Author Archives: Pranay Rangra

Leeds United succumb to dominant Liverpool as Salah strikes his 100th league goal!

The mark of any great team is to rise from the depths of ordinary to reach the peaks of sublime.

Well, Liverpool are certainly in the league of the greatest Premier League teams ever, as they rose from a rather ordinary display against Chelsea in the 1-1 draw to a sublime 3-0 whitewash of Leeds United at Elland Road last evening.

A small number of Kopites who made the trip from Liverpool and millions more watching around the world were certainly more than satisfied as the three Reds’ stalwarts in Salah, Fabinho and Mane registered their names on the score sheet.

With this triumph, Liverpool are now unbeaten in their last 11 encounters against Leeds having won 8 and drawn 3 with their last loss coming more than two decades back in April 2001 as the Merseyside Maulers were conquered 2-1 at Anfield on that occasion.

Leeds United with this fourth successive loss since the inception of the season have piled up their most miserable campaign in any top-flight competition since 1958-59. Certainly not a good space to be in if you are a Peacocks’ fan.

So, without further ado lets dissect this rather pleasing performance The Reds showed in a game that also saw a red card:

Centurion Mohamed Salah, the difference maker in the first 45

Marcelo Bielsa’s team started this contest as the more assertive side creating their first opportunity on target in just the 4th minute as Rodrigo blasted a straight attempt at Reds’ keeper Alisson who was equal to the shot.

The visitors came back strong after the initial scare as Jota mounted a chance in the 14th minute when the Portuguese took down a Salah pass with his chest and hooked it on the volley to Leeds’ keeper Meslier who did well to take the sting out of the shot.

The momentum for The Reds would finally result in a hurrah in the 20th minute as the enigmatic Egyptian, Mohamed Salah put the visitors in front with a super strike to reach 100 goals in The Premier League after he was fed with a brilliant pass from Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Credit – Reuters

Liverpool were up by a goal to nil early as the team gathered around the Egyptian to congratulate him on becoming the fifth fastest to reach the century landmark in this competition.

Minutes later Mane had a chance to put the visitors two to the good as his shot went above the post. Liverpool were certainly looking up for this one.

The Reds would continue to dominate the remainder of the first half albeit the second was not to be found much akin to a treasure hunter looking for the elusive treasure only to be disappointed in his excursion at least for the moment.

Fab Fabinho and Majestic Mane seal the deal

As the second 45 began, Liverpool continued their dominance as Mane and Salah both fired their shots wide.

Leeds were lucky not to concede and one could just feel the second goal was around the corner.

Well the goal came in a matter of moments as Fabinho did well to capitalize on a corner from Alexander-Arnold scoring on his second attempt as VAR did check on Sadio Mane being offside albeit the goal was given.

Credit – Official Liverpool FC Twitter Handle

The Brazilian midfielder had his first for The Reds in 15 months.

Seven minutes later Liverpool were dealt with a destructive blow as their teenage sensation Harvey Elliot was tackled rather roughly by Pascal Struijk who saw a red as the Liverpool midfielder was carried off the field on a stretcher.

Credit – Reuters

Jurgen Klopp was furious with this tackle and rightfully so!

In time we should know the magnitude of Elliot’s injury and wish him all the best on a speedy recovery.

In the 75th minute, Leeds had a chance to get one back as Bamford’s attempt was saved with much confidence by Alisson.

At the other end, Liverpool would continue their offensive onslaught as Sadio Mane came close to giving The Merseyside Maulers their third, only to be denied by the Leeds keeper.

Alisson again was up to the task in the 83rd minute, keeping a long-range effort out by Bamford jumping high to thwart the ball away.

Liverpool would finally have their third in injury time as Sadio Mane after numerous unsuccessful attempts on goal finally found fulfilment with a super strike on goal after he was fed with a fine pass by Thiago who did well to latch onto a long cross from captain Henderson.

As the referee called time, Liverpool were rightfully anointed as the 3-0 winners.

The winning momentum needs to continue for The Reds

With three wins and one draw so far in the season, The Reds are looking good and need to build on this momentum as the contests will most certainly get tougher in time.

Liverpool should continue to mount those offensive onslaughts and goals will surely become a regular feature in their play as we have seen this far.

The Champions League opener against AC Milan is upon The Reds next in a matter of a few days and nothing short of a win in the opener of Europe’s most prestigious club competition will suffice.

Having said this, make no mistake any Italian opposition is never a cake walk and The Merseyside Maulers will definitely have to bring their A game to the fore amid a 50,000 strong Anfield.

After all, when Kopites roar, Liverpool soar.

 ‘Unity is strength – Let’s Go Reds – You’ll Never Walk Alone!’

Baptised in Brilliance, The Legend of CR7 Scales a New Peak

Last night, a few thousand supporters at the Estádio Algarve witnessed a miracle, possibly the greatest thing to ever happen to the beautiful country of Portugal.

The enigma called Cristiano Ronaldo, the G.O.A.T of world football surpassed Iran’s Ali Daei to become the highest goal scorer in the international game with his 110th strike against the Republic of Ireland

You read that right 110 goals, a figure which most international footballers don’t reach in appearances let alone goals.

Well, if this wasn’t reason enough to cheer, in a matter of moments as the clock struck the last minute of injury time, CR7 netted in a second to reach 111 and hand Portugal a well deserved 2-1 victory in this European Qualifier for Qatar 2022.

