st minute when Trezeguet reacted quickest to knock John McGinn’s cross past goalkeeper Alisson.

That was judged onside by video review, though it was close, but VAR took the opposite view when Roberto Firmino put the ball in the net for Liverpool shortly after.

After a lengthy review of Firmino beating Tyrone Mings to Sadio Mane’s cross, VAR showed Firmino’s right shoulder fractionally — and contentiously — offside.

The Premier League said on Twitter that VAR’s line was “aligned to his armpit, which was marginally ahead of the last Villa defender.” Firmino had been given offside by the assistant referee before the review.

Liverpool has not lost in the league since a 2-1 defeat to Manchester City in January.

Also on Saturday, Lionel Messi scored again but was helpless to prevent Barcelona conceding three goals in 7 minutes as Levante stormed to a surprise 3-1 victory in La Liga.

Messi converted a first-half penalty at the City of Valencia Stadium for his 6th goal in five games only for Levante to stun the defending champions with an incredible treble shortly after the hour.

Jose Campana and Borja Mayoral scored in the 61st and 63rd minutes before Nemanja Radoja added a third in the 68th to finish Barca off and give Real Madrid the chance to move top of the table later on Saturday. Levante climb to eighth.

After seven consecutive wins in all competitions, Barcelona arrived in Valencia as overwhelming favorites to cement their place at the summit, particularly given the irresistable form of Messi.

His goal here was the 500th of his career with his left foot and it looked likely to give Ernesto Valverde’s team another 3 points until bedlam ensued in the second half.

To make matters worse for Barca, Luis Suarez was forced off in the 41st minute with an injury to his right calf and would now appear to be a doubt for Tuesday’s Champions League game at home to Slavia Prague.

Levante started well and Barcelona were fortunate to escape a ragged few minutes that included Suarez being booked for a foul committed by Arthur Melo. Referee Hernandez Hernandez corrected his error after being made aware by VAR.

The chaos continued as Campana looked certain to score only for Clement Lenglet to make an excellent block before Gerard Pique and Arturo Vidal comically conceded a corner after leaving a bouncing ball for each other.

Barcelona settled, long periods of possession finding a successful outlet down the left where Nelson Semedo twice slipped Antoine Griezmann in behind right-back Jorge Miramon, who then conceded the penalty.

This time it was Semedo who broke clear and Miramon clipped the defender’s heal, allowing Messi to sweep the spot-kick high into the corner, even if replays suggested Griezmann had been offside in the build-up.

Suarez’s unfortunate half continued as he was replaced by Carles Perez and Messi might have made it two before half-time only for Miramon to win back some credit by clearing the Argentinian’s finish off the line.

Levante began the second half on the front foot but nobody could have predicted what was to follow as three Levante goals turned the game on its head.

First, Pique’s underhit clearance came straight back, as Mayoral and Jose Morales shifted the ball quickly inside to Campana who struck hard into the corner.

Then a loose Perez header allowed Mayoral space and he did brilliantly to curl past the outstretched right hand of Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

With the home fans still celebrating, Radoja made it three. Barcelona again failed to clear and Radoja’s effort might have been saved had Sergio Busquets, on as a substitute, not shot out his right leg and caused a cruel deflection.

Messi thought he had launched a comeback when he bundled through and scored but the goal was ruled out after Griezmann was spotted to have been offside.

That seemed to kill Barca’s belief and, if anything, Levante should have made it four late on. Gonzalo Melero had only Ter Stegen to beat but shot wide.

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Southgate to bring Sterling back from England exile

Updated 17 November 2019

Southgate to bring Sterling back from England exile

  • World Cup semifinalists ‘still have room for improvement as they chase first major title since 1966’

PRISTINA:  Gareth Southgate is set to bring Raheem Sterling back from his brief England exile in Sunday’s qualifier against Kosovo as he seeks to end the controversy over the Manchester City star’s row with Joe Gomez.

Sterling was dropped for Thursday’s 7-0 rout of Montenegro after clashing with England team-mate Gomez in the Three Lions’ training base canteen.

It is believed Sterling was unhappy with Gomez following an altercation with the Liverpool defender during City’s Premier League defeat at Anfield last weekend.

Although Sterling was left out of the Montenegro game as punishment for his attack on Gomez, Southgate has confirmed the winger will return for England’s final Group A fixture.

Sterling and Gomez, left with a scratch under his eye after the incident, are said to have patched up their relationship, but the center-back was jeered by England fans at Wembley when he came on as a substitute against Montenegro.

Both Southgate and Sterling expressed their support for Gomez and criticized the booing supporters, with the England manager reportedly comforting the shocked 22-year-old and his family after the match.

Now Southgate could include Gomez against Kosovo in a show of support for the Liverpool player.

With England already guaranteed to qualify for Euro 2020 in first place in their group, Southgate already planned to make changes, although he is keen to ensure England finish with a win as they eye a top-six seeding in next year’s tournament.

“We will make some changes, for sure, but the seeding in the group could be critical and we know it’s a big night for the Kosovans,” Southgate said.

“It’s a shame for them that they’re now out of this part of the qualification, although they’ve still got the playoffs in which I think they’ll be a huge threat in that format. “So, it will be a good test for us because it will still be a lively environment.

“The enthusiasm for the game is high and we want to finish the group with as many points as we can.”

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson could return following a one-match ban, while Southgate has to decide whether to keep faith with Ben Chilwell ahead of Danny Rose at left-back.

Harry Kane may have scored a hat-trick against Montenegro but it was Leicester’s Chilwell who was named England’s man of the match following a fine display in which he provided three assists in the opening 24 minutes.

“Ben, I liked the hunger in his game, the enthusiasm to get forward,” Southgate said.

“The whole team pressed well but he also pressed well from that full-back position, got into overlaps, his quality of delivery was excellent.”

Although England have cruised through their qualifying group, Southgate believes the 2018 World Cup semifinalists still have room for improvement as they chase a first major title since 1966.

“There were a couple of chances we conceded that just shouldn’t happen, so that’s still part of our game that we’ve got to improve upon,” he said.

“If we are to be a team that are going to challenge seriously, although we’re young, we’ve got to manage games well.

“We’ve got to make sure that, although we’re such a fantastic attacking threat, the rest of the team is right as well. There are things we’ve got to be better at.”