Soccer

Women's World Cup: Megan Rapinoe's heroics propel USWNT past France

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USATSI

Women's World Cup: Megan Rapinoe's heroics propel USWNT past France

Billed as the de facto Women's World Cup championship match -- the quarterfinal fit for a final -- USA versus France lived up to hype Friday.

Facing a crisp opponent locked on knocking the queens off their throne en route to what would be a historic win on home soil, the USWNT knew they'd need a memorable performance to get past the French.

A sloppy opening few minutes showed the Americans might not have their A-game, but Captain American arrived early at Parc des Princes. But instead of a shield and an iconic suit, Captain America arrived in Paris with pink hair and a deft touch.

Megan Rapinoe, who scored both goals in USWNT's Round of 16 win over Spain, struck early in the fifth minute Friday, skipping a free kick through Amandine Henry's legs and into the back of the net to give the Americans an early 1-0 lead.

Rapinoe had been in the news for the past few days after President Donald Trump scolded her for past comments about not wanting to visit the White House. The star midfielder stood by her comments, and then went and buried two in the back of the net against USWNT's fiercest foe, with the second marker coming in the 65th minute off a Tobin Heath pass to give the Americans a 2-0 advantage.

France outplayed the Americans for much of the match, but the USWNT's backline stood strong, and goalie Alyssa Naeher was solid in goal, allowing only Wendie Renard's 81st-minute strike that cut the lead to 2-1 -- the score the U.S. went on to win by, punching its ticket to the semifinals against England.

"Quadruple the amount of grit," Rapinoe said of her team's performance in the thrilling win. "You have to give it up to the French. I think they outplayed us for sure with the ball today, but we were so good defensively, so strong, We hit them where it hurts, we took our chances. This team -- just unreal amount of heart."

[RELATED: Hope Solo calls out USWNT for getting 'lucky' vs. Spain]

Rapinoe was undaunted in facing questions about Trump's tweets about her Thursday, making a quip about how her mother would disapprove of her language, and then pivoting to soccer and the tall task that lied ahead.

She arrived Friday at Parcs des Princes already an icon, both for her on-field ability and off-field activism. She left it, in the 87th minute, as a conquering hero. A savior of a superpower struggling to find its best.

But she, Megan Rapinoe, is USWNT's best. And she brought it when the team needed it most. Two strikes, one with each foot, delivered USWNT from disappointment and despair, and pushed the Americans past the one team most believed could be their undoing.

All champions eventually fall. Teams stumble, falter and fail when the moment gets too big or when fatigue sets in. This could have been that moment for USWNT.

Megan Rapinoe, Captain America, wouldn't allow it. And the Red, White and Blue of the USA is marching on, one step closer to completing their repeat dreams.

Aston Villa vs. Manchester City live stream: Watch EPL game online, on TV

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AP

Aston Villa vs. Manchester City live stream: Watch EPL game online, on TV

Manchester City are playing well right now and can move into second place in the Premier League with a win over Aston Villa on Sunday.

City is coming off a 3-1 win over rival Manchester United in the first leg of the Carabao Cup semifinal, and enter Villa Park looking to pounce on a vulnerable opponent.

The Villans current sit 17th in the Prem and are in danger of being relegated. A win over City would put a little distance between Aston Villa and AFC Bournemouth, Watford and Norwich City toward the bottom of the table.

Here's how to watch Aston Villa vs. Manchester City live online and on TV:

When: Sunday, Jan. 12, at 11:30 a.m. ET/8:30 a.m. PT
TV: NBCSN
Stream: NBCSports.com

Liverpool set European record after outclassing Tottenham Hotspur

Liverpool set European record after outclassing Tottenham Hotspur

Liverpool's march to the Premier League title continued unabated Saturday in a 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur, but the Reds also made European history Saturday in North London.

With 61 points after 21 matches, Liverpool set a record for points at this stage of a season in one of Europe's top five leagues (Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue Un). Paris Saint-Germain (2018-19), Juventus (2018-19), Manchester City (2017-18) and Bayern Munich (2013-14) shared the previous record with 59 points in 21 games.

The reigning kings of Europe fittingly set the record against the foes they vanquished in June's UEFA Champions League Final. Liverpool beat Tottenham 2-0 on June 1 in Madrid, and the Reds dominated Spurs from beginning to end Saturday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. 

Liverpool knocked on the door for the entirety of the first half, completely pinning Tottenham in their own half. Roberto Firmino's 37th-minute opener was a long time coming and happened as Spurs' back line -- featuring 20-year-old Japhet Tanganga on his Premier League debut -- finally wilted under the Reds' pressure. 

Spurs struggled to get the ball out of their own half in the first 45 minutes. Squakwa Football noted that Liverpool central defender Virgil van Dijk completed more passes in Tottenham's half than any Spurs player even attempted on the other end. 

Tottenham managed to fight back in the second half, with Son Heung-Min skying a shot over the bar in the 75th minute on a counter-attack sprung by second-half substitute Giovani Lo Celso. Lo Celso missed a volley in the 83rd minute on Spurs' best opportunity to equalize.

Spurs manager José Mourinho wasn't mad. It was just funny to him.

Liverpool laughed last, however, and have more history in their sights en route to the club's first-ever Premier League title. The Reds are 12 matches away from setting the league record for the longest unbeaten streak, and they've now played the equivalent of an entire Premier League season without dropping a match.

A legendary season for Liverpool, indeed.