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)

Who is Kenny Saief, and other USMNT Gold Cup personnel questions

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Kenny Saief is an 23-year-old American left-sided player with UEFA Champions League experience.

So why do we know so little about the Miami-born man?

The answer is pretty straight-forward: Saief’s entire career has been under-the-radar. After coming up through a series of Israeli teams, he moved to KAA Gent in Belgium. None of those matches, even adding in his representing the full Israel national team twice, got a ton of play on American soil.

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So when Saief filed his one-time switch to represent the United States, paving the way for a USMNT call-up for this summer’s Gold Cup, even those of us who’d followed his career from afar had put a limited amount of actual observation on match footage.

So here’s the long-and-short:

  • Saief turns 24 in December.
  • He moved to Gent from Israeli second tier side Ramat haSharon in 2014.
  • Played a total of 35 minutes in friendlies versus Serbia and Croatia.
  • Saief has 20 total appearances between the Europa and Champions Leagues.
  • Posted a UCL assist versus Wolfsburg in the 2015-16 Round of 16.
  • Had goal, 2 assists in UEL this season, played 180 mins vs. Spurs.
  • Has 15 goals, 9 assists in 107 apps for Gent.

Saief should get an opportunity to make an impact for Bruce Arena’s USMNT, perhaps as soon as Saturday’s friendly against Ghana in East Hartford.

Who else stands a chance to gain the most from this tournament?

Joe Corona — The 26-year-old made his thirst-inducing name in American soccer circles by scoring a pair of goals in the 2013 Gold Cup, but has just 17 caps to his name. His call-up over veterans like Benny Feilhaber and Sacha Kljestan either shows how high he’s risen or how far those veterans have fallen.

Cristian Roldan — Seattle’s hard-nosed midfielder was playing college ball at Washington just three years ago, and it’s not crazy to think strong performances could boost him onto the radar of bigger clubs abroad (let alone make him a mainstay along Kellyn Acosta with the USMNT).

Dom Dwyer — If Roldan’s rise is surprising, Dwyer’s really is astounding. It’s easy to forget that the Sporting KC star forward was playing junior college soccer in 2010 before spending one season of Division I soccer with South Florida. Now he has 57 MLS goals and a look at becoming the clinical finisher the American side has wanted for some time.

Justin Morrow and Eric Lichaj — The 29- and 28-year-old fullbacks would love to prove their mettle is as good if not better than Jorge Villafana, the current front-runner to start at left back should the Yanks complete their revitalized run to the World Cup. Lichaj, a Nottingham Forest veteran, is also adept at right back.

This isn’t to say that Juan Agudelo and Kelyn Rowe won’t benefit from strong tournaments, but the names above have either been rescued from soccer’s scrap heap or at least Jurgen Klinsmann’s prison.

PODCAST: Bob Bradley talks MLS past, USMNT

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Scott Nicholls and Otis Earle welcomed Bob Bradley to their “Beyond The Pitch” podcast to discuss his time coaching the Chicago Fire, the Fire’s current squad, how MLS has evolved, the new generation of players coming into the USMNT and more.

Perhaps most interesting is Bradley talking about previous losses with stinging emotion that sounds like they happened yesterday, including the 2000 MLS Cup.

[ MORE: Latest Men In Blazers pod ]

Since being fired from Swansea City after less than 100 days, Bradley has been linked with the Norway national team gig as well as a return to Los Angeles. Keep up with the U.S. coach here, and check out the podcast here:

U.S. Open Cup preview: Which underdog has best odds?

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Every dog has its day, and the three lower-tier clubs remaining in the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup are hoping for a second.

Miami FC, Sacramento Republic, and FC Cincinnati enjoyed wins over Major League Soccer sides in the fourth round, and now get further MLS tests in this week’s fifth round.

[ MORE: Lampard linked with manager opening ]

Once FC Dallas and Colorado Rapids tangle on Tuesday, attention turns to the underdogs on Wednesday. Who has the best chance to advance?

  1. Miami FC vs. Atlanta United — Playing an MLS expansion side at Riccardo Silva Stadium will give Miami a bit of confidence, and this is also a side with some good experience in pressure spots. Whether it’s manager Alessandro Nesta or MLS vets Michel, Gabriel Farfan, and Michael Lahoud, MFC won’t shy away. Upset chance: Solid.
  2. FC Cincinnati vs. Chicago Fire — The visitors are having a heck of a season in MLS and don’t have a group which will be worried by a huge crowd, but there’s no debating that 25,000-plus in Southern Ohio give FCC more than a puncher’s chance. Upset chance: Improbable, but possible
  3. LA Galaxy vs. Sacramento Republic — If LA puts something close to its best side out there, Sacramento will struggle to stop its attack.  Upset chance: Long shot.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, New England hosts DC United, Philadelphia visits the Red Bulls, Seattle is off to San Jose, and Houston hosts Sporting KC.

WATCH: Spain’s Saul smashes a shot past Italy’s Donnarumma

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Since returning from a loan at Rayo Vallecano, Saul Niguez has been a somewhat under the radar star at Atletico Madrid.

Coming off his best season with Atleti, the 22-year-old Saul is making an even bigger name for himself at the U-21 EURO this summer.

Spain’s Saul scored a hat trick past Gianluigi Donnarumma and Italy on Tuesday, and the second goal was laced with venom.

Getting onto the ball from 30-plus yards out, Saul smashed his shot with enough power that the ball barely had occasion to rotate.

Saul is under contract at the Vicente Calderon through 2022, and has three caps for Spain’s senior team, too. He was rated Atleti’s third-best performer by WhoScored this season.