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Canucks turn to ex-Capitals goaltender Holtby

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The Vancouver Canucks have landed former Stanley Cup-winning goalie Braden Holtby, likely ending Jacob Markstrom‘s tenure with the team.

Holtby, 31, reportedly gets a two-year deal with an annual average value of $4.3 million.

The Canucks were one of the pleasant surprises of the shortened NHL season, advancing to the second round of the playoffs before losing in seven games to the Golden Knights.

Holtby will go down as one of the all-time great Capitals after leading the team to their only Stanley Cup in 2017-18. During the playoff run, he had a save percentage of .922 and a goals-against average of 2.16. Those numbers were significantly better than his regular-season stats.

His production since that time hasn’t gotten much better. This season, he had career lows with a 3.11 GAA and .897 save percentage. In the playoffs, he gave up 14 goals as the Capitals lost in five games to the New York Islanders in the first round.

The Canucks were negotiating with Markstrom, their starting goalie last season, but they apparently couldn’t find common ground with the unrestricted free agent.

The Canucks do also have 24-year-old goalie Thatcher Demko, who was mediocre in 27 regular-season games but outstanding in his four playoff games (0.64 GAA, .985 SV).

The Capitals do have 23-year-old Ilya Samsonov waiting in the wings. He had a 2.55 GAA and .913 save percentage in 26 games last season.

Now 31, Holtby is coming off a five-year contract with a cap hit of $6.1 million per year.

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Examining Pickford’s escape for Van Dijk tackle, Barcelona and Real woe pre-Clasico

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A weekend full of big derbies delivered plenty of talking points, from Liverpool‘s costly 2-2 draw at Everton that saw Virgil van Dijk seriously injured (and Jordan Pickford unpunished), to AC Milan‘s win over rivals Inter thanks to a certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic. There were also sub-par performances from Barcelona and Real Madrid ahead of the Clasico, woe for Juventus ahead of the Champions League group stage Matchday 1, concern around Man United and a Tottenham collapse that will have Jose Mourinho fuming.

It’s Monday, and Gab Marcotti reacts to the biggest moments in the sport of football from the past week.

Jump to: VAR lets Pickford off | Milan humble Inter | Aguero’s transgression | Griezmann should lead Barca attack | Dortmund need Haaland back-up | Real have many issues | Solskjaer shows guts with Man United | Juve shouldn’t panic about Pirlo | Spurs should focus on positives | Bayern bounce back vs. Bielefeld | Chelsea are not a team yet | Napoli prove doubters wrong vs. Atalanta | Leipzig’s attacking depth

Why didn’t VAR rule on Pickford’s horror tackle?

The top-of-the-table, 2-2 clash between Merseyside rivals Everton and Liverpool ended up being overshadowed by VAR decisions and, above all, Virgil Van Dijk’s horrendous cruciate injury, which will likely see him out until the Euros at the earliest. The fact that Jordan Pickford remained on the pitch is difficult for many to understand — including Liverpool, which is why they asked the Premier League for an explanation. Let’s hope that those in charge take this opportunity for some transparency here, something that gives us a better understanding of what the rules are and how they are applied.

Liverpool weren’t awarded a penalty because Van Dijk was offside at the time of the collision with Pickford. It wasn’t immediately obvious, but VAR confirmed this and, while it was tight, that part is indisputable.

What’s less easy to understand is why no action was taken against Pickford. Referee Michael Oliver — who, lest we forget, is supposed to be one of the English game’s top two or three officials — evidently felt that while it might have been a foul (but not a punishable foul, since Van Dijk was offside), it did not warrant a yellow or red card. Fine. Or, rather, not fine, because in my opinion he got it badly wrong, but hey: referees make mistakes with the naked eye in real time.

Yet the person in the VAR seat, David Coote, had the benefit of replays. His first job was to determine whether Van Dijk was offside, and that must have taken some time. After that, he was called to decide whether Oliver made a mistake in not awarding a red to Pickford. Sticking strictly to the protocol — and I’m engaging in speculation here, because we’ve have had no explanation — you assume he might have personally felt that it was worthy of a yellow card. But since VARs aren’t allowed to intervene in yellow card situations, he possibly felt there was nothing he could do.

