didier drogba chelsea

Offshore drilling, England (FA Cup semifinal): Chelsea 5, Tottenham 1

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Man of the Match: Chelsea had a lot of good but not great performances, with John Terry, Frank Lampard, John Obi Mikel and Ramires putting a good foot forward. But let’s give this one to Didier Drogba. His opening goal was massive, in more ways than one. Not only was the timing of it important (opening the scoring) but the skill behind it was incredible. How often does somebody do something like that at Wembley?

Packaged for takeaway:

  • It was amazing to see Tottenham content to sit back, not pressure Chelsea at all in the first half. While Chelsea brought the ball out of their own end, only Emmanuel Adebayor was in their half, providing only the obligatory pursuit.
  • The approach was far too deferential. Between that and Spurs seeming insistence on only counter attacking (playing a number of quick, low-percentage balls out of their own half rather than retaining possession), it was as if Harry Redknapp told his team taht Chelsea was as strong as two years ago and they’ll need to feast on crumbs.
  • Despite all this, Tottenham were probably the better team come halftime. Twice they came close to the opener, with John Terry saving a Rafael van der Vaart header off the line before van der Vaart went off the post with a cross for that left Petr Cech of two minds. Neither of those chances were generated off of counters.
  • But the best Spurs chance was probably a non-chance. David Luiz, beaten by Aaron Lennon just inside the penalty area, reached out and grabbed his opponent. Lennon elected to run through it, something that surely earned him Twitter plaudits, but it may have cost his team. Gus Puyet, asked at halftime whether he thought Lennon should have gone down, said “yes, but maybe that’s because I’m a foreigner.” That’s probably not the reason, Gus.
  • Spurs’ unwillingness to pressure Chelsea bit them on the first goal. Frank Lampard was allowed to play a 60-yard ball for Drogba, who then got all Drogba-y. While some bay ask that William Gallas do more (seems he left Drogba with only a very tough shot), what they should be asking is why is Harry Redknapp implemented a plan that does pressure the likes of Lampard.
  • The second goal was terrible. After Carlo Cudicini blocks a ball into the air, John Terry comes in and, under the guise of playing the ball, launches himself and takes out three Spurs: Ledley King, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, and the goalkeeper. Juan Mata comes, plays a ball into the pile, and Martin Atkinson gives a goal despite the ball not even reaching the line. I can only infer that amid the chaos, Atkinson trusted Juan Mata’s celebration to be the decider. (I say that flippantly, but subconsciously, that might have happened.)
  • Credit to Spurs for responding quickly, but unfortunately, Martin Atkinson made another somewhat controversial decision. When, in the 56th minute, Emmanuel Adebayor blew by David Luiz and went in alone on goal, he was taken down by Petr Cech after playing the ball wide, allowing Gareth Bale to run onto Spurs’ first goal. Atkinson played advantage and let play continue, but Cech should have still been carded. Advantage means allowing play to continue. It doesn’t mean the foul didn’t happen.
  • If course, the root of the controversy was many (myself included) thinking Cech should have been sent off, but as it was pointed out to me soon after, the laws of the game state that if advantage is played on a goal scoring opportunity and the goal’s subsequently scored, you can’t dismiss the offender. You can only issue a yellow card.
  • After late goals by Ramires, Lampard, and Florent Malouda, the scoreline is unfairly lopsided. Many broadcasters and pundits opined Sprus had played better throughout much of the match, but that doesn’t mean Chelsea’s result is undeserved. In fact, many of Chelsea’s matches have played out this way of late. This is their new approach, and while it won’t win style points, it may win trophies.
  • They’ll get their chance in the FA Cup final. Chelsea moves on while Spurs are left to hold them (and Newcastle) off for fourth in league if they’re to salvage their season.

Klopp hopes for speedy solution in club, fans’ ticket-price dispute

Liverpool's fans wave flags during the English League Cup semifinal second leg soccer match between Liverpool and Stoke City at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
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From his time at Borussia Dortmund, Jurgen Klopp is used to a much more positive, family-like, everyone-pulling-in-the-same-direction atmosphere at his club of employment, so the present goings-on at Liverpool understandably have the Reds’ first-year manager feeling more than a little uneasy.

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Saturday’s late 2-2 draw with Sunderland wasn’t the first time Liverpool fans have headed for the exit before the final whistle, leaving Klopp feeling all alone, but it was the first time the fans have departed from Anfield early in a pre-planned, organized manner (Klopp missed the game himself with appendicitis). The Anfield faithful didn’t walk out on 77 minutes due to their team’s poor performance — Liverpool were 2-0 ahead at the time — but in protest of steadily rising ticket prices, which were unveiled at $111 per game to sit in the 132-year-old stadium’s new main stand next season.