Surely, the Portuguese captain is like the best wine going around, getting better and hotter albeit in looks and performance with each passing year.

At 36, he gives a run for their money to every young footballer with his sheer brilliance in dribbling, mounting those magnificent runs and to top it all, putting the ball in the back of the opposition net with much ease.

Simply brilliant!

World’s Envy, Portugal’s Pride.

A five-time Ballon d’Or award winner and four-time European Golden Shoes conqueror, the most for any European player, this enigma par excellence was instrumental for Portugal winning the 2016 Euros in France.

While he sustained an injury in the 25th minute of the historic Euro 2016 final against hosts France, his sheer determination to get Portugal to the finals and his team winning the tournament to honour this bastion of the game was worthy of every praise.

Well if this wasn’t reason enough to celebrate this icon, one need not look further than the inaugural UEFA Nations League, which too was conquered by Portugal beating Netherlands in the final under his captaincy.

Add to this, his thirty title victories in Club Football including five Champions League hurrahs, does it get better for any footballer. Ever?

Surely not!

For me the greatest strength that this legend exuberates is despite being a number 7 in football which essentially is a winger and second striker role, he can put most number 9s, the main strikers to shame with his sheer ability to mount goal after goal.

The number 7 jersey in football received cult status when this man of God like ability put a new sheen on it, after legends of the past in Robert Pires, Luis Figo and Sir Kenny Dalglish had done their bit to honour this jersey.

Throughout his historic 18-year international career he has been the king pin of Portuguese football around whom multiple stars have revolved.

To be relevant for 18 long years is testament to the fitness of this man who till date can put models with the best chiseled physiques to shame.

Well, The Rock of Gibraltar in footballing terms would seem tiny in front of the Rock of Portugal.

A boon for Manchester United

Life comes a full circle, doesn’t it?

It was at Manchester United that Cristiano Ronaldo first wore the number 7 jersey under possibly the greatest manager that club football has ever seen in Sir Alex Ferguson.

Wearing the number 7 jersey became an extra source of motivation for Ronaldo to honour legends like David Beckham, George Best and Eric Cantona who had previously donned this number for the Red Devils.

And now the great man is back, having signed a new contract at Old Trafford and will again don the number 7 for Manchester United. Certainly, a boon if you’re a United supporter and more misery for fans like me who worship their fiercest rival, Liverpool.

The Premier League will surely be ready to get Ronaldoed again as goals will flow like wine from this legend.

And why not, to make the impossible possible is to be Cristiano Ronaldo!

Spirited 10-man Chelsea hold Liverpool to a draw at Anfield amid flaring tempers!

Pitted as a must watch clash of the titans, Anfield was rather disappointed with the final outcome as 10-man Chelsea did well to keep Liverpool at bay in a 1-1 draw despite the relentless attacking intent shown by The Reds.

Surely, Thomas Tuchel’s side would have been the happier of the two teams despite losing their right back, Reece James to a red at the stroke of half-time and still holding their own in the second to see out a draw which in-truth seemed almost an away win for them.

Testament to their coming of age under the German!

Truth be told, this clash wasn’t only about on-field performance albeit also of raging tempers on either side when Reece James received the red having controversially kept the ball out with his hand which was headed into the back of the net and Salah scored as a result with the spot-kick.

Chelsea were surely unhappy with the decision and it showed as keeper Mendy kicked the ball away when Liverpool’s captain Jordan Henderson went to collect it after Salah’s penalty thereby resulting in a heated exchange between the two as their respective team members came in to diffuse the situation.

Having said this, on a more positive note for all Liverpool fans, despite this 1-1 draw, The Merseyside Maulers still continued their unabated run of not losing a single game in their last 13 league encounters having won 10 and drawn 3.

So, without further ado lets dissect this fixture that saw the small section of Blues supporters certainly being the happier bunch amid the sea of Red at Anfield:

Spoils are shared in the first 45 amid drama galore

Liverpool started the game as the more dominant of the two teams with their first chance coming in just the 4th minute as a sloppy display from Kai Havertz saw Salah get the ball and he in turn passed it to young Harvey Elliot whose strike went just inches off-target.

The Reds would continue to build attacks with a second chance coming in the 10th minute as Henderson volleyed the ball off-target with his first touch from a sumptuous Trent Alexander-Arnold cross.

Liverpool certainly looked up for this contest albeit much to their dismay, the opposition drew first blood when Kai Havertz loopy header found the back of the Liverpool net from a James corner in the 22nd minute. Truth be told, The Reds defence was in sixes and sevens as The German was given ample space to conveniently head the ball that beat keeper Alisson.

Chelsea led Liverpool by a goal to nil as the Kop and more importantly all of Anfield was in shock!

A comeback was more than the need of the hour.

Well, the comeback came in injury time as Mane’s strike was blocked by Reece James as the ball bounced of his leg inevitably onto his hand as it was going in.

Credit – Reuters

The result, a penalty as VAR asked the referee to decide by looking at the pitch side monitor and Chelsea’s misery soared further after James was also shown the Red as a deliberate attempt to keep the ball out with his hand.

The Blues were furious amid the rather controversial decision and Mohamed Salah made no mistake in drawing The Reds level with his 99th Premier League goal.

Credit – Official Liverpool FC Twitter Handle

As the first half ended there were ill-fated temper tussles between both the teams which also saw Blues’ defender Rudiger and keeper Mendy get a yellow.

