Match report: Lucas header sends Reds into round four

A rare goal from Lucas Leiva proved enough for Liverpool to claim a 1-0 victory in their FA Cup third-round replay with Plymouth Argyle tonight.

Lucas, who captained the Reds at Home Park, climbed superbly to power home a header from an 18th-minute corner by Philippe Coutinho – making his first start since November – and book a fourth-round meeting with Wolverhampton Wanderers at Anfield.

The Brazilian’s last goal came back in September 2010, when he netted against Steaua Bucharest.

Divock Origi saw a late penalty saved after Plymouth had hit the woodwork, but Liverpool did enough to ensure they would not fall victim to a Cup giant-killing.

The key points…

•    Lucas’ header put Liverpool ahead after a strong start from the visitors.
•    Trent Alexander-Arnold intervened to deny Plymouth an equaliser shortly before half-time.
•    Harry Wilson made his first-team debut as a second-half substitute for Coutinho.
•    Origi missed a late penalty after Plymouth had hit the post.

The team news…

Klopp made nine changes to his team from Sunday’s game against Manchester United, with only Alexander-Arnold and Divock Origi retaining their places from Old Trafford.

Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge and Joe Gomez were among the players brought into the Reds’ starting line-up, while there was a place on the bench for Wilson.

The first half…

Liverpool took charge after weathering some early pressure from the hosts, with Sturridge and Coutinho both having harmless attempts on goal before Lucas made the breakthrough.

The Reds’ skipper made a darting near-post run and nodded Coutinho’s corner past Plymouth goalkeeper Luke McCormick for his first goal in over six years.

Argyle responded well to going behind and Loris Karius had to be alert to palm away Graham Carey’s long-range shot soon after Lucas’ opener. 

A crucial last-ditch interception from Alexander-Arnold then denied Arnold Garita the opportunity to tap home, but Liverpool regained a measure of control before the break and Argyle’s Oscar Threlkeld had to clear a searching cross from the Reds’ right-back that was bound for Sturridge at the far post.

The second half…

Origi tested McCormick from distance on the hour mark, before Klopp handed Wilson his senior bow in place of Coutinho.

The 19-year-old almost immediately marked the occasion with a goal, too, as he charged down a McCormick clearance only for the ball to loop over the bar.

A sharp one-two between Sturridge and Origi ended with the former drilling a low shot that the Pilgrims keeper was equal to with 19 minutes remaining as Liverpool went in search of a second goal.

The Reds survived a huge scare when Jake Jervis’ acrobatic effort struck the outside of the post, and Origi spurned a golden opportunity to seal the tie five minutes from time, when he saw his penalty saved after Alberto Moreno had been fouled in the area.

However, that made no difference to the final outcome as Klopp’s team advanced to a fourth-round tie with Wolves.

The stats…

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Gleyber Torres looking to improve defense, with Castro's help

Gleyber Torres had no errors dancing salsa Wednesday afternoon, guiding several senior citizens around the cafeteria floor to thumping music, shortly after Torres and several other Yankees prospects and veteran Starlin Castro had helped serve lunch to dozens of seniors in the basement of St. Malachy’s Church near Times Square.

The 20-year-old Venezuelan infielder is the blue chip prospect among the team’s influx of young talent, but even Torres admits he’s got some work to do on defense and offense.

“I just have to continue working hard. I have to concentrate more on defense, since that’s a very important part of the game,” Torres said in Spanish Wednesday, the third day of the Yankees’ “Winter Warm-Up” 2017 event. “Not so much my range, but my overall defense has to get better. I just have to play better. At the plate, I need to improve my ability to hit for power.”

Torres, 20, played the bulk of last season for the Cubs’ Single-A affiliate Myrtle Beach Pelicans before a summer deadline trade brought him to the Yankees in exchange for lefty reliever Aroldis Chapman. While Torres played for the Pelicans, he made 19 errors in 87 games. He finished the season with the Single-A Tampa Yankees and committed four errors in 27 games played.

Torres knows who he wants to hit first MLB home run off of

Not Released (NR)

Torres is expected to begin 2017 with the Double-A Trenton Thunder.

