Liverpool, Messi head AP soccer rankings

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LONDON (AP) - Liverpool is first in England and this week’s Associated Press global soccer poll, while Lionel Messi tops the player rankings after his first-half hat-trick for Barcelona.

Brendan Rodgers’ side received 149 points out of a possible 200 from AP’s panel of 20 voters to earn the team honors on Tuesday in the third poll of the season. Messi received 178 votes.

Arturo Vidal of Juventus was second, his side fourth in the team votes. Daniel Sturridge, who scored for Liverpool against Manchester United at Anfield to secure its third consecutive 1-0 Premier League win, was third in the player vote.

Daniel Sturridge marked his 24th birthday with his third match-winning goal in as many games in the league,” said Paris-based Irish soccer writer Mark Rodden. “It’s worth remembering that he also got two goals in Liverpool’s League Cup win in midweek.”

Bayern Munich was second after beating Chelsea on penalties in the UEFA Super Cup on Friday, and its highest-ranked player was Franck Ribery, in fourth place.

“Franck Ribery was voted the Champions League’s finest last season and followed it up with a man-of-the-match performance in Bayern Munich’s Super Cup triumph against Chelsea,” said Richard Jolly of ESPN.

As for Messi, the panel is making no apologies for awarding last year’s winner of The AP soccer poll a resounding 84-point victory for the player vote this week.

“OK, putting Messi on top is not original, but the Argentine got a hat trick against a good Valencia side, and against a good keeper,” said Ubiratan Leal of trivela.com in Brazil. “Diego Alves was in his best form last Sunday.”

Arsenal was fifth after beating north London rival Tottenham 1-0 and securing qualification to the Champions League with a 5-0 aggregate win against Fenerbache.

After Arsenal lost 3-1 at home against Aston Villa on the opening day of the season, optimism seems to be restored at Emirates Stadium after four straight wins and the club-record signing of attacking midfielder Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid.

“A huge week for Arsenal ended in some style. Sunday’s derby with Tottenham carried huge significance, and a battling 1-0 victory lifted morale significantly,” said Julien Bonnets of Hayters news agency. “That was then added to by the stunning signing of Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid, Arsene Wenger smashing the club’s transfer record with the $63 million deal.”

Monaco was sixth in the team poll after an impressive 2-1 away victory against Marseille moved it atop of Ligue 1. Borussia Dortmund was seventh after beating Frankfurt away 2-1 for its fourth win of the season.

“Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored a double in Frankfurt and was a key man in Borussia Dortmund’s brilliant start of the season,” said Aurelio Capaldo of RAI Sport in Italy. “His second goal against Eintracht is priceless. A real gem.”

Mkhitaryan was eighth in the player vote, one ahead of Arsenal’s match-winner against Tottenham, Olivier Giroud.

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