Chelsea 2-1 Crystal Palace: Blues labor as Ramires’ stunner seals win (video)

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Chelsea hung on to beat Crystal Palace 2-1 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday but Jose Mourinho’s men certainly made hard work of things against their London rivals.

Early on it looked to be plain-sailing for Chelsea as Fernando Torres struck to put the home side ahead but in the 29th minute Marouane Chamakh equalized as the Blues wobbled. But just before half time Ramires’ stunning finish from outside the box sealed all three points despite a spirited second half display from Palace.

With the victory Chelsea move up to second and are now just two points behind Arsenal, with a game against the Gunner coming up next Monday.

It was a tentative start at Stamford Bridge as Crystal Palace eased their way into the game and Chelsea did likewise.

However the longer the first half wore on Chelsea continued to push forward and in the 15th minute the Blues went ahead as Torres pounced to tuck the ball home. Brazilian winger Willian drive forward and smashed a terrific effort on goal that Julian Speroni tipped onto the post and Torres reacted first to tuck the ball home and make it 1-0.

In the 20th minute Juan Mata played in Branislav Ivanovic and the right back flashed a shot across the goal and went just wide of the far post as Chelsea pushed for a second.

Palace were looking dangerous on the break and they were soon level, as in-form striker Chamakh scored for the third-game in a row as he swept home Joel Ward’s left-wing cross to make it 1-1.

But the Eagles were soon back behind as Chelsea wne t 2-1 ahead thanks to a screamer from Brazilian midfielder Ramires. The ball was picked up by Eden Hazard on the left and he cut it back to Ramires 20-yards out who curled a magnificent effort into the top corner as Moruinho punched the air in delight.

After the interval Chelsea pushed forward to try and kill the game off but they were leaving themselves exposed at the back and Jason Puncheon almost equalized with a great run and shot that forced Petr Cech to make a smart save.

Try as they might Chelsea couldn’t shrug off a stubborn Palace side who kept pressing high up the pitch in search of an equalizer as the Blues struggled to get out of second gear. In the 76th minute substitute Stuart O’Keefe timed his run into the box perfectly but Petr Cech saved well at point blank range to deny Palace an equalizer.

As the Eagles flooded forward inevitably they left gaps at the back and Chelsea should’ve wrapped up the points but somehow Demba Ba squandered a great chance when clean through on goal as Palace continued to defend for their lives.

In the end Chelsea held on for the win as they set up a clash to decide who will be top of the table at Christmas, when they travel to the Emirates to play Arsenal next Monday.

LINEUPS

Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, D Luiz, Terry, Azpilicueta; Ramires, Essien; Willian (Schurrle, 82), Mata (Oscar, 62), Hazard, Torres (Ba, 84)

Goals: Torres (19), Ramires (35)

Crystal Palace: Speroni, Mariappa, Delaney, Gabbidon, Ward, Jedinak, Dikgacoi (O’Keefe, 26), Bannan (Bolasie, 51), Puncheon, Chamakh (Gayle, 88), Jerome

Goal: Chamakh (29)

CCL: Toronto wins; Wild Herediano comeback

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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On a single-digit Tuesday that severely limited the attendance at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, where the Colorado Rapids and Toronto FC dueled in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.

Jonathan Osorio’s second half goal put the Reds in front and Sebastian Giovinco had a goal and an assist and the visitors take a 2-0 decision back to Ontario.

The best chance of a preseason quality first half saw Dominique Badji flub the best chance of the stage into the feet of Alex Bono.

Toronto took the lead, nabbing the away goal through Osorio’s header of a Sebastian Giovinco cross. And the Atomic Ant got on the board with a goal of his own off an Auro assist with 17 minutes to play.

[ MORE: Georgia teen heading to Schalke ]

Tuesday’s other first leg saw Herediano and Tigres play to a 2-2 draw in Costa Rica, with the Liga MX visitors taking a pair of away goals but shocked by a pair of stoppage time concessions.

Francisco Meza scored in the 15th minute and Lucas Zelarayan seemingly put it to bed with 15 minutes to play.

But Yendrick Ruiz converted a 90th minute penalty kick before ex-DC United forward Jairo Arrieta did this ahead of the Feb. 22 second leg in Mexico.

Another American heads to Schalke: Zyen Jones

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Schalkamerica?

Bundesliga mainstays Schalke have added yet another American, this one 17-year-old Zyen Jones of Atlanta United. Jones is a forward with the U.S. U-17 national team.

Like Josh Sargent, who signed his deal with Werder Bremen on Tuesday, he’ll head overseas and sign a pro contract on Aug. 25, his 18th birthday.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Barca recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

Jones will join several potential USMNT teammates in Gelsenkirchen, including injured senior team midfielder Weston McKennie and youngster Nick Taitague (19). Forward Haji Wright is on loan at Sandhausen.

Report: Simon Dawkins making move to Minnesota

Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
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The Loons are taking a flier on Simon Dawkins.

The London-born Jamaican international hasn’t done a ton since returning to MLS from Derby County, and turned 30 over the offseason, and Paul Tenorio says the player is on his way to Minnesota United.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Barca recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

Dawkins scored 14 goals between 2011-12 with San Jose, but scored just five times in his return to California and was blanked in 14 appearances last season. He registered just 10 shots in those matches.

The left winger would join an attack with Christian Ramirez, Kevin Molino, Ethan Finlay, and a pair of Generations Adidas forwards: Abu Danladi (2017 SuperDraft) and Mason Toye (2018).

Champions League Weds. preview: Sevilla-Man Utd, Shakhtar-Roma

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Jose Mourinho says Manchester United is one round away from having legitimate hopes of winning the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Barca recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

That makes the Round of 16 tie against Sevilla — beginning Wednesday in Spain — a bit of a dream qualifier for the Red Devils.

“I normally say that Champions League dreams start around the quarter-finals and not yet in the last 16,” Mourinho said on ManUtd.com. “Last 16 still looks a long way to go. When a team reaches the quarter-finals, I think it’s the moment where even the teams that are not favourites – which is our case – they start realising that anything is possible.

The injury-hit side got a bit of a boost on Tuesday in Sevilla, where Paul Pogba, Antonio Valencia, Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera all trained ahead of the first leg.

As for the hosts, manager Vincenzo Montella admitted that he hopes Pogba won’t play, and joked that he’d prefer to tie up and “padlock” Alexis Sanchez in a bid to defend against the Chilean star.

The final Round of 16 tie to start will be Roma’s pairing with Shakhtar Donetsk, with the first leg taking place in Ukraine.

Shakhtar hasn’t played in some time, but the great equalizer is the bitter cold at Donbass Arena, where the temperature is set to be between 21 and 28 degrees Fahrenheit come kickoff.

Don’t worry, Roma fans, Daniele De Rossi is busy breathing fire into any teammates angling for excuses:

“The cold weather could affect things a little because we’re not used to it but at the end of the day it comes down to how well you perform out there. We must be mentally ready from the get-go because the cold might hit us in the opening minutes.

“If it was that much of a factor, these teams would win the Champions League every year. You don’t go through because of the weather.”