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)

Hernandez, Araujo score in 1st half, Mexico beats Costa Rica

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MEXICO CITY (AP) Javier Hernandez and Nestor Araujo scored in the first half, and Mexico overcame the absence of half a dozen players to beat Costa Rica 2-0 on Friday night in a World Cup qualifying match.

Hernandez scored on a cross from Carlos Vela to open the score in the seventh and Araujo added a goal on a header in the 45th.

[ USMNT: Recap & videoPlayer ratings ]

Hernandez scored his 46th goal with the Mexican team and tied Jared Borgetti as the all-time leading scorer.

With the win, Mexico remains undefeated and has seven points after three rounds to take sole command in the six-nation tournament. Costa Rica stays on six points and is second and Panama is third with four.

The top three teams qualified for the Russia 2018 World Cup.

Mexico beat Costa Rica for the first time since September 11, 2012, when they prevailed 1-0.

Running Away With It

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
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Christian Pulisic scored and played a part in three other goals as the United States rained goals down on Honduras in a 6-0 win at Avaya Stadium in San Jose early Saturday morning.

Clint Dempsey scored two goals, and Michael Bradley and Sebastian Lletget also scored as the U.S. moved into fourth place in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. Their next match is Tuesday in Panama.

[ MORE: Player ratings | Three things ]

The United States men’s national team’s bid to recover their 2018 World Cup hopes got off to a flying start.

Sloppy Honduran defending caused a turnover outside the 18, and Jozy Altidore played Christian Pulisic in on goal. Keeper Donis Escober got a piece of Pulisic’s shot, but no one followed Lletget to the back post and the ex-West Ham and current LA Galaxy man quickly put the Yanks up 1-0.

The Yanks didn’t stop, and Lletget drew a yellow card when he beat Ever Alvarado down the right flank and forced a take down from the Honduran defender.

Alberth Elis slipped John Brooks’ mark, and the Houston Dynamo man turned to fire on goal. Tim Howard was well positioned to scoop it up.

Lletget turned out to be injured by the Alvarado foul, and Bruce Arena turned to Alejandro Bedoya in the 17th minute.

Geoff Cameron was given a yellow card in the 25th minute for a foul on Roger Espinoza. That gave a free kick to Honduras from 30 yards out, and Romell Quioto fired right at Tim Howard.

Then it was the captain who doubled the lead, as Honduras inexplicably gave him the room to walk across the arc of the 18 to rip a shot across goal. 2-0.

It was Clint Dempsey’s turn in the 33rd minute, after an otherworldly scooped pass from Pulisic.

What. A. Pass. Kid.

Honduras then took a bigger hit: the loss of star attacker Romell Quioto (Houston Dynamo) to an apparent shoulder injury.

Brooks bailed out an out-of-position Gonzalez just before halftime to keep the lead 3-0.

The Yanks needed 15 seconds to make it 4-0, with Dempsey winning a 50-50 tussle and finding Altidore for a flick to Pulisic. He netted his fourth USMNT goal. He’s 18.

Pulisic then won a free kick 25 yards out from goal by embellishing a foul, and Dempsey’s free kick tricked Escober. 6-0. For real.

A scary moment late as a dazed and wobbly John Brooks was forced off despite no apparent injury. Fox’s Jenny Taft said he was dehydrated, which is a relief.

LINEUP

USMNT: Howard; Villafana, Gonzalez, Brooks (Ream, 70′), Cameron (Zusi, 58′); Bradley, Lletget (Bedoya, 18′), Nagbe; Pulisic, Dempsey, Altidore.

Goals: Lletget (5′), Bradley (27′), Dempsey (33′, 49′, 54′), Pulisic (46′)

 

Player ratings from USMNT’s pounding of Honduras

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Battered. Throttled. Eviscerated.

Pick your verb of dominance, the United States likely fit it well in a 6-0 destruction of Honduras at Avaya Stadium in San Jose.

[ MORE: Recap + video | Three things ]

The win boosts the U.S. in World Cup qualifying after their 0-2 start, but how did the individuals fare? Obviously well.

Starting XI

Tim Howard — 7 — The team just feels in a safer place with the veteran back there. If the U.S. goes to the 2018 World Cup, Howard remains their No. 1 (and there probably never should have been a question. Sorry Brad).