Credit – The Liverpool Offside

Mendy keeps Liverpool’s attacking threats at bay in the second half

Having been reduced to 10-men and also scarred with two yellow cards, Chelsea as the second half began were all but emotionally drained. One would have expected Liverpool to capitalize on this situation and mount further misery on The Blues.

Well, The Reds certainly tried with mounting 24 shots with 7 of them being on target albeit Chelsea stood strong to keep the Merseyside Maulers at bay.

Liverpool had their first chance of the second half in the 51st minute with Jota’s header going just inches above the goal.

Minutes later keeper Mendy did well to keep a long Virgil Van Dijk shot out along with also standing tall to thwart Fabinho and Robertson’s efforts.

Truth be told, Liverpool were getting frustrated having not mounted a second despite having one additional player on the field.

As time went on so did Liverpool’s desperation to score with missing two more chances in the last 10 minutes as Jota and Salah were also denied by Mendy.

The Chelsea keeper had done fantastically well to deny Liverpool who had chances aplenty as the referee called time.

For a neutral and the small group of Chelsea fans at Anfield, this was almost a win for The Blues as they took an important point from this away fixture.

Not a dent but a learning for The Reds

For Jurgen Klopp and his team this draw which could easily have been a win as Chelsea were demoralized, being down to 10-men should not be seen as a dent but a learning.

Learning to capitalize better on opportunities when you have the opposition down and deflated.

Having said this Liverpool did try and had it not been for the stupendous efforts of Blues’ keeper Mendy, The Reds surely would have had a second.

Despite the draw, The Reds still sit pretty on third in the league table with seven important points and surely would hope for nothing less than a win when they lock horns with Leeds United next in the league before opening their European campaign against the Italian force A.C. Milan.

The season is still very open and all for Liverpool to make their own.

‘Unity is strength – Let’s Go Reds – You’ll Never Walk Alone!’

Brilliant Boks stand stall as patchy Argentina are annihilated twice

After a stupendous showing to overcome the British & Irish Lions 2-1 in the recently concluded three match test series at the CapeTown Stadium, a determined South Africa marched with much confidence to lock horns with Argentina at the onset of The Rugby Championship.

The result, Los Pumas were annihilated twice in a home and away fixture albeit in South Africa only owing to COVID restrictions at The Nelson Mandela Bay stadium with a score line that read South Africa 32 – 12 Argentina in the first fixture and Argentina 9 – 29 South Africa in the second.

To say the Boks were clinical would be an understatement, as they hadn’t played competitive rugby post the World Cup final in 2019 almost two years to date and despite that, they came on top on five occasions in the six games contested this season including the South Africa A hurrah over the Lions.

Simply brilliant!

Credit has to go to Head Coach, Jacques Nienaber and Director of Rugby, Rassie Erasmus for expanding the pool of players which paid dividend galore in the teams that the Boks have been able to field this season.

The depth in the Bok talent has been fantastic with the likes of Cobus Reinach replacing the injured Faf de Klerk at scrum-half and a new find in Jasper Weise who came in for Duane Vermeulen to make the number eight position his own.

Surely a star for the future once the stalwart of South African rugby decides to hangs up his boots.

Morne Steyn’s kicking abilities at 37 have also been as smooth as silk and what gives me immense confidence is to see Handre Pollard having able deputies in Elton Jantjies and Steyn in the fly-half position.

When dwelling on the depth in the Springbok reserves, how can one not talk about young Aphelele Fassi, who is considered one of the best full-backs in the country.

In his nascent career this season, the Sharks man has precisely shown why with the try he scored against the Los Pumas as he twice held on to the ball with one hand while under pressure before crossing the line. A performer second to none!

The icing on the cake one would reckon in this home season has been how every Springbok player has complemented his fellow team-mates with the only focus being on victory for the nation over individual gains.

Truth be told, the unity one has seen in this team is also testament to the Siya Kolisi’s leadership as through his stupendous performance in every game he has set a benchmark for his compatriots to follow.

Certainly, a breath of fresh air in a country that is still reeling from the self-inflicted wounds owing to political instability, rising unemployment and a dwindling economy.

An uncertain season ahead overshadows certainty in performance

As the season of The Rugby Championship moves ahead, the only certainty a Bok supporter is faced with is the outstanding performance that this team has shown.

Why do I say this?

Well, the Springboks and Argentina were to travel to Australia yesterday, albeit have not as the tournament has now gone into limbo due to New Zealand pulling out of their trip to Australia owing to a recent spike in the COVID cases.

While South Africa has put its hand up to host the remaining fixtures pending Government approval and Europe is also being looked at as an alternate, the decision on the future of The Rugby Championship solely rests on the better judgement of SANZAAR, The Southern Hemisphere Rugby Governing Body.

One can only hope the tournament continues as the performance the Boks have demonstrated this season certainly merits them winning this championship. Again!

Afterall they are playing their best rugby they have ever played in recent memory.

­­­Go Bokke Go!

In a game where offside decisions rule out goals, Liverpool still reign supreme!

As a new season entered the red walls of Anfield, more than 50,000 Kopites made the Mecca of Reds football their own after 528 days of gloom to witness Liverpool record their second successive hurrah.

The team at the receiving end was a spirited Burnley who more than put up a fight to give The Merseyside Maulers a run for their money in a score line which finally skewed towards The Reds by a margin of two goals.

