LEICESTER, England — When Liverpool lifts the English Premier League trophy in May —- barring a monumental collapse — the end of a three-decade title drought will owe so much to Trent Alexander-Arnold.
No game more so than the complete all-round performance from the right back that tore apart the closest challenger on Thursday night.
After a key role in the first three goals, Alexander-Arnold netted himself to add the final flourish in a 4-0 victory over Leicester that sent Liverpool 13 points clear.
And that’s with a game in hand, and half of the season remaining.
Victory in the chill of central England to complete a packed Boxing Day programme came five days after the European champion added the Club World Cup to its trophy haul.
“We played really good football, especially after all the travelling we’ve done and the intense period we’ve had,” Alexander-Arnold said. “It probably is our best performance of the season.”
Roberto Firmino netted the winner against Flamengo in Qatar and the forward completed two crosses from Alexander-Arnold at King Power Stadium.
The goal that suppressed any hope of a Leicester comeback came when James Milner grabbed the second of the night from the penalty spot in the 71st minute.
The move that led to the penalty being awarded inevitably came from another of Alexander-Arnold’s crosses which was handled by Leicester defender Çaglar Söyüncü.
If Leicester had any hope of repeating its remarkable 5,000-1 title triumph from 2016, it surely ended with this first home loss of the season.
“The big thing that Liverpool have is confidence, having won competitions,” Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers said. “They have got that feeling there now, the squad is very strong, and they will be hard to shift in the second part of the season.”
And unlike when Rodgers was Liverpool manager in 2013-14, this is surely a title that can’t get away from the club trying for so long to land a 19th English championship — and the first in the post-1992 Premier League era.
“I can write the story myself: ‘Never before in the history of British football has a team had a bigger lead and lost the lead,'” Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said. “That sounds in my ear negative so why should we think about that?”
There was no doubting the significance of the occasion to Leicester, which turbo-charged a 10-match prematch build-up.
From cannons exploding fire to a light show, Leicester raised the tension. It just couldn’t manage a shot in the first half in a meek surrender when the defensive high line was exposed and Liverpool relished launching counterattacks.
If you are looking for a breakthrough, you look to Alexander-Arnold.
A cross was delivered with such precision in the 31st that either Mohamed Salah or Firmino could have got on the end of it. It was the Brazilian who soared highest to power in the header.
Sadio Mane spurned a chance to extend the lead before halftime, striking too casually at Kasper Schmeichel, whose double save frustrated Liverpool.
The frustration wouldn’t last long, once the only spell when Leicester’s attack came to life had been suppressed.
Milner had been on the pitch barely a minute when Liverpool earned the penalty that the captain converted in the 71st.
It started a dizzying seven-minute spell when Leicester was blown apart.
Another deliver from Alexander-Arnold — low this time — was controlled by Firmino before he lifted the shot in and raced over to hug Klopp.
Then Alexander-Arnold got to savour the acclaim himself. The Englishman surged the length of the pitch to receive the ball from Mane and then slip the ball through Ben Chilwell’s legs for only his second goal of 2019.
“I don’t get on the scoresheet too often,” Alexander-Arnold said. “(It was) a good counterattack, I saw the space, and Sadio has played a lovely ball and I thought, ‘Hit it first time.’”
That he did, before going over to celebrate arms folded, beaming in front of the Liverpool fans. Soon, those hands are likely to be filled with another trophy. Maybe even some personal accolades.
Mickelson struggles Thursday at Winged Foot – pgatour.com
For a few brief moments Phil Mickelson’s dream of conquering Winged Foot to complete a career grand slam was on track at the U.S. Open, but inaccuracy off the tee once again gave him nightmares.
A week after hitting just 12 of 56 fairways at the Safeway Open, Mickelson managed to find the short grass off the tee just twice in Thursday’s opening round on the way to a dismal 9-over 79.
The 50-year-old’s chance at redemption from 2006 looked a chance after he rolled in back-to-back birdies out of the gate. Perhaps he truly had let go of the infamous 72nd hole double bogey that helped Geoff Ogilvy claim the trophy over 14 years ago.
Mickelson’s early birdies came despite missing both fairways left into deep rough and the fairytale writers lifted their eyebrows and dared to think something special might be on its way.
However, the inaccuracy quickly caught up. From the moment a four-foot par putt on the third hole lipped out, Mickelson found himself in a deep spiral not even his 44-time PGA TOUR winning experience could fight.
