Chelsea 2-0 Fulham: Oscar and Mikel ease the pressure

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At times it was a nervy and unconvincing 2-0 win for Chelsea against Fulham on Saturday, but they needed it, as they momentarily returned to the top of the Premier League table.

After two-straight defeats over the past seven days, Jose Mourinho’s side ground out the victory against the West London rivals, courtesy of a Oscar goal just after half time and a late John Obi Mikel goal.

The diminutive Brazilian attacker was on hand to clean up in the six-yard box, after a goalmouth scramble played out following Andre Schurrle’s shot in the 51st minute. And Mikel added a second goal in the 83rd minute, as he hammered home a shot from close range to seal what was, in the end, a comfortable win for Chelsea.

A huge sigh of relief could be heard at the full time whistle from the home fans at Stamford Bridge, but something still isn’t quite ticking in Mourinho’s second-spell in charge at Chelsea. The Portuguese manager left both Juan Mata and David Luiz out of his squad, despite both stars players being fit. I’m sure we will hear more about that later.

Early on the Blues looked rusty, and could have easily gone behind after sloppy defensively play.

With less than 10 minutes gone, the entire backline was caught out with one straight through-ball and Darren Bent should have opened the scoring for the Cottagers. Bent, on loan from Premier League rivals Aston Villa, raced clear of John Terry and Gary Cahill and moved in on the Chelsea goal, but the striker hesitated before shooting and goalkeeper Petr Cech rushed out of his goal to smother the shot to safety.

source: Reuters
Oscar slots home the opener just after half time, as Chelsea edged towards victory.

That chance seemed to spark Chelsea into life, and for most of the first half they dominated possession, without really creating any problems for Fulham. Samuel Eto’o had a half chance at the back post, and Schurrle found Ramires’ clever run on the edge of the box just before half time, but the Brazilian midfielders shot was blocked by Fulham.

The teams went in level at the break, but soon after the interval Chelsea piled on the pressure with four straight corners from the right hand side. And eventually that proved too much for Fulham to handle, as Oscar tapped home from inside the six-yard box to give Chelsea a 1-0 lead.

Fernando Torres came on in the second half, replacing Eto’o who is still searching for his first goal, and the Spaniard had a few half chances to double Chelsea’s lead.

Steve Sidwell missed a free header at the back post, as Fulham pressed for an equalizer.

But in the 83rd minute, Chelsea finally added a second after Mikel scored his first league goal in 185 games, slamming home a volley from close range following a corner.

The win ensured Chelsea’s fans, players and manager went home happy after a difficult week at Stamford Bridge.

With the victory Chelsea momentarily sit on top of the table with 10 points, as rivals Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham not playing until Sunday. Fulham drop down to 17th with four points from five games.

LINEUPS

Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Cole; Ramires, Mikel; Schurrle (Lampard, 80) , Oscar, Hazard; Eto’o (Torres 64). Subs not used: Schwarzer, Azpilicueta, Essien, De Bruyne, Willian

Fulham: Stockdale; Riether, Hangeland, Amorebieta, Richardson; Duff (Taarabt, 64), Sidwell, Parker, Kačaniklić (Na Bangna, 72); Kasami; Bent. Subs not used: Etheridge, Senderos, Karagounis, , Rodallega, Zverotić,

Chris Wondolowski thankful for call-up to national team

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Chris Wondolowski didn’t have to travel far when he got the call to join the U.S. national team ahead of two key World Cup qualifiers.

The U.S. will be playing Honduras on the home field of Wondolowski’s San Jose Earthquakes on Friday night as the Americans look to bounce back from an 0-2 start in the final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region.

“To represent your country is the ultimate pinnacle, especially as a soccer player in a World Cup qualifier in your hometown,” Wondolowski said. “I couldn’t have drawn it up any better. I’m very excited. I’m very honored to be a part of such a big game. It’s not necessarily the place we want to be, but it is an exciting place for U.S. Soccer right now. We have meaningful games in meaningful places.”

And Wondolowski might need to play a meaningful role with the U.S. short-handed at forward headed into the games against Honduras and then at Panama next Tuesday. Bobby Wood is out with a back injury, Jordan Morris has not practiced this week because of an ankle injury and Clint Dempsey said he might not be able to play 90 minutes after missing the final four months of the 2016 MLS season due to an irregular heartbeat.

That leaves just Jozy Altidore and Wondolowski as the only healthy forwards. The 34-year-old Wondolowski didn’t know whether he would get another chance at World Cup qualifying.

He didn’t get his first call-up to the national team until six years ago despite a prolific MLS career. He has played 35 international games, including two at the 2014 World Cup.

Wondolowski has scored 11 goals for the national team, but is most remembered for one he missed in the round of 16 against Belgium at the 2014 World Cup. With the game scoreless late in regulation, he had a chance at a game-winner but shot over the crossbar from inside the 6-yard box.