After the winter caravan ends, Torres said he will head back to Miami and continue training before reporting to Tampa for the start of spring training. He said his family still lives in Venezuela, but that they plan to come to watch him play this season. Torres, who was named MVP of the Arizona Fall League, is slated to begin 2017 with the Double-A Trenton Thunder.

Castro, the current Yankee second baseman, said he’s looking forward to helping mentor Torres, but that the stud infield prospect already has plenty of talent.

“Really good talent, really good bat speed, really good hands,” said Castro of Torres. “We talk about how he can get better on the field and off. He’s a really good kid. He listens to everything.”

Castro recalled how when he came up through the Cubs’ farm system and finally got called up to the big leagues, he valued advice from veterans like Alfonso Soriano. Castro is hoping to serve as the same kind of veteran mentor, even if Castro is only six years older than Torres.

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With the group of young talent currently in the Yankee organization’s farm system, Castro added that he hopes that players like Torres can progress fast enough where someday Castro can share the field with the new wave of Baby Bombers.

“Whatever the young players need, I’m here to help,” said Castro.

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Tearful Spanish coach rejects €4mn payout after quitting

Spanish football coach Abelardo Fernández rejected a €4 million (US$4.2 million) compensation payout after quitting as coach of struggling La Liga team Sporting Gijon.

The 46-year-old resigned as head coach earlier this week, with the team 18th in the division, having lost seven of their last eight games.

Gijon native Abelardo spent five years at the club as a player, and took over as coach in 2014.

“I cry for these people, for this club and for the fans, who I love so much,” he said at a news conference on Wednesday, as reported by Spain’s AS newspaper. 

“As a Sporting fan, even though I had a contract until 2020, I couldn’t do that to the club I love. I did the same at other clubs and it wasn’t going to be any different here. I don’t have a problem writing off the money. There are more important things, loyalty to my club above all,” Abelardo said, referring to the decision to write-off the compensation.

The gesture, which may surprise some given the frivolous climate of modern football, was met with broad approval on social media.  

Gijon have now appointed Joan Francesc Ferrer, also known as “Rubi,” as their new head coach, according to reports.  

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Acrobatic construction workers wow at Warriors groundbreaking

Of course the Warriors had dancing contruction workers at Tuesday’s ground-breaking bash for their new San Francisco arena.

Would you expect anything less from the NBA’s flashiest club?

Head coach Steve Kerr and Kevin Durant – sporting hard hats and golden shovels – joined the contingent of VIPs for the ceremony to break gound on the Warriors’ new 18,000-seat Chase Center.

The over-the-top ceremony featured a gospel choir and a performance from the San Francisco Symphony, but it was the wild dancing acrobats that had everyone talking.

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The grand finale featured the dancing contruction workers doing insane acrobatic stunts, along with equipment rigs moving in sync to the music and beach balls dropping like Steph Curry three-pointers from an excavator.

“Finally welcoming the Golden State Warriors to San Francisco!” San Fran mayor Ed Lee roared to the crowd during the ceremony.

The Warriors, who broke the NBA record for regular season wins last year with a 73-9 mark before losing in the NBA Finals to LeBron James and the Cavs, have called Oakland home since 1971. The team will abandon Oracle Arena for the new $1 billion home in the Mission Bay neighborhood in San Francisco in time for the 2019-2020 season if things stay on schedule.

With The Associated Press

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CSKA Moscow warm-weather training in Spain scuppered… by snow!

Russian Premier League (RPL) champions CSKA Moscow felt right at home at their warm-weather training base in Spain – as their pitches were covered in snow!

The squad are currently in Campoamor on Spain’s south east coast – a destination that shares a coastline with holiday hotspots Benidorm and Alicante – to conduct their usual warm-weather training during the RPL winter break.

However, their plans stalled when the pitches at their training base were covered in snow as the region battles an unexpected bout of bad weather and precipitation. The club took to social media to vent their frustrations.  

However, some players took the opportunity to have some fun. forward Vitinho even had chance to build a mini-me snowman 

CSKA are in Spain for two matches against Swiss team FC Wohlen and Polish team PIast Gliwice S.A. in Campoamor on January 21 and 22.

