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

Barcelona plan Cruyff tribute at club’s training center

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) One year after his death, Barcelona says it will name the future stadium at its training center after Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

The new stadium at Barcelona’s training center just outside the Catalan city will be called “Johan Cruyff Stadium” in honor of the club’s former player and coach.

Barcelona says in a statement that “the most emblematic building in the facility where future Barca players are coached is to be named after somebody who played such a central role in fostering youth talent at the club.”

Barcelona also says it will commission a “commemorative sculpture” of Cruyff, who died of lung cancer on March 24 last year at age 68. The statue will be placed at Barcelona’s main Camp Nou stadium.

Cruyff is largely credited with launching Barcelona’s era of trophy success, both as a player and a coach.

As a player, Cruyff joined Barcelona midseason in 1973 and led the middle-of-the-table team to its first national title in a decade.

He later returned as a coach and guided Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish leagues from 1991-94 and the club’s first European Cup in 1992.

“I think the tributes are very warming,” said Cruyff’s son, Jordi Cruyff. “It sort of changes the sadness that we might feel as family to lose a father, a husband and a grandfather. It changes to a certain kind of pride to understand that he left something behind.”

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

AP Photo/Bryan Woolston
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The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

AP Photo/Armando Franca
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A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia