Juan Mata on his way to Old Trafford in $61 million deal.

Juan Mata the hero for Chelsea, as Spaniard sparks second half comeback (video)

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LONDON — It has been a rough start to the season for Chelsea’s Spanish midfielder Juan Mata.

But the diminutive attacker from Northern Spain showed all his mettle on Saturday, as he climbed off the bench at half time to turn the London Derby on its head.

Mata, 25, was playing in just his third league game of the season and made a massive difference to Chelsea’s offensive offerings at White Hart Lane.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has publicly criticized Mata’s recent displays, but chose to bring on the playmaker to change Chelsea’s fortunes in the crucial Derby against Tottenham. And it worked.

“I think this is the way players have to say ‘I want to play'”, Mourinho said. “Conversations with you [the press] is not good, the agents blah, blah, blah, behind is not good. Good is this, the effort that he made against Swindon [in midweek] and the way he changed the team in the second half. And because of that I am a very happy manager.”

(MORE: All-square between the master and his apprentice, as Chelsea fight back for draw at Tottenham)

As for Mata himself, he was delighted to help the team produce a rousing second half comeback, after Spurs dominated Chelsea for vast swathes of a fiery first half.

“Well I just tried to do my best for the team,” Mata said. “From when I came on and that’s what I’m going to try and do until the end. Obviously everyone wants to play. As I said last week, I’m a professional and I enjoy all my teammates and what I want to do is enjoy on the pitch and today I did it.”

Mata played a part in the pivotal moment in Chelsea’s comeback, as his 40-yard left-footed free kick found John Terry at the back post, who headed home the equalizer in the 65th minute. Mata wheeled away in delight and punched the air, he deserved that moment after battling it out with Tottenham’s giants in midfield and forcing his way between the lines of defense and midfield.

source: Getty Images
Jose Mourinho is delighted with Mata’s resurgence.

He certainly caused Spurs plenty of problems, and Andre Villas-Boas agreed that Mata’s arrival changed the game.

“Mata played very well, I think he changed the game. He is an extremely creative player, I think he had the impact on the game that Chelsea and Jose wanted. And made another assist for JT to score.”

(MORE: Tottenham 1-1 Chelsea: Lively derby ends in a draw)

Mata’s teammate, Petr Cech, could see things from both the managers and players perspectives, but is over the moon to see the Spanish magician back to his best and pulling the strings for Chelsea.

“If you aren’t doing exactly what he asked you to, then you can’t argue with him, because he is the boss,” Cech said. “It’s a simple as that. But it’s really nice to see Juan play very well the last couple of games and that he looks happy and fit.”

The Spanish international wasn’t even in the squad for Chelsea’s last Premier League game against Fulham, but he proved just how essential he is to their attacking rhythm, as those around picked up their game after half time. Oscar looked much more comfortable cutting in from the left, while Frank Lampard and Ramires also looked at ease dovetailing to support Mata’s roaming runs towards Tottenham’s defense. Last season Mata was the creative hub of Chelsea, scoring 21 goals and adding 29 assists to lead the way.

(MORE: Jose Mourinho fuming at Jan Vertonghen, as Fernando Torres sees red)

On Saturday, Mata made Chelsea a better team with his second half arrival and as Mourinho alluded to in his post-match press conference, Chelsea really should have won the game had Fernando Torres not been controversially sent off.

“In the second half we played very, very well,” Mourinho said. “We played tactically well, we played with a very good spirit and strong mentality. It leaves us in a situation where people are getting their confidence and I think this second half is probably the best we’ve played. Also the first half against Hull City but I think this is our best performance.”

And ahead of their Champions League game in Romania against Steaua Bucharest on Tuesday, Mourinho revealed that Mata will start, after starring in Chelsea’s determined second half comeback.

“I can say this 72 hours in advance, that he plays against Steaua Bucharest. He won that by himself.”

Mata is back in the picture at Chelsea, he’s done it the hard way. But he’s shown the ‘Special One” just how special he can be, with a terrific cameo display.

STREAM: Watch Hull-Chelsea, West Ham-Boro, every 10am ET game

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Diego Costa of Chelsea shows his frustration during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium on September 24, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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Four games take center stage at 10 a.m. ET in the Premier League on Saturday.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]

Hull City host Chelsea at the KCOM Stadium, while struggling West Ham host Middlesbrough at the London Stadium.

Elsewhere Bournemouth head to Watford and Sunderland is hoping to get their first win as West Brom head to the Stadium of Light.

You can stream each game live by clicking on the links below or above.


10 a.m. ET: Hull City vs. Chelsea – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Sunderland vs. West Brom – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: West Ham vs. Middlesbrough – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Watford vs. Bournemouth – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]

Pardew, Palace wish luck to FC Cincinnati; USL Playoffs underway (video)

CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 16: Tyler Polak #3 of FC Cincinnati steals the ball from Bakary Sako #26 of Crystal Palace FC as Paul Nicholson #8 of FC Cincinnati falls back on defense during the first half at Nippert Stadium on July 16, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.(Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images
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Before Crystal Palace drew Everton 1-1 at Goodison Park on Friday, they turned their attention Stateside.

