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Chelsea 2-2 West Bromwich Albion: Hazard the hero as Chelsea survive massive scare – video

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Jose Mourinho’s unbeaten run at home in the Premier League in charge of Chelsea has been stretched to 66 games after Eden Hazard’s late controversial penalty saved the Blues’ blushes at home against West Brom.

The Baggies looked like they were heading for a famous 2-1 win courtesy of a great second half comeback but Hazard — who had been disciplined by Mourinho in midweek for traveling abroad without the clubs permission and losing his passport —  scored a 94th minute equalizer for the Blues to break the Baggies hearts in controversial fashion.

Samuel Eto’o had given the Blues an early lead but Shane Long and Stephane Sessegnon scored in the second half to make Chelsea sweat as West Brom aimed for yet another big scalp away from home after previously beating Manchester United 2-1 in September.

Former Chelsea player and assistant manager Steve Clarke will be devastated his West Brom side conceded the late goal after Steven Reid was said to have brought down Ramires in the box, contact looked minimal. That late goal cost Clarke’s side a famous win but he will take heart from the spirited performance in the 2-2 draw.

Chelsea had over 70 percent of the possession and out shot the visitors 17-11 but the Baggies looked clinical and dangerous on the break. With the point Chelsea are in fourth and just four points behind leaders Arsenal, while West Brom sit in ninth.

(MORE:Premier League Roundup: Big wins for Liverpool, Saints, Norwich, Villa, Chelsea fight back – video)

Chelsea piled on the pressure in the early stages as the Blues began their onslaught on West Brom’s goal from the offset.

For much of the opening stages the Blues kept attacking the Baggies as the away side were camped in their own half. Chris Brunt had a speculative effort after 10 minutes that he dragged wide, but apart from that West Brom were limited to sporadic breaks forward.

The Blues tried hard to break a stingy WBA team down but found it extremely difficult to get in behind the visitors defense.

source: Getty Images
West Brom’s incredible second half comeback looked to have won them the game before Hazard’s late penalty kick pegged them back.

In the 29th minute Oscar sent a curling free kick towards the top corner which forced Boaz Myhill into tipping the ball over the bar for a corner.

For the rest of the first half West Brom sat in and frustrated Chelsea, but as the interval approached

After the half West Brom pushed forward and Shane Long hit the post in the 55th minute after a great cross from Morgan Amalfitano found him unmarked. The Baggies were threatening to equalize as Stamford Bridge became a bag of nerves.

In the 59th minute Long did head home as a West Brom corner caused trouble when Gareth McAuley headed straight at Petr Cech and Republic of Ireland international Long reacted first to make it 1-1.

Cue Demba Ba coming off the bench for Chelsea as Mourinho aimed to throw the kitchen sink at West Brom. But it was the away side who struck a devastating blow, as Stephane Sessegnon’s low drive somehow beat Cech and sent the small band of West Brom fans into raptures.

The shock was well and truly on.

Juan Mata and John Obi Mikel arrived to try and break down the Baggies staunch defensive unit which saw Clarke’s side put up two solid banks of four in front of their penalty box.

Chelsea thought they’d found an equalizer in the 76th minute as Myhill twice denied Branislav Ivanovic and then Mata from close-range after constant pressure from the West London club.

Then in the 79th minute Willian head over from six-yards with the entire goal at his beg and mercy. Big miss from the Brazilian as the Baggies ran the clock down.

John Terry was launched forward as an emergency forward as the Blues piled forward and in the 94th minute they were handed a very fortunate looking penalty as Ramires surged into the box and was adjudged to have been fouled by Reid.  Referee Andre Marriner will be lambasted for awarding the penalty as West Brom couldn’t believe their big victory had been snatched away from them right at the death.

After plenty of interruptions and  protests from West Brom’s players, Hazard stepped up to slot the penalty home as a huge sigh of relief was let out from the home fans at Stamford Bridge.

Mourinho’s remarkable record is intact… just.

LINEUPS

Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta (Mikel, 73); Ramires, Lampard (Ba, 64); Hazard, Oscar (Mata, 73), Willian; Eto’o

West Bromwich Albion: Myhill; Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell; Yacob, Mulumbu; Amalfitano (Popov, 89), Sessegnon (Morrison, 81), Brunt; Long (Anichebe, 79).

Dempsey returns to training after second heart procedure

SAN JOSE, CA - JULY 28:  Clint Dempsey #2 of MLS All-Stars chases after the ball up field against the Arsenal FC during the second half of the AT&T MLS All-Star Game at Avaya Stadium on July 28, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
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Many were concerned about USMNT and Seattle Sounders attacker Clint Dempsey‘s future when he underwent a pair of heart procedures in 2016.

