Chelsea's Eden Hazard celebrates with Samuel Eto'o after scoring against Cardiff City during their English Premier League soccer match at Stamford Bridge in London

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.

Barcelona invites Chapecoense to play friendly

CHAPECO, BRAZIL - OCTOBER 22: Supporters of Chapecoense cheer their team during the match between Chapecoense and Sao Paulo for the Brazilian Series A 2014 at Arena Conda on October 22, 2014 in Chapeco, Brazil. (Photo by Alan Pedro/Getty Images)
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says it has extended an invitation to host a friendly match against the Brazilian soccer club involved in last week’s plane crash.

Chapecoense was on its way to the final of the Copa Sudamericana, one of South America’s most prestigious club tournaments, when its flight went down in Colombia, killing all but six of the 77 players, officials and journalists on board.

The match would be played in August. The friendly, called the Joan Gamper trophy, is used as Barcelona’s traditional curtain raiser for the new season.

Barcelona says it sent a formal invitation to Chapecoense on Thursday.

Barcelona says it wants to “pay homage to the 71 people who died in the accident as well as their families.”

Wenger discusses future of Sanchez, Ozil at Arsenal

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With just 18 months left on their current contracts, the futures of both Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil at Arsenal is becoming a daily topic.

[ MORE: Ranking the PL superstars ]

This week alone Sanchez has been linked with a move to China on Wednesday, plus Real Madrid and Chelsea on Thursday, while another report from the Telegraph suggest the Gunners are willing to listen to offers for 28-year-old Ozil who isn’t willing to back down on his hopes of getting a $487,000 week contract at Arsenal where he is currently the top earner on $180,000.

To try and clear up any of the speculation Arsenal’s manager Arsene Wenger, who only has a contract at the Emirates until the end of the current season, has been speaking to the media about the reports.

Asked if Arsenal was willing to break their transfer structure, he said they’ll “do the maximum of what we can for every single player” to remain at the club.

He then reinforced the notion that Sanchez and Ozil would remain at Arsenal for at least 18 months, and hopefully much longer.

“Eighteen months is quite long in football. They have 18 months on their contracts and are completely committed to do well as long as they are here,” Wenger said. “Beyond that we will try to extend their contracts but I can’t make that a subject of every press conference as that is normal. These players have 18 months, they will be staying 18 months and hopefully much longer. I don’t believe that it is a problem.”

“A contract is between two parties and on my side the best position is to achieve it early. You have to accept that negotiations are private and secret and we don’t have to explain what we do with negotiations.”

Asked about the astronomical sums of cash reportedly being offered to Sanchez to go and play in the Chinese Super League — reports state the Chilean star has offers of $505,000 per week on the table — Wenger believed it was true but questioned why either would leave England.

“Why should you go to China when you are playing in England? We live in a world where the great players like Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil earn a lot of money and have the privilege to choose where they want to play,” Wenger said. “The commitment of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil is absolute total and I’m very pleased with that. We are professionals and the first quality is to give 100 percent, it is here and now, that is what it means to be professional and to be fully committed to the cause.”

So, Wenger is confident the superstar duo will stay. Should he be?

With Paul Pogba earning over $368,000 as the current top earner in the Premier League, it’s easy to see why Ozil and Sanchez believe they’re worth more than Pogba is currently earning at Manchester United.

Sanchez, 27, has been ripping it up this season, scoring 11 times in 14 PL outings and Ozil has already matched his goal tally from last season with eight strikes in all competitions.

Arsenal’s wage structure is said to be set at $250,000 per week, with an insistence on no player earning more than Wenger does.

Unless they change that stance it’s difficult to see how Sanchez and Ozil will remain at the Emirates Stadium with so many suitors from across the Premier League, Europe and worldwide willing to double, or even treble, their current wages.

Of course the Premier League is the most-watched in the world and there are many advantages to playing in it for Sanchez, Ozil and other superstars but money talks. If these huge offers from the Chinese Super League are true, why wouldn’t players move there to cash in on their relatively short playing careers?

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)
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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)
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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?

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