Bogeys on the fourth, fifth and eighth followed with Mickelson not chalking up his first fairway until the par-5 ninth hole. It didn’t help as he would go on to make par after another missed putt.
Bogey at 10 and another at 13 came soon after the turn with the latter the start of a six-hole finishing stretch that the six-time U.S. Open runner-up played in six over. Ultimately, he would finish 14 shots off the pace and all but officially be eliminated from contention. Only U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Lukas Michel (80) was behind him on the leaderboard.
The words he said as he left Napa must have been ringing in his ears throughout the round.
“The last couple of months I’ve been missing it more to the right and not worried about the left and the left crept in again,” Mickelson had said after the Safeway Open. “For years I missed it left. I haven’t been fearing that at all lately, but this week I missed it left, which is not good. I can deal with missing it right now, but not left.”
He went on to say he was confident of being able to turn it around before the opening round in New York but sadly that was not the case. Prior to the Safeway Open he had won his debut start at PGA TOUR Champions.
“I actually have had some nice breakthroughs in the last year and I feel like I’m on the precipice of playing really well, but I’ve got to get it to click,” he said.
Jays lose third in a row to Yankees – Bluebird Banter
Well, game three end up a lot closer than the first two games.
There were lots of Yankees home runs. Lots. Yankees seem to have that swing down to loft the ball to the short porch to left.
Julian Merryweather ‘opened’ and he managed not to give up a home run. But he wasn’t good, 2 hits, 2 walks, 2 earned. I hoped he could go two innings but no such luck.
Chase Anderson followed and threw a very good second inning. Then he gave up 5 home runs in the third, while getting just 2 outs. He gave up three consecutive home runs on three pitches.
It did remind me of a joke from my youth. What goes whoosh, crack, whoosh, crack, whoosh, crack. A pitcher going down to the minors.
Wilmer Font finished out the third inning and got through the fourth without allowing a run. Our pitching MVP of the series.
T.J. Zeuch pitched 3 innings, giving up just 1 run on, you guessed it, another homer. He allowed 3 hits, 3 walks with 3 strikeouts.
We had a rally in the ninth, giving us a few moments of fun. . With one out:
Aroldis Chapman came in:
- Bo Bichette singled home 2. 10-7, bringing the tying run to the plate.
- Randal Grichuk struck out.
- Teoscar Hernandez struck out to end the game. Hernandez was 0 for 5 with 4 strikeouts in his first game back. It will take couple of games to get his timing back
Jay of the Day: Lourdes (.124 WPA).
Matt Shoemaker can’t come back quick enough.
Tomorrow is a double-header, in Philadelphia. first game is 4:00 Eastern.
We had 753 comments in the GameThread. 13yearoldbaseballfanatic led us to defeat.
The series had me thinking of this song, the chorus is ‘Burn this cabin down’. I’m thinking we should do that to Yankees Stadium, burn it to the ground.
Blue Jays lose big again – Bluebird Banter
We held them to a couple of touchdowns today. Progress of sorts.
Yankees hit 7 home runs. 4 off of starter Tanner Roark. The first, a solo homer in the first inning, was a Yankees Stadium special, one that would only be a home run with the short porch in the Bronx. But the other ones were crushed.
Roark went 4 innings, allowed 6 hits, 6 earned, 2 walks and 4 strikeouts.
Jacob Waguespack pitched the next 2 innings, giving up 5 hits, 5 earned, 1 walk with 2 home runs.
Hector Perez got into his first MLB game. He pitched 1.2 innings with 3 hits, 2 earned, 3 walks, 1 k with 1 home run.
Anthony Bass got the last out.
Someone named Kyle Higashioka (the Yankees backup catcher) hit 3 home runs.
Offensively, we only had 5 hits. We didn’t get our first hit until the sixth inning, when Jonathan Villar led off with a double. He would score our first run on a wild pitch. Joe Panik homered in the ninth, to get our second run.
Can’t blame the defense today.
No Jays of the Day today. Danny Jansen had the high mark at .007 WPA for his 0 for 2 and a walk.
Suckage: Roark (-.246).
It’s possible that the Jays will send out Wags before tomorrow’s game, if they decide they need someone who can give them a few innings.
We had 643 comments in the GameThread. FlipDown Shades led us to crushing defeat.
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