The 33-year-old Dempsey took another step to allay those fears when he hit the pitch for Seattle’s first day of preseason camp.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

The Sounders won the 2016 MLS Cup despite the absence of Dempsey, and his return would further strengthen the side. General manager Garth Lagerwey said Dempsey won’t be rushed, but could be nearing a return.

EFL Cup second legs preview: Liverpool, Hull City aim for comebacks

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11:  Divock Origi of Liverpool battles with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (L) and Ryan Bertrand of Southampton during the EFL Cup semi-final first leg match between Southampton and Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium on January 11, 2017 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images
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Manchester United and Southampton are 90 minutes from Wembley Stadium.

Hull City and Liverpool would prefer to change that.

After first legs a fortnight ago, the EFL Cup semifinals play out on Wednesday and Thursday ahead of Feb. 26’s final at Wembley.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

First up is Southampton‘s trip to Liverpool, with the Saints nursing a 1-0 lead from the first leg at St. Mary’s. The Wednesday kickoff sees Saints hoping the Reds’ poor run of form will continue at Anfield. Liverpool has one win 2017, and that was an FA Cup replay victory over Plymouth Argyle.

Southampton boss Claude Puel knows the Reds will be ornery:

“We know Liverpool. They lost against Swansea at home, and I am sure they will want to react against us, but it’s important to keep all of our focus about our play.

“We know they are fantastic, a great team, with great players, but you saw in the first leg we have the ability to produce a strong game against them. It will be important to make a strong game – a perfect game – I think.”

Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United got a terrific result in the first leg at Old Trafford, scoring twice and holding Hull City from scooping up a valuable road goal. Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini scored the goals in the 2-0 win, but the KC Stadium will be rocking on Thursday as the Tigers look to reverse the result.

United midfielder Michael Carrick says the Red Devils will play as if they are starting from scratch:

“It’s definitely not over, we all know that. We are telling ourselves that. I think we’ll be pretty much full strength and will approach the game like it’s a 0-0 and starting from scratch.

“It’s dangerous when you go in there defending a lead to tell yourself this result will do or that result will do, or we can afford to do this or that.”

Report: China tempting TFC’s Giovinco with big offer

Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco celebrates his goal against the Philadelphia Union during the first half of an MLS soccer playoff match in Toronto, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
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Could Sebastian Giovinco’s chances of another MVP award be diminishing?

It wouldn’t be on account of a lack of production, rather massive money coming his way from the Chinese Soccer League.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

Great, and right when we were daydreaming about how Toronto FC’s Italian attacker could run a revenge tour on the folks who somehow left him out of the MVP finalists last year.

Giovinco turns 30 on Thursday.

From The Toronto Sun’s Kurtis Larsson:

“The Chinese club seems to be very interested, but I don’t think it’ll be easy to take him away from Toronto,” Giovinco’s agent, Andrea D’Amico, told the broadcaster.

“We received an important offer from China and we’ll talk to Toronto to decide, along with Sebastian, what to do.”

Giovinco is with Toronto FC for preseason training camp, and both the club and player have shown no interest in moving on from the diminutive winger and 2015 MVP.

But if China comes calling with crazy money, say a $25-30 million transfer fee, shouldn’t TFC think twice? Any figure above $25 million would be more than the sum of the three biggest incoming transfer fees in MLS history (Miguel Almiron, Michael Bradley, Jermain Defoe).

AFCON wrap: Ivory Coast bounced, DR Congo wins Group C

Congo's soccer players celebrate after scoring a goal against Togo during the African Cup of Nations Group C soccer match between Congo and Togo at the Stade de Port-Gentil, Gabon, Tuesday Jan. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
AP Photo/Sunday Alamba
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Down went another knockout round mainstay from the Africa Cup of Nations, as the Ivory Coast failed to capture one of the top two spots in Group C.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Morocco 1-0 Ivory Coast

Needing a win to move on, the Ivory Coast fell in its final group match. Rachid Alioui scored a 64th minute goal that meant the Ivory Coast needed two to advance to the quarterfinals. The goals didn’t come, and Morocco will face the Group D winner next.

Togo 1-3 DR Congo

Junior Kabananga, Paul-Jose M’Poku, and Ndombe Mubele scored as the Leopards finished the group stage with an unbeaten record of 2-1. DR Congo will face the runner-up of Group D in the quarterfinals.

Wednesday’s matches

Ghana is through with six points, while Uganda is out. Egypt will go through with a result against Ghana, while Mali needs a win and an Egypt loss to get to tiebreakers.

Egypt vs. Ghana — 2 p.m. ET
Uganda vs. Mali — 2 p.m. ET