– Ogden: Liverpool’s title defense might fail without Van Dijk
Madcap derby just another day in Premier League’s new normal
– Sources: Liverpool concerned, confused by VAR decisions

What we don’t know, and may never know, is the conversation between Coote and Oliver. Oliver is a star and Coote a relative no-name, but they’re on the same team. You would hope that Coote would have had the confidence to feel empowered to tell Oliver: “Michael, you’re sure you had a clear view of it? Looks pretty nasty to me. Maybe you should take another look.”

If that’s what happened and Oliver waved him off, then we have to accept it. If Coote simply stuck to the letter of the law and told himself “that’s no worse than a yellow, I can’t make him do an on-field review” well, I’m not sure that’s in the spirit of VAR at all.

Everything is magnified here, of course, by the fact that it was early in the game — the fifth minute — and Pickford is a goalkeeper. A sending-off at that stage radically changes the match. It shouldn’t have come into the reckoning, but referees are human too. However you feel about it, the PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Board, the group that is responsible for referees in English football) could do themselves a favour by releasing the transcripts of the conversation between Coote and Oliver, if only to help people understand. And, perhaps, to ensure situations like these do not arise again.

What we do know, in the meantime, is that Pickford won’t face retrospective action. This was always going to be the case. In these situations, the FA simply doubles down, unless referee have missed the incident entirely.

Regardless of the Pickford decision (or non-decision), I think Liverpool deserved the three points. Not because of the late VAR offside that struck off what would have been Jordan Henderson‘s winner, which was as much down to Pickford’s mistake than anything else. But simply because over the 90 minutes, Liverpool shaded it in terms of chances created and conceded.

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Frank Leboeuf considers the impact on Liverpool if Virgil van Dijk is indeed set to miss several months.

That said, credit to Everton. This is not a deep squad, particularly in certain positions, and the fact that they’re still top in the second half of October speaks volumes about the work Carlo Ancelotti and his staff have done.

What next for Liverpool? Obviously you’re not going to find somebody who will fill Van Dijk’s shoes — we’re talking about a guy who started every single league game in the last two seasons. In the short-term, you imagine Klopp will go with some combination of Joe Gomez, Fabinho and Joel Matip at the back, but it seems obvious that they will need to bring in an extra body in January, even it means going out on a limb financially.

This Liverpool side are a team built to win now, not in two or three years. There are a whole bunch of players who are in their late 20s and once you go with the “all-in” approach, you need to stick with it, so it makes sense to seek help in the transfers market. If you can get a long-term asset, go for it. If not, there’s nothing wrong, at this stage, to think short-term: a veteran player to tide you over.

What’s unthinkable is believing you can get through to the end of the season with two central defenders and recycled midfielder.

Milan out-think rivals Inter in big derby win

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Gab Marcotti marvels at 39-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s performance in Milan’s 2-1 derby win over Inter.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s performance in the Milan derby powered the Rossoneri to the top of the Serie A table. I wrote about his performance in their 2-1 win on Saturday, so let’s not dwell on him too much here. Rather, it’s worth praising Stefano Pioli for putting the right pieces around Zlatan to help mask his deficiencies and maximise his strengths. Using Rafael Leao to pin back Achraf Hakimi, and setting up the back line to withstand Inter’s second-half onslaught were moves that made all the difference on the night.

Zlatan defies time as Milan win derby

As for Inter, Antonio Conte is right to say they had chances to equalize or even win, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Inter we saw hasn’t yet found the right balance. Playing two strikers with wing-backs like Ivan Perisic and Hakimi — the former is a recycled winger, the latter is basically an adjunct attacker — isn’t a plug-and-play exercise. It requires a lot of tactical work, on the training pitch — exactly what Conte is known for — except with no real preseason and very little time to train in a congested season, he hasn’t yet had the opportunity to do it.

