Chelsea's manager Rafa Benitez reacts to his team's performance against Manchester City during their English Premier League soccer match at Stamford Bridge stadium in London

Offshore drilling, England: at Chelsea 0, Manchester City 0

Leave a comment

Changes will have to come later for Chelsea, who saw the debut of their new manager fail to yield any correction of course. With no significant changes to personnel, formation, or style, Chelsea saw no significant changes to their results, drawn at home on Sunday by Manchester City, 0-0.

Both teams will be content with the result, though each have reason to think they should have gotten more. Manchester City controlled much of a match in which, against a struggling opponent, they could have pushed harder for a winning goal. Instead, they seemed content to adopt a more level posture, an approach that has cost them first in the Premier League.

Chelsea can assuage themselves with having held the defending champions at arm’s length, though there was a time not so long ago when any points dropped at Stamford Bridge would have been seen as a failure. Given the talent in this squad, there’s no reason that attitude should change. Instead, Chelsea’s fall swoon continues, with new manager Rafa Benítez’s Chelsea tenure beginning on a mixed note.

Man of the Match: As in most Manchester City matches, Yaya Touré was the game’s best player, though on a day when there were few good chances on goal, neither side saw enough offensive excellent or defensive failures to provide much distinction between players. Touré, however, was his typically dependable self in defense while providing the orchestrating presence high in attack that helped City maintain a majority of possession.

Threesome of knowledge: What we learned

Neither team wanted it more – Years ago, when former Giants, Cowboys, and Jets head coach Bill Parcells had a seat on ESPN’s Sunday NFL pregame show, he was asked to pick a winner in one of the day’s games. Almost dismissively, he offered “usually the team that wants it more wins the game.” Particularly in these middle-of-the-seasons, low stakes affairs, it’s the team that can muster some will that takes a result.

On Sunday, neither Chelsea nor Manchester City wanted more than they got, and it showed. Chelsea’s only good chance came in the 61st minute when Fernando Torres skied a shot over the bar from 12 yards. City’s best opportunity was a first half counterattack started and finished by Pablo Zabaleta, who drilled a 14-yard shot right at Joe Hart.

Manchester City was happy with a road point, while Chelsea seemed content to draw during this transition phase. Add that to the predilections of the two managers involved, and we should have known to bet heavily on 0-0 the moment Benítez was appointed.

Too soon for changes at Chelsea – Benítez only had three days to prepare – a little more than a day since he was formally announced on Friday – so it shouldn’t be too surprising that Sunday’s team looked identical to one Roberto Di Matteo would have selected. It’s going to take a little more time on the training ground for Benítez to develop any firm personnel preferences. The formation (4-2-3-1) is likely to stay the same, regardless.

If there’s anything to infer from Benítez’s choices, it’s that Gary Cahill might lose some time (Cesar Azpilicueta’s start pushing Branislav Ivanovic into central defense) and Fernando Torres will keep getting chances to justify his purchase (the Spaniard back into the starting XI after missing out mid-week). But Di Matteo could have just as easily made those selections. Chelsea’s defense has a been rotating all season, and Torres was always likely to come back for today’s match.

So much skill, so little danger – The teams combined for six shots on target (five from Manchester City), though that number slightly exaggerates the drama. Though the match had a nice flow over the last 30 minutes (Chelsea counterattacks becoming the game’s only threat), Petr Cech and Joe Hart were left with little to do. City, pushing Chelsea’s defense back into their comfortable, deep posture, was left to make the best of half-chances, while Chelsea’s counterattacks always lost steam as they approached City’s penalty area (frequently, at the point Fernando Torres became involved).

Packaged for takeaway

  • For the second match in a row, David Luiz had a strong, mistake-free day, though he almost opened himself up for criticism in the 92nd minute when he put a shoulder into a charging Mario Balotelli, taking him down 19 yards from goal. Somewhat inexplicably, referee Chris Foy produced a yellow card for Balotelli, presumably saying the clear contact was exaggerated by the City attacker.
  • At the other end, Vincent Kompany was man of the match-caliber (he earned Gary Neville’s honors) three days after leaving the Etihad on crutches after City’s draw with Real Madrid.
  • James Milner got the start on the left instead of Samir Nasri, who dressed but never appeared. Predictably, Milner gave a steady performance that failed to alter the game. Whereas Nasri might have won the game for Roberto Mancini, at least Milner didn’t lose it.
  • Edin Dzeko got a rare league start, a reward for his recent substitute’s heroics. Unfortunately for the Bosnian attacker, he did little to suggest he should get more of Carlos Tévez’s playing time.
  • Chelsea’s only official shot on goal was a 30-plus-yard direct kick from David Luiz that had no chance of beating Joe Hart.
  • The result gives Manchester United first place in the Premier League. City sits second with West Brom allowed to stay third place ahead of Chelsea.

Manuel Pellegrini hired to manage Chinese club Hebei China Fortune

SWANSEA, WALES - MAY 15:  Manuel Pellegrini, manager of Manchester City looks on after the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Manchester City at the Liberty Stadium on May 15, 2016 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Former Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini has been hired by Chinese club Hebei China Fortune as the Chinese top flight adds another big name manager. He joins just three months after stepping down as manager of Manchester City in favor of Pep Guardiola.

The Chilean will match up with former Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, who currently heads current league leaders Guangzhou Evergrande, in his first game in charge on September 10. Evergrande sits 15 points adrift of Hebei in the table. Sven-Göran Eriksson also manages in the league, in charge of Guangzhou R&F.

