Sunderland 3-4 Chelsea: Blues grab crucial away win as Hazard dazzles (video)

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Chelsea kept up the heat on league leaders Arsenal by sealing a dramatic 4-3 win over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Wednesday.

Eden Hazard scored twice in a fantastic display, while Frank Lampard added another and an own goal from Sunderland defender Phil Bardsley handed them the win. Sunderland had gone ahead through USMNT striker Jozy Altidore and pegged Chelsea back to 2-2 when captain John O’Shea scored in the second half but Bardsley cancelling out his own goal wasn’t enough to grab the Mackems anything.

With the pulsating win Chelsea stay hot on the heels of Arsenal and are in second and just four points behind the league leaders. As for Sunderland, Poyet’s men stay bottom of the league despite a display full of passionate and commitment.

Sunderland started the brighter of the two sides and pressed the Blues high up the pitch early on.

However it was Chelsea who had the first real effort as Juan Mata’s cross from the right almost found Hazard who rushed in at the back post but couldn’t get on the end of the delicious delivery.

After that Sunderland settled themselves and looked quite comfortable in possession and kept Chelsea at bay. Then the went ahead as Craig Gardner’s free kick pin-balled around the box and found its way to U.S. international Atlidore who turned his man superbly before rifling home his first Premier League goal for Sunderland.

The Black Cats were flying and pushed to try and double their lead, however Chelsea surged back and just six minutes later they were back on level terms. An over-hit cross from the right found left back Cesar Azpilicueta on the left and his delightful cross found Lampard unmarked in the six-yard box to head home his 208th goal for the Blues and make it 1-1.

After that equalizer the match ebbed and flowed but it was Chelsea who took the game by the scruff of the neck as Belgian international Eden Hazard made it 2-1 in the 36th minute. The tricky winger cut in from the left and took on two Sunderland defenders at pace before blasting an effort into the far corner to give put the West London side ahead.

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Jozy Altidore bagged his first PL goal for Sunderland but it wasn’t enough to get his side a point.

Hazard was a marked man after that terrific striker and Andreas Dossena put in a crunching tackle on the Chelsea youngster. He was limping around gingerly for a while but stayed on as the Blues saw out the half with a 2-1 lead.

Following the break Sunderland came roaring out of the traps as they pinned Chelsea back and made it 2-2. A set piece caused havoc in the box and as the Blues failed to clear Sunderland captain O’Shea slotted home as the Black Cats were back in business. Minutes later Chelsea should have been ahead after Hazard wriggled free and smashed a terrific effort in on goal that found Fernando Torres wide open by the Spaniard somehow smashed his effort over the bar.

Only five of Chelsea’s last 43 goals have come from their strikers… misses like that explain why.

But, it was that man Hazard again who came to Chelsea’s rescue as he jinxed in from the left and played the ball into Lampard. The English midfielder then played hazard in with a cheeky back heel and the Belgian side-stepped a few challenge before curling the ball home to make it 3-2.

Chelsea continued to push forward to try and kill the game off and Demba Ba went clean through and thought he’d been taken out by O’Shea as his shot went wide but referee Phil Dowd was having none of it. The Blues then looked to be home and dry as a cross from the right was needlessly knocked into his own net by Bardsley, however minutes later the Mackems right back made amends as he made it 4-3 and gave the Black Cats hope of a dramatic comeback.

In stoppage time Sunderland threw everything at Chelsea but couldn’t quite create an opening despite their best efforts as the Blues and Jose Mourinho hung on for the win.

LINEUPS

Sunderland: Mannone, Bardsley, Dossena, O’Shea (C), Brown, Ki, Colback (Larsson, 57), Gardner (Fletcher, 80), Borini, Giaccherini (Johnson, 65), Altidore.

Goals: Altidore (14), O’Shea (50), Bardsley (86)

Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta; Ramires, Lampard; Willian (Schurrle, 90), Mata (Mikel, 81), Hazard; Torres (Ba, 65)

Goals: Lampard (17), Hazard (36 & 62), Bardsley OG (84)

Transfer rumors: De Gea out, Oblak in; Van Dijk to Liverpool

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We are edging towards May and that means two things: the Premier League season is almost over and the transfer rumor mill is about to switch back into overdrive.

[ MORE: Manchester derby team news ]

The latest reports from Spain state that Manchester United are willing to let David De Gea leave this summer if the right deal can be reached with Real Madrid.

Spanish radio station Onda Cero state that Jose Mourinho is ready to listen to offers for De Gea and Real Madrid are in pole position to sign the goalkeeper they came so close to acquiring in the summer 2015. I wonder if that fax machine has been replaced…

Anyway, with DDG reportedly on the move, who would United bring in? The Manchester Evening News states that Jan Oblak’s agent has flown into Manchester for meetings and although the Slovenian stopper (La Liga’s goalkeeper of the season in 2015-16) has a release clause of $109 million, it is reported that a deal can be struck for the 24-year-old who is close friends with Atletico teammate, and another United target, Antoine Griezmann.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Elsewhere in England’s north west, the Liverpool Echo state that Liverpool are willing to pay a club record $64.1 million for Southampton’s Virgil Van Dijk.

VVD, 25, is among the best center backs in the Premier League and has been named Southampton’s team captain in just his second season at St Mary’s following his $18 million move from Celtic in September 2015.

Per the report, and pretty much common knowledge, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal are all said to be interested in signing Van Dijk this summer.

Van Dijk has been out with a foot injury since January but his impressive displays over the past two seasons mean he is a prime target for several of the PL’s top teams. With Liverpool’s woes clear and Jurgen Klopp‘s men aiming to hang on for a top four finish in the PL this season, securing UEFA Champions League action will surely be crucial in landing Van Dijk.

Saints have stated many times that Van Dijk is not for sale but every player has his price. If Chelsea and other get involved, the bidding war for Van Dijk could get out of hand very, very quickly.

Manchester derby: Pogba out, Gabriel ready, Zlatan update

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Ahead of the massive Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday between Manchester City and Manchester United (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) there has been some significant team news.

[ MORE: PW’s PL picks

Jose Mourinho has confirmed that midfielder Paul Pogba will not play for United after hobbling off late on against Burnley on Sunday, while Pep Guardiola has confirmed that star midfield David Silva is a serious doubt.

Speaking in their respective press conferences ahead of the massive clash between the bitter rivals both managers played down the importance of the match despite their being just one point and one place between the teams with City sitting in fourth place, the final UEFA Champions League spot.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Mourinho simply confirmed that Pogba would not be fit but also stated that Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia would be available while Chris Smalling and Phil Jones remain out. Mourinho also gave an update on Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s future at Manchester United as the 35-year-old has flown to the USA to undergo knee surgery to try and salvage his career.

Zlatan only had a contract until this summer at United and has been linked with signing another deal, moving to China or heading to Major League Soccer. Mourinho said he wasn’t sure if Ibrahimovic would be at United next season and instead praised his fighting spirit.

“The future is big surgery and a long period of recovering,” Mourinho said. “But the future is also in the hands of a guy who is mentally very strong, who wrote immediately on social media that he will stop when he wants, not when people think. It looks for me that he is not going to give up and he is going to fight. I am really pleased with that because that is the Zlatan I know.”

Guardiola stated that Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus is ready to be in the matchday squad after recovering from a broken metatarsal but he said it would be tough for Silva to play but did confirm Sergio Aguero is fit.

“David Silva real, real doubt – I don’t know if he will be ready to play after what happened in the first minutes in the semi-final,” Guardiola said. “Gabriel has no pain at all so is ready but [after] three months out his physical condition is not optimal. Sergio is much better. Today he make a part of the training session. Tomorrow he will be ready.”

At this hectic time of the season both City and United have struggled with injuries to key players throughout the campaign and it is perhaps United who have dealt better with those absences. There’s no doubt that losing top scorer Ibrahimovic for the rest of the season was a huge blow but Anthony Martial, Wayne Rooney and Marcus Rashford are ready to step up in his absence with Martial and Rooney scoring in the 2-0 victory at Burnley last time out.

Who will come in for Pogba? Expect Herrera and Michael Carrick to start in central midfield in perhaps a 4-2-3-1 formation with Lingard, Rooney and Mkhitaryan ahead of them and Rashford up top.

For City, they will likely start Fernandinho, Kevin De Bruyne and Fabian Delph in central midfield in Silva’s absence but Guardiola must be worried about losing Silva as the Spaniard has made City tick all season long. Coupled with the long-term absence of Ilkay Gundogan and Vincent Kompany (who returned to action recently) City’s midfield and defensive unit has struggled to cope with injuries all season long.

Expect this Manchester derby to be a slugfest between two ailing teams.

David Moyes charged by FA for “slap” comments

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Sunderland manager David Moyes has been charged by the English Football Association after he was filmed telling a female BBC reporter “you still might get a slap even though you’re a woman,” and warned her to “be careful” the next time she came to their Stadium of Light home.

[ MORE: Barton banned 18 months ]

Moyes, 53, has since apologized for the outburst which occurred after a post-match interview following Sunderland’s 0-0 draw with Burnley. He believed the cameras had stopped rolling but his comments were filmed on a cell phone.

The Sunderland manager has his team rooted to the foot of the Premier League table, 12 points off safety with six games remaining.

Below is the statement in full from The FA:

David Moyes has been charged in relation to comments made after the game against Burnley on 18 March 2017.

It is alleged the Sunderland manager’s remarks were improper and/or threatening and/or brought the game into disrepute, contrary to FA Rule E3(1).  He has until 6pm on 3 May 2017 to reply to the charge.

Joey Barton banned for 18 months amid betting scandal

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Burnley midfielder Joey Barton has been banned for 18 months from all soccer related activity with immediate effect.

The English Football Association have issued the ban after Barton, 34, accepted the charge but requested a personal hearing. Barton admitted to placing 1,260 bets on soccer games over a 10-year period.

Here is the statement in full from the FA about the charge.

Joey Barton has been suspended from football and all football activity for 18 months with immediate effect after he admitted an FA misconduct charge in relation to betting.

It was alleged that between 26 March 2006 and 13 May 2016, he placed 1,260 bets on the result, progress, conduct or any other aspect of, or occurrence in, football matches or competitions in breach of FA Rule E8.

Following the Independent Regulatory Commission hearing, the Burnley midfielder was also fined £30,000 and warned as to his future conduct. Written Reasons will follow in due course.

Burnley released a short statement saying that “Joey Barton plans to appeal the length of this suspension” and the former Manchester City, Newcastle and Rangers midfielder issued a lengthy statement stating just that.

He also offered plenty of context into his hearing as he believes he was treated harshly by the FA.

“I am very disappointed at the harshness of the sanction. The decision effectively forces me into an early retirement from playing football. To be clear from the outset here this is not match fixing and at no point in any of this is my integrity in question. I accept that I broke the rules governing professional footballers, but I do feel the penalty is heavier than it might be for other less controversial players. I have fought addiction to gambling and provided the FA with a medical report about my problem.

“I’m disappointed it wasn’t taken into proper consideration. I think if the FA is truly serious about tackling the culture of gambling in football, it needs to look at its own dependence on the gambling companies, their role in football and in sports broadcasting, rather than just blaming the players who place a bet.

“Having consulted with my friends and lawyers, I have decided I will be appealing against the length of the ban. I hope that I shall be afforded a fair hearing by an independent Appeal Panel. If I am, we are confident that the sanction will be reduced to a fair one that both reflects the offences as well as the mitigating factors and the fact that there was nothing untoward or suspicious about the bets I made.

Barton also admitted that between 2004 and 2011 he placed “a handful of bets on my own team to lose matches” and tried to defend his actions, saying he had no way of influencing the outcome of those matches. The Liverpudlian also stated that he grew up in a culture of gambling and wants the FA to do more to help players from similar backgrounds.

At the bottom of his statement he also listed 30 of the “most pertinent bets” for the FA as he tries to be as transparent as possible.

Barton last played in midfield for Burnley — he re-signed for the Clarets in January after leaving Glasgow Rangers following a disastrous six-month spell in Scotland — last Sunday against Manchester United and that could well have been his final game as a professional if he does not get the length of this ban cut down.

The controversial midfielder has previously been banned three times by the FA for violent conduct, while he also spent time in prison in 2008 for an assault on a night out in Liverpool and was also handed a four-month suspended sentence after assaulting Man City teammate Ousmane Dabo on the training ground.