You wonder, therefore, why Conte doesn’t keep things simpler. Aleksandar Kolarov in a back three isn’t necessarily a bad choice, but when he’s asked to cover for Perisic and recover inside? Yeah, it won’t come natural to him straight away. Christian Eriksen as a No.10 may be unsustainable with this set-up, so why not play him as one of the three-man midfield, a role that isn’t entirely new to him? (Regarding Eriksen, I still can’t shake the feeling that there aren’t some inherent preconceptions about him and his lack of emotion and histrionics, which are so at odds with Conte’s approach.)

Aguero shouldn’t have put his hands on Massey-Ellis

Having worked side-by-side for several years, it was perhaps inevitable that Mikel Arteta and Pep Guardiola would each try to throw curveballs in an effort to catch the other off-guard.

Arteta’s new-look Arsenal included Willian as some sort of “false nine” with Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang out wide. Guardiola and Man City countered with Nathan Ake at left-back, Joao Cancelo in some sort of hybrid wing-back role and, late in the game, Raheem Sterling through the middle with Sergio Aguero. It was hard to figure out on TV, but the impression was that City deserved the 1-0 win and, perhaps, Arteta engaged in a bit of overthinking.

The other big talking point was Aguero putting his arm on/around assistant referee Sian Massey-Ellis after disputing a call. It was an awkward, uncomfortable moment that Guardiola tried to minimise after the game, saying “Sergio is the nicest person I ever met in my life. Look for problems in other situations, not in this one.”

– Dawson: Man City beat Arsenal as “normal service” resumes
– Man City ratings: Ederson 8/10, Sterling 7/10 in win
– Arsenal ratings: Saka 7/10 as Gunners rue missed chances

Let’s be clear here. Nobody is saying Aguero is an ogre and yes, there is no rule that says you can’t touch a referee or assistant. It’s a case-by-case situation and, perhaps, that didn’t warrant a booking. But, equally, those who say it’s no big deal because it happens a lot and if that had been a male assistant instead of a female assistant, we wouldn’t be talking about it, are missing the point.

Massey-Ellis is not a male assistant. She is a woman with a role in a sport whose conventions and rules were written and defined by men for virtually all of its 150-year history. And there are thousands of years of conventions in male-female power relations that predate this and can’t be ignored.

I am neither a woman nor an assistant referee, and I’m in no position to judge whether and to what degree Massey-Ellis was made uncomfortable here. Nor is it fair for me, or anyone else, to put her in a position where she has to speak for every female match official (let alone every woman) out there.

But what is undeniable is that you can’t pretend gender isn’t part of the story here and part of what made many so uncomfortable. Hopefully Aguero and others have picked up on this and will learn from it.

Griezmann deserves a shot up front for Barcelona

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Ale Moreno believes Barcelona players checked out mentally after falling behind Getafe in the 1-0 loss.

Barcelona knew they were going to get a rough ride against Getafe because, well, everybody does. Frenkie de Jong gave up the penalty that Jaime Mata converted for the only game’s only goal. Against sides coached by Javier Bordalas, you either reply with muscle or with skill and speed. Ronald Koeman went for the latter, starting 17-year-old Pedri behind the striker, 19-year-old U.S. international Sergino Dest at left-back in place of the injured Jordi Alba, and giving Ousmane Dembele his umpteenth mulligan down the left.

– Barca ratings: Griezmann 5/10, Dest 7/10 in loss

It didn’t quite work out. Pedri did well, but Messi — possibly because of his intercontinental travels for Argentina‘s World Cup qualifiers — was subdued. Dembele offered little and, yes, the talking point — again — was Antoine Griezmann, given more licence up front, but, again, wasting opportunities.

The pieces don’t fit together like they should, but at this stage, you may as well give Griezmann a clear run up front. It’s not dissimilar to what he did at Atletico Madrid over the past few years (albeit in as one member of a two-person attack). Either that, or bench him entirely. At this stage, the endless chatter — with even France manager Didier Deschamps piping up too — isn’t helping anyone.

