Dhaka, Dec 17 (AP/UNB)- Jose Mourinho chose his words carefully, and they proved to be as candid as they were concerning for Manchester United as its worst start to a Premier League season hit a new low.
"Liverpool," Mourinho said, "is a better team than us."
Liverpool's 3-1 win over its great rival on Sunday was confirmation of that — although it still needed two strokes of luck to underline the gulf that has quickly grown between English soccer's two grandest clubs.
Xherdan Shaqiri came off the bench and scored goals from deflected shots in the 73rd and 80th minutes to finally give Liverpool daylight in a match it dominated from the start at Anfield. In total, Liverpool had 36 shots to United's six.
The gap between Liverpool in first place and United in sixth place extended to 19 points after just 17 games.
"We cannot compare with their intensity," Mourinho said, "we cannot compare with their physicality."
The sight of former United manager Alex Ferguson looking glum in the stands and United's record signing, Paul Pogba, burying his head in his thick training top to shield himself from the driving rain summed up the state of United at the moment.
"We can still finish fourth," Mourinho added. "For sure, we are going to finish top six."
United is one point above seventh-placed Wolverhampton Wanderers and 11 behind fourth-placed Chelsea.
Shaqiri's intervention spared Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker from some of his embarrassment after the Brazil international gifted United its equalizer by fumbling a fairly tame cross from Romelu Lukaku into the path of Jesse Lingard in the 33rd minute.
That goal canceled out the 24th-minute opener from Sadio Mane, which came amid a breathless start from Liverpool as United's defense was opened up constantly.
"The mix-up of big fight and really playing football against an unbelievably strong team," Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said of his team's performance, which he described as "one of the best we've had" in his three-year tenure.
Liverpool reclaimed its one-point lead over Manchester City with nearly half the season gone. United, meanwhile, is on 26 points — its lowest haul after 17 games since the 1990-91 season — and has a goal difference of zero.
HAZARD'S NEW ROLE
Eden Hazard is settling just fine into his new attacking role at Chelsea.
Playing as a "false nine" for the second straight game, Hazard set up Pedro Rodriguez's early goal and then scored himself for the first time since October to lead Chelsea to a 2-1 win at Brighton.
The Belgium forward usually plays on the left wing but is being deployed by Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri in the center of a mobile front three, between Pedro and Willian. It was an approach Sarri used to great effect when in charge of Italian team Napoli in his previous job.
Hazard set up two goals in Chelsea's 2-0 win over Manchester City last weekend, leading Sarri to keeping him as the team's deep-lying central striker at Brighton.
Outplayed in the first half, Brighton improved after the break and reduced the deficit when Solly March turned in a shot from close range in the 66th.
Chelsea stayed eight points behind Liverpool.
HASENHUETTL'S FIRST WIN
The drinks were on Ralph Hasenhuettl at St. Mary's Stadium.
In a bid to raise spirits at the struggling south-coast club, its new Austrian coach sent drinks vouchers to all season-ticket holders ahead of the game against Arsenal. It wasn't the only thing the Southampton fans were celebrating on Sunday.
Charlie Austin's 85th-minute goal sealed a 3-2 win that lifted Southampton out of the relegation zone with 17 of 38 matches gone. It was the first victory for Hasenhuettl since taking over from the fired Mark Hughes two weeks ago, and he greeted the final whistle by running onto the field and leaping into the air in delight.
Arsenal twice came from behind through goals from Henrikh Mkhitaryan and looked like preserving a 22-game undefeated streak in all competitions and an unbeaten run in the league stretching back to Aug. 18 — a stretch of 14 games. Danny Ings put Southampton ahead both times.
Arsenal stayed in fifth place, but is now three points behind Chelsea.
Liverpool, Dec 17 (AP/UNB)— Substitute Xherdan Shaqiri scored two goals from deflected shots to help Liverpool beat fierce rival Manchester United 3-1 and lift his team back atop the Premier League on Sunday.
Days after keeping Liverpool in the Champions League with a stunning late save against Napoli, Brazil goalkeeper Alisson Becker made a dreadful mistake that gifted United an equalizer through Jesse Lingard in the 33rd minute at Anfield.
But Shaqiri spared Alisson from some of his embarrassment by putting Liverpool back in front in the 73rd — within three minutes of coming on as a substitute — with a low strike that deflected off United defender Ashley Young and went in off the crossbar.