Pellegrini inherits a squad that includes Ezequiel Lavezzi plus former Premier Leaguers Stephane M’bia, Gervinho, and Gael Kakuta. The club currently sits in fifth in the league table out of 16 teams, with seven matches remaining in the season.

Following Pellegrini’s departure from City, the 62-year-old said he wished to remain in the Premier League, but also that he would retire if he did not receive an offer that interested him.

Pellegrini replaces former Everton midfielder Li Tie, who worked previously under Marcelo Lippi at Evergrande before being hired as Hebei manager a year ago. Tie was in hot water after criticizing the Chinese national team selection process and travel planning in early July.

La Liga roundup: Kroos lifts Real Madrid as Atletico Madrid is held yet again

MADRID, SPAIN - AUGUST 27:  Toni Kroos of Real Madrid celebrates with  Lucas Vazquez after scoring Real's 2nd goal during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and RC Celta de Vigo at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on August 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Toni Kroos hit just his second goal for Real Madrid in the last calendar year, but it was a big one as it lifted Los Blancos over Celta Vigo in a 2-1 win at the Bernabeau.

Goals from Alvaro Morata and Fabian Orellana had cancelled out before Kroos struck a powerful, low effort in off the post in the 81st minute for the win. The move began with a stellar challenge from Casemiro to dispossess Pape Diop, sending Real Madrid moving the other way.

While Real Madrid earned its second win of the season in two matches, cross-town rivals Atletico Madrid struggled again, failing to score in a 0-0 draw with Leganes, the club’s second draw of the year as they sit on just two points. Atletico held 63% of the possession, worked eight corners, and managed 10 shots, but only three of them were on target.

Leganes goalkeeper Serantes was stellar, while Fernando Torres missed a huge chance towards the end of the match as his header off a cross from Filipe Luis went straight into the keeper’s arms. Manager Diego Simeone chose to be upbeat after the game, saying, “I’m happy with the work done. We generate chances and others don’t against us. We need to finish.”

Around the rest of La Liga, Real Sociedad went on the road and beat Osasuna 2-0 behind a goal from Juanmi and a late own goal. Valencia still has not picked up a point this season after its second loss, a 1-0 result at Eibar where Pedro Leon missed a penalty but struck home on the rebound.

Khedira earns Juventus three points as Napoli defeats AC Milan

ROME, ITALY - AUGUST 27:  Sami Khedira #6 with his teammates of Juventus FC celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Serie A match between SS Lazio and Juventus FC at Stadio Olimpico on August 27, 2016 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sami Khedira hasn’t found the field much since moving to Juventus two summers ago, but when he does, he has a striker’s eye.

The German bagged his eighth goal for Juventus in just his 28th appearance as the Italian giants went on the road and defeated Lazio 1-0.

A poor clear attempt by Lucas Biglia saw Paulo Dybala’s lofted ball over the top fall to Khedira, and he skittered the ball across the face of goal into the far corner. The win is the second of the year for Juventus after they took down Fiorentina in their opening match.

There was a goal-fest at Stadio San Paolo as Napoli defeated AC Milan 4-2 braces from Arkadiusz Milik and Jose Callejon. Milik’s came in the first-half, with the opener in 18th minute, a lucky bounce as Dries Mertens’ shot clattered off the post and fell in Milik’s lap. He doubled Napoli’s lead in the 33rd minute with a beautiful header into the far corner, out-jumping Juraj Kucka.

The second half saw a flurry of action. A pair of goals four minutes apart saw Milan tie things up as M’baye Niang and Suso brought them level. Then, the yellow cards came flying. As a result, Kucka and Niang were both sent off for second cautions. Jose Callejon took advantage, bagging his first in the 74th and doubling his tally in stoppage time in a ridiculous bit of play that saw Alessio Romagnoli try to swat Mertens’ cross away from the goal line…yes, as in with his hands.

It’s a wonder Romagnoli wasn’t sent off for his actions. Napoli

Following USWNT suspension, Hope Solo takes leave of absence from club

TUKWILA, WA - AUGUST 31: Hope Solo #1 of Seattle Reign FC warms up before the National Women's Soccer League Championship on August 31, 2014 at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila, Washington.  (Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer/Getty Images)
Getty Images
3 Comments

Hope Solo’s USWNT suspension did not predicate she take time off from her club team the Seattle Reign, but that is exactly what she will be doing.

The 35-year-old goalkeeper will be taking a leave of absence from playing all forms of soccer, the Reign announced. They did not say how long she will be gone.

The club signed 21-year-old Andi Tostanoski as a replacement for Solo on the roster – Tostanoski’s third one-game replacement contract with the Reign. 26-year-old Haley Kopmeyer was given the start in today’s match against the Portland Thorns.

Many believe Solo’s international career could be over after U.S. Soccer reportedly terminated her contract. Despite that, club soccer was still immediately available to her. Even though U.S. Soccer pays her club salary as part of her USWNT deal, that portion of her contract was not terminated, according to reports.

Solo was suspended from international play for six months just two days ago mainly for comments she made following the USWNT loss to Sweden in the Olympic quarterfinals. However, it was clear from statements on both sides that an accumulation of actions, both in the public and private eye, had contributed to her eventual punishment.

Despite her controversial actions and personality, Solo has unquestionably remained the best goalkeeper in women’s international soccer, and has been that was for a number of years. She holds the world records in international appearances, wins, and shutouts for goalkeepers in women’s soccer.