Will lack of Haaland back-up hurt Dortmund’s title hopes?

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Jan Aage Fjortoft praises the Borussia Dortmund hierarchy for having so much faith in Gio Reyna.

After an international break and with a Champions League game against Lazio coming up, Lucien Favre did some heavy rotating against Hoffenheim — Marco Reus, Erling Haaland, Raphael Guerreiro and Jude Bellingham all started on the bench — and for a while, Borussia Dortmund looked flat. Things picked up once he sent on the cavalry (the aforementioned quartet) after the hour mark, and it was Haaland who set up Reus’ winner with 15 minutes to go. (It was his first Bundesliga goal in nearly a year.)

– Highlights: Hoffenheim 0, Dortmund 1 (U.S.)
– Stream replay: Hoffenheim vs. Dortmund (U.S.)

Hoffenheim are a tough nut to crack, and some squad rotation given the brutal grind of the 2020-21 campaign makes sense. But while Dortmund are stacked with options in midfield and out wide (and can probably reinvent midfielders as central defenders in a back three), what’s evident is that there is no back-up for Haaland. Julian Brandt gave it a go, and it simply didn’t work. He obviously can’t play up front the way Haaland does it, but readjusting the team to suit his skill-set doesn’t quite work either.

It’s something for Dortmund to address in January.

Madrid’s issues run much deeper than lack of goals

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Gab Marcotti and Julien Laurens wonder which El Clasico rival suffered the worse defeat over the weekend.

Not a fan of citing attitude or body language or other intangibles to explain away defeats and poor performances, but Real Madrid‘s game against Cadiz must be an exception. Whatever happened pregame, they clearly weren’t mentally prepared on the pitch and fully deserved the 1-0 loss to their newly promoted opponents.

Real ratings: Isco 4/10, Marcelo 5/10 in defeat

Zinedine Zidane clearly tried to shake them up with four changes at half-time and a shift in formation, but nothing worked. Other than Karim Benzema (who hit the woodwork) and, again, Thibaut Courtois, there was very little to cheer. It’s the worst possible preparation ahead of the return of the Champions League and next weekend’s Clasico. Sergio Ramos going off injured doesn’t help either.

Until now, Real Madrid’s main issue was lack of goals. On Saturday, it went deeper than that.

Solskjaer’s gutsy moves pay off in Man United’s win

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Frank Leboeuf believes Manchester United won’t be able to function without Bruno Fernandes on the pitch.

Say this for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: he’s got guts. In the hyper-pressure, instant-reaction world of football, he had two weeks to stew over the 6-1 humiliation at the hands of Tottenham. And he returned to face Newcastle with his captain, Harry Maguire, publicly pilloried for his red card while on England duty.

Man United ratings: Rashford 9/10 in late victory

Solskjaer not only started Maguire, but he also left Paul Pogba and Donny van de Beek on the bench alongside new signing Alex Telles, and stuck Daniel James in the front three. When United went a goal down, you feared another humiliation, possibly one Solskjaer might not survive. Instead, the side kept their cool and pressed on, even after Bruno Fernandes missed a penalty, reaping a deserved three points thanks to three late goals.

It doesn’t mean Solskjaer is the right man for this job or that he’ll turn things around at United. It does mean that, for now at least, his self-belief and confidence are unshaken. And that’s important.

Juve shouldn’t panic about Pirlo after Crotone draw

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Gab Marcotti feels 10-man Juventus did enough to earn the win against bottom side Crotone.

Juventus drawing 1-1 with Crotone — a team that had lost every game prior to this weekend — will inevitably lead the knee-jerk brigade to question Andrea Pirlo and his decisions and, perhaps, lament the fact that this would have never happened under Max Allegri or Antonio Conte. (It probably wouldn’t have happened under the version of Maurizio Sarri we saw last year, either.)

Stream replay: Juventus vs. Crotone (U.S.)

