Chelsea 3-1 Southampton: Stirring comeback sends Blues second (video)

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LONDON — Chelsea mounted a surging second half comeback to down Southampton 3-1 at Stamford Bridge on Sunday as Jose Mourinho’s men moved into second spot.

Second half headers from central defenders Gary Cahill and John Terry and a late strike from Demba Ba sealed the win for Chelsea, after Jay Rodriguez had stunned the home fans after putting Southampton ahead after just 13 seconds.

The Saints were comfortable during the first half and looked in real danger of ending Jose Mourinho’s 66 PL unbeaten record at home but, inevitably, Chelsea came out rejuvenated in the second half as two goals in seven minutes swung the game in their favor.

With the victory they move up to second on 27 points and four points behind leaders Arsenal, while Southampton are seventh with 22 points.

The visitors stunned the home fans as both sets of fans had hardly taken to their seats when Southampton went 1-0 up in West London.

It took just 13 seconds for the Saints to break the deadlocked as Chelsea’s home supporters sat in stunned silence as Rodriguez wheeled away in jubilation. A long ball down Southampton’s right saw Michael Essien give the ball away which found Rodriguez who slotted home when clean through on Petr Cech, a fantastic start for the Saints.

Saints’ fans were in dreamland as they taunted Chelsea boss Mourinho with chants of “You’re not special anymore” and “Who needs Mourinho? We’ve got Mauricio.”

It was the third time this season in the PL that a player has scored after 13 seconds, with Asmir Begovic’s goal vs. Southampton and Jesus Navas’ strike for Man City against Spurs the other two times it happened.

After that early goal Chelsea tried to get on the front foot and had the majority of possession as they aimed to get back on level terms. However Saints looked dangerous on the break.

On 19 minutes Oscar found some space and hit a rasping shot which Southampton ‘keeper Artur Boruc could only parry into a whole host of bodies as Branislav Ivanovic hooked his acrobatic effort over the bar.

The game settled down after the initial frantic opening as Victor Wanyama broke up play in midfield and stopped Chelsea getting any rhythm going.

Saints went close to doubling their lead midway through the first half but James Ward-Prowse’s free kick flew just wide of the post.

As the home fans started to grow restless at Stamford Bridge, Saints surged forward with England internationals Adam Lallana and Rodriguez looking incredibly dangerous with pace, skill and direct running at Chelsea’s defense.

Just before half time Lallana wriggled free of his marker but dragged on effort wide as the away side looked more likely to add to their tally rather then Chelsea equalizing.

That said Oscar did put a free header straight at Boruc in the 40th minute as the Brazilian went off injured soon after as Frank Lampard replaced him.

Moments later Chelsea thought they’d leveled things up as Torres’ header looked destined for the far corner of the net, but Southampton ‘keeper Boruc somehow made a sprawling stop to deny the Spanish striker and Saints then hooked the ball away to safety.

Southampton went in ahead as Chelsea were 45 minutes away from losing their incredible unbeaten home record.

At the interval Demba Ba came on for Michael Essien as Chelsea put two up front to try and force their way back into the game.

source: Getty Images
Rodriguez gave Saints a shock early lead as he netted after just 13 seconds.

But it was Southampton who continued to be in ascendancy as they hunted in packs to stifle any creative influence Chelsea tried to get going. In the 54th minute Lampard sent a free kick toward goal as Boruc tipped it over and out for a corner.

From that resulting set piece Chelsea equalized as Ba’s effort hit the post and Gary Cahill somehow steered the ball over the line with his head to make it 1-1.

In the goalmouth scramble surrounding the goal, Saints ‘keeper Boruc was injured and had to be replaced by young Argentine ‘keeper Paolo Gazzaniga.

Soon after the substitute was picking the ball out of the back of the net, as Chelsea captain Terry scored a wonderful header in the 62nd minute as his glancing effort flew into top corner to turn the game on its head.

Buoyed by their comeback, Chelsea poured forward with renewed vigor as the home fans cranked up the noise volumes as Southampton struggled to cope with the pace and verve of Chelsea’s attack. Ba beat the offside trap in the 71st minute but put his effort wide after going clean through on goal.

Rickie Lambert came off the bench for Saints as they scrapped to get back into the game and grab an equalizer in the closing stages. Daniel Osvaldo came close with a swiveling volley from the edge of the box but the Italian internationals effort flew just over the bar.

Try as they might Saints couldn’t find an equalizer and Chelsea capped off the win as Ba prodded home from close range in the final minute to make it 3-1.

LINEUPS

Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Essien (Ba, 45), Ramires; Mata, Oscar (Lampard, 41), Hazard; Torres (Mikel, 82)

Goals: Cahill (55), Terry (62), Ba (90)

Southampton: Boruc (Gazaaniga, 58) Clyne, Fonte, Lovren, Shaw, Wanyama, Schneiderlin (Lambert, 67), Ward-Prowse (S. Davis, 63), Lallana, Rodriguez, Osvaldo.

Goal: Rodriguez (1)

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.