Make no mistake, such was the determination, The Clarets demonstrated when they almost had one back had the referee not adjudged Ashley Barnes offside in the beginning of the second half.

Speaking about offside decisions, Liverpool themselves were at the receiving end of one when Salah thought he had got Liverpool a second in the first-half albeit VAR ruled otherwise.

Surely a game that would have seen a score line of 3-1 in Liverpool’s favour had offside decisions not ruled out two goals. Well such is football and rules are rules!

On a brighter side this was the seventh consecutive victory for Liverpool in the Premier League including the last season. To put things into perspective before these seven successive wins, in their 20 previous games, The Reds only managed to win 7, draw 5 and lose 8.

These seven successive hurrahs also served as their longest winning run since February 2020, when they won 18 in a row.

Certainly, The Reds are on the rise. Again!

So, without further ado lets dissect this intriguing fixture that saw Liverpool come on top though not as convincingly as their first outing:

Diogo Jota shows his value on a second successive occasion

Burnley started the contest as the more assertive of the two teams with almost going into the lead in the 4th minute courtesy McNeil whose effort was barely kept out by Trent Alexander Arnold on the goal line as keeper Alisson had already committed himself to keep striker Wood at bay.

Post the move, the referee raised the flag to adjudge Wood offside, the first in the game that would see two more goals denied courtesy the flag.

Liverpool were lucky to survive the initial scare!

As they say it’s the survival of the fittest and The Reds more than showed why with a fitting header by Diogo Jota that put the home side in front in the 18th minute after the Portuguese did well to latch on to a Tsimikas cross much to the delight of a lively Kop and an energetic Anfield.

Credit – Reuters

Minutes later Burnley managed another strike on goal only to be denied by Alisson. The Clarets were certainly up for the contest despite Liverpool drawing first blood.

Well, the home team in a matter of moments had a second albeit this would be the first goal to be denied by the flag. The perpetrator was Mohamed Salah by just barely having a foot over the line after he was brilliantly served by young Reds midfielder, Harvey Elliot.

Credit – Reuters

With no further drama the first half came to a finish as the score read Liverpool 1 – 0 Burnley.

Sadio Mane comes to the party

The second half much like the first saw Burnley assert their dominance as Ashley Barnes scored in the first minute to put the visitors’ level or at least he thought he did before the flag went up again. The second insistence where the flag was raised and the goal was denied.

The Clarets surely felt unlucky and Liverpool relieved!

A second was the need of the hour for the home team to put the game beyond the visitors as the eleven players in Red and the 50,000 + supporters all but seemed to tilt towards a certain sense of edginess.

The person to calm the nerves had to be one from Liverpool’s Big 3 and thankfully this time it was the Senegalese superstar, Sadio Mane who got his first of the season to join his compatriots Salah and Firmino on the goal scoring list.

Credit – Official Liverpool FC Twitter Handle

The Senegalese after being kept out by the Pope of Burnley on two previous attempts finally beat the keeper with a hammer of a shot as he capitalized on an opportunity created through a brilliant interplay between Elliot and Alexander-Arnold.

Liverpool had sealed the deal with this strike.

The final score read Liverpool 2 – 0 Burnley as the home team recorded a perfect 6 points from their first two outings much to the delight of an ecstatic Anfield.

An enthralling contest with Chelsea awaits

While wins over Norwich City and Burnley are as important as they come to open the season on a high, truth be told the game of gigantic proportions which surely will test the metal of the team in red is the one next.

Chelsea, the champions of Europe under Thomas Tuchel seem a much-rejuvenated side and will be more than eager to bring the mother of all fights to Anfield.

Having said this, make no mistake, Liverpool will be ready as The Blues will not only face the eleven men on the field but also the 50,000 strong army cheering from the stands. And yes the millions supporting from all corners of the globe too.

A clash of two German geniuses in the offering. I surely hope the one with The Reds prevails!

‘Unity is strength – Let’s Go Reds – You’ll Never Walk Alone!’

Focused Liverpool begin their campaign with much belief as they take Norwich City to the cleaners!

On a day when the Red Devils played like the Manchester United of old thumping Leeds United 5-1 courtesy a Bruno Fernandes’ hattrick and a clinical Chelsea put Crystal Palace to rest with relative ease in a 3-0 score line, Liverpool had much pressure to live up to the magic created by their compatriots, the members of the Big 6 in the league.

Well, when you talk pressure to Liverpool, one must understand that it serves not as a taboo albeit a motivation to The Merseyside Maulers as they too started their campaign much like their peers with a focused and purposeful annihilation of Norwich City in a 3-0 score line amid a group of Kopites vehemently cheering for their side at Carrow Road, the home stadium of The Canaries.

With this win, The Reds also recorded their eighth successive away win over Norwich City, equaling a record set by a Reds team of the bygone era against West Brom from 1983 to 2009.

The cherry on the cake for me though was Liverpool’s envious record of winning eight of the last nine fixtures on matchday 1 with five out of six coming under the able guidance of our German GOD, Jurgen Klopp.

So, as my heart fills with pride galore to see my team start with such belief and set records second to none, lets dissect this astute annihilation of Norwich City last evening:

Jota scores the season opener for The Reds

The evening began with a series of things being back.

The League was back, so were the fans and most importantly so was Norwich City from relegation as the contest started amid a Carrow Road packed to the rafters.