Leaving aside the obvious — Juventus did more than enough to win the game, hitting the post and having a goal scratched off by a very marginal offside, and playing without at least five starters while also being reduced to 10 men when Federico Chiesa was sent off — folks are missing the point.

Pirlo has been given licence to take this club into an entirely new direction: tactically, philosophically and materially, hence why there were so many youngsters out there (including a debutant in Mattia Portanova). It’s a choice in part dictated by necessity (the balance sheet is what it is, aka not good), and in part by a desire to do things differently and experiment.

After years of being domestically successful and hugely conservative (on the pitch), Juventus are trying to do things differently. It may or may not be the right choice, and Pirlo may or may not be the right man to deliver change. But at the very least, understand what he’s trying to do, and give him time to do it.

Tottenham, Mourinho should focus on positives

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Jurgen Klinsmann explains why this Premier League season will continue to be a “rollercoaster” of surprises.

I can imagine Jose Mourinho views dropping two points when you’re 3-0 up with less than 10 minutes to go as some sort of cardinal sin for any football manager to commit. Managing a lead when your side are playing well and you have a team packed with expert counterattackers who thrive on wide open spaces should be entirely second nature. So while he put on a brave face after Manuel Lanzini‘s screamer held Spurs to a 3-3 draw Sunday, he must have been seething inside.

Olley: Tottenham’s lack of ruthlessness is a problem

That’s understandable, but it shouldn’t detract from the way Tottenham played. And having been hard on Mourinho all those times his teams played poorly and won, the least I can do is point out when they played well and were unlucky.

Forget the cliche about “making your own luck.” When a weird own goal and a goal-of-the-season contender are what ultimately cost you points, you can’t really legislate for that. Best to take the positives, because there were plenty, starting with Harry Kane‘s performance and his ability to be at once, creator and finisher.

Bayern back to form vs. Bielefeld

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Shaka Hislop praises Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski’s consistency despite their advance age.

Newly-promoted Arminia Bielefeld were designated sacrificial lambs against Bayern and they followed the script. Hansi Flick’s crew won, 4-1, with Thomas Mueller and Robert Lewandowski bagging two goals each. (For those keeping score at home, that’s now 41 goals in his last 35 Bundesliga appearances for Lewandowski. Write your own captions.)

Stream replay: Arminia Bielefeld vs. Bayern Munich (U.S.)

We had written about the lack of depth at the club and — presto! — Bayern addressed it with a late, late shopping spree that yielded a right-back (Bouna Sarr), a central midfielder (Marc Roca), a winger (Douglas Costa) and a striker (Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting). The folks upstairs are listening.

Chelsea have quality but are not a team (yet)

Chelsea were held to a 3-3 draw at home by Southampton in a game that seemed to encapsulate all the cliches about Frank Lampard‘s side. Kepa Arrizabalaga (replacing the injured Edouard Mendy) was poor, and he and Kurt Zouma gifted the opposition a goal. Defensively, the club switched off at key moments. N’Golo Kante looks anything but happy. Kai Havertz is hugely gifted, but still very raw. You could tell it was Christian Pulisic‘s first game back.

Going forward, there’s enough quality to paper over most cracks, but this is still a tactically imbalanced side that is nowhere near as good as the sum of its parts. There’s plenty of work for Frank Lampard to do and Saturday did nothing to dispel the impression that, for all the quality, the pieces don’t fit together as they should.

Napoli show they’re Serie A title contenders vs. Atalanta

Having added depth and quality, Atalanta are legitimate title contenders in Serie A this season. That Napoli demolished them 4-1 is a credit to many, but their coach Rino Gattuso stands out for me. Given their high risk/high reward approach, Atalanta will always concede opportunities, but it’s up to you to identify them and target them and Gattuso did it wonderfully, unleashing Mattia Politano, Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Chucky Lozano down the flanks. So much for those who thought he was just a shouty motivator.

