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.

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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).

Report: Wenger ready to pay Ozil, Sanchez club record deals

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Arsenal knows its departure from the UEFA Champions League has to be a short one, and that keeping its two best attackers around is imperative.

That’s why Arsene Wenger is preparing to make Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez the top paid players in Arsenal history, according to a report from The Telegraph’s Jeremy Wilson.

The contract status of both players has been a touchy one this season, and Sanchez especially has been linked with some of the biggest clubs in Europe (including London neighbors Chelsea).

[ MORE: Yaya to stay at Man City ]

But perhaps the Gunners’ FA Cup triumph over Chelsea has Ozil and Sanchez feeling good vibes about the Emirates Stadium set, and Arsenal is ready to pounce. According to the report:

Wenger has told the board that he thinks he can win the Premier League if this group stays together and is supplemented by no more than two or three key additions. Ozil is understood already to have been offered more than £250,000 a week and the club are ready to go to around £280,000 for both him and Sanchez.

The Gunners need both players healthy and happy heading into next season, and appropriate additions as well (A top striker is a must. Again). Wage structure is important, but Arsenal will have a blessing in disguise if another player can make a legit case he deserves to be paid like Ozil and Sanchez any time soon.

West Ham, Everton, and the superstar striker’s need for the Champions League

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Come up with a list of active elite level strikers, and it’s likely to be a short one filled with names from UEFA Champions League clubs.

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Diego Costa, Luis Suarez, Robert Lewandowski, Edinson Cavani, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Harry Kane, even Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Rarely do names like these move to a non-UCL club while in their prime, and it’s just as uncommon to see them stay at clubs which have failed to qualify for the UCL.

The money, the prestige, the endorsements; All are amplified by the world stage. Given the massive import of their domestic stage and spotlight, Premier League sides have bucked this trend on occasion — see Romelu Lukaku — but it’s the exception to the rule.

That’s what puts an ambitious club like West Ham United between a rock and a hard place. The Irons have been vocal about their desires to bring in a top-end striker, and it’s likely they’d be happy to spend what it takes to attract Alexandre Lacazette, Aubameyang, or Cavani to town.

Lyon reportedly rejected a $45 million bid for Lacazette last season, admitting that ultimately the player’s desires would determine his future. Higuain, too, was linked to chairman David Gold’s wallet before moving to Juventus. Carlos Bacca also saw his future connected to the Irons.

Instead, Gold landed Andre Ayew from Swansea, and had to hope Andy Carroll could stay healthy or Enner Valencia would deliver. Not a striker, Dimitri Payet apparently decided to skip town soon after West Ham’s Europa League exit at the hands of Astra Giurgiu.

Now it’s Kelechi Iheanacho being linked to the London Stadium, another hopeful swing from the Irons that points a strong finger at the problem: West Ham can be as ambitious as it likes, but it’s going to need a miracle to pull an elite striker to London without European football.

And it shouldn’t happen, but what if Everton is bumped from the UEL in the third qualifying round or playoff next year? Will Lukaku follow Payet’s lead and sink another team from joining the discussion? Though an argument can be made it’s better for Everton to lose those summer games, the Toffees very much need to succeed in the UEL qualifying and also show signs of strength in the early PL docket. That’s the unforgiving life of sitting on the outskirts of the powerful tier.

Every team at every level is searching for the next elite striker. Some, like West Ham, will need to luck into a young buck on the rise or a flawed striker finding his potential. And how do they hold onto that player, one who will have alerted the big boys to his arrival, without qualifying for Europe? It’s improbable.

The ability of teams like Chelsea and Liverpool to compete for a European slot in the PL standings thanks to missing out on the UCL the year before signals hope for clubs like Everton and West Ham. And five Premier League sides competing in the UCL this year could extend an invitation to stay longer in the Top Seven discussion for sides like Southampton and Leicester City, too.

So this summer’s striker captures are huge for Slaven Bilic and David Gold. This is a window the league’s “next group” won’t have open annually, and West Ham’s hopes of barging into the discussion again hinge on who shows up by August.

Toure reportedly set for another year with Man City

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Never say never.

Yaya Toure looks like his season-long peace with Pep Guardiola will stretch into a new season, with Toure’s combustible agent admitting talks with Manchester City regarding a new contract.

Dimitri Seluk is among the worst agents on Earth Toure’s agent, and said, “We are talking. We will see what happens but City is a club that is in Yaya’s heart.”

[ MORE: Barcelona names new manager ]

But Seluk has not been in City’s heart, having made numerous poor decisions on when to open his mouth, deepening a rift between Toure and Guardiola that kept the player off the pitch for some time. Earlier this Spring, Seluk also suggested that Toure could join Manchester United.

So, yeah, smart guy. Hates microphones and publicity.

Toure turned 34 this month, and became a fixture for Guardiola once he broke into the lineup. The midfielder made nine-straight starts around the turn of the calendar, scoring five goals in the Premier League.

Wolfsburg holds off Braunschweig with Vieirinha blast (video)

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Outworked and outperformed in the first half of their playoff second leg at Eintracht Braunschweig, Wolfsburg needed a wake-up call to steady its hopes of staying in the Bundesliga.

That came off the boot of longtime right back Vieirinha, as the Portuguese veteran ran onto a rebound and fired a 17-yard arrow into the goal to boost Wolfsburg aggregate lead to 2-0.

[ MORE: Barcelona names new manager ]

That would mean the 2.Bundesliga hosts would need three goals to give the second tier a third promotion this season. An 82nd minute red card to Braunschweig’s Maximilian Sauer effectively ended those far-off dreams.

Ingolstadt and Darmstadt were relegated in the season, and Stuttgart and Hannover were promoted from 2.Bundesliga.