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Liverpool moves 13 points clear in EPL

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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.

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Maple Leafs' goalie Petr Mrazek exits with groin injury vs. Senators – The Athletic

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Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Petr Mrazek exited after the second period of a 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Thursday with what the team called a groin injury. The team had no further update on his status after the game.

Mrazek went down awkwardly on the final shot of the period from Ottawa’s Victor Mete, then hobbled down the tunnel at the end of the period. Mrazek made 26 saves but allowed three first-period goals. Jack Campbell came on for the Leafs in goal to start the third period.

Mrazek, 29, was making his debut with the Leafs after signing a three-year deal in the offseason.

(Photo: Chris Tanouye / Getty Images)

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Umpire's 'Blown' Check-Swing Call Ends Epic Dodgers-Giants Series And Stuns Fans – Yahoo

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Of course the epic National League Division Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants would finish in controversy.

The Giants’ Wilmer Flores struck out on what many believed was a blown check-swing call by first base umpire Gabe Morales. The out preserved the Dodgers’ 2-1 victory in Game 5 on Thursday, allowing the team to advance to the National League Championship Series against Atlanta.

The chances of a Giants rally appeared dim at the time. The count was 0-2, there were two outs, a runner on first, and three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer was pitching. Not to mention that Flores had never gotten a hit off Scherzer before, the San Francisco Chronicle noted.

But the anticlimactic ending to the momentous playoff clash between the historic rivals angered fans. Reporters and Major Leaguers, including the New York Mets’ Kevin Pillar (a former Giant), chimed in, too.

Check out the reactions of what some called “the check swing heard round the world.”

This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.

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Cardinals acquire Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz from Eagles – Sportsnet.ca

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The undefeated Arizona Cardinals have added another weapon to their arsenal.

The Cardinals, who are the only 5-0 team in the NFL, acquired three-time Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz from the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday for cornerback Tay Gowan and a 2022 fifth-round draft pick.

Ertz played with the Eagles since they selected him in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He set an NFL record for most receptions by a tight end in a single season with 116 catches and also had a career-high 1,163 yards during the 2018 season. Ertz, who was selected to the Pro Bowl three consecutive years from 2017-19, caught the game-winning touchdown during Super Bowl LII to help the Eagles defeat the New England Patriots 41-33 and capture their first Super Bowl.

“Zach Ertz built a special legacy in Philadelphia,” Eagles chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie said in a statement. “Talented, tough, and passionate, he helped to establish our team’s culture and played a vital role in our success over the years.

“Zach created so many memories that will live on forever, from setting numerous franchise and league records, to reaching across the end zone for the game-winning touchdown in our first-ever Super Bowl championship. He will always be a member of the Eagles family, not only because of what he accomplished on the field, but also because of the wonderful person, dedicated leader, and exemplary role model that he was for nine seasons in Philadelphia. We wish Zach and Julie nothing but the best.”

The 30-year-old Ertz has 18 receptions for 189 yards and two touchdowns in six games this season. Philadelphia lost 28-22 Thursday night to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with Ertz hauling in a touchdown catch.

The Cardinals play the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

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