Gattuso also deserves credit for regenerating and relaunching a number of players who struggled last season. Lozano was on his way out and is now the club’s top goalscorer. Kostas Manolas is back to the lustre of his Roma days, and Victor Osimhen looks as if he’s been playing in this side all his life. Gattuso has tons of depth too.

They too are legitimate title contenders, make no mistake about it.

Leipzig show attacking depth vs. Augsburg

Leipzig won away to Augsburg, 2-0, to remain top of the Bundesliga. Julian Nagelsmann approached the game like he did the previous week, with a de facto striker-less front trio made up of Dani Olmo, Christopher Nkunku and Emil Forsberg.

I’m not sure how much more of this we’ll see, and not just because of the investment in Alexander Sorloth and Hee-Chan Hwang over the summer, but because Leipzig’s second goal came thanks to a proper striker (albeit not a prolific one). Yussuf Poulsen came on and nailed a volley reminiscent of Marco Van Basten at Euro 88.

Goals aren’t the problem for this team, and Nagelsmann now has three serviceable center-forwards. Expect one of them to play most weeks.

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Timothy Bradley on Teofimo Lopez: ‘He kind of reminds me of a young Roy Jones Jr.’

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Teofimo Lopez emphatically announced his entrance into boxing superstardom on Saturday by defeating Vasiliy Lomachenko to claim lightweight world titles from all four major boxing sanctioning bodies. Lopez shocked the world, and not by utilizing his potent knockout power, which was the way most in the boxing world believed the underdog could do it, if he could find a way to beat one of boxing’s greatest technicians.

From Round 1 on, Lopez put his own timing and technical prowess on display and outboxed Lomachenko.

So what do you do when you manifest your dreams into reality? Two-division world champion and ESPN broadcaster Timothy Bradley Jr. breaks down the most pivotal night of Lopez’s career, from how he managed to defeat Lomachenko to what lies ahead as Lopez hopes to continue to build his star in the boxing world.

How surprised were you about how the fight ultimately played out?

I knew he had a lot more to his game than just being a puncher, and I said he had exceptional timing, but I really liked the way that he took control of the range and dictated the pace early on — he proved he’s a boss in there.

We were all well aware heading into this fight that Lomachenko is a slow starter. Yes, he downloads information — I understand that — but while he was downloading information, Teo took advantage of it. He controlled, I believe, the first five out of six rounds, and maybe the second round might’ve swayed slightly to Loma, but I wouldn’t argue if someone was to say Lopez won that round.

Lopez came out and fought every minute of every single round. But it wasn’t just Lomachenko making his calculations — he was clearly frustrated with what he was seeing. It was the timing. It was the speed. I don’t think Lomachenko really understood how fast Lopez was. He was actually faster than Loma, as well as longer, stronger and just bigger.

Lomachenko just poured on the gas a little bit too late. He started coming on in Round 7, and took control in Round 8. By that time, Lopez had a huge lead going into the championship rounds.

Why was Lopez able to succeed where so many fighters had previously fallen short against Lomachenko?

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Teofimo Lopez breaks down his unanimous decision victory over Vasily Lomachenko, saying he had to dig deep if he wanted to win. He also previews what could be next for him.

A lot of fighters who have stepped in with Lomachenko were overwhelmed by the way that Lomachenko fought them. Lomachenko figured them out, took them into deep water and then finished them as the rounds went on. Positioning was a key factor in all of those fights, and Lopez didn’t fall for that. He stayed calm and poised and kept popping his jab out there which isolated the offense of Lomachenko.

What I really liked about what Lopez was doing was that every time Loma would do something, he would react. This is something that I talk about with a lot of young fighters coming up. The best fighters in the world, they each have this ability to not get hit, and then hit themselves. It’s the transition game. So every time Loma did something, Lopez countered, or at least tried to counter. Early on, he had Loma skeptical about attacking because of the power, because of the speed and the accuracy and the supreme skill of the young Lopez. Every time Lomachenko tried to create an angle, Lopez rolled with him.

