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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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Saints’ Drew Brees mum on future after playoff loss to Buccaneers

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NEW ORLEANS — Nearly two hours after the New Orleans Saints’ season had ended, Drew Brees stood on the Superdome field in street clothes, throwing passes to his children while his wife, Brittany, captured images of those moments with her cellphone.

Brees routinely throws the ball around with his kids after home games, but after a 30-20 playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday night, he lingered longer than usual — and there was no telling whether that familiar postgame scene would play out again.

Two days after Brees’ 42nd birthday, his 20th NFL season ended with statistically his worst playoff performance.

Brees threw three interceptions, his most in 18 post-season appearances. His 134 yards passing were a career-playoff low. And because of COVID-19 restrictions, there were fewer than 4,000 fans in the 73,000-seat Superdome to bid him farewell — if indeed it was his final game in a Saints uniform.

For now, Brees won’t say. But he’s also said nothing that would lead one to believe he’s prepared to play next season, his last under contract.

“I’ll answer this question one time and that is that I’m going to give myself an opportunity to think about the season, think about a lot of things just like I did last year and make a decision,” Brees said.

That decision for the NFL’s all-time leader in yards passing will come after a fourth straight season that saw the Saints (13-5) win 11 or more games and go to the playoffs, only to come up short of the Super Bowl.

This season, Brees missed four games with multiple broken ribs and a punctured lung, but came back in time to see New Orleans through to its fourth straight NFC South crown and a convincing playoff victory over Chicago in the wild-card round.

“I would never regret it. Never. No complaints, no regrets,” Brees said. “I’ve always tried to play this game with a great respect and a great reverence for it, and I appreciate all that this game has given to me.

“There are obviously so many incredible memories and so many incredible relationships that have come as a result of playing this game,” Brees continued. “You find out so much about yourself and you have to fight through so much when you play this game. And I’d say this season I probably had to fight through more than I’ve ever had to in any other season in my career, from injury to all the COVID stuff, to just crazy circumstances. And it was worth every moment of it. Absolutely.”

Brees said the way this season ended “won’t have anything to do” with his decision on whether to retire.

As for what will go into the decision, Brees said, “I’ll keep that to myself right now.”

Saints coach Sean Payton seemed to be taking his cue from Brees when he, too, sidestepped a question about what his decade-and-a-half relationship with Brees has meant to him.

“That’s probably for another press conference,” Payton said. “Obviously he’s been tremendous for this team, this city. I could go on and on, but let’s wait and answer that at the right time.”

Other teammates didn’t wait, though.

“He’s been everything you could imagine a leader could be,” said Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, Brees’ teammate since 2011. “He’s the first one in, the last one out. Every stereotypical leadership core value you think of, Drew has. He exemplifies everything that he does in terms of wanting to be a better teammate.”

Veteran linebacker Demario Davis said playing with Brees has meant “everything” to him.

“When I came to New Orleans, I wanted to help Drew Brees win another Super Bowl because I feel like he deserves it for the accomplishments that he’s had,” Davis said. “I wanted him to have some more championship trophies on the mantle.

“He’s a great teammate, a great leader, a great man, a great husband and a great father,” Davis added. “He’s just an example for all us to try to emulate.”

Brees, who brought the Saints their only Super Bowl appearance and win in the 2009 season, is not only the all-time leader in yards passing with 80,358, but also completions 7,142. He began this season first in touchdowns, but is now second with 571, behind the 581 of Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady, who is moving on to his 14th conference title game at age 43.

When the game ended, Brees greeted a couple of Bucs players, including Brady, who he’s known since college, and then pointed to the stands and blew kisses as he jogged to the tunnel leading to the Saints locker room. When he first emerged from the locker room back onto the field in street clothes, he shared a long embrace with Brittany while his three sons and daughter played nearby.

“I always soak in the moment and I’m looking up at my family and blowing kisses to my wife and my daughter and fist-pumping my boys,” Brees said. “They’ve become so much a part of this as my kids have gotten older, and they are so invested in this as well. That’s what makes the moment special, to be able to share it all together.”

Source: – Sportsnet.ca

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Drew Brees’ career possibly ends with more Saints playoff sorrow as Tom Brady and Bucs move on

