Chelsea 2 – Aston Villa 1: Late Branislav Ivanovic goal seals Blues’ second win (Video)

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It was far more difficult than Sunday’s opener against Hull City, yet ultimately, Chelsea still claimed full points. Backed by an early own goal from Antonio Luna and a late header from Branislav Ivanovic, Chelsea posted their second win of the season, their six points leaving them on top of the Premier League after today’s 2-1 win over Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge.

Christian Benteke, with his third goal of the season, temporarily brought Villa even just before halftime, and with a collection of second half counters that pierced Chelsea’s defense, the visitors looked on the verge of a second straight upset. Ultimately, after a first half that saw them maintain 70 percent of the game’s possession, Chelsea re-asserted control of the match, eventually crafting Ivanovic’s winner.

As they did at Arsenal, Aston Villa set up to absorb pressure and play on the counter, an approach that backfired in the sixth minute. That’s when Oscar fed Eden Hazard behind the Villa defense, with the Belgian’s cross from the byline eventually leading to Luna’s own goal.

Villa persisted with their approach, and although a patient Chelsea seemed willing to sacrifice threats for possession, Paul Lambert’s tactics eventually paid off. In the third minute of injury time, Gabriel Agbonlahor broke down the right side of Chelsea’s defense before playing a ball into the middle of the penalty area for Benteke. The Belgian international unloaded on a left-footed shot that beat Petr Cech, sending the side into half time even.

Along the way, Villa had lost another central defender. Saturday in North London, Nathan Baker had to be removed early with an ankle injury. At Stamford Bridge, Ciaran Clark came off in the 43rd minute after an accidental kick from Demba Ba opened a cut in his head. Clark would go on to be replaced by Jores Okare and receive five stitches.

source: Getty ImagesIn the 73rd minute, moments after his foul set up a chance Villa nearly converted for a second, Ivanovic took advantage of one of Villa’s fouls. Ashley Westwood drew a yellow card along Villa’s left, allowing Frank Lampard to deliver a perfect ball to just outside the six-yard box for the Chelsea right back.

Though Andreas Weimann nearly equalized in the 86th minute, Chelsea went on to a 2-1 win, pushing their record to 2-0-0. While Villa couldn’t replicate their Arsenal result, they finish their early London tests with three points, an outcome Lambert surely would have taken before the season started.

Lineups

Chelsea: Petr Cech; Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, John Terry, Ashley Cole; Frank Lampard, Ramires; Juan Mata (Andre Schürrle 65′), Oscar (Marco van Ginkel 84′), Eden Hazard; Demba Ba (Romelu Lukaku 65′)

Aston Villa: Brad Guzan; Matthew Lowton, Ron Vlaar, Ciaran Clark (Jores Okore 43′), Antonio Luna; Karim El Ahamdi (Aleksandr Tonev 82′), Ashley Westwood, Fabian Delph; Gabriel Agbonlahor, Christian Benteke, Andreas Weimann

Wenger: Arsenal “complacent, had no ideas” in Ostersunds loss

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Perhaps Sunday’s League Cup final had already reached the forefront of their minds, but Arsene Wenger admonished his players, whom he said were “complacent, not focused” and “had no ideas” for much of Thursday’s Europa League defeat, at home, to Swedish side Ostersunds.

[ MORE: Premier League TV schedule | Man United vs. Chelsea ]

The Gunners advanced to the round of 16 on the back of their 3-0 first-leg victory last week, but Wenger was understandably displeased by the effort he saw and expressed such feelings in no uncertain terms, before quickly easing up and praising the fact they were able to pull back a goal against the current fifth-place team from Sweden — quotes from the BBC:

“We were not at the races in the first half,” said Wenger, who saw his side booed off at half-time and full-time. I think in the second half it was much better and we should have scored a few goals.

“In the first half, we were in trouble and in danger because we were complacent, not focused and were open every time we lost the ball. We had no ideas with the ball and that’s why we were in trouble.

“We responded very well because we did the job to qualify, but that’s what we have to take from the night and that’s all.”