Every time Lomachenko would try to do something or step in on Lopez, he would get a reaction from Lopez, and it wasn’t the reaction that he wanted to see. It was an educated reaction, and Lopez was either ready to punch or punch right back with the counter.

Lopez had every punch that was needed to interrupt the rhythm of Lomachenko. The hook was key. Did you see Lomachenko spin around Lopez once? He couldn’t. Every time he tried to, Lopez stepped with him. That’s ring IQ. That’s experience.

Lomachenko did not want to get caught exchanging, so he took a very cautious route. Even when he opened up in those later rounds, Lopez took the damage and didn’t let himself get dragged down, even though it got pretty intense at a few points. He was smart, and he stayed calm enough to weather the storm.

What was your reaction to his performance in the 12th round?

That last round was the defining moment, I felt, and it was the reason why I felt like Lopez won that fight. Loma had Lopez on his heels at the end, and Loma felt that Lopez was starting to fade, and he did look like that, especially in the 10th and 11th. But Lopez stayed resilient.

Even at 23, he had the experience and the confidence to dig deep in the 12th. He also had the experience to not listen to his father in the last round when he said it was a blowout. When it comes down to scorecards, shoot, you don’t want to leave anything up to chance, and you don’t know how they’re scoring some of the close rounds in any fight.

He faced down that championship round, fought past his exhaustion, and he went out and threw 90-plus punches. Lopez showed what he was made of. Lomachenko tested him — tested his spirit, tested his ego, tested his conditioning — tested everything. Both of those guys, in that last round, showed what they’re made of.

Lopez just had a little bit more. That was it. It doesn’t take much. If Loma was going five miles an hour, Lopez was going six. That’s all it takes.

Where do you think Lopez currently stands in terms of boxing’s best?

Lopez impressed me. I knew that he was special, but on Saturday he showed everybody that he’s a superstar. There are stars and there are superstars, and superstars typically do things just a little bit different than a typical star to reach that next level. The attributes that Lopez has — how brash he is, how confident he is — add in his timing, his power, — all of those things together make him a superstar.

He kind of reminds me, with his speed, his timing, his reflexes and quick decisions on the fly, of a young Roy Jones Jr., one of my favorite fighters of all time.

So what’s next?

One of the things that Lopez needs to understand is that there’s a lot more he can do in boxing. It might not feel that way, because he’s at the top of 135 already. With this one fight, it catapults him there easily, not to mention the No. 2 or No. 3 spot easily on any pound-for-pound list. Maybe you can even argue that he’s No. 1, because according to the ESPN rankings, Lomachenko was the No. 1 P4P fighter in the world.

I’ll temper that a little bit, because you have to think of guys like Terence Crawford, Naoya Inoue, Canelo Alvarez, who have been in the business a very long time and have been consistently effective and destructive.

He’s done at 135. He beat arguably the best pound-for-pound guy in the world at 135 and he took all the straps. He has no business left at 135, and he doesn’t have to struggle to make that weight anymore. He has the ball in his court now. It’s time to go up to 140.

Lopez has to continue to challenge himself. He just fought arguably the best fighter in the world. Where do you go from here? I’m not going to say I’m a mad genius, but I’ll just put it this way. He’s already been a part of a historic event. If he wants to be a part of another one, there’s two fighters at 140 that are going to be unifying the titles, likely at the beginning of 2021.

Why not go after the winner, whether it’s Josh Taylor or Jose Ramirez. Top Rank has both of those guys under their promotional banner, and the fight can easily be made. So you’ll have the undisputed 135-pounder (or unified champion, depending on how you want to put it, because Devin Haney was basically handed his title) versus the undisputed at 140 pounds. He will move up and he will face the undisputed champion at 140.

Where does Lomachenko go from here?

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Vasily Lomachenko discusses his loss to Teofimo Lopez, saying he thought he took control in the later rounds and did not agree with the judges’ decisions.

This 14-month layoff did Lomachenko no justice. A fighter with that many fights, at that age, you have to stay active, and that’s how you stay sharp.

