Chelsea resurgence comes to screeching halt with loss to QPR


Whoever said their eight-goal win over Aston Villa could turn Chelsea’s season around got way too far ahead of himself. While subsequent wins at Norwich City and Everton reinforced that view, today’s 1-0 loss to last place Queens Park Rangers throws all that out the window.

Consider the depths to which this QPR team had fallen. They were three points back of Reading for 19th in the Premier League. A three-game losing streak left them with only 10 points in 21 games. Their league-worst attack had only scored once during their losing three, with two consecutive losses at home giving them little reason to think a West London Derby at Stamford Bridge would turn out well.

And in truth, QPR wan’t that impressive. Defensively, they did well to hold out, but the performance wasn’t so much better than one we would have seen under Mark Hughes. Though 11 of Chelsea’s 26 shots were blocked, there was still enough room for the Blues to break through, particularly given  14 corner kicks and the 36 crosses a compact Rangers’ defense allowed them to pump into the box.

Only able to convert two of their 26 shots into tests for Julio César, it was a pure lack of execution that cost Chelsea. Perhaps the team didn’t take QPR seriously enough (who can blame them), with Juan Mata and Eden Hazard starting on the bench for what should have been an easy match.

And maybe there was some back luck, a Branislav Ivanovic header scraping off the cross bar at one point. Regardless, there can be few excuses for a team with this talent to show so poorly at home to the league’s worst team.

It’s a question that will come up every time Chelsea has a setback, but until they can transcend their issues, it still bears asking: Are the Blues any better off after firing Roberto Di Matteo? At times, they have been, like at Sunderland and during their trouncing of Villa. But losing a trophy in Japan was telling, while today’s loss to a lightly regarded rival was embarrassing.

Living with Rafa, it’s going to be all about the results. There’s no emotional attachment to him like there was with Di Matteo. He doesn’t have the loyalty that Carlo Ancelotti’s affability engendered. He’ll never be as respected as José Mourinho. So if Chelsea’s not winning, supporters have little else to hold onto.

The loss keeps Chelsea fourth in England. They still have a match in hand, but now seven points back of second place City, the urge to look up is gone. After you lose to a team like QPR, it’s better to focus on where you are rather than where you want to be.

Brazil to play Austria in final warmup game for World Cup

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VIENNA (AP) The Austrian soccer federation says Brazil will play its final warmup game for the World Cup against Austria on June 10, a week before the five-time world champions take on Switzerland in their Group E opener.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Kekuta Manneh to roster ahead of friendly ]

The match will be played in Vienna at Ernst Happel Stadium, the same venue where both teams last met in a 2014 friendly, which Brazil won 2-1.

Brazil has further build-up games against World Cup host Russia (March 23), world champion Germany (March 27) and Croatia (June 3) ahead of the June 14-July 15 tournament, where it also meets Costa Rica and Serbia in the group stage.

Austria failed to qualify for the World Cup but will also play friendlies against Russia on May 30 and Germany on June 2.

Fiorentina renames training ground for Davide Astori

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Fiorentina’s training ground has been renamed “Centro Sportivo Davide Astori” in honor of the club’s deceased captain.

[ MORE: Manneh added to USMNT squad ]

Davide Astori died in his team hotel room on March 4, shocking the Italian soccer world and triggering tributes around the world of soccer.

The respected Italian national team center back has had number retired by both Fiorentina and former club Cagliari.

Thousands packed a Florence piazza to salute the player en route to his funeral, and the club won its first match after his passing following vivid pre- and in-match tributes.

Kekuta Manneh added to USMNT roster for Paraguay game

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CHICAGO (AP) Mexican league midfielder Kekuta Manneh was added to the U.S. roster Monday for a March 27 exhibition against Paraguay at Cary, North Carolina.

The 27-year-old was born in Ghana and became a U.S. citizen two years ago while playing with Vancouver. He was traded to Columbus in March 2017 and signed with Pachuca in December.

[ MORE: Southampton momentum? ]

He is among eight players on the 23-man roster who could make their national team debuts. The others are goalkeeper Alex Bono; defenders Shaq Moore, Erik Palmer-Brown and Antonee Robinson; midfielders Marky Delgado and Tim Weah; and forward Andrija Novakovich

Four others have played just once: goalkeeper Zack Steffen, defender Cameron Carter-Vickers and midfielders Weston McKennie and Kenny Saief.

After failing to qualify for the World Cup, the U.S. will not play a competitive match until this summer.

The revised roster:

Goalkeepers: Alex Bono (Toronto), Bill Hamid (Midtjylland, Denmark), Zack Steffen (Columbus).

Defenders: Cameron Carter-Vickers (Ipswich Town, England), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest, England), Matt Miazga (Vitesse, Netherlands), Shaq Moore (Levante, Spain), Erik Palmer-Brown (Kortrijk, Belgium), Antonee Robinson (Bolton, England), Jorge Villafana (Santos Laguna, Mexico), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle, England).

Midfielders: Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls), Marky Delgado (Toronto), Kekuta Manneh (Pachuca, Mexico), Weston McKennie (Schalke, Germany), Darlington Nagbe (Atlanta), Cristian Roldan (Seattle), Kenny Saief (Anderlecht, Belgium), Wil Trapp (Columbus), Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain, France).

Forwards: Andrija Novakovich (Telstar, Netherlands), Rubio Rubin (Tijuana, Mexico), Bobby Wood (Hamburg, Germany).

Further crowd trouble could see Lyon’s European ban made active

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Lyon has not enjoyed sportsmanship on and off the pitch this season.

You’ll remember an ugly incident between its players and Everton fans this season, but it’s been Lyon’s support which has had the Ligue 1 club under the microscope for some time.

[ MORE: (Very) Fresh faces for USMNT ]

Lyon had a two-year ban suspended in April, and antics before Thursday’s Europa League match versus CSKA Moscow could see the French side’s suspension from European competition put into action. From the BBC:

Lyon have been charged with racist behaviour, crowd disturbances, throwing objects and setting off fireworks and blocking stairways.

Police say up to 150 ultras attacked officers outside Lyon’s stadium on Thursday.