Jorge Villafana — 7 — Tidy passing and a low-risk game from the Santos Laguna man.

John Brooks (Off 70′) — 7 — An early error before recovering to be his usual free-clearing, athletic self. Scary injury took him out late, as he looked dazed. Fox’s Jenny Taft said he was dehydrated, which is a relief.

Omar Gonzalez — 5  — He wasn’t bad, but Gonzalez is still a positional question mark. Bailed out a couple times by Brooks.

Geoff Cameron (Off 59′) — 6 — Out of position and a bit hobbled, he wasn’t at his best.

Michael Bradley — 7 — One of his better USMNT games in a long time.

Sebastian Lletget (Off 17′) — 8 — Scored, then got hurt on a roasting run down the right.

Darlington Nagbe — 6 — One or two electric moments in the first half, but overall a quiet enough night for the Timbers man.

Christian Pulisic — 9 — Hard to not to hand the kid a 10. He’s quite frankly the most exciting American talent in the history of the program.

Clint Dempsey — 10 — Along with Howard, the sort of player you knew would make sure this game ended with three points. The fact that he nabbed three goals, too, is just a bonus.

Jozy Altidore — 7  — Pretty darn good night holding up the ball, and passed as well as ever, but did he drop a bit too deep too often? The answer is probably, “Who cares? They won 6-0, dude.”

Subs

Alejandro Bedoya (On 18′)  — 6 — Typical high energy, space eating job in the middle of the park from the Union man.

Graham Zusi (On 58′)  — 6 — Good late clearance preserved the shutout.

Tim Ream (On 70′)  — 6 — Interesting to note that Arena went to him over Walker Zimmerman or Matt Besler.

Three things to take away from USMNT 6-0 Honduras

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The United States men’s national team pulled a Leicester City.

[ MORE: Recap & videoPlayer ratings ]

That’s a joke with truth wrapped around it, because the Yanks have had plenty of time and even a pair of friendlies to respond from the firing of Jurgen Klinsmann.

But in their first serious match without their old coach, the U.S. looked a team renewed and unleashed. Now the Americans may find themselves back in an automatic World Cup qualifying spot with a win on Tuesday in Panama.

Things change.

Vindicated

U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati and all of the USMNT players waited months and months to get the chance to answer their critics following a pair of embarrassing losses to open the final round of World Cup qualifying.

Sure, having Clint Dempsey, Geoff Cameron, and Tim Howard back helped a whole lot, and the seasoning Christian Pulisic is getting at Borussia Dortmund is unquestionably good for an 18-year-old.

But there’s little doubt Michael Bradley and Co. were fired up to silence their critics. Whether they admit it or not, this is a bunch that was stung by those who said they failed their old coach.

Most expected the U.S. to get a point or better against Honduras, but to do it the way they did is an unexpected bonus. A win in Panama on Tuesday would boost them into the Top Three.

And don’t worry, the old boss was pleased for his former charges.


The future is now…

I Tweeted the following after a late second half pass from Pulisic, and there was little disagreement.

Pulisic won’t be credited with an assist for his shot which rebounded to Sebastian Lletget for the opener, but he will walk away with his fourth international goal and two proper assists.

One was an absurd scoop to Clint Dempsey’s chest, and the other was a long avenue that shouldn’t have existed. Still, Pulisic found that street and provided an absolutely dynamic force all over the park.

There have been U.S. teens at big European clubs, and U.S. teens who’ve made impacts on the national team, but never both at the same time and never both at this level. Pulisic is for real, and finding his ceiling is an adventure we’re all undertaking with great enjoyment.


…But the legends sure helped

Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard will go down as two of the most important players in United States men’s national team history.

Actually, they may be duking it out for Nos. 1 and 2 when it’s all said and done.

Dempsey’s hat trick was his career in a nutshell. The first saw him body off a defender while collecting a Pulisic pass off his chest, then lashing a shot with power despite said defender dragging him down.

The second was a burst of speed to run onto Pulisic’s through ball and classic calm in the face of an onrushing keeper, holding onto the ball before sliding it home from an acute angle.

The third was this free kick. A bit aided by goalkeeper Donis Escober, but such is life.

And don’t sleep on Howard’s early performance as Honduras tried to find some sort of foothold in the match. Always well-positioned, the team just feels safer with the Colorado Rapids man between the sticks.