Liverpool asserted their dominance from the word go as Trent Alexander Arnold in just the 11th minute curled a great cross from a corner, which was passed by Naby Kieta to Diogo Jota whose header was barely kept out by the Norwich keeper, Tim Krul.

Norwich were lucky to not be down this early in the game!

The Canaries minutes later created a chance of their own through a Pukki shot on goal which was ably kept out by keeper Alisson.

The Reds with their relentless assault would finally go one to the good as their Portuguese sensation, Diogo Jota skittled in the strike after he was ably fed by none other than the Egyptian magician, Mohamed Salah through an adept touch.

Credit – Reuters

Twenty-Six minutes in and the away team had put the home team and their fans in a state of sorrow.

With no further twists, the referee called time on the half as Liverpool led the home side by a goal to nil.

Firmino and Salah sink The Canaries further

The second half began much to the same tune as the first, with a Liverpool assault all but denting Norwich as a second goal came courtesy the brave Brazilian, Roberto Firmino.

Liverpool’s no. 9 came on as a substitute for Jota and in just his fourth minute fired The Reds two to the good thanks to a brilliant interplay between the famed trio of Liverpool in Salah, Mane and Firmino with the Egyptian giving the final pass to the Brazilian as he put the ball in the back of the Norwich net.

Credit – Reuters

The move was simply stunning!

The Canaries would be dented even further, this time at the hands of Mohamed Salah in the 74th minute as he made no mistake slotting the ball in the back of the net from the edge of the box after a false Gibson clearance came straight to him from a Liverpool corner.

Credit – The Guardian

The match by now was all but out of Norwich City’s grasp as the handful of Kopites in the stadium cheered their team on.

As the referee called time on the 90, contrasting emotions engulfed Carrow Road with everyone in Red rosily celebrating and the overwhelming majority in green and yellow feeling rather overwhelmed.

The final score read Norwich City 0 – 3 Liverpool.

A bright start should serve as much fodder for a fruitful season ahead

A bright start, a steady build in and a great finish go a long way to make a team bask in the success of winning consistently.

Well, Liverpool have certainly started the season on a high and I surely hope they continue the momentum as they now lock horns with Burnley next weekend, followed by the big one against The Blues.

A match of epic proportions if you’re a Kopite or a supporter of Chelsea.

Make no mistake, consistency in performance will be the mantra to success.

To conclude this article, which showcases a performance that has filled my soul with solace, I would just say in every journey that you undertake my Dear Reds, millions of Kopites around the world much like me continue to support you unconditionally with piles of passion.

‘Unity is strength – Let’s Go Reds – You’ll Never Walk Alone!’

Premier League 2021-22: Are Liverpool ready to cement their status among the elites of England Again?

Welcome to that time of the year, when the pilgrims of English football will march to their holy places of worship to offer prayers to their favourite Gods as another season of the Premier League beckons.

The 2021-22 season commences this weekend with not only supporters in England flocking to stadiums, but billions more around the world will once again enthusiastically sit in front of their TV sets to vehemently support their teams.

The banter will also be back, which I hope is only healthy and nothing else!

Amid these exciting times, is a team which was languishing in the bottom half of the top 10 mid-season in the last Premier League campaign. Having suffered a massive blow of not having its best defenders available, Liverpool still did the impossible of winning 26 out of the final available 30 points to cement a place among the European elite by finishing third.

With youngsters, the likes of Phillips and Williams giving it their all and keeper Alisson scoring an important goal in injury time to keep Liverpool relevant in the hunt for the Champions League, could one have expected anything less?

Certainly not! Kudos to Liverpool for this fantastic showing to end the last season on a high!

Having already cemented their place among the elites of Europe for the upcoming Champions League, are the resolute Reds ready to be among the best in England at the onset of the new domestic season?

Well, as a die-hard Kopite my answer is an overwhelming yes!

Virgil, the vigilante of our defence is back!

Its been almost 10 months since we have seen the prize of Liverpool’s defence, Virgil Van Dijk, take the field for a competitive game. Having suffered a knee ligament injury against Merseyside rivals, Everton on October 17th last year, the Red wall has since been out of commission.

Credit – The Guardian

Well, that’s in the past, as the Dutch vigilante is back and fit as ever to patrol our defence and negate the best of attacking threats come the start of this season. Giving him support will also be a fit again Joel Matip and Joe Gomez.

The Reds have also signed the young French sensation, Ibrahima Konate for a whopping 66 million USD from RB Leipzig, the only acquisition of the pre-season to further spruce up the defence.

Credit – The Guardian

The wingers in Trent Alexander-Arnold and the recently injured Andrew Robertson, who is expected to be fit soon, will also add the much-needed sheen to make our defence well-rounded.

With an assured midfield in captain Henderson, the Spanish sensation Thiago and the barbaric Brazilian, Fabianho to match a forward line boasting one of the best trios in English football in Salah, Mane and Firmino and the ever-improving Diogo Jotta, the Reds certainly look to have all bases covered.

And last but not the least, the cherry on the cake is our keeper, the ever-reliable Alisson Becker.

So, with a team as strong as this, Liverpool certainly appears to be one of the favorites’ heading into the new season with the nucleus remaining largely the same and most importantly personnel consistency being maintained.

The master tactician, Jurgen Klopp will be the backbone of this team

They say a team is as good as its Manager.

