Liverpool’s Premier League title hopes hit by 2-0 loss to Everton. Man United survives another scare

Klopp had spoken last week of needing perfection to win his second title at the club. (Reuters)
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Updated 25 April 2024
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Liverpool’s Premier League title hopes hit by 2-0 loss to Everton. Man United survives another scare

  • Man. United came from behind twice to beat last-place Sheffield United 4-2.
  • Crystal Palace ensured top flight safety after 2-0 win against Newcastle

LIVERPOOL, England: Jurgen Klopp’s hopes of a dream send-off were left in tatters after a 2-0 loss at Everton dealt a major blow to Liverpool’s Premier League title bid on Wednesday.
Goals from Jarrad Branthwaite and Dominic Calvert-Lewin at Goodison Park meant Klopp tasted a bitter defeat in his last Merseyside derby before standing down at the end of the season.
The loss keeps Liverpool three points behind league leader Arsenal in second place and one ahead of defending champion Manchester City, which is in third and has two games in hand on both of its rivals.
Klopp had spoken last week of needing perfection to win his second title at the club. But this was the latest setback for his team, which has lost two of its last three games in the league.
While the result hurt Liverpool’s title chances, it delivered a boost to Everton’s survival bid, with the win moving Sean Dyche’s team eight points above the relegation zone.
That fact seemed to be of less concern to the home fans, who were too busy reveling in the damage caused to Liverpool’s season.
“You lost the league at Goodison Park,” they chanted as the final whistle approached and the majority of the 39,000 crowd remained inside the stadium to drink in the atmosphere as the players celebrated on the field.
Klopp had dominated this fixture since taking over at Anfield in 2015, winning nine of the past 16 derbies before Wednesday’s match.
Statistics showed Everton won 75 percent of all duels in the opening half hour, a league record for any top flight team this season.
After just six minutes, Liverpool was grateful for VAR as it escaped an early penalty when Alisson brought down Calvert-Lewin in the box and referee Andrew Madley pointed to the spot. The decision was overturned because of an offside in the build up.
That pressure was made to count when Everton took the lead in in the 27th. Liverpool’s defenders repeatedly failed to clear the danger from a free kick and Branthwaite’s shot squirmed through the hands of Alisson and off the post before crossing the line.
Again there was an agonizing wait for a VAR check, but on this occasion there was no reprieve for Liverpool.
Luis Diaz had the chance to level before the break, but was denied by the legs of Jordan Pickford from close range.
Liverpool came out with more intent for the second half without forcing Pickford into serious action before conceding a second goal.
Again the visitors failed to deal with a set piece when Dwight McNeil swung a deep corner to the far post and Calvert-Lewin rose unmarked to head home.
Liverpool came close to pulling one back in the 69th, but Diaz’s effort came back off the post.

United scare
Manchester United survived another scare — twice coming from behind to beat last-place Sheffield United 4-2.
Having been taken to the wire by second-tier Coventry in the FA Cup semifinals on Sunday, Erik ten Hag’s team looked in danger of dropping points in its bid qualify for Europe.
Sheffield United led 1-0 and then 2-1 through goals from Jayden Bogle and Ben Brereton in each half at Old Trafford. But Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes from the penalty spot leveled on each occasion.
Fernandes put United ahead in the 81st and and Rasmus Hojlund sealed the points four minutes later.
United is up to sixth in the standings, 13 points behind fourth-place Aston Villa.

Palace safe
Crystal Palace ensured top flight safety after Jean-Philippe Mateta struck twice in a 2-0 win against Newcastle.
Palace is on 39 points — 14 clear of 18th-place Luton, which can only pick up a maximum of 37 if it wins its last four games of the season.
It was Palace’s third-straight win to erase fears of being relegated. Defeat saw Newcastle drop to seventh.
Bournemouth beat Wolves 1-0 at Molineux through Antoine Semenyo’s first-half strike.


CONMEBOL open probe into violent clashes at end of Copa semifinal

Updated 12 July 2024
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CONMEBOL open probe into violent clashes at end of Copa semifinal

MIAMI: Copa America organizers CONMEBOL have opened a disciplinary investigation into the “acts of violence” at the end of Wednesday’s semifinal between Uruguay and Colombia in Charlotte.

Uruguay’s Liverpool striker Darwin Nunez was among the players who waded into the stands at the Bank of America Stadium and exchanged punches with fans during what CONMEBOL called “unacceptable” scenes.