With Arsenal now trailing fourth-place Chelsea by eight points (and seven back of fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur), winning the Europa League might just be the Gunners’ last chance at qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

Batshuayi racially abused by Atalanta fans

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Borussia Dortmund striker Michy Batshuayi says he was subject to racist chants from Atalanta fans during a Europa League game in Italy.

The Belgium international, on loan from Chelsea, tweeted:

Dortmund advanced to the round of 16 by drawing 1-1 to beat Atalanta 4-3 on aggregate on Thursday.

The game was played at Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia because Atalanta’s home stadium is unsuitable for UEFA games.

There have been several incidents of racism at Serie A matches this season.

Whitecaps defender Tim Parker being tracked by several teams from East

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Tim Parker’s next destination could very well be closer to his hometown, however, other MLS sides are in hot pursuit of the U.S. Men’s National Team defender.

[ MORE: CCL recap — FC Dallas falls, Club America struts its stuff ]

The Vancouver Whitecaps center back has been the subject of trade speculation recently, and Pro Soccer Talk has learned that Parker has turned down a new contract with the Cascadia side that would have kept the 24-year-old in Canada for at least three more seasons.

Multiple sources have told PST that the deal Parker rejected was worth over $1.4 million in totality. Metro New York’s Kristian Dyer was the first to report the story.

Parker was subject to make roughly $99,000 in 2017, according to the MLS Players Union, although he’s expected to receive a significant increase with any new deal that he signs. On an average basis, Parker would have made over $400,000 annually had he signed a new contract with the Whitecaps.

A New York-native, Parker has been looking to return to the East Coast after spending three seasons with the Whitecaps. The former Saint John’s University standout was selected in the first round by the Whitecaps in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, after spending all four years with the Red Storm on the collegiate level.

Sources can also confirm that D.C. United and the Montreal Impact have emerged as the leaders to obtain Parker’s services if a deal is struck with the defender, although a move to the New York Red Bulls hasn’t been ruled out.

The Red Bulls have shown interest in the young defender for some time — and would be the preferred destination for the player — given Parker’s New York roots. A combination of allocation money and a player would likely be needed from the Red Bulls if the Eastern Conference side proved to be serious about pursuing Parker.

D.C. has managed to acquire significant allocation money over recent years, particularly GAM, which would prove to be essential in signing Parker. Ben Olsen’s defense has been built around USMNT center back Steve Birnbaum — who arrived in 2014 — but an addition of Parker would surely benefit a D.C. back line that conceded 60 goals in 34 regular season matches a season ago.

Meanwhile, a move for the Impact would be logical given the fact that the Canadian side lost center back Laurent Ciman this offseason when the Belgian international was traded to expansion side Los Angeles FC.

Police officer dies after fan violence before Bilbao-Spartak Moscow

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BILBAO, Spain (AP) A Spanish riot police officer died of cardiac arrest after clashes involving Russian soccer fans before a Europa League match on Thursday between hosts Athletic Bilbao and Spartak Moscow, raising concerns less than four months before the World Cup in Russia.

Basque Country authorities in northern Spain said the officer died in hospital after the confrontations outside San Mames Stadium in the city of Bilbao, which will host matches in the 2020 European Championship.

Police also said a Russian man was injured but the extent of his injuries was not immediately disclosed. Five people were arrested – three Russian nationals and two Spaniards.

The identity of the dead officer was not immediately disclosed.

Spartak won the match 2-1 but Athletic advanced 4-3 on aggregate.

Earlier Thursday, German police arrested a Russian suspected of seriously injuring a British soccer fan during the European Championship in France two years ago.

The trouble in Spain erupted ahead of the round-of-32 match in the second-tiered European club competition.

Police were escorting some Spartak fans into the stadium but a stray group allegedly started igniting fireworks and throwing flares and objects toward Athletic supporters and police officers.

The fighting spread onto the streets near the stadium and police struggled to restore order. Many fans were seen trying to run away from the trouble as fireworks exploded all around.

There was concern ahead of the match because of the reported presence of `Ultra’ Russian fans in Bilbao, and a large police force was deployed to try to prevent fan trouble.

Six year ago a fan died in Bilbao in clashes after a match between Athletic and German club Schalke.