Chelsea 4-1 Cardiff: Hazard double puts the Blues second (video)

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A horrendous mistake by David Luiz let Jordon Mutch open the scoring, and a ridiculously bizarre equalizer got Chelsea back in the game before half time. Samuel Eto’o nicked the ball from Cardiff ‘keeper David Marshall as he went to perform a drop kick, and Hazard tapped in.

After the break, Eto’o grabbed his first goal for Chelsea to make it 2-1, but Cardiff kept battling to the end and nearly grabbed an equalizer on several occasions. On the break Oscar and Hazard both scored late on to put some gloss on the scoreline as Chelsea’s offense got going as the game drew to a close.

With the victory, the Blues are now second in the league, just two points behind Arsenal, while Cardiff drop to 16th spot.

It was certainly a nervy start for Chelsea, as after 10 minutes newly-promoted Cardiff City took a 1-0 thanks to a goal from Jordon Mutch.

Stamford Bridge stood on and watched in stunned silence as the Welsh team took a shock lead following a massive defensive mix up. One long ball forward from ‘keeper David Marshall flicked off John Terry and towards Chelsea midfielder Ramires.

Mutch then nipped in to deflect the ball off Ramires and with David Luiz thinking Chelsea’s goalkeeper Petr Cech was going to clean up the danger, he let Mutch run in behind and dink the ball over Cech for the opener. An embarrassing mistake from Brazilian defender Luiz.

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Hazard scored twice to hand Chelsea the win.

Following the goal Chelsea battled back, and put the visitors under pressure for most of the first half and had plenty of the ball without hurting Cardiff.

However Chelsea drew level after another horrible defensive mishap, as one of the most comedic goals in Premier League history played out.

As Cardiff ‘keeper Marshall bounced the ball before a drop kick, and Samuel Eto’o nipped in to steal the ball before having his shot blocked and Eden Hazard finished the chance off to make it 1-1 and bring Chelsea back into the game.

Quick thinking from Eto’o but a horrendous moment for Marshall, who will go into ‘Howler folklore’ alongside the likes of a young Shay Given for similar mishaps.

Chelsea and Cardiff went in level at the break, however after the break Chelsea looked lively and only a magnificent last-ditch tackle from Steven Caulker stopped WIllian from putting Chelsea 2-1 ahead.

The Blues continued to labor and Oscar was brought on in the 59th minute to try and liven up the faltering attack.

And in the 65th minute Chelsea finally got the breakthrough as Eto’o scored his first goal for Chelsea with a sumptuous low drive past Marshall. Hazard ran at Cardiff’s defense and slotted in Eto’o who took one touch to steady himself before rifling a low right-footed shot into the bottom corner.

Eto’o was then replaced by Azpilicueta moments later, and when Chelsea boss Mourinho berated referee Anthony Taylor he was sent away from the dugout. So, the eccentric Portuguese boss walked up into the stands and took a seat amongst Chelsea’s fans.

The game remained extremely open for the final 20 minutes, as Cardiff piled forward in search of an equalizer. Kim went through on goal and Cech produced a great sprawling stop to keep out the Korean midfielder as the Bluebirds didn’t go down without a fight.

But in the 77th minute Ramires won a great ball in the Cardiff half and his fellow Brazilian international Oscar picked up the ball and hammered a terrific shot into the top corner to make it 3-1.

Hazard then capped off the win with a low finish underneath Marshall, who should have done better and had a day to forget in the 4-1 loss. Chelsea are back on form.

LINEUPS

Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, D Luiz, Terry (c), Bertrand (Torres, 64); Ramires, Lampard; Willian, Mata (Oscar, 59), Hazard; Eto’o (Azpilicueta, 69).

Cardiff City: Marshall; Taylor, Caulker (C), Turner, Whittingham, Medel (Kim, 56), Odemwingie (Campbell, 67), Gunnarsson (Gestede, 81), Mutch, Cowie, Theophile-Catherine.

Galaxy’s Cole admits he enjoys Arsenal struggles

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LA Galaxy left back Ashley Cole left Arsenal for Chelsea more than a decade ago, but that hasn’t erased the bitter memories of the departure from his boyhood club.

Cole was famously involved in a “tapping up” meeting with Chelsea without Arsenal’s permission in 2005, but signed a contract extension with the Gunners. Still, he was gone a year later in messy circumstances.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

As the most capped fullback in England’s history who boasts both Premier League and Champions League titles with Chelsea, Cole easily could rest on his own laurels and move on from the divorce.

But when asked whether he’s enjoying Arsenal’s current struggles, Cole couldn’t help himself.

“If I’m honest, yeah, I still think to this day. I laugh to myself. I had a lot of history there and I think the way I left was maybe a bit dodgy but the lack of respect they showed me as well.”

