Chelsea's Oscar celebrates scoring against Norwich City during their English Premier League soccer match in Norwich

Norwich City 1-3 Chelsea: Substitutes to the rescue as Blues avoid more road woes (Video)

Leave a comment

Norwich fought back in the second half to level the score, but Chelsea win the day as substitutes Eden Hazard and Willian score quickfire goals late to give Jose Mourinho his first away win of the season at Carrow Road on Sunday.

Chelsea fans will be breathing a sigh of relief after it looked they’d be once again held in check away from Stamford Bridge.

The visitors struck early to stun Norwich and set the tone. The third minute saw a fantastic long ball from behind the mid line find the feet of Ba in the box.  The striker brilliantly pirouetted and laid off to Oscar who couldn’t miss the far corner.

The Brazilian’s hot start to the season continues as he picked up his fourth goal of the season in all competitions.

Ba nearly grabbed Chelsea’s second in the 13th minute from a very tight angle but Norwich keeper John Ruddy made a diving save to deny.  The English netminder is seeking to impress his international boss Roy Hodgson in order to take advantage of fellow countryman Joe Hart’s poor form and see a chance in the upcoming qualifiers.

The Senegalese striker proved an imposing physical presence early, something Chelsea has been missing up front to start the year.  His strength and skill on the ball will certainly have impressed Jose Mourinho, who is looking for consistency up front.

Norwich, however, slowly worked to press back into the game, and finished the first half strong in the attacking half.

They continued their good play into the second half, and it nearly paid dividends early.  In the 59th minute, the ball came in from the midfield to Robert Snodgrass at the top of the box, whose first touch popped over to van Wolfswinkel in the middle.  The Dutch striker attempted to get to the ball, but John Terry’s physical challenge prevented him from doing so. Van Wolfswinkel appealed for a penalty, but referee Neil Swarbrick waved off the shouts.

source: Reuters
Anthony Pilkington’s header appeared for much of the second half to be the breakthrough Norwich needed to secure points.

They would be vindicated in the 68th minute when Anthony Pilkington brought them level. The ball came into the right side of the box, and with the flick of his head van Wolfswinkel did well to direct it into a dangerous area.  Pilkington was there waiting, and beat David Luiz in the air – not a small task – to head home past Cech.

The goal opened things up a bit, but the Norwich defense clamped down and held as Chelsea could muster few serious chances to go back ahead.  Things were looking bleak until the 85th minute, when the Canaries did eventually break to the fresh legs off the Chelsea bench.

First, Eden Hazard came on for an injured Ashley Cole after the equalizer, and it proved dividends.  Again, a long ball on the counter did the trick, this time in the 85th minute.  Oscar, playing on the wing much of the night as he rotated with Juan Mata, played in Hazard who beat Alexander Tettey back and got the ball to trickle over the line after Ruddy got a touch.

The lead was solidified just a single minute later, when Willian opened his Premier League account with a stunning curling effort from outside the box, leaving Ruddy with no chance and Chelsea with a 3-1 lead.

The win propels Chelsea up into third place for the time being, with Arsenal and Tottenham still to play.  For Norwich, they will be ruing not maintaining a hold on the point it took them much of the match to recover, and they remain in 17th place with seven points.

GOALS:

Norwich City – Pilkington 68′
Chelsea –
Oscar 4′, Hazard 85′, Willian 86′

LINEUPS:

Norwich City – Ruddy; Martin, Bassong, Turner, Olsson; Howson, Tetty, Fer; Pilkington, Snodgrass (Redmond, 81′); van Wolfswinkel (Hooper, 73′).

Chelsea – Cech; Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, Cole (Hazard, 75′); Ramires, Lampard; Oscar, Mata (Willian, 81′), Schurrle; Ba (Eto’o, 73′).

MLS Cup: Toronto FC all about the team

Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, center, celebrates his goal against the Montreal Impact with teammates Michael Bradley, right, and Steven Beitashour (33) during the second half of the second leg of MLS Eastern Conference championship series, in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
Leave a comment

Toronto, Ontario (AP) Team has been the theme for Toronto FC in the buildup to the MLS Cup final.

From boisterous practices to team-first media interviews, the All for One club motto has been plain to see ahead of the championship game Saturday against the visiting Seattle Sounders.

“You don’t get to this point by mistake or by accident. You get here because a group of special guys who have all bought into a philosophy, an identity,” said Toronto midfielder Will Johnson, an MLS Cup winner with Real Salt Lake and Portland.

“I say the same about Seattle. They’re bought into what they’re good at. We’re bought in, very motivated and want to sacrifice and put aside egos to get to a point as a team to compete for the big trophy.”