The U.S. lost 2-1 in overtime and Wondolowski has not played in any 2018 World Cup qualifiers.

“If you play well at the club level, you figure you can get a chance,” he said. “You never know if that will keep happening. You always have to cherish the times that you have.”

Wondolowski has done that by scoring 28 goals the past two seasons for the Earthquakes and one so far this season in three games. He doesn’t know if he will get a chance to play but has already been a valuable resource for his familiarity with the home stadium.

“They’ve been asking me about the field, the atmosphere,” he said. “I don’t have enough adjectives to tell them how great it is. The atmosphere you feel, the presence that the crowd provides throughout the game will lift you. It’s an amazing pitch, amazing fans, and hopefully we can get three points.”

After the losses to Mexico and Costa Rica last November that led to coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s firing and the return of Bruce Arena as coach, the U.S. has little margin for error.

The Americans are in last place in the six-team group that will send the top three teams to Russia in 2018 and the fourth into a playoff with the fifth-place nation from Asia.

“Some games you go in and you’re trying to implement things and work on your style,” Wondolowski said. “We’re worried about three points. Pretty, ugly, it doesn’t matter. Just grind it out any way possible.”

Swansea’s Gylfi Sigurdsson dreams of “big club”

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This will unnerve Swansea fans.

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Gyfli Sigurdsson, 27, has scored eight goals and assisted 11 times in the Premier League as the Swans have dragged themselves out of the relegation zone.

Swansea boss Paul Clement recently stated that Sigurdsson has the same ability of players he’s coached at Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid and with his quality from set pieces, finishing in and around the box and dictating play, it’s hard to argue with that.

Speaking to Goal.com, Sigurdsson revealed that Clement’s kind words were appreciated and he feels he can play for a bigger club.

“Of course that’s very flattering. Maybe he was just trying to give me confidence,” Sigurdsson said. “Of course, it would be a dream to play for one of these big clubs. Hopefully if I continue doing well for Swansea and Iceland then in the near future, I can play in a big club. I am enjoying being one of the senior players, though.

“We may be in a tough spot, but I am kind of enjoying the pressure of that. I am trying to make the most of that and help the team to get three points every week.”

Late in the January transfer window it was reported that some top teams in the PL came in with bids for Sigurdsson and the former Hoffenheim and Tottenham Hotspur attacking midfielder is definitely entering his prime.

He’s scored 33 goals in 115 appearances for the Swans over the past three seasons since joining from Tottenham and perhaps the main criticism some people have of Sigurdsson is that he prefers to be a big fish in a small pond. During his time at Spurs he scored just eight times in 58 appearances in the Premier League but now it seems like he is ready to go to the next level.

Swansea will ask for over $35 million for Sigurdsson but with clubs like Everton and Arsenal rumored to be interested in his services, a nervous summer could be ahead for the South Wales side. Swansea’s Icelandic playmaker will be a man in demand, irrelevant of whether or not the Swans survive relegation.

Everton agree deal to buy land for new stadium

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Everton have moved a step closer to a new home on Liverpool’s waterfront.

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The Guardian is reporting that the Premier League have “agreed a deal to purchase land at Bramley Moore dock” which is where a new $375 million stadium is proposed for the Toffees.

Per the report, a deal has been agreed in principle with the landowners Peel Holdings and now Everton, led by new billionaire majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri, will try to kick their new stadium project on. It is widely expected that the club will announce more details later on Thursday, with Liverpool City Council set to be heavily involved in the huge regeneration project.

Moshiri now has to acquire funding for the stadium and also get planning permissions from the council but things appear to be moving in the right direction.

Back in November 2016, Moshiri said having a stadium which “rewards the fans” was his “key aim” at Everton.

Everton’s search to find a new home after 125 years at Goodison Park has been exhaustive and frustrating. They’ve had three separate sites turned down since 2000 but with Moshiri’s arrival last February there is renewed optimism that building a new luxurious home in Liverpool’s docks is possible.

With Manchester City expanding the Etihad Stadium in recent seasons, Liverpool drastically improving Anfield, West Ham moving into the London Stadium, Chelsea closing in on securing a deal for a $600 million revamp of Stamford Bridge, plus Tottenham Hotspur moving into a new 61,000 home for the 2018-19 season, the rest of the Premier League is kicking on in terms of stadium expansion.

Moshiri has lofty heights for Everton and with Ronald Koeman as manager and plenty of funds promised to improve their exciting squad, the final major hurdle to overcome is the construction of a new home.

VOTE: Select Premier League Goal of the Month – March

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The 2 Robbies have selected their contenders for the Premier League Goal of the Month for March.

[ VOTE: Select your GOTM here ]

Now it’s your job to select the winner by clicking on the link above.

Watch the contenders in the video above and then vote for your favorite.

Enjoy.