Uruguay central defender Jose Maria Gimenez said players had leapt into the melee out of concern for the safety of family members and loved ones watching the game in that section of the ground.

Uruguay are scheduled to face Canada, at the same stadium, in the third place game on Saturday and it remains to be seen if any of their players are suspended for that game.

“In light of the acts of violence that occurred at the end of the match between the national teams of Uruguay and Colombia, the Disciplinary Unit of CONMEBOL has decided to open an investigation to clarify the sequence of events and the responsibilities of those involved,” the South American confederation said.

CONMEBOL said they would not accept any repeat of the incidents, which saw fighting between the two sets of supporters, for Sunday’s final between Argentina and Colombia at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.

“On the eve of our Copa America final, we want to reaffirm and warn that no action that tarnishes a global football celebration will be tolerated, involving both the protagonists and the fans present in the stadium for a final viewed by hundreds of millions of spectators worldwide.

“It is unacceptable that an incident like this turns passion into violence. Therefore, no behavior that violates the spirit of the sport and the world’s most beautiful spectacle, which belongs to the whole family, will be tolerated,” they added.

Gimenez said that the players had got involved to protect their family members and was critical of the local police in the venue.

“Our family was in danger. We had to go to the stands to take out our loved ones, with tiny newborn babies,” the Atletico Madrid player said.

“There was not a single police officer... I hope those who are organizing this are a little more careful with the families,” he said.

As well as the incidents in the stands, there were also clashes on the field at the final whistle involving players from both teams.


SPL outlines priorities for player acquisitions, club development before new season

Updated 11 July 2024
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SPL outlines priorities for player acquisitions, club development before new season

  • League remains committed to providing a supportive, centralized approach to transfers
  • Clubs continue to attract top-tier talents to their administrative ranks

RIYADH: The Saudi Pro League, in collaboration with all 18 clubs, announced on Thursday its comprehensive preparations and key priorities for the upcoming summer transfer window and the 2024-25 season.
As part of the Player Acquisition Center of Excellence program, which was launched in 2023, the SPL held meetings with all top-flight clubs in the final months of last season to understand more fully their targets and requirements. The program was launched as one of seven in the SPL’s transformation strategy.
The SPL remains committed to providing a supportive and centralized approach to transfers. This includes assisting clubs with squad mapping and player care by offering expertise, governance, and sustainability measures.
The SPL’s priorities for the season and transfer window include supporting existing contracts by prioritizing current deals to ensure the success of players by providing the necessary resources.
Other aims include strategic acquisitions to address clubs’ technical gaps and secure top talent.
Another priority is its sustainability policy, which is to ensure players are signed for technical needs, supported for success, and fairly valued.
Off the pitch, the SPL clubs continue to attract top-tier talents to their administrative ranks.
Al-Shabab recently appointed Domenico Teti as sporting director, while Al-Nassr appointed Fernando Hierro. Both sporting directors join Esteve Calzada, Al-Hilal’s CEO; Ron Gourlay, Al-Ahli’s CEO; Lee Congerton, Al-Ahli’s sporting director; Ramon Planes, Al-Ittihad’s sporting director; and James Bisgrove, Al-Qadsiah’s CEO, as new appointments ahead of the new season.
In addition, the SPL has conducted a series of workshops with partner leagues in Europe and Asia to further develop areas of cooperation and mutual benefit. Discussions have covered topics such as mutual promotion, broadcast development, and alignment on transfer window dates.
The Player Acquisition Center of Excellence program, according to the SPL, serves as a collaborative tool with clubs to enhance their acquisition capabilities.
The program has so far recruited 97 players and reviewed over 200 contracts, significantly reducing contract termination costs and lowering the average age of signed players from 29 to 27.5 years. The ultimate aim is to focus on signing players under the age of 21.


