Britain Soccer Premier League

Fernando Torres scores first Premier League goal in 2013 as Chelsea secures third place

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Fernando Torres broke his Premier League scoring drought by banging home the game-winner to secure Chelsea’s automatic place in the group stages of the Champions League.

The match sparked to life from the opening kickoff with Everton no doubt keen to finish the season on a high note and provide manager David Moyes with parting gift before he leaves for Manchester United.

It was Chelsea, however, who broke the dead-lock in the 7th minute when Oscar burst through the midfield and found Demba Ba on the right side of the box. The Senegalese international unleashed a daisy-cutter that didn’t appear to be well struck but nevertheless troubled Everton keeper Tim Howard.

As the American went to ground to make the save the ball bounced off of his chest and straight into the path of Juan Mata, who made no mistake with his finish. It was Mata’s 20th goal in all competitions this season and his 12th in the Premier League.

Seven minutes later and Everton were level. Leighton Baines drove a pass in the direction of Victor Anichebe, who was 20 yards outside of the box and closely marked by David Luiz. Luiz intercepted the pass but his touch went directly into the path of the unrushing Steven Naismith. The Scot played a one-touch pass to Anichebe, who returned the favor by splitting Ashley Cole and Gary Cahill as Naismith blazed into the box. His first touch drew Petr Cech off his line and Naismith took advantage, cooly slotting home a left-footed strike.

The entertaining end-to-end affair remained deadlocked until the 76th minute when Oscar’s cross from the right side of the field found Victor Moses in the center of the 6 yard box. With his back to goal Moses unselfishly directed his header into the path of Torres, who buried his right footed shot into the bottom corner. It was the Spaniard’s first Premier League goal of 2013 and one that Torres desperately needs as he states his case to remain at Stamford Bridge.

As time ticked down Everton came close on a few occasions. In the 86th minute Nikica Jelavic met Baines’ cross with a flush header that looked goal-bound only for Cech to make an unbelievable reactionary save and ensure Chelsea the victory.

For the Blues, the win sealed third place in the table and automatic qualification in next fall’s Champions League. The match also marked the end of Rafael Benitez’s seven month spell in charge as interim manager where he is expected to be replaced by Jose Mourinho. While many fans and pundits scoffed at Roman Abramovich’s decision to utilize Benitez in an interim capacity it’s hard to argue the project wasn’t a success as the Spaniard not only enjoyed league success but also managed to win 28 of 48 matches and lift the Europa League cup.

For Everton, the loss was one that manager David Moyes felt was undeserved. “We were excellent in the first half and then went behind with a bit of a mistake leading up to that but we deserved our goal back. In the second half we didn’t start the game so well but we created a lot of chances and at the worst we should have had a draw out of it.”

It was Moyes’ 518th game for the club and his last in charge before taking over at Old Trafford. The Toffees finish the season 6th in the table and two points ahead of rival Liverpool. The feat marks the second consecutive season in which Everton outperformed their Merseyside neighbors, the first time that’s happened in first-division football since 1935-37.

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)
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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.