Lomachenko will be looking for a rematch. There’s no doubt in my mind, because he’s a winner, and he came up a little short in this fight. No matter what the scorecards say, it was a close fight — I had it as a two-point edge for Lopez, 115-113. Loma just started late. The speed, the size. I mean, there’s a lot of things that he had to worry about.

I don’t know if Lopez would give him that, because there was no rematch clause in the contract. If Lopez doesn’t grant him the rematch, Lomachenko needs to go back down to 130 and try to just see what he can do there. Lomachenko still has the skills, and the ability. We saw what happened when Lomachenko opened it up and started putting the pressure on Lopez late in that fight.

He is a fantastic fighter, and let’s not take anything away from him and what he’s done in his career. One loss to a top-level opponent doesn’t mean that he is not great. Lomachenko has already cemented his resume, and cemented his name in the history books. He’s still a fighter that I want to see fight.

Lomachenko should go down 130 pounds where I think things will be a lot more suitable for him. I think the weight definitely played a factor in this fight, along with the punching power.

What I admire about Lomachenko is that he wants to not only be good, he wants to be great. He wants to be excellent. He’s willing to take the necessary risks to chase history. You have to take risks to be great. And Loma took risks — he knew he was risking it all. He came up a little short, and that’s OK. But the battle is not over. Go back down and wait, build himself back up, and he can become an undisputed champion at 130.

You look at Muhammed Ali, “Sugar” Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Roy Jones Jr., Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield. All these guys had losses, and they’re still talked about today. It’s not over for Lomachenko.

If I know one thing about winners, it’s like death to them when they lose. They’d rather die than lose.

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Unconfirmed test has Panthers working remotely

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Carolina Panthers have instructed players, coaches and other staff to work virtually from home on Monday and Tuesday after receiving an unconfirmed positive test result for COVID-19.

The training room at Bank of America Stadium was open to essential personnel and players such as running back Christian McCaffrey (high ankle sprain) who are going through treatment.

The person with the unconfirmed test was retested on Monday. Results of that test aren’t expected until Tuesday, so at this time nobody has been added to the NFL’s COVID-19 list. The team currently plans to have players, coaches and staff return to the facility on Wednesday.

Team spokesperson Steven Drummond said the decision to have other personnel work remotely was made out of an “abundance of caution.” He said the team remained under the intense protocol it entered Wednesday after playing an Atlanta team that had a player test positive for coronavirus after the teams met on Oct. 11.

On Friday, the Panthers placed backup center-guard Tyler Larsen on the COVID-19 list. A league source said Larsen tested positive and was sent home immediately. There was no immediate indication if the latest test was related to a player who worked closely with Larsen.

The team continued to work at the stadium last week. No reason was given for the decision to work remotely Monday and Tuesday other than those days were light meeting days already.

Coach Matt Rhule said he got a call at 4:48 a.m., after Sunday’s 23-16 loss to Chicago, informing him of the unconfirmed test. After coming to the stadium for his daily COVID-19 test he returned home to work.

“It’s like anything else, we’ll take everything as it comes,” Rhule said. “I always try to find the positive. I told our staff take this time with no distractions, go back and watch yesterday’s game, games we played the weeks before, and let’s try to find areas we haven’t played well.”

Rhule hopes the team is able to resume normal activities on Wednesday, typically a padded practice.

Last week, because of the intense protocol that required players to wear masks and gloves in practice, Rhule didn’t hold his normal padded practice on Wednesday or Thursday and maintain the physicality he likes in game preparation.

Rhule didn’t speculate on whether that had an impact in Sunday’s performance in which he called it “global” failure on almost all aspects of the offense against a physical Chicago team.

“It was what it was,” Rhule said. “We got in a routine and kind of do what we do, and we didn’t do that last week. … I live by the statement ‘Don’t make excuses.’ I hate to come off like we’re making excuses. I look forward to getting back on Wednesday and putting the pads on and getting back to work.

“That’s who we are. We’re a gritty, tough group. We want to be a tough group, and that happens in practice.”

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