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Offshore drilling, England: Chelsea 2, at Arsenal 1

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Man of the Match: It wasn’t quite his old self, but  Fernando Torres flashed a little bit of his peak Liverpool form with a creative finish around Laurent Koscielny in the 20th minute, giving Chelsea the lead. But despite the goal and some good play with the ball at his feet, Torres’s main contributions came when Chelsea wasn’t in possession, the Blues’ striker proving a pest tracking back to disrupt Arsenal, particularly when the Gunners were hogging the ball in the second half.

NBC Sports: Chelsea wins 2-1 at Arsenal to stay top of EPL

Packaged for takeaway:

  • The teams matched up in near-identical formations: lone strikers up top; four at the back; two deep midfielders. With Ramires and John Obi Mikel set to sit deep in Chelsea’s midfield, Arsenal wasn’t going to enjoy the same advantages they did against Manchester City.
  • Of note, given this was Chelsea’s first big Premier League match of the year: Frank Lampard was on the bench (though he did start against Juventus in Champions League).
  • One of Arsenal’s advantages against City was in possession, but on Saturday, it was Chelsea who controlled most of the play early. The Gunners would even the numbers by half, but over the first 45 minutes, this wasn’t your typical Arsenal match. Arséne Wenger’s side wasn’t able to dominate the ball.
  • The home side was dealt a blow early with Abou Diaby had to come off, the midfielder straining his left hip after a 12th minute shot on goal. Wenger brought on Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, pushing Aaron Ramsey to the middle.
  • It’s the story of Diaby’s career: injuries. The frequency with which he’s hurt in matches has to be a tactical concern. Even if Diaby’s healthy, you can’t start him if you don’t have a substitute to spare.
  • Chelsea broke through fist, with Torres wrapping his right leg around Laurent Koscielny to redirect a Juan Mata restart past Vito Mannone at the left (far) post. For those hoping Torres can somebody (after all this time) find his old self, it was a very encouraging goal, one set up after a touch from the Chelsea striker helped draw the original foul, Thomas Vermaelen caught diving in for a ball perfectly laid off for Eden Hazard.
  • Even after the goal, it took Arsenal some time to get going. Ramsey was slowing down play through the middle, getting caught on the ball, while Oxlade Chamberlain still hadn’t found a rhythm. It was only after the Gunners started pestering Oscar, himself caught on the ball multiple times near the end of the half, that Arsenal came into the game.
  • That was also the same time that Santi Cazorla started popping up everywhere. After being relatively quiet for the first third of the match, Cazorla started coming a little deeper for the ball, making some runs to the right that he wasn’t making before – generally trying to get more involved.
  • Near the 40th minute, Cazorla’s work helped create a chance down the right, the Spaniard putting a shot out of play off a pass from Carl Jenkinson. Although nothing came from it, the movement exposed two things about Chelsea’s defense that would come into play a few minutes later. First, Ashley Cole was playing very narrow on the left, giving Jenkinson or Oxlade Chamberlain all the room they wanted down the attack’s right. Second, Chelsea’s line was collapsing far too deep – right to the edge of Petr Cech’s six-yard box.
  • In the 43rd minute, those factors conspired to give Arsenal their equalizer. Jenkinson played a ball wide to Chamberlain, whose cross found Gervinho open near the spot, set up in front of the defense but behind the midfield two. The Ivorian was able to trap, turn and fire the equalizer past Cech.
  • The second half opened with Arsenal in firm control, something that worked against them when a 52nd minute Mikel Arteta giveaway allowed Chelsea to catch the Gunners on the counter. A fifty-fifty ball won by Ramires forced Vermaelen to take down Torres 35 yards for goal, a textbook professional foul (for which he saw yellow).
  • Mata put the ensuing restart at the far post, Mannone frozen when a ball grazed off Koscielny’s left shin and in.
  • From there, Chelsea showed what’s becoming a trademark pragmatism under Roberto Di Matteo. They didn’t threaten Mannone again, but they didn’t need to. Staunchly maintaining their shape while getting good work from Ramires and Torres, Chelsea made their good fortune hold up.
  • In doing so, they also created a match that played to Arsenal’s reputation. No doubt Gooners will insist they outplayed Chelsea, a debatable assertion. Even if you grant it, Saturday’s game adds to a long list of Arsenal results that betray their on-field play. It’s still unclear when they will award trophies for finishing with the most style points.
  • They do award trophies for finishing first, which is where Chelsea stay with three points at the Emirates. The result also alleviated the biggest qualm about Chelsea’s start: A weak schedule. Their first big win of the season may have announced the Blues as title contenders.

NWSL Playoffs set: Portland, Washington, Chicago, Western New York

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The National Women’s Soccer League will crown its fourth champion in mid-October, and for the first time in three years the winner will not be FC Kansas City.

FCKC finished sixth after the 20-game regular season concluded this weekend, six points out of the final slot occupied by the Western New York Flash.

[ MORE: Allardyce on England hot seat? ]

The Flash join Chicago Red Stars and Washington Spirit in attempting to topple NWSL Shield winners Portland, a Thorns side which won the title in 2013 and has only missed the playoffs once.

Washington hosts Chicago on Friday in the first semifinal, while the Flash travel to Oregon for an Oct. 2 semi.

Portland Thorns (1) vs. Western New York Flash (4)

The two best goal differentials in the league meet at Providence Park, where Mark Parsons’ Thorns and their league-best defense will be tasked with stopping the highest-scoring offense in the NWSL. That means stopping Golden Boot winner Lynn Williams and runner-up Jessica McDonald, who’ve accounted for 21 of WNY’s 40 goals.

