Player ratings as Pedri goal earns win
Barcelona extended their lead at the top of the league table to 11 points thanks to hard fought win over Villarreal.
Pedri’s goal was enough for Barca, who’ve now won their last 11 games in all competitions.
Inside three minutes, Robert Lewandowski spurned a glorious chance to open the scoring for the league leaders. The legendary Polish striker was played clean through on goal by Pedri, but could only find Pepe Reina’s mid-riff with his subsequent effort on goal.
Lewa would then turn provider for Pedri in the 18th minute to break the deadlock. A sublime one-two between Lewandowski and Pedri led to the latter finding himself through on goal, and the youngster made no mistake with his finish, side-footing past Reina in the Villarreal goal.
Lewandowski would once again be at the heart of another fluid move from Barca a few minutes later, linking up with a few of his teammates on the right of the penalty box before forcing Reina into another smart save.
Villarreal almost found a way back into the game in added time at the end of the first half when Jose Luis Morales burst through on goal. The Spanish striker, after storming into the penalty area, could only fire into the side-netting with his resulting shot on goal.
That chance seemed to give the home side some renewed confidence heading into the second half, as they push forward with real intent after the interval. Despite their best efforts however, it was Barca who’d create the first great chance of the half.
Again Lewa was key in the build up as his lovely pass played Raphinha through on the right of the penalty before the Brazilian fired just wide of the post.
Villarreal thought they finally found a breakthrough in the 89th minute when Yeremy Pino backheeled the ball brilliantly through to Samuel Chukwueze, who would then side-foot past Marc-Andre ter Stegen. Yeremy, however, was adjudged to have been offside in the build-up.
GK – Marc-Andre ter Stegen – 5/10 – Did he make a save? We don’t think he did.
RB – Jules Kounde – 7/10 – Villarreal tried to play through the left-hand side of their attack and Kounde rarely let those attempts come of anything.
CB – Ronald Araujo – 9/10 – As brilliant as ever. Barcelona would be half the team without him.
CB – Andreas Christensen – 7/10 – Held firm alongside his centre-back partner.
LB – Alejandro Balde – 5/10 – Expected a bit more going forward from the exciting young full-back.
CM – Pedri – 8/10 – Scored the opener after some wonderful interplay with Lewandowski. Barca’s best player in the final third.
CM – Frenkie de Jong – 6/10 – Tidy in possession throughout.
CM – Franck Kessie – 5/10 – Active deeper in midfield than one would perhaps want him to be. Much more effective further up the park.
RW – Raphinha – 4/10 – Has been in great form recently, but not at his best on Sunday evening. Missed a great chance to double Barca’ lead in the second half.
ST – Robert Lewandowski – 7/10 – Bagged an assist for the opener. Links up so well with Pedri and Gavi.
LW – Gavi – 4/10 – Not at his brilliant best.
SUB – Ferran Torres – N.A.
SUB – Jordi Alba – N/A.
Jonas Eidevall hails dominant Stina Blackstenius performance in north London derby victory
Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall has heaped praise on forward Stina Blackstenius after her sensational showing in Saturday’s 5-1 victory over Tottenham.
The Swede opened the scoring after just a few minutes and continued to lead the line with real dominance all game, creating plenty of chances for those around her in what turned out to be a comfortable victory.
Blackstenius’ performance did not go unnoticed by Eidevall, who took the time to praise the forward after the game.
“Every game poses different challenges, but Stina gave exactly what we needed at the start of the game by posing a threat from balls in-behind against a very compact Spurs’ team,” Eidevall told Sky Sports.
“I think it was very nice to see her take the first finish on her first touch when she first spots the goalkeeper a little bit out of position.”
On the wider performance, Eidevall continued: “I was very pleased with the performance. There are still some aspects of our game we need to get better at compared to the first half. I think our players were brilliant and were very well positioned in the second half. I think we could have controlled the game right from the start.
“I think it starts with the way we attack. We were well positioned. I think we constantly overloaded them out in the wide areas and set up players that can play forward with the ball. We are good at arriving into the box with pace. In the first half and the last ten minutes, we got a little bit complacent and a bit of standing still which suits Spurs’ really well. We didn’t get into that trap in the second-half and that was pleasing.”
The win keeps Arsenal in the WSL title race, moving the Gunners up to 35 points, two behind leaders Chelsea having played a game more.
Emma Hayes’ Blues are in action on Sunday against fellow title hopefuls Manchester City, who can blow the title race wide open with a win.
USMNT hail Christian Pulisic for contributions in 7-1 triumph over Grenada
Christian Pulisic earned praise from the United States men’s national team for his involvement in the 7-1 triumph over Grenada on Friday in the CONCACAF Nations League.
The Chelsea figure played an integral role in the team’s offensive efforts from the get-go, inspiring Ricardo Pepi to the first goal in the fourth minute of the match. Minutes later, he propelled Brenden Aaronson to the team’s second with a stunning assist from the left side.
Overall, he contributed to five of the goals, before scoring one of his own in the second half to secure the three points and break the USMNT’s nine-game winless streak.