Meanwhile, current RPL leaders Spartak Moscow today touched down in the United Arab Emirates to begin their winter break training, where they will play two friendly matches against Astra and FC Copenhagen on January 19 and 31 respectively.

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Carmelo Anthony's chat with Phil Jackson was 'short'

BOSTON — They sat. They spoke. But still don’t expect Phil Jackson to get an invite to Carmelo Anthony’s dinner table.

The Tuesday meeting between star and team president didn’t seem to result in any breakthrough for their strained relationship, and Anthony just wants to redirect his attention to playing basketball.

“The conversation wasn’t that long, we didn’t break bread, we didn’t have an hour conversation,” Anthony said. “It was a short conversation.”

Anthony didn’t want to delve into the details of his meeting with Jackson, but sources say he again reiterated that he won’t waive his no-trade clause. When asked Wednesday about still believing in last season’s edict of “Trust in Phil” and his stated desires to have input in personnel decisions, Anthony indicated his position has changed.

Carmelo tells Phil he’s staying with Knicks, won’t waive no-trade

“I don’t think that’s where any of this is at at this point. My say is what I can do, what I want to do and dealing with guys who are on my team,” he said. “That’s completely what I care about at this particular time. Everything else is irrelevant to me.”

The latest issue between Jackson and Anthony stems from an analysis article written by Jackson’s confidant, Charley Rosen, who penned a scathing assessment of the 32-year-old. Anthony said he didn’t achieve any clarity on whether the words came from Jackson, and he wasn’t searching for it.

The relationship seems beyond repair, and Anthony is moving forward, regardless.

“At this point, I don’t need to hear that (Rosen’s article wasn’t coming from Jackson),” Anthony said. “I don’t need to hear whether it was him or not.”

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Carmelo Anthony says his focus is on playing basketball and staying with the Knicks.

Carmelo Anthony says his focus is on playing basketball and staying with the Knicks.

( Adam Hunger/USA Today Sports)

Anthony added that he’s over the questions about his loyalty to the Knicks.

“I’m committed. I don’t think I have to prove that to anybody. I don’t think I have to keep saying that,” he said. “I don’t think people have to keep talking about it. I think people know that, people see that. And right now, my focus is playing basketball and staying with these guys. Because a lot of these guys never dealt with this kind of stuff before. Especially being in a market like New York.”

Along with Dirk Nowitzki, Anthony is one of only two current players to own a no-trade clause in his contract. The deal was negotiated by Jackson, but the president-star dynamic has deteriorated at a rapid rate this season.

In December, the two had to meet to discuss Jackson’s critique in the media that Anthony holds the ball too long. A source described that talk as very brief, and players teased Anthony when he was summoned outside with, “Ooooh, you got called into the principal’s office.”

Carmelo Anthony went on tirade after shocking 76ers loss: source

Both Anthony and Jackson have two more years remaining on their contracts, but the forward holds more power because of the no-trade clause.

“As players you always want to protect yourself,” Anthony said. “I didn’t think it would get to this point but as players if you can get that, you have a right to protect yourself and take care of yourself when it comes to that. It’s very hard to get, it’s very difficult to get, so I have it and that’s that.”

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Capuano firing can't hide lousy job Snow has done as Isles GM

For the past two decades, the Islanders ostensibly have had two general managers. That is, if you delete the 40 summer days that Neil Smith — the former Stanley Cup winner with the Rangers — agreed to head up Charles Wang’s ill-fated “hockey committee” in 2006.

It’s bonkers to consider that the team actually has had more ownership groups than GMs – Mike Milbury and Garth Snow – over that span, by a 5-2 margin.

The latest owners, first-year wallets Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin, authorized the first significant decision of their regime on Tuesday, when Snow was permitted to scapegoat and fire longtime head coach Jack Capuano one game past the midpoint of what has been an unsightly step-back season for the Islanders.

The move probably buys Snow the remainder of this season, if not longer, which should make fans of the team from Montauk to Brooklyn and beyond extremely twitchy about the team’s once-again murky future on the ice.