Shaqiri's second goal clinched Liverpool victory in what is traditionally the biggest game in English soccer and again it came via a ricochet, this time off Eric Bailly, to deceive United goalkeeper David De Gea in the 80th.
It was indicative of the approach of the two managers that United's Jose Mourinho sent on defensive midfielder Marouane Fellaini at halftime with the score at 1-1, while Liverpool's Juergen Klopp turned to Shaqiri when that score had not changed midway through the second half.
"He is a wonderful player," Klopp said of Shaqiri, who joined from Stoke in the offseason to supplement Liverpool's options up front. "His left foot is made for decisive things."
Sadio Mane had given Liverpool the lead in the 24th minute amid the team's breathless start to the game that overwhelmed United and its patched-up defense.
United has been beaten 3-1 by both of its biggest rivals in recent weeks — it also lost by that score at Manchester City last month — and was outplayed on both occasions.
It is 19 points behind Liverpool and its 26-point total is United's lowest after 17 games since the 1990-91 season.
"It's hard for everyone who likes Manchester United," United midfielder Nemanja Matic said. "For the players, it's most difficult. We have to turn the situation around and play better. When you don't have results, it's hard to believe."
Mourinho said Liverpool "is a better team than us."
"There was a difference of intensity and physicality, pressing and transitions," Mourinho said. "They were fast and aggressive, we had difficulties to cope."
Liverpool reclaimed its one-point lead over second-placed City, which beat Everton 3-1 on Saturday.
The hosts could easily have been three or four goals ahead by halftime, which they finished having managed 15 shots but scoring only once. Liverpool ended the game having had 36 shots.
Roberto Firmino was at the center of Liverpool's maelstrom, hustling and harrying opposition players while delivering cutting interventions going forward. The Brazil international started and finished a move in the second minute that saw Victor Lindelof scrambling to deflect a shot behind.
United thought it had stunned Anfield into silence when Young's inswinging freekick from the left went straight in at the far post but Romelu Lukaku was offside when he tried to play the ball on its way through and he was rightly flagged.
Two more chances fell to Firmino as the red tide continued to crash against a dark blue wall. Young cleared Dejan Lovren's effort off the line and Firmino shot over — the ninth attempt inside 20 minutes — before the breakthrough was made.
No one closed down midfielder Fabinho, who was excellent both defensively and going forward in central midfield, and his measured pass forward was chested down by Mane, who volleyed it between De Gea's legs.
Lovren should have made it 2-0 but fired over from six yards, before Alisson gifted the visitors an equalizer when he spilled Lukaku's cross into the path of Lingard, who gratefully accepted six yards out.
Mourinho had seen enough and sent on Fellaini in central midfield for wing back Diogo Dalot at halftime as he reverted to a back four. It did little to change the momentum as Firmino's toe-poke was parried by De Gea with the goalkeeper and Young blocking Naby Keita's follow-up, while Lovren had a header deflected wide.
Less than three minutes after coming on, Shaqiri struck as his shot hit the outstretched heel of Young and deflected in off the crossbar. He was not finished there, seizing on Firmino backheel's that was meant for Salah to fire past De Gea, this time with the aid of a deflection off Bailly.
Milan, Dec 17 (AP/UNB) — Arkadiusz Milik scored a stoppage-time goal to snatch a 1-0 win for Napoli at Cagliari on Sunday and prevent his team's Serie A title hopes from diminishing even further.
Milik had seen a late effort saved on Tuesday as Napoli was eliminated from the Champions League at Liverpool but he curled in a free kick in Sardinia to prevent the week from going from bad to worse for his club.
"I'm happy for Milik because he's a hard-working lad, a reference point for the group," Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti said. "He's someone who always works with great focus and knows how to manage everything both in hard times and in better ones.
"We had a great reaction after the Liverpool match, but I was certain of it because I already saw it during the week."
Napoli remained second, eight points behind Juventus and six above third-placed Inter after both teams won on Saturday.
Ancelotti again rotated his squad and Napoli stars Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens, Marek Hamsik and Jose Callejon all started from the bench.
Cagliari was unbeaten at home this season and had a number of chances in the first half before Napoli responded after the break.
Napoli went close on several occasions and Milik's header from Mertens' cross bounced off the crossbar and just the wrong side of the line for the visitors.