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The Canadian Press

Saints’ Brees exits playoffs, perhaps career, on sour note

NEW ORLEANS — Nearly two hours after the New Orleans Saints’ season had ended, Drew Brees stood on the Superdome field in street clothes, throwing passes to his children while his wife, Brittany, captured images of those moments with her cellphone. Brees routinely throws the ball around with his kids after home games, but after a 30-20 playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday night, he lingered longer than usual — and there was no telling whether that familiar postgame scene would play out again. Two days after Brees’ 42nd birthday, his 20th NFL season ended with statistically his worst playoff performance. Brees threw three interceptions, his most in 18 post-season appearances. His 134 yards passing were a career-playoff low. And because of COVID-19 restrictions, there were fewer than 4,000 fans in the 73,000-seat Superdome to bid him farewell — if indeed it was his final game in a Saints uniform. For now, Brees won’t say. But he’s also said nothing that would lead one to believe he’s prepared to play next season, his last under contract. “I’ll answer this question one time and that is that I”m going to give myself an opportunity to think about the season, think about a lot of things just like I did last year and make a decision,” Brees said. That decision for the NFL’s all-time leader in yards passing will come after a fourth straight season that saw the Saints (13-5) win 11 or more games and go to the playoffs, only to come up short of the Super Bowl. This season, Brees missed four games with multiple broken ribs and a punctured lung, but came back in time to see New Orleans through to its fourth straight NFC South crown and a convincing playoff victory over Chicago in the wild-card round. “I would never regret it. Never. No complaints, no regrets,” Brees said. “I’ve always tried to play this game with a great respect and a great reverence for it, and I appreciate all that this game has given to me. “There are obviously so many incredible memories and so many incredible relationships that have come as a result of playing this game,” Brees continued. “You find out so much about yourself and you have to fight through so much when you play this game. And I’d say this season I probably had to fight through more than I’ve ever had to in any other season in my career, from injury to all the COVID stuff, to just crazy circumstances. And it was worth every moment of it. Absolutely.” Brees said the way this season ended “won’t have anything to do” with his decision on whether to retire. As for what will go into the decision, Brees said, “I’ll keep that to myself right now.” Saints coach Sean Payton seemed to be taking his cue from Brees when he, too, sidestepped a question about what his decade-and-a-half relationship with Brees has meant to him. “That’s probably for another press conference,” Payton said. “Obviously he’s been tremendous for this team, this city. I could go on and on, but let’s wait and answer that at the right time.” Other teammates didn’t wait, though. “He’s been everything you could imagine a leader could be,” said Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, Brees’ teammate since 2011. “He’s the first one in, the last one out. Every stereotypical leadership core value you think of, Drew has. He exemplifies everything that he does in terms of wanting to be a better teammate.” Veteran linebacker Demario Davis said playing with Brees has meant “everything” to him. “When I came to New Orleans, I wanted to help Drew Brees win another Super Bowl because I feel like he deserves it for the accomplishments that he’s had,” Davis said. “I wanted him to have some more championship trophies on the mantle. “He’s a great teammate, a great leader, a great man, a great husband and a great father,” Davis added. “He’s just an example for all us to try to emulate.” Brees, who brought the Saints their only Super Bowl appearance and win in the 2009 season, is not only the all-time leader in yards passing with 80,358, but also completions 7,142. He began this season first in touchdowns, but is now second with 571, behind the 581 of Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady, who is moving on to his 14th conference title game at age 43. When the game ended, Brees greeted a couple of Bucs players, including Brady, who he’s known since college, and then pointed to the stands and blew kisses as he jogged to the tunnel leading to the Saints locker room. When he first emerged from the locker room back onto the field in street clothes, he shared a long embrace with Brittany while his three sons and daughter played nearby. “I always soak in the moment and I’m looking up at my family and blowing kisses to my wife and my daughter and fist-pumping my boys,” Brees said. “They’ve become so much a part of this as my kids have gotten older, and they are so invested in this as well. That’s what makes the moment special, to be able to share it all together.” ___ More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL Brett Martel, The Associated Press

Source: – Yahoo Canada 

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FRIESEN: Injury to Laine just latest curveball for Jets – Winnipeg Sun

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Article content continued

“He couldn’t warm up right during practice,” Maurice said, shedding little light on the trouble. “I don’t even know if I’m going to list him as day-to-day, yet. We’ll get to tomorrow to see how he’s feeling.”

At least Laine was planning to get on the plane to Toronto.

Winnipeg Jets defenceman Tucker Poolman (centre) defends as Calgary Flames forward Matt Tkachuk tips the puck past goaltender Connor Hellebuyck in Winnipeg on Thursday. Photo by Kevin King /Winnipeg Sun

Tucker Poolman, Josh Morrissey’s partner on the first defence pair, wasn’t.

Poolman spent his second day on the COVID-alert list and won’t make the three-game trip out east, where the Jets face Ottawa on Tuesday and Thursday.

It was Poolman’s issue (flu-like symptoms, presumably, or perhaps a close contact) that caused the Jets to cancel Saturday’s practice.
Maurice says he didn’t have to cancel, that the Jets were just being extra careful. Better safe than sorry, especially these days.

If potentially having your scoring star out and your top defence pair halved isn’t enough, first-line winger Nik Ehlers didn’t practice on Sunday because he’s still dealing with symptoms that produced a negative COVID test which allowed him to play the first game against Calgary, Thursday.

Ehlers made the trip to Toronto.

Dylan DeMelo did not, and this is where the good news comes in.

One of the Winnipeg’s top defensive defencemen, DeMelo and his wife had a baby that kept him out of Thursday’s game.

The pandemic prevents the couple from getting any help, though, so dad is staying home to help with the new addition.

Dylan DeMelo during Winnipeg Jets practice at Bell MTS Centre on Sun., Jan. 17, 2021. Kevin King/Winnipeg Sun/Postmedia Network
Dylan DeMelo during Winnipeg Jets practice at Bell MTS Centre on Sunday. Photo by Kevin King /Winnipeg Sun

Maurice says mom and baby are doing fine, so that’s a plus.

The Jets survived DeMelo’s absence just fine in Game 1. Compounding it with Poolman’s will add to the challenge.

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