Two from Samuel Eto’o lead Chelsea past Schalke, to top of Champions League group

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Schalke seemed to be taking a chapter from Newcastle’s book, and approach that backfired with Timo Hildebrand’s 30th minute mistake. Although Chelsea had controlled the game’s first half hour, they had yet to create a clear chance before Hildebrand, hurried after putting the ball down ahead of a kick, saw his attempted clearance go off Samuel Eto’o and into his own net from the edge of his penalty area. Absolved of the need to pursue the match, Chelsea would go on to win the teams’ UEFA Champions League match, 3-0.

Thanks to second half goals from Eto’o and Demba Ba, Chelsea takes their first solo lead in their Champions League group, having lost on match day one at home to Basel. Winning their third group match in a row, Chelsea take a three-point lead on Schalke, whose lead over third-place Basel is down to one after the Swiss champions drew at home with Steaua Bucharest.

Schalke had started the match with a series of half-chances before ceding control to their hosts, who eventually started patiently using the possession they were given. Yet through the first 30 minutes, their only shot on goal came from a dead ball situation, a long free kick from Andre Schurrle forcing a diving if easy stop from Hildebrand.

Minutes later, Schalke were behind, a moment’s lapse from their goalkeeper conceding an embarrassing goal. Having put the ball down after his defense had pushed up, Hildenbrand took his time lining up a kick out of his own box. In the interim, Samuel Eto’o closed in seemingly unnoticed from the keeper’s right. By the time he was on Hildebrand’s radar, the Chelsea striker was able to get his leg in front of the ball, the resulting ricochet sending the block into Schalke’s net.

Eto’o second was more conventional, the Cameroonian international put behind the defense to the right of goal by fellow Anzhi Makhachkala escapee Willian. A precise far post finish doubled Chelsea’s lead nine minutes after half time.

Late, a ball lobbed into the penalty area by Frank Lampard saw Demba Ba get on the scoresheet, an athletic turn on his right leg allowing the Senegalese to hit a left-footed volley inside the left post, leaving Hildebrand helpless to defend the match’s final goal.

Coming off weekend disappointment against Newcastle, this was exactly the type of result José Mourinho would have wanted, though it’s difficult to ignore the nature of the opening goal. Eto’o deserves credit for the play, but it wasn’t one Chelsea would have expected from their game plan – a gift from Schalke more than a well-earned score.

If that goal doesn’t go in, does the game play out as it did over the first 30 minutes? With a lot of Blues possession leading to little on Schalke’s goal?

In that sense, the questions from this weekend may not be answered. Now, however, Chelsea gets to pursue solutions from a winning spot, and the top of their Champions League group.


Chelsea: 31′, 54′ Samuel Eto’o, 83′ Demba Ba


Chelsea: Petr Cech; Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, John Terry, Cesar Azpilicueta; Ramires, John Obi Mikel; Willian, Oscar (81′ Frank Lampard), Andre Schurrle (78′ Kevin De Bruyne); Samuel Eto’o (77′ Demba Ba)

Unused subs: David Luiz, Ashley Cole, Mark Schwarzer, Juan Mata

Schalke: Timo Hildebrand; Atsuto Uchida, Benedikt Höwedes, Joel Matip, Denni Aogo; Jermaine Jones, Roman Neustädter; Julian Draxler (62′ Christian Clemens), Kevin Prince Boateng (77′ Sead Kolasinac), Christian Fuchs (67′ Max Meyer); Adám Szalai

Unused subs: Ralf Fährmann, Felipe Santana, Tim Hoogland, Kaan Ayhan

Zlatan confirms Manchester United departure

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic has confirmed myriad reports he’s leaving Manchester United with a perfectly-Zlatan Instagram message.

Ibrahimovic is expected to join the LA Galaxy next week.

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The words aren’t too important, but Ibrahimovic posted an old graphic of him in Greek god garb, arm-wrestling a devil. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

The living Swedish legend, 36, has been limited to seven appearances, one start, and one goal in returning from a season-ending knee injury, but finishes his Manchester United tenure with an impressive 29 goals and 10 assists in 53 games (deduct the seven and one for peak impressiveness).

Bale breaks Wales scoring record

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Gareth Bale has now unquestionably written his name into Wales history.

The 28-year-old Real Madrid scored a hat-trick for Wales in its 6-0 demolition of China, taking his overall tally to 29 goals, breaking Ian Rush’s record.

“It is right up there, maybe as the best,” Bale told reporters after the game. “I suppose when I was a little boy I never dreamed of being a record-breaker for Wales. It is a massive honor. I was not thinking about it, but now it has come it’s an incredible honor and one of the best things I’ve achieved in my career. On a personal note it’s great to break the record, but I could not have done it without my team-mates.”

Bale was unable to carry Wales to the 2018 World Cup, but he first became a National Team legend by helping take Wales to the Euro 2016 semifinals, scoring three goals along the way.

Here’s a look at Bale’s record-breaking goal.

Sporting KC giving away creative “Bike Opara” bobblehead

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In his ninth Major League Soccer season, Ike Opara has scored just a dozen regular season goals.

He’s known more for his physicality in the backline, for creating space for teammates on set pieces, or heading balls on to teammates with slightly more fleeter feet.

But in June 2017, it all came together for Opara in a magical moment, where he beat an offside trap from the LA Galaxy and scored an insane bicycle kick for Sporting Kansas City.

Now, to honor Opara’s ridiculous goal, Sporting KC has announced the first 10,000 fans through the gates at Children’s Mercy Park on March 31 will get a “Bike Ike” bobblehead, with him in flight kicking the ball towards goal over his shoulder.

You’ve gotta love the creativity and fun the Sporting KC marketing department is having. Hopefully, Opara can give the team another memorable goal in 2018.

Van Dijk named new Netherlands captain

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Virgil Van Dijk has had a pretty decent last three months since moving to Liverpool, and the towering defender earned a new personal achievement on Thursday.

Van Dijk was named the newest captain of the Netherlands National Team, where he’ll play under former manager Ronald Koeman. Van Dijk’s first game as captain will be against the nation where he currently plies his trade, England, on Friday.

“I am very happy with it, it is a great honor to be the captain of your country,” van Dijk said at a pre-match press conference Thursday. “Everyone knows that Koeman gave me the chance at Southampton, I am very grateful to him. This is very special.”

Van Dijk’s commanding presence in the Liverpool backline and previous stops at Southampton and Celtic make him an obvious choice for captain, taking the place of the now-retired Arjen Robben. At just 26-years old, van Dijk could carry the armband for a half dozen years if he keeps up his strong form.