Cole accepts a share of the blame for his time ended at Arsenal, but says he doesn’t regret it. Still, his response is not a picture of class.

Next time, just laugh and say, “Next question,” Ashley.

“I’m not a bad guy” – Convicted murderer, new club defend signing

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A week ago, we brought you the story of goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes finding a new club despite a conviction for ordering the torture and murder of his mistress, whose body was then fed to dogs. The two were having a disagreement on child support.

Fernandes, 32, was set free from jail on a technicality and has since been signed by Boa Esporte in Brazil. He said he couldn’t “throw in the towel” on his career because he believed in himself.

Fans were outraged with the team, major sponsors pulled their funding, and an activist group even hacked Boa Esporte’s web page.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

And the club is digging in its heels.

Boa Esporte’s president, Rone Moraes da Costa, reacted to protests by saying he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to resurrect his career.

As for Fernandes, he clearly is having trouble explaining why he’s getting another chance. From The Guardian:

“What happened, happened. I made a mistake, a serious one, but mistakes happens in life – I’m not a bad guy. People tried to bury my dream because of one mistake, but I asked God for forgiveness, so I’m carrying on with my career, dude. I’m starting over.”

One mistake. Wow. There are few clubs in the world which fit the bill of being the majority of fans’ least favorite team, but Boa Esporte could get there. Surely there must be more to the story?

Nothing new about the challenges facing USMNT

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This next week may define a generation of USMNT players, but only if it goes poorly.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it isn’t. The United States started 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, earned its coach a firing, and now stares down its status in the confederation.

Honduras is coming on Friday, far from a pushover. Then it’s off to Panama for another tricky tie. In a vacuum, coming up short in one of the two isn’t the end of the world, but the Yanks will be expected to take a minimum four points. Even that would be a disappointment to many.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

The crutches are gone, aside from any being used by injured players back in Germany (Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson chief amongst them). Fifteen of Honduras’ players play domestically, and Panama isn’t much better in overall quality.

Frankly, and it’s been written before, the United States should outclass both of these foes. If Bruce Arena’s bunch doesn’t, well, it spells woe for the country’s soccer development as a whole.

For now, supporters and players have been able to cling to the thought that Jurgen Klinsmann was responsible for the Yanks’ struggles. In some ways, he most certainly was to blame for setbacks like the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico and the pathetic performance against Costa Rica that earned him a firing.

Several of the United States’ current elder statesmen have built legacies that can survive big hits. Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey may go down in history as the two biggest stars in program history (There will be an argument for both as No. 1 along with Landon Donovan and Claudio Reyna). DaMarcus Beasley is an all-timer, too.

Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, and Jozy Altidore are on track for that, too, and there’s an argument to be made the trio is already there, especially for Cameron, who’s a mainstay in the Premier League. Each has found success in Europe after getting their starts in Major League Soccer, and have etched their names into the national record books.

There’s still very little reason to believe the USMNT will miss the 2018 World Cup even with the 0-2 start. The class is just too much to consider the Yanks will finish below Panama, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago over the course of 10 matches (The fourth place side gets a shot at an Asian side like Saudi Arabia, UAE, or Uzbekistan in a two-legged affair).

But turning it around has to start now. The Yanks have to handle their business in these qualifiers, and make at least the Gold Cup final to build momentum toward Russia. Anything short of that is abject failure.

Again, this absolutely should happen, starting Friday. Even given the poor start, losses or even a pair of draws this week would be legitimately shocking, and set the program back ages. Howard set it up well Tuesday when he pointed out that the U.S. has gotten to points like this before, and they always belly up to the bar and outlast all comers.

A lot of fans have this nagging voice in their heads, asking nefariously, “What if they don’t?”

Podolski after golazo finale: “This is like a great movie”

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Lukas Podolski has won a EURO, a World Cup, and the Bundesliga with two different sides.

Only Lothar Matthaus and Miroslav Klose have been capped more than Germany’s Polish born Podolski, and he received a hero’s send-off from the home crowd at Germany’s 1-0 win over England on Wednesday.

And of course he sent himself off in style with a gorgeous goal.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

Podolski said there were more than 30,000 people from Cologne at the match, where he won one of his two Bundesliga titles.

“That’s when you know where you home is, and that you’ve done a lot of good, also off the pitch,” Podolski said. “That makes me very proud.”

It was a perfect night to say goodbye, and the goal made it almost surreal (Thomas Muller called it “cheesy”).

From Goal.com:

“This is like a great movie,” he told ARD. “We win 1-0 and I score the goal.

“I know I have a left foot that was probably gifted to me by God, or someone up there, and I can always rely on it. I am proud of these last 13 years.”

Feel good hit of the Spring.