Britain Soccer Premier League

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

Bayern’s Vidal says “ugly” Atletico not deserved UCL finalists

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27: Juanfran of Atletico Madrid and Arturo Vidal of Bayern Munich argue during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.

Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.

Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.

They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.

The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.

Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.

[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]

Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.

Europa League preview: Liverpool, Shakhtar look to overcome Spanish foes

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - APRIL 28:  Cedric Bakambu of Villarreal is watched by the Liverpool defence during the UEFA Europa League semi final first leg match between Villarreal CF and Liverpool at Estadio El Madrigal on April 28, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.

[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]

Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0

Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.

[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]

Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw 

Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.

[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]

Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.

Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.

Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.