The Thorns are loaded. Women’s soccer legend Christine Sinclair, who once lifted a trophy for the Flash, is there with a quintet of USWNT mainstays. French star Amandine Henry, too, as well as leading goal scorer and Danish star Nadia Nadim.

USWNT regulars on each side
Portland: Tobin Heath, Meghan Klingenberg, Allie Long, Emily Sonnet, Lindsey Horan

WNY: Samantha Mewis

Washington Spirit (2) vs. Chicago Red Stars (3)

The two sides split the season series, with Chicago hosting a 3-1 victory on Saturday. Sofia Huerta had a goal and an assist, as she and Christen Press combined for nine shots. They’ve combined for 15 goals on the season, though the Red Stars have only found nine goals elsewhere.

No Washington player has scored more than five goals this year, and the Spirit haven’t had a multi-goal game in September, but Argentina national teamer Estefanía Banini’s five goals in 13 matches in an impressive haul.

USWNT regulars on each side
Washington: Ali Krieger, Crystal Dunn

Chicago: Alyssa Naeher, Julie Johnston, Christen Press

UEFA Champions League preview: Spurs, Foxes, and BVB hosts Real

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 02:  Gareth Bale of Real Madrid takes on Sokratis Papastathopoulos of Borussia Dortmund during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final first leg match between Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 2, 2014 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images
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Leicester City gets a home Champions League match, Spurs head to Russia, and two of the world’s best attacks meet in Germany; Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League slate is pretty tasty.

[ MORE: Allardyce on England hot seat? ]

An out-of-form Cristiano Ronaldo has Real Madrid in a mini-slump, and a trip to Borussia Dortmund isn’t exactly the antidote now, is it? Normally we wouldn’t dial that up, but Ronaldo has a knack for shining brightly when folks question him. We’ve seen this one before. Expect a highlight-reel night from CR7, but perhaps the same from high-flying BVB.

Spurs are buoyed by the news that Harry Kane‘s injury may not be as serious as first thought, but could be sunk back into the depths with a loss at CSKA Moscow on Tuesday. Spurs fell to Monaco, while CSKA scooped up a solid draw at Bayer Leverkusen.

Leicester City is looking to stay perfect after an impressive UCL debut at Club Brugge, and faces a big test in Portugal. Porto does quite well in this tournament almost annually, and won’t be scared by a trip to King Power Stadium. El Tri trio Miguel Layun, Jesus Corona, and captain Hector Herrera join familiar names Iker Casillas, Yacine Brahimi, and Maxi Pereira on the Porto roster.

Tuesday’s UCL matches

all matches at 2:45 p.m. ET

Sporting Lisbon vs. Legia Warsaw
Sevilla vs. Lyon
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Juventus
CSKA Moscow vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Borussia Dortmund vs. Real Madrid
Monaco vs. Bayer Leverkusen
Copenhagen vs. Club Brugge
Leicester City vs. Porto

Kei Kamara “shocked” at boos in return to Columbus

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 13:  Soccer player Kei Kamara attends the 2016 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on July 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
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Kei Kamara couldn’t gather his emotions after his return to Columbus as a member of the New England Revolution.

The star striker netted 27 times in 41 appearances for the Crew before a locker room falling-out found him traded to New England.

[ MORE: Harry Kane to return sooner? ]

The reigning MLS joint-top scorer and a member of the 2015 Best XI, Kamara was back at MAPFRE Stadium on Sunday. The Revs fell 2-0, thanks to Columbus’  new Kamara, and Kei was booed.

There was bitter, smarmy Kei (from MLSSoccer.com):

“I was shocked,” he said after the match. “Come on. You make so many sacrifices for an organization to really boost it. But hey, if I can bring some life to the stadium for once in the season, why not?”

And there was also sad, pensive Kei:

“It wasn’t something I asked for, to move,” he said. “I’ve been thinking about it a lot. It’s been tough. It’s been really, really tough. But after today, I got the final answer to everything. It’s time to move on.”

“It’s time to move on. I’m happy where I am now and I wish [Columbus] the best of luck.”

I’ve rarely understood the booing of former players unless that player grievously harmed your club on the way out the door. Here in Buffalo, I’ve seen even the least-celebrated of ex-Sabres get the boo treatment, though, so it’s not uncommon.

Winter on Allardyce corruption allegations: “Touch and go whether he survives”

England international soccer team manager Sam Allardyce, centre, his assistant Sammy Lee, left, and FA chief executive Martin Glenn, right, applaud during the launch event of UEFA Euro 2020 and the unveiling of the tournament brand and the London host city logo at City Hall, in London, Wednesday Sept. 21, 2016. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
AP Photo/Tim Ireland
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As details continue to unfold from the Telegraph’s sting operation that may’ve caught England manager Sam Allardyce in its grasp, the question of whether the ex-Sunderland man could be fired after just months on the job is moving to the forefront.

Allardyce, 61, is on tape talking about third party ownership of players — a big no-no for FIFA — and the words have some alleging that he is giving advice on how to buck the system.

[ MORE: Watford’s Deeney rages after loss]

Given that the manager has only overseen one match for the Three Lions and had been accused, but never charged, with accepting bribes from agents in 2006, some think he may not survive the issue.

Well-connected The Times of London writer Henry Winter says it’s possible.