“It’s my job to help create and score goals and assists for the team,” said Pulisic.
“It was an important game for sure. I don’t rank it as one of our best performances ever. I think we put in a solid performance, got the job done. It was a really nice scene, though, tonight in Grenada for sure, I thought. Field [was] not bad, though the stadium was beautiful, nice. Cool little atmosphere. So I think we definitely enjoyed ourselves here.”
In the shared post-match press conference, teammate Weston McKennie quickly jumped to commend Pulisic for his individual performance against Grenada, adding: “It helps the team out in the best way.
“I mean, to be completely honest, it’s what I expect of him. For him to be able to do it consistently and be back and be in that zone, it always helps the team out in the best way, because he’s one of the players on our team that can create things and can make things happen. So just to see him having fun, and just playing his game and with the confidence that he has, It’s amazing.”
Pulisic’s contributions inspired the USMNT to break the team record for most goals scored in an away match. But it was his efforts on and off the field that impressed interim manager Anthony Hudson.
“I’m amazed by Christian. Through this last cycle and leading up to this camp, and then coming into camp, I just can’t speak highly enough of the character of this person,” said Hudson after the win.
“Who not only is a talented player, but it’s someone, I can assure you, he just absolutely loves playing for his country. Great character, loves playing for his country, is inspiring to the rest of the group. And I think you saw that in his performance. I can’t remember the amount of times he puts his body on the line. For such a big player, playing at a big club, has a huge value on him. And we go to places like this and he has no problem just giving absolutely everything he has. So he is an inspiration to the rest of the group for sure.”
Pulisic will remain with the United States men’s national team as they prepare to take on El Salvador on Monday for the final Nations League match of the March international window. The team only needs a draw to finish the group stage atop Group D and advance to the final four in June.
Why do Liverpool fans boo the England national anthem?
Few managers of the modern era have developed a bond with their club’s fanbase as strong as the link between Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool.
A rapidly stacked trophy cabinet has obviously helped Klopp win over Merseyside but the humble and honest German coach has forged such a deep connection with the people of Liverpool by taking time to understand the history and beliefs of the city.
However, even Klopp was left a little perplexed by the deafening swell of boos which his supporters delivered in response to the English national anthem ahead of the 2022 FA Cup final.
“I know our people that well that they wouldn’t do it if there was no reason for it,” Klopp reasoned, before admitting: “And I’m not here surely not long enough to understand the reason for it.”
Don’t worry, Jurgen, we’ve got you covered.
As a port city which has welcomed countless immigrants over the years, many Liverpudlians have an ancestral reason to not consider themselves English. The xenophobia and racism which remains a plague on these shores are not exactly a set of welcoming, open arms.
The term ‘Scouse’, which is a traditional stew, was originally used as a derogatory term for Irish immigrants that could only afford to frequent soup kitchens. But the city’s inhabitants have harnessed the slur and the sense of otherness it was meant to hold.
Engraved in in the wall of the Museum of Liverpool is a quote from the former Gronby councillor Margaret Simey in 1999 which reads: “The magic of Liverpool is that it isn’t England.”
Liverpool’s port points west, which was particularly unhelpful during the 1980s when trade with Europe on the other side of the Isles was being prioritised. Naturally, this only stoked the flames of a dire relationship between Liverpool and the British government.
“Never Trust A Tory” is another common banner which can been seen circulating the Liverpool end on trips to Wembley.
This distrust has only festered over the last decade of Conservative rule. Labour – the more left-wing opposition in England to the Conservatives – have not had a prime minister in power since Gordon Brown in 2010.
Unlike the rest of the country, Liverpool have not given in to the blue invasion. The Labour Party has received more than 50% of the city’s votes in every general election between 1992 and 2019.
This unwavering favouring of Labour came immediately after Margaret Thatcher’s unpopular reign as Conservative party leader and prime minister. Thatcher’s Chancellor Sir Geoffrey Howe argued that Liverpool should be left to “managed decline”, as revealed by cabinet papers from the era which fed the distrust of that regime on Merseyside. In the wake of the Toxteth Riots, Howe urged Thatcher “not to over-commit scarce resources to Liverpool”.
The Conservatives and Thatcher were also in power at the time of the Hillsborough disaster and their handling of the situation, over a course of a decades-long quest for justice, also enraged a wounded city and its people.
The Tory hatred wasn’t always so suffocating. When the Iron Lady became prime minister in 1979, Sir Malcolm Thornton was first elected as Conservative MP for Liverpool Garston.
However, the distrust very much extends to the modern era as Boris Johnson, when prime minister, was asked to apologise for publishing an article in the Spectator which accused Liverpudlians of “wallowing” in their “victim status” while he was the publication’s editor in 2004. Shockingly, he did not offer a sorry amid his blustering response.
At Liverpool’s first FA Cup final triumph in 1965, the travelling Merseyside support belted out “God Save Our Gracious Team”. For many reasons, Liverpool fans have opted for a blunter approach over the subsequent years.
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