For me, if you have a manager like Jurgen Klopp, the astute German tactician who will now be in his seventh season at Anfield, it surely doesn’t get better.

Credit – This is Anfield

Be it winning the Champions League in 2018-19 season or the Premier League in the 2019-20 season after an astounding gap of 30 years or getting an under-par Reds to number three in the last season when few expected, is testament to his commitment to make this team soar in the face of adversity.

His humility matched with the ability to get the best out of this team is the perfect mantra for success as the daunting task of keeping Liverpool consistent in performances over the entirety of the next season will be all for him to conquer.

Add to this, the expectations of the effervescent Kopites and Jurgen certainly would have a lot on his plate!

When Anfield in unison roars, Liverpool soars!

The biggest arsenal in Liverpool’s armory will be their fans.

Amid a long gap of having to see their blooming stars perform only on television, the tides have finally turned and the fans will be back in the stadium.

Credit – This is Anfield

A packed Anfield and more importantly a noisy Kop most certainly will serve as a reliable and motivational 12th man for The Reds to play their best football.

Add to that millions more cheering from every corner of the globe, me included, The Merseyside Club will have all the support they need to make this season their own.

Surely nothing less than a numero uno finish will suffice my Dear Liverpool, starting with beating Norwich City this Saturday.

‘Unity is strength – Let’s Go Reds – You’ll Never Walk Alone!’

The Bokke magic dazzles all as clinical South Africa sink the British & Irish Lions yet again!

A dream, 4380 days a.k.a 12 years in the making has been realised once again as the stupendous Springboks overcame a resilient Lions’ outfit 19-16 in the crucial third fixture of the Castle Lager Lions series at the Cape Town stadium last evening.

The contest stood at one apiece heading into the all-important decider.

This after the British & Irish Lions had beaten the Boks 22-17 in the first game amid controversy galore and the home team annihilated the tourists in the second fixture 27-9 in a game that had more ill-fated temper tussles than performance on the field.

The win was the second successive series hurrah for South Africa after they had downed the men from the British Isles in 2009 with a crucial Morne Steyn penalty conversion in the 79th minute of the final game at Pretoria as the series was tied 1-1 even on that occasion.

Ironically on this occasion also, it was the experience of the fly-half that came to the fore as Steyn converted a critical penalty in the dying moments of the contest. Again!

Perhaps the 37-year-old believes in bringing his best when his team is up against the Lions in every do or die situation.

The Men in Green and Gold reigned supreme by not only winning this series albeit also prevailing 2-1 on the three previous occasions that these two teams have locked horns since the onset of the professional era in rugby.

Make no mistake, any series win over a team comprising of possibly the best four rugby nations that make the cream of Europe in England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland is as big as winning the Rugby World Cup.

Perhaps that’s the reason, South Africa have always battled the Lions following their performance extraordinaire to lift the show piece of World Rugby be it in 1997, 2009 and now in 2021.

Truth be told, the victory to tilt the series towards the southern coast of Africa was the much-needed ointment for a country still reeling from unrelenting covid pressures, massive unemployment and the recent looting and rioting debacle in the provinces of KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng.

Afterall sport is the biggest unifier amid all uncertainties in life.

So, without further ado let’s throw some light on this fantastic showing by the Boks to truly justify their title of World Champions in the Mother City last evening:

The Lions show much metal in the first half

South Africa went into this crucial decider without the experienced duo of scrum-half Faf de Klerk and world player of the year in 2019, the lock, Pieter Steph du Toit who unfortunately suffered injuries in the second test.

The majestic fly-half and vice-captain of South Africa who won his 50th cap in the first test of this series, Handre Pollard put the Boks in front in the 12th minute through a penalty goal.

The Lions came back strong as they constantly built attacks in the Springbok half and as a result managed to get an equaliser through a Finn Russel penalty goal moments later.

Their approach to keep attacking the Boks paid further dividend as Welshman, Ken Owens did well to score a TRY in the 18th minute after barging over the line through a powerful driving maul.

The Scottish fly-half, Russel made no mistake in converting the resultant penalty as the Lions led the Boks 10-3 with 20 minutes to go before the end of the first half.

In the 34th minute a massive Bok scrum saw the Men in Green and Gold win another penalty as Pollard made no mistake slotting it home after missing his two previous kicks.

South Africa were lucky to get three points back as the half time score read South Africa 6 – 10 British & Irish Lions with 74 percent territory and 69 percent possession being in the visitors’ favour.

Cheslin Kolbe and Morne Steyn realise the dream

As the second half began, Siya Kolisi and his chargers knew the next 40 minutes were extremely crucial as the hope of a country hungry for inspiration much like in 2019 rested on the able shoulders of these 15 brave men.

And boy, they did not disappoint with Cheslin Kolbe scoring a crucial TRY in the 56th minute to edge the Boks ahead as Handre Pollard made no mistake in converting the resultant penalty.

The score was now South Africa 13-10 British & Irish Lions with a little more than 20 minutes to play.

The Lions again came back strong with a decisive penalty as the score moved to 13 apiece.

Morne Steyn had replaced Handre Pollard as the game was heading towards the finish line, certainly not to end in dull draw.

Three minutes left to the final 80 saw the Boks make inroads into the Lions territory looking for the all-important penalty as the referee blew his whistle much to the delight of the 15 men in Green and Gold on the field and 60 million watching from every possible nook and corner of the country. South Africa had their penalty!