Islanders GM Garth Snow

Islanders GM Garth Snow

(Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Look, a coaching change always is well-within the rights of any organization in pro sports believing its team has not played to expectations. In fact, it’s probably the most commonly taken path in such circumstances.

That doesn’t mean that Snow – in his 11th season in the big chair, even longer than Milbury ran the team from 1996-2005 – earned the right to make that call, or that he in any way can be absolved of the quagmire the Isles have reverted back to a scant few months following the euphoria over winning the franchise’s first playoff series in 23 years last April.

What Islanders ownership is telling you – what Snow told you on their behalf on Tuesday in announcing the move – is that Capuano likely wasn’t going to be back next year anyway, so why not accelerate the process of a coaching search while interim coach Doug Weight sees if he can somehow motivate this flawed roster out of 16th position in the Eastern Conference for an unlikely jump over eight other teams to squeeze back into the No. 8 playoff spot?

The Islanders have played 42 games entering Thursday’s home match against Dallas and won only 17 of them, lest you believe the NHL’s revisionist mathematics that a 17-17-8 record actually somehow equates to a .500 record.

Capuano gets plenty of blame here for the team’s inability all season to close out far too many third-period leads and for his handling and/or a lack of development of a few of the team’s recent draft picks, of course he does.

The Islanders organization continues to waste the talents of John Tavares.

The Islanders organization continues to waste the talents of John Tavares.

(Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

But you’re telling me that Snow gets to not only hire a new coach, but all while possibly discussing crucial deals to reshape the roster before the trade deadline and/or this summer? At a critical juncture in which franchise center and captain John Tavares – still somehow playing without the legitimate first-line shotgun that he truly has deserved a chance to play with throughout his tenure – enters the final season of his contract before potential free agency in 2018?

We all know by now that Snow had a terrible summer of 2016 following the overdue postseason run.

He essentially forced a few glue players to skip town via free agency, while replacing them with negligible production so far from veteran forward additions Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera.

He waived, still inexplicably, free-agent signing P.A. Parenteau – who had some prior history with Tavares and who has 12 goals now for the Devils – during training camp.

And he hampered Capuano by forcing him to carry three goaltenders on the active roster for three months, while unable to find a trade partner for unhappy Jaroslav Halak’s bloated contract before finally shipping the veteran to the minors last month.

Combine that with some other bad scholarship-type contracts across the roster, and several of his high-end draft picks simply not panning out despite numerous chances, and the Isles actually aren’t even in a comfortable situation as related to the salary cap for a team that laughably operated closer to the floor than to the ceiling for years.

The odd two-year transition of ownership from Wang to Ledecky and Malkin should have provided the new bosses with ample time to evaluate Snow and the house of cards he had constructed in previous seasons – 11 largely unsuccessful seasons (repeating for emphasis ) in the GM seat to be exact.

Yet now he gets more time, another coaching hire, further chances to shape the roster? Talk about a classic Snow job.


Hall of Fame announcement day finally has arrived in baseball, and you’ve heard and read enough on the balloting from all of us with the privilege of voting by now, I’m quite sure.

My prediction: Tim Raines, in his last year of eligibility, and Jeff Bagwell will both get in, plus possibly one or two more out of Ivan Rodriguez, Trevor Hoffman and Vlad Guerrero. (I voted for all but Hoffman of that quintet).

— Meanwhile, Jose Canseco is at it again, outing Mike Piazza and Bagwell as definitive PED users and ripping writers for their handling of the steroids era in relation to the Hall voting.

I will say this about Jose, so many people initially scoffed, especially those in MLB, but the guy ended up being proven right about so many of his whistle-blowing accusations from the start that perhaps he deserves his own plaque in Cooperstown.

— Foley’s NY always has been a great friend to media members, and the midtown sports bar will be donating a portion of proceeds of this Friday’s sales – on its 13th anniversary – to help with medical expenses for MLB Network’s Matt Yallof and AP hockey writer Ira Podell, who both suffered strokes in recent months.


In Garth Snow’s honor, here are my Top-5 songs about (or by) snow. Party on, Garth.

5. FIRST SNOW ON BROOKLYN, by Jethro Tull (fitting).