Sturridge stars again in Villa defeat

first_imgDaniel Sturridge proved Liverpool’s match-winner for a second successive weekend as the Merseyside club edged out Aston Villa 1-0 to make their best start to a Premier League season for five years. Liverpool finished second to Manchester United that season and Rodgers can only be delighted with the start his side have made without the suspended Luis Suarez. For Villa, it was their third game in a tough opening eight days of the new season after victory at Arsenal and defeat at Chelsea, and they appeared off the pace in the opening 40 minutes against a sharper Reds side. A late flurry at the end of the first half set the tone for a second period in which the hosts dominated and could well have taken a share of the spoils. Liverpool’s new goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, who saved a late penalty against Stoke, denied the in-form Christian Benteke with a superb one-handed stop. There was plenty of cause for optimism for a youthful Villa side who have already showed signs of development from the one which struggled against relegation last term, despite failing to keep a Premier League clean sheet for a club-record 25th match. Villa manager Paul Lambert handed full debuts to summer signings Jores Okore and Leandro Bacuna, while Rodgers kept faith with the starting XI who saw off Stoke. Both sides looked to feel each other out inside the opening 15 minutes, with the visitors showing the greater incision, although neither goalkeeper was forced into action. Philippe Coutinho sent an effort high and wide after good work down the left by Enrique as the Reds started to dominate possession. And it was no surprise when they made the breakthrough after 21 minutes. Sturridge started the move before losing his marker, Okore, and when Enrique’s pass from the left was dummied by Coutinho on the edge on the area, the former Chelsea striker showed great footwork to evade two defenders as well as Guzan and convert. The Birmingham-born striker, who started his youth career with Villa, delivered a moment of pure quality midway through the first half, receiving Jose Enrique’s left-wing pass before dancing past two defenders, rounding Brad Guzan and transferring his balance to poke home with his left foot. It came after the England marksman fired the Reds to a 1-0 opening-day win over Stoke, leaving Brendan Rodgers’ side with six points from their first two league games for the first time since 2008. Press Association The goal only further boosted Liverpool’s confidence while the hosts were chasing shadows at times. With the home faithful becoming slightly frustrated, Bacuna sent Villa’s first effort harmlessly wide after 32 minutes before Benteke’s control let him down at a crucial moment. And then with half-time approaching, Villa had two decent openings. Benteke finally forced Mignolet into action, tipping the Belgium international’s effort around a post, before Andreas Weimann saw his shot deflected narrowly over the crossbar. Lambert’s side started the second half with more purpose and, roared on by a sell-out Villa Park crowd, Ashley Westwood twice fired over from distance. Importantly, however, Mignolet was barely troubled by the time Liverpool boss Rodgers handed a debut to new loan signing Aly Cissokho in the 69th minute. Benteke and Weimann then headed wide before an unmarked Gabriel Agbonlahor volleyed off target from 12 yards having been presented with a great chance to level. Matt Lowton finally forced Mignolet into action from long distance before Liverpool’s summer signing from Sunderland produced a superb 86th-minute stop to keep out Benteke. Karim El Ahmadi headed on to fellow substitute Nicklas Helenius and he found Benteke, whose powerful drive was brilliantly pushed around a post by Mignolet – ensuring Villa have now beaten the Reds just once in their last 16 Premier League meetings at Villa Park. last_img read more

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MLB Network’s film on 1995 Mariners a reminder of bygone era when attendance was king

first_imgMORE: Watch ‘ChangeUp,’ a new MLB live whiparound show on DAZNIn a previous era, that would have been a much bigger problem for owners.Take Seattle, for example, which regularly ranked bottom-five in attendance in the late-’80s and early ’90s, just before modern revenue supplies kicked into gear. As the MLB Network film “The 1995 Mariners, Saving Baseball in Seattle” explores, the Mariners faced relocation until they attracted rabid stadium support (and subsequent funding for a new park) via a dramatic 1995 playoff run.“Baseball was gone (before that),” said former infielder Harold Reynolds, who played in Seattle from 1983 to 1992.His Mariners were the penultimate case of lackluster attendance being the main driver of monetary uncertainty. After Seattle’s near-exit, the Expos left Montreal for D.C. after cost-cutting ownership and a subpar stadium experience torpedoed fan support.The modern Rays, of course, have remained in jeopardy of relocation in part because of their dismal gate counts. But declining attendance hasn’t stopped their valuation from tripling since 2009, according to Forbes.The feeling for players competing in front of empty seats is different, too.“We weren’t on TV much,” Reynolds said. “If people didn’t come to the game, they didn’t see you. Now, even if there’s not a fan in the stands … we still all (see) the game.“It’s important that fans go to games, don’t get me wrong, but I do think it was different back then. If we didn’t have attendance, people didn’t follow the club.”The downside of attendance being deemphasized, however, is lessened incentive for front-offices to field competitive teams, and by extension, minimized personal connection between players and fans at the ballpark.Those aforementioned Rays have artificially limited ticket growth through seat capacity reduction — Tropicana Field’s reduced capacity of 25,000 would not have been able to hold eight of the 10 home crowds that arrived in September 2008 or six of the 10 in September 2010, let alone any of the playoff games the Rays have hosted. Even as MLB’s attendance numbers plummet in 2019, continuing an in-person decline not just in baseball but across many major U.S. sports, teams are not necessarily being thrust into peril.Other emergent cash sources such as hefty local TV deals, video streaming agreements and revenue sharing for small markets have helped ease strain on attendance-starved franchises. There are a lot of those organizations these days: Eight teams are currently drawing fewer than 20,000 fans per game, compared with just three teams a decade ago. They could win 25 straight games and not match the all-encompasing importance of what the Mariners pulled off to save their team in 1995. So too could a number of other attendance bottom-dwellers such as the A’s, Orioles and Marlins. It’s no longer just about who shows up in person.As a result, then, the raw emotions on display in “The 1995 Mariners, Saving Baseball in Seattle,” which debuts this Sunday, indicate something may be lost in baseball’s evolved priorities.“To see that connection with the fans was really special,” Reynolds said. “(Mariners outfielder) Jay Buhner crying at the end of the movie tells you all you need to know. It tells you all you need to know about what that meant to everybody.”last_img read more

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