The club released a video message in support of United States third tier side FC Cincinnati on Friday, as the third-seeded USL club prepares to take on No. 6 Charleston Battery at Nippert Stadium on Sunday.

[ MORE: PST talks with Michael Bradley ]

Palace visited FC Cincinnati this summer, with 35,000-plus showing up as the Premier League side beat its USL opposition in a wonderful showcase for American soccer supporters.

Well, Pards and the boys were impressed, and issued a vote of good luck:

The playoffs are underway, with 16 of the 29 clubs making the march forward. Reigning champion Rochester Rhinos open up against Charlotte at Rhinos Stadium on Saturday, while the No. 1 seeds are New York Red Bulls II (Eastern Conference) and Sacramento Republic FC (Western Conference).

Full first round

Western Conference

Sacramento Republic (1) vs. Orange County Blues (8) — Saturday
Swope Park Rangers (4) 3-0 LA Galaxy II (5)
Colorado Springs Switchbacks (3) 1-2 Vancouver Whitecaps 2 (6)
Rio Grande Valley FC Toros (2) vs. Oklahoma City Energy FC (7)

Eastern Conference

New York Red Bulls (1) vs. Orlando City B (8) — Sunday
Rochester Rhinos (4) vs. Charlotte Independence (5) — Saturday
FC Cincinnati (3) vs. Charleston Battery (6) — Sunday
Louisville City FC (2) vs. Richmond Kickers (7) — Sunday

Swansea 1-2 Liverpool: Reds stay red-hot, battle to comeback win

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  • Swansea led through Fer
  • Firmino equalized 
  • Milner nets late PK
  • Klopp’s side win fourth-straight

This is the kind of win a title contender grinds out. Liverpool beat a spirited Swansea City 2-1 at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday as Jurgen Klopp‘s side fought back from 1-0 down to win it late on.

Leroy Fer opened the scoring for Swansea in the first half but Roberto Firmino equalized in the second and then James Milner‘s late spot kick sealed the comeback win for the Reds.

With the victory Liverpool has now won four-straight Premier League games and has five victories in its opening seven encounters with 16 points on the board, while Swansea’s manager Guidolin is under more pressure as his side have now lost five of their last six and only have four points this season.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

After a positive start the Swans took the lead in the eighth minute as a corner from the left was nodded back into danger by Borja Baston and Fer bundled home his fourth PL goal of the season. 1-0 to Swansea.

Swansea were buoyed by that early goal and continued to press Liverpool high with Fer smashing over and Jack Cork couldn’t quite hook his effort goalwards. Adam Lallana hobbled off with a groin injury midway through the first half and was replaced by Daniel Sturridge.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Borja then headed wide from Gylfi Sigurdsson‘s delightful free kick as Swansea missed a glorious opportunity to double their lead. At the other end Sturridge went down in the box under a challenge from Wayne Routledge but instead of a penalty being awarded he was booked for simulation. Upon seeing the replay it looked like referee Michael Oliver had made the right decision.

Jordi Amat then saved Swansea as a bad giveaway let in Sadio Mane but the Spanish defender came from nowhere to block Mane’s effort at the last minute.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]  

Liverpool started the second half well with Firmino forcing Lukasz Fabianski into a save, then Mane rolled an effort goalwards which Swansea hacked to safety. Klopp’s side continued to press for an equalizer and it arrived after 55 minutes.

Philippe Coutinho‘s free kick was blocked but Jordan Henderson‘s cross then found Firmino who beat the offside trap to glance home a header. 1-1. Soon after Coutinho curled a fine effort just wide as Klopp drove his team on from the sidelines.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Liverpool looked increasingly dangerous but Swans, much to their credit, dug deep and battled for under-fire boss Guidolin. Lorus Karius flapped out a corner in the closing stages as Swansea tried to nick a late winner but just when it looked like both teams had to settle for a point Swansea conceded a penalty kick as Angel Rangel tripped Firmino in the box.

Milner clipped home the spot kick to put Liverpool 2-1 up and they survived a late scare as Mike Van der Hoorn somehow knocked wide from close range to seal a fourth-straight win in the Premier League.

STREAM: Watch Premier League “Goal Rush” at 10am ET on Saturday

PL_Logo2016_GOAL_RUSH
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At 10 a.m. ET this Saturday you will be able to access NBC Sports Digital’s newest product, Premier League Goal Rush.

It will be available on the NBC Sports App, on NBCSports.com and on a dedicated Premier League Extratime channel as goals from all four matches in the 10 a.m. ET window will be shown simultaneously as live look-ins occur around all the grounds in the Premier League.

STREAM “GOAL RUSH” HERE

For those of you familiar with the Premier League Breakaway Show during busy days (Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Championship Sunday etc.) in the PL, this will follow that model of NFL RedZone-like action from all of the games in the 10 a.m. ET window.

The feature game this weekend will be Hull City vs. Chelsea and as goals and incidents occur around the league, you will be transported to the action as it happens.

More info is available here, plus the schedule for all four games at 10 a.m. ET is below.


10 a.m. ET: Hull City vs. Chelsea
10 a.m. ET: West Ham vs. Middlesbrough
10 a.m. ET: Watford vs. Bournemouth
10 a.m. ET: Sunderland vs. West Brom