The hopes of 60 million Bok supporters and millions more world-wide, me included rested on the kicking abilities of Morne Steyn.

He had done this 12 years back albeit the only question plaguing everyone’s mind was would the ability matched with the will still be there for this Bulls man?

Well, it certainly was as the experienced campaigner made no mistake slotting the ball between the two poles.

South Africa had edged in front as the referee called time on the full 80 with magical scenes of joyful tears engulfing everyone in attendance at the Cape Town stadium and millions watching on their TV sets.

The Springboks had done it, beaten the Lions after 12 years, courtesy the nerve and will of Morne Steyn. Again!

Truly incredible!

The Rugby Championship awaits the men in Green and Gold next

Confidence is a funny word, when one has it in loads, he is the king of the world and when faced with lack of it, even the roadside popper seems more than a king to him.

Thankfully, Springboks have the C word in abundance as things stand, being the reigning World Champions and the conquerors of the British & Irish Lions as they head into the most prestigious competition of rugby in the southern hemisphere pinning the might of the All Blacks, Wallabies and the Pumas.

South Africa will open their competition with two back to back games against Argentina at Port Elizabeth in the next two weeks before flying down under to lock horns with Australia and conclude the championship in the mother of all battles in rugby against New Zealand. The oldest rivalry in world rugby.

The Boks have won this championship in 2019 and I see no reason why they can’t accomplish the cherry this time under the able guidance of Coach, Jacques Neinaber and Director of Rugby, Rassie Erasmus.

Afterall they are playing their best rugby that one has seen in recent memory.

Hence for me, its only befitting to conclude this article with the three magical words that capture the sentiment of every Springbok supporter.

Go Bokke Go!

EURO 2020 Final: Italy’s 53-year wait ends as Second European Title comes to Rome!

Imagine a marathon runner having performed more than ably to conquer every lap only to squander his winning run metres away from the finish line. Well, when one thinks about this marathon runner, a certain home team surely springs to mind who through the tournament were so focused to win their maiden European title and a major trophy after a long wait of 55 years.

England vehemently conquered every opposition to reach the final, winning games enroute only to surrender in an all or nothing battle courtesy another penalty shootout debacle. The result, the banner which motivated every English fan in It’s coming home made a 180 shift albeit still rhyming in It’s coming Rome.

Wembley witnessed the Azzurri cheer as England were conquered 3-2 on penalties after a 1-1 outcome in regular time to give Italy their second Euro Title after a gap of 53 years dating back to their 1968 conquest against Yugoslavia, the longest gap for any European team beating Spain’s 44 year wait from 1964 to 2008.

With this trophy, the Azzurri mounted their silverware to six major titles (4 World Cups and 2 Euros) a close second to the once mighty powerhouse of Europe in Germany who sit on seven.

So, as The Three Lions suffered another heart break in a major tournament at a point where they were so close yet so far, lets dissect this final which saw the Axis forces reign supreme over the Great Alliance possibly bringing a smile on the face of the late Benito Mussolini:

The Azzurri were Shawbertoed early

Gareth Southgate made one change in the starting XI from the Danish semi-final hurrah, with a defensive option Kieran Trippier coming in for a more attack minded Bukayo Saka in a 3-4-2-1 formation. The task was simple score early and defend with all your might and the elusive Euro title comes home.

Well, the strategy worked wonders as only in the 2nd minute England were 1-0 up thanks to a superb strike from winger Luke Shaw after he made no mistake in converting from a single touch to beat keeper Donnarumma from a Trippier cross.

Credit – Reuters

England were up and running early, I was ecstatic and the Manchester United man had his maiden goal in a move which reminded me like many others of a Brazilian legend Roberto Carlos, with the way this winger scored for the Seleção.

As time moved on, Italy, the team who played the first game of this competition and now were playing the final, slowly started finding their feet as they steadily built attacks on the English goal. Their best chance would come in the 35th minute through arguably their most attacking threat, Chiesa who hit the ball inches wide of the post.

Credit – Reuters

The Three Lions knew they were in a contest and the going would be anything but easy!

The Azzurri had another shot on target in stoppage time of the first 45 as Immobile’s strike was blocked by John Stones and Verrati’s rebound effort was comfortably pouched by keeper, Jordan Pickford.

With no further twists, England were lucky to maintain their lead as the players walked into the tunnel at the stroke of half-time.

Leonardo Bonucci brings his team back into the contest

England started the second half brightly as Sterling made a fine run into the Italian D to be brought down by captain Chiellini and Bonucci which showed a clear penalty albeit the referee decided otherwise.

The Three Lions were a tad unlucky with the decision as the Azzurri continued to mount their offensive onslaught with Chiesa creating another opportunity that was ably stopped by Pickford.

Italy with their relentless attacking threats, would finally get the equaliser through their legendary defender Bonucci who slotted the ball in after Pickford did well to keep Verratti’s header out from an Immobile corner.

Credit – Reuters

The game had come to life if you were an Italian supporter and the majority in attendance at Wembley were certainly deflated with this occurrence.

England much like their supporters were on the back-foot as time was called on the 90 and extra time of 15 minutes each beckoned.

The contest would fail to produce a result in the 30 minutes that followed as Italy continued to attack albeit the goal was not to be found.

Next up a word that would particularly still not sit well with England was to see the light of day. Penalties!