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

Star striker Jozy Altidore, no fan of chatting with the media, was downright prickly when a reporter asked him if he had taken time to reflect on his personal journey to the championship game.

“No,” he said definitively. “This isn’t personal, this is a team game. We’re here to try to help Toronto to be a winning team. This has nothing to do with individuals. So it has nothing to do with what I’ve been through. This is what the city’s been through, what the fans have been through, what this club has been through. That’s far more important.”

Fullback Justin Morrow, a seven-year MLS veteran, has never played this deep into the season before.

“Each week we build on top of each other and we get closer as the year goes on. It really feels like it’s a culmination this week,” he said.

[ UCL: Who can Arsenal, Man City, Leicester draw? ]

Coach Greg Vanney has made a point of praising the entire squad, including reserves who function as the scout team in practice. While he has done soccer’s equivalent of shortening his bench for the playoffs, the squad has stayed on point. If anyone has beefs, they have been kept to themselves.

That’s no small feat considering the salaries on the squad range from $7.12 million for star striker Sebastian Giovinco to $51,500 for youngsters Mo Babouli and Tsubasa Endoh.

For Morrow, being part of a tight-knit group allows you to forget that it is your job.

“When teams aren’t doing well, players tend to focus on that – their job and not about the other people on the team,” Morrow said. “And I think when teams are doing well, it becomes about the relationships between the players.”

Report: Atlanta United to acquire Parkhurst; Guardado hopes fading

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  Michael Parkhurst #4 of the Columbus Crew SC controls the ball against against the Philadelphia Union on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
1 Comment

Atlanta United is adding MLS experience to its high-flying international acquisitions.

The expansion side is set to acquire Michael Parkhurst from the Columbus Crew, according to a report from The Sporting News.

[ MORE: Mourinho worried about Zorya pitch ]

Parkhurst, 32, has been a fixture for the Crew since returning to MLS after stints with Nordsjælland and FC Augsburg. The 25-times capped American defender would join a relatively loaded expansion unit that reportedly will also add veteran Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, it seems the first-year club’s hopes of landing Mexican star Andres Guardado are fading.

From Ives Galarcep for The Sporting News:

The club has one remaining designated player slot it is expected to fill ahead of its inaugural 2017 season, but transfer target Andres Guardado appears less likely to be the player to fill that slot, sources have told Goal USA.

The Crew was a massive disappointment last season, failing to make the playoffs one season after making a run to the MLS Cup Final. Is Parkhurst a good gamble for Atlanta?

Follow @NicholasMendola

Men in Blazers podcast: Conte v. Pep, Cherries comeback, Spurs-Swans

meninblazers
twitter.com/MenInBlazers
Leave a comment

Rog and Davo relive the tactical battle between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, marvel at tiny Bournemouth’s comeback win over high-flying Liverpool and duck-and-cover while recapping Spurs 5-0 Swansea.

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

Subscribe to the podcast OR to update your iTunes subscriptions ]

Click here for the RSS feed ]

Follow @NicholasMendola

Mourinho accepts Zorya compliment, but says best coach “doesn’t exist”

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky
Leave a comment

On the eve of his side playing Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League, Zorya Luhansk boss Yuriy Vernydub called counterpart Jose Mourinho the best manager in the world.

And Mourinho disagreed.

Well, in principle.

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

The Portuguese was flattered by Vernydub’s compliments and isn’t one to turn down praise. Yet at the same time, Mourinho thinks a coach’s success is year-to-year. There’s no clear best in the sport, according to Mou.

From ManUtd.com:

“He was nice by saying that but I don’t think he is right. I don’t think there is a best coach in the world. It doesn’t exist in my opinion. Every season one has to win the FIFA Gold Ball but I don’t think there is the best. You can say the best of the year and that I agree. Every year there is one with the most important result. So he is just being nice, no more than that.”

That’s almost meta, Mou.

Conceptually we understand, and Mourinho would feel he was the best in the world three seasons ago but not last year or this year (yet). Yet it’s difficult to say that the bodies of work from Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Antonio Conte, Luis Enrique, and Jurgen Klopp couldn’t be measured against each other, right?

[ MORE: United, Saints advancement scenarios ]

Onto the little picture Mourinho is worried about a potentially rock hard pitch at Zorya affecting the game. This, from the BBC:

“The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy,” said United boss Mourinho.

“They are putting warmth on the top of it, but the pitch is very difficult and people cannot make miracles. Let’s hope everything goes well.”

Follow @NicholasMendola