Klopp, coming from the Bundesliga, where a season ticket at clubs the size of Bayern Munich and Dortmund doesn’t cost much more than a single-game ticket at many Premier League grounds, understands the fans’ frustration. At the end of the day, though, he works for the club, which is why he just wants the whole thing settled quickly, for the sake of his squad — quotes from the BBC:

“It’s not what we want. What I know is everyone in the club has a big interest in finding a solution for this. We don’t want people to leave the stadium before the game is finished.”

An LFC TV appearance by Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre, in which he was expected to answer fan-submitted questions, was consequently canceled on Monday due to the ongoing dispute.

West Ham want Payet to sign new contract for fear of losing him this summer

Dimitri Payet, West Ham United FC (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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Dimitri Payet is going to be a red-hot commodity during this summer’s transfer window, there’s no doubt about it.

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Given he’s currently contracted to one of the Premier League’s “smaller” clubs — in comparison to some of the giants which are bound to be interested — West Ham United, there’s a decent-to-good chance he could be wearing a different club’s shirt come August. Especially if the 28-year-old attacker shows up and shows out at this summer’s European Championship in his native France.

If I can foresee the interest in Payet, then so too can the executives at West Ham, which is why manager Slaven Bilic took to the press on Monday to convey his desire for Payet to consider signing a new, increased contract at his earliest convenience — quotes from the Guardian:

“We are moving, the club is moving, with the new stadium, with the revenue and everything. We have to move and the most important move is to keep your best players and to add some new players who are needed and Dimitri Payet is our best player — I have no problem whatsoever to say that. Of course, I would love to have him happy, long term, at the club.”

Of course West Ham want Payet to sign a new deal immediately — doing so would accomplish two things in the club’s eyes: 1) increase the likelihood he remains at the club next season, or 2) insure the club receives a higher transfer fee for the player if he leaves in the summer anyway. The more total money remaining on his West Ham contract, the more they can demand of a prospective buyer.

[ MORE: Ronaldo commits himself to Real Madrid through 2018 ]

From Payet’s side — unless he has absolutely zero desire to move to a club like Liverpool, Chelsea or Manchester United, where he’d likely be paid close to $200,000 per week — he’d be crazy to sign a new contract at this point. Not only would it make a move this summer more difficult, but a strong showing at EURO 2016 could be worth another $15,000 or $20,000 per week on a new contract with West Ham (his current contract is rumored to be close to $100,000 per week).

With as many as five seasons still remaining on his current contract (a one-year club option can be exercised at any point), and his stock perhaps at an all-time high, the next six months could hold Payet’s last chance to get really, really paid before he hits the downside of his career.

USWNT players’ union responds in USSF lawsuit

FILE - In this Sunday, July 5, 2015 file photo, the United States Women's National Team celebrates with the trophy after they beat Japan 5-2 in the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The U.S. Soccer Federation’s original lawsuit against the union for its champion women’s national team has been sealed after the governing body realized it had disclosed the home addresses and email accounts of many players, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016.(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
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(AP) — The union that represents the Women’s World Cup-winning American national team opposed an expedited schedule in the lawsuit filed against it by the U.S. Soccer Federation last week, insisting no collective bargaining agreement exists.

The federation sued in an attempt to establish it has a contract with the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association that runs through this year’s Olympics until Dec. 31. The union maintains the memorandum of understanding agreed to in March 2013 can be terminated at any time.

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The USSF filed a motion Friday in U.S. District Court in Chicago asking for an expedited schedule, and the submitted opposition papers Monday that claim “facts asserted in the motion are nowhere near accurate and are hotly disputed.”

The union also maintains the USSF knew about the disagreement since July but did nothing about it.

An initial status conference is set for April 4.

Lionel Messi to undergo tests for lingering kidney problems

FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi holds the ball during a quarterfinal, second leg, Copa del Rey soccer match against Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says Lionel Messi is to undergo medical tests to assess a recurrence of kidney problems.

[ MORE: Saturday’s La Liga roundup | Barca win on Sunday

Messi missed the Club World Cup semifinal in December due to a renal colic, an abdominal ailment often related to the presence of kidney stones within renal ducts.

Barcelona says in a statement Monday that the tests to be conducted by Tuesday at the latest, are “to assess the evolution of the kidney problem he suffered last December.”

[ MORE: Champions League returns next week — KO round matchups ]

The statement says Messi will resume training with the squad on Wednesday, when Barcelona travels to Valencia for the return leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals in which it carries a 7-0 lead.