England squander yet another major penalty shootout

As the shootout began, my hopes started to soar as Jordan Pickford stopped Italy’s second strike and England had converted from their first two.

Little did I know then that our next three would go so horribly south as Rashford, Sancho and Saka all missed despite Pickford still managing to keep England in the hunt by keeping a Jorginho effort out.

The result, Italy had won another major tournament as England were yet again beaten 3-2 on penalties.

Credit – Reuters

The Three Lions had squandered another penalty shootout taking their tally to all of 22 percent success rate with only two hurrahs from nine attempts. Yes, some would have hoped The Three Lions could have conquered the Azzurri in this shootout as their last successive penalty triumphs had come as recently as the 2018 World Cup pre-quarter win over Columbia and The Nations League third place win over Switzerland albeit not to be.

As the contest finally ended and the Italian captain Chiellini hoisted the trophy, to say I was heartbroken was as true as England’s insatiable need to defend after going 1-0 up early in this contest.

Having said this, one cannot take anything away from The Three Lions as their valiant roar was worth every praise to reach their maiden European final.

Maybe this failure was a sign that they are destined to shine even brighter come next year on the grandest stage of world football at Qatar 2022. In exactly a year and a half would I be writing a piece on England winning the ultimate prize in football? Only time will tell.

Until then I still continue to believe that impossible is not a word in the English footballing dictionary!

The Harrys’ maul Ukraine with much vigour as England cruise to the last 4!

While England in the group stages of the Euro Championship had done well to not concede a single goal, I was honestly a little disturbed with their attacking potential as The Three Lions had barely managed to mount only two goals in three games courtesy Raheem Sterling.

Not the attacking intent one would associate with a forward line boasting the likes of Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, Jack Grealish and Jadon Sancho.

Having said this, as the tournament moved to the business end, so did England’s confidence with Germany being hammered 2-0 in the pre-quarters thanks to a strike from Sterling and Kane.

Well, as they say when a team is brimming with confidence, the world is at their feet!

Ask Ukraine and they will most definitely agree as they witnessed an English team run riot last night with a 4-0 mauling in the quarters at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

This courtesy a brace from captain Harry Kane along with a solitary strike from Harry Maguire and a bonus from Jordan Henderson.

What made me even happier is how keeper Jordan Pickford managed to keep a clean sheet on the fifth successive occasion equalling a record that was previously held by the Italian side in the 1990 World Cup.

So as The Three Lions marched to the last 4 with much confidence, lets dissect how Ukraine’s determination was all but shattered courtesy a stunning display by the World Cup semi-finalists:

Kane strikes early

Even before this contest began one would have anticipated a comfortable English victory as such is the gap between the two teams in question, with the world no. 4 in England playing a team loitering at 24 in Ukraine.

Well, the contest began exactly to this tune as only in the 4th minute Raheem Sterling orchestrated a fine run through the Ukraine defence sending a mouth-watering pass to Harry Kane who made no mistake in putting England in front.

Credit – Reuters

With this goal, Kane scored his second in the tournament and one could see glimpses of the old Harry, the talismanic match winner for England.

Ukraine, a goal down looked desperate to equalise to keep their dream run relevant in this competition with a 17th minute strike from Yaremchuk as the ball was paired away by an alert Jordan Pickford.

As the game continued, The Three Lions mounted two more opportunities through midfielder Declan Rice and Jadon Sancho albeit the Ukraine keeper stood firm to not concede a second.

England were only 1-0 up despite chances galore as the referee called time on the first 45.

Courtesy the Harry-Henderson show, England mount three in the second 45

As the second half began the 1-0 score line in a matter of moments became 2-0.

Harry Maguire was the destroyer with a fantastic header from a Luke Shaw cross in just the first minute of the second half. Ukraine were rocked early and any ambitions of mounting a comeback looked all but uncertain.

Credit – Reuters

Their comeback in a matter of three further minutes suffered another massive dent as the other Harry, the captain of England scored his brace courtesy a header from another fine cross by Luke Shaw as the English winger indulged in some brilliant interplay with Raheem Sterling to put the Ukraine defence in sixes and sevens.

Credit – Reuters

The East European nation was all but deflated with the third strike of sorrow as their hope of reaching the semi-final was fast fading.

Harry Kane almost made it four for England enroute to a hat-trick, when in the 61st minute he fired a fearsome left-footed strike that was just kept out by the Ukraine keeper, Bushchan.

In a matter of moments, England did get their fourth, through Jordan Henderson who did well with a close-range header from a Mason Mount corner as the Liverpool captain registered his maiden strike on the England goal scoring list.

Credit – Reuters

Ukraine by now were only thinking of the best flight options to fly out of Rome straight to Kyiv as the Wembley dream was all but sealed for England.

As the full 90 ended, the final score read Ukraine 0 – 4 England.

The Danish date awaits England at Wembley

As the tournament now moves to Wembley for the semi-finals and the all-important final hurrah, The Three Lions have had quite a journey this far winning 4 out of the 5 games and not conceding a single goal.

Next up they face a purposeful side in Denmark who are desperate to conquer Europe for their inspirational midfielder, Christian Eriksen.

This contest will surely be one of epic proportions as a determined England with the mantra of ‘lets bring it back’ will lock horns with the most purposeful team of the competition in the Dynamic Danes.

Lots to look forward to as remember my Dear England you’re just two wins way from bringing the cup home. Surely, you can’t falter now!

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