One year after failed bid, Bayern Munich finally sign Portugal midfielder Palhinha

Updated 11 July 2024
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One year after failed bid, Bayern Munich finally sign Portugal midfielder Palhinha

  • Palhinha joins Bayern from English Premier League club Fulham for a reported fee of nearly $54.2 million
  • Bayern board sporting director Max Eberl said: "João really wanted to come to Bayern, and we need players like that"

MUNICH: A year after a high-profile failure to sign Portugal midfielder João Palhinha, Bayern Munich finally made the deal happen on Thursday.
Palhinha joins Bayern from English Premier League club Fulham for a reported fee of nearly 50 million euros ($54.2 million) on a contract through June 2028, the Bavarian club announced.
Palhinha, who helped Portugal to the quarterfinals at the European Championship, is the latest signing in a Bayern rebuild after the club's first season without a trophy since 2012.
“Palhinha was highly sought after by FC Bayern even last summer, and rightly so. It was important that we never lost touch,” Bayern board sporting director Max Eberl said." João really wanted to come to Bayern, and we need players like that. He’s an important building block for our future."
Bayern seemed sure to sign the player last year and the midfielder even traveled to Munich for a medical but the deal — reportedly worth 65 million euros ($70 million) at the time — collapsed just before the end of the transfer window.
Thomas Tuchel, Bayern coach at the time, was keen to sign a more defensive-minded midfielder like Palhinha in a squad packed with midfielders like Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka who liked to make attacking runs into the opponent's box.
Two weeks after that, Palhinha signed a new contract at Fulham through the 2027-28 season.
Palhinha is the third new signing to be confirmed at Bayern since Vincent Kompany was hired as coach in May, after Stuttgart defender Hiroki Ito and Crystal Palace forward Michael Olise. Bayern have yet to sell any of their current first-team players in this transfer window.


French referee François Letexier picked to handle Spain-England final of Euro 2024

Updated 11 July 2024
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French referee François Letexier picked to handle Spain-England final of Euro 2024

  • Letexier has refereed three games at Euro 2024 including Spain’s 4-1 win over Georgia in the round of 16
  • There was no video review controversy in any of Letexier’s games, including the 2-2 draw between Albania and Croatia

BERLIN: French referee François Letexier was picked by UEFA to handle the European Championship final between Spain and England.
At 35, he’s one of the youngest referees to take charge of a major final. The game is on Sunday at the Olympiastadion in Berlin.
The referees for the past three men’s Euros finals were 48, 41 and 41 at the time.
Letexier has refereed three games at Euro 2024 including Spain’s 4-1 win over Georgia in the round of 16.
In those games, he did not award a penalty kick and did not send off any player. He showed just 10 yellow cards, including one for Serbia forward Aleksandar Mitrovic, who was judged to have dived in the penalty area in a 0-0 draw against Denmark.
There was no video review controversy in any of Letexier’s games, including the 2-2 draw between Albania and Croatia.
The VAR specialist for the final is also French, Jérôme Brisard.
Letexier rarely shows red cards, with just one in the nine games he handled in the Champions League or Europa League last season from the group stage onward. That was to Bayern Munich’s French defender Dayot Upamecano.
His previous highest profile games for UEFA this season include Real Madrid and Manchester City drawing 3-3 in the Champions League quarterfinals, Bayer Leverkusen winning at Roma 2-0 in the Europa League semifinals, and the season-opening Super Cup last August between Man City and Sevilla.
Letexier joined the FIFA list of referees for international games seven years ago.
The fourth official for the final will be Szymon Marciniak of Poland, the referee at the 2022 World Cup final and 2023 Champions League final who had a controversial season.
Marciniak and his match officials team made consequential stoppage-time decisions in Champions League games between Bayern and Real Madrid in the semifinals and Paris Saint-Germain and Newcastle in the group stage.


Nunez, Uruguay players brawl in stands with fans after Copa loss

Updated 11 July 2024
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Nunez, Uruguay players brawl in stands with fans after Copa loss

CHARLOTTE: Liverpool star Darwin Nunez was involved in violent brawling in the stands after Uruguay’s 1-0 Copa America semifinal defeat to Colombia on Wednesday.

After Colombia won 1-0 in front of over 70,000 fans at the Bank of America Stadium, scuffles brokes out in the stands between fans of the rival teams.

The overwhelming majority of the spectators in the crowd were supporting Colombia but there was no segregation between them and their Uruguayan counterparts and the violence erupted at the final whistle.

While punches were thrown several Uruguay players climbed into the crowd, seemingly to protect them, with Nunez prominent among them.

The fighting continued for several minutes until police finally intervened.

A group of around 80-100 Uruguayan fans remained in the stadium, on the field, long after the rest of the fans had left.

Ugly scenes also broke out on the field after the final whistle, with players and staff from both teams involved in a mass melee in the center-circle following Colombia’s victory.