It appeared as if the match was going to finish in a draw before Milik curled in a wonderful free kick into the top right corner.
WINLESS STREAK ENDED
Roma twice came from behind to beat Genoa 3-2 and take some of the pressure off coach Eusebio Di Francesco.
Bryan Cristante scored what was to prove the winner in the 59th minute after a one-two with Justin Kluivert to end Roma's winless streak of five matches.
Kluivert — the son of former AC Milan and Barcelona forward Patrick — had scored Roma's second equalizer on the stroke of halftime.
Roma goalkeeper Robin Olsen gifted Krzysztof Piatek the opener before Federico Fazio leveled in the 31st. Oscar Hiljemark restored Genoa's lead almost immediately.
Roma was given a let off early in the second half following another Olsen mistake but Darko Lazovic's goal was ruled offside on video review.
Roma, which is through to the last 16 of the Champions League, moved up to sixth in Serie A.
Genoa was playing its first match under former Italy coach Cesare Prandelli — its third coach of the season. It remained five points off the relegation zone.
Giovanni Simeone has rediscovered his goalscoring touch, much to Fiorentina's relief.
Simeone hadn't scored in 10 matches before last weekend, but he netted his second goal in as many matches as Fiorentina fought back to beat Empoli 3-1.
It was Fiorentina's first win in nine matches and Empoli's first defeat since Giuseppe Iachini replaced Aurelio Andreazzoli as coach.
Rade Krunic gave Empoli the lead but Simeone set up Kevin Mirallas shortly before halftime for the equalizer and then put his side in front in the 59th when he headed in Cristiano Biraghi's cross.
Substitute Bryan Dabo sealed the result with the goal of the game, 12 minutes from time. Dabo, who had only been on the pitch for three minutes, intercepted a pass in his own half and went on a surging run before firing into the bottom right corner.
Empoli remained five points above the relegation zone.
Spal is also five points above the relegation zone after it could only manage a 0-0 draw at home to bottom club Chievo Verona.
Spal substitute Sergio Floccari hit the crossbar in stoppage time.
Frosinone remained 19th and five points from safety after losing 2-0 against Sassuolo.
Sampdoria beat Parma 2-0.
Barcelona, Dec 17 (AP/UNB)— Lionel Messi hit the 50-goal mark for club and country in 2018 after scoring his 43rd career hat trick for Barcelona on Sunday.
Messi's brilliance powered Barcelona to a 5-0 victory at Levante and kept the defending champions three points ahead of Sevilla and Atletico Madrid in the Spanish league.
It also avenged Barcelona's only loss in the league last season when Levante stunned the visitors 5-4 in the penultimate round in a match that Messi missed.
"We had circled this match on the calendar after what happened here last season," said Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde. "We had trouble at the beginning, as we expected, but once we got in front we were able to little by little play our game."
Messi netted his 18th, 19th and 20th goals in all competitions this season after setting up Luis Suarez to get Barcelona rolling against the flow of play at the Ciutat de Valencia Stadium.
Already trailing 4-0, Levante lost Erick Cabaco in the 76th minute with a direct red card for cutting down Ousmane Dembele.
Messi then set up Gerard Pique to complete the demolition.
It was Messi's second treble of the season, adding to his three goals against PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League in September. He has a total of 31 hat tricks in the Spanish league, and this is the eighth time in nine years he has scored at least 50 goals in a calendar year. Messi has 46 goals for Barcelona and four goals for Argentina in 2018.
The Argentina forward leads the Spanish league with 14 goals through 16 rounds. He scored two goals — both from free kicks — in last round's 4-0 win at Espanyol.
Levante had a promising start, pressuring Barcelona up the pitch and creating scoring chances that included Emmanuel Boateng's shot that hit the crossbar in the 33rd.
But Messi put Barcelona in charge two minutes later when he dribbled across the box to draw in three defenders before flicking the ball back for the unmarked Suarez to stab home.
Messi made it 2-0 just before halftime when Sergio Busquets played him clear on a solo break after intercepting a pass in midfield. Messi got his second goal in the 47th when Suarez recovered the ball and passed wide to Jordi Alba. Suarez then used a dummy run to let Alba's pass run through for Messi to drive in a left-footed shot.
Suarez also cued Messi's third goal in the 60th when he dribbled through the legs of Cabaco before crossing for Arturo Vidal, who then found Messi all alone to tap the ball in.
STRONG IN SEVILLE
Second-placed Sevilla beat Girona 2-0 to extend its winning streak to 10 straight home matches across all competitions, including six straight in the league.
"It's fantastic. Beyond the numbers, which are excellent, I can sense that my team always wants more and has connected with our fans," Sevilla coach Pablo Machin said. "This connection gives us a bonus and makes us super competitive."
In a match that pitted Machin against the team he coached last season, Ever Banega and Pablo Sarabia broke down Girona's defense with a pair of second-half goals.
Real Betis came from behind for a 3-1 win at Espanyol to go fifth — four points behind fourth-placed Real Madrid.
Last-placed Huesca got a stoppage-time goal from Samuele Longo to salvage a 2-2 draw with 10-man Villarreal.
Spain, Dec 16 (AP) — Atletico Madrid had been waiting for a world-class performance from star forward Antoine Griezmann.
Griezmann scored twice, including a late winner, after setting up Atletico's opener to earn a hard-fought 3-2 victory at Valladolid on Saturday to pull level on points with Spanish league leader Barcelona.
The goals were Griezmann's fifth and sixth in La Liga through 16 rounds. He has also scored four in the Champions League, but his only other multi-goal outing for his club this season was his brace against Belgium's Club Brugge in October.
Atletico hadn't won away in La Liga in nearly three months. Instead, last season's runner-up settled for four consecutive draws, and squandering chance after chance to capitalize on similar slips by Barcelona and other title contenders.
Coach Diego Simeone hopes his side can get a boost from the victory, as well as the two-week winter break that it will start after next weekend's game at Espanyol.
"It had been a long time since we won away from home. Fortunately, Antoine took charge of the match," Simeone said. "He knows his place in football. He has earned it, nobody has given it to him, and today he was decisive.
"We are begging to reach the December break, but even so we keep hitting back despite being against the ropes."
Atletico is behind Barcelona on goal difference before the defending champion visits Levante on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Luka Modric presented his Ballon d'Or award to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium crowd before Karim Benzema led Real Madrid's 1-0 win over Rayo Vallecano.
Benzema scored early before he needed to be substituted in the second half with an ankle injury, leaving Madrid with questions about the fitness of its forwards before it attempts to defend its Club World Cup crown next week.
Griezmann finds form
Atletico dominated the first half, as Griezmann passed for Nikola Kalinic to score before adding a penalty kick just before halftime thanks to a video review that spotted a handball by Valladolid's Kiko Olivas.
Valladolid's Fernando Calero pulled one back with a header in the 57th. The hosts drew level when Enes Unal headed the ball across the goalmouth where it hit Atletico midfielder Saul Niguez and ricocheted in.
Griezmann put Atletico back in front in the 80th after Stefan Savic found him alone on the left side of the six-yard box to beat goalkeeper Jordi Masip.
"I can still get better. I am not at my best yet. I am still missing that bit of speed," said Griezmann, who helped France win the World Cup during a match-packed summer.
Benzema leads win
Madrid's supporters started the match applauding Modric for being named the world's top player.
And it seemed they were set to enjoy an easy win after celebrating Benzema's 13th-minute goal.
But Madrid would go no closer to putting the match beyond doubt than Toni Kroos' shot off the post, and Santiago Solari's side ended the match listening to some jeers from its frustrated fans after the relegation-threatened Rayo almost snatched a draw. Alex Alegria and Emiliano Velazquez forced goalie Thibaut Courtois to turn back their back-to-back shots in stoppage time.
Madrid climbed into third place, overtaking Sevilla before it hosts Girona on Sunday.
Benzema was substituted in the 78th, walking gingerly on his left ankle following a brush with a Rayo defender. Madrid forward Marco Asensio also had to be substituted and had an ice pack applied to his right thigh.
Madrid, which was without injured forwards Gareth Bale and Mariano Diaz, plays Japanese side Kashima Antlers in the Club World Cup semifinals in the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday.
Getafe moving up
Getafe has joined the fight for a spot in the upper part of the table after losing once in eight rounds. Getafe beat Real Sociedad 1-0 and moved into fifth place.
Rodrigo ends drought
Spain forward Rodrigo Moreno ended a four-month scoring drought, a run of 19 straight games without scoring for his club, in a 1-1 draw for Valencia at Eibar.