Chelsea v Crystal Palace - Premier League

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)

Ex-Guatemalan soccer chief pleads guilty in FIFA bribe case

PRATO, ITALY - APRIL 13: General view during the FIFA Futsal playoff match between Italy and Hungary on April 13, 2016 in Prato, Italy.  (Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) A former Guatemalan soccer federation president has pleaded guilty in New York to charges related to a sprawling corruption investigation of world soccer.

[ MORE: Christian Vieri ready for return, pursuing Chinese Super League ]

Brayan Jimenez pleaded guilty Friday to federal racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy charges, each carrying up to 20 years in prison. It’s unclear when he’ll be sentenced.

The 62-year-old Jimenez is among 40 people from around the world charged in a FIFA bribery scandal over lucrative broadcasting rights.

Prosecutors say Jimenez accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from a Florida-based sports marketing company. They say in exchange for the money Jimenez awarded the company media marketing rights to the Guatemalan soccer team’s World Cup qualifying matches in 2018 and 2022.

Jimenez’s attorneys haven’t returned a message seeking comment on his guilty plea.

D.C. United acquires Igboananike from Fire in trade

BRIDGEVIEW, IL - MARCH 06:  Andrea Pirlo #21 of the New York City FC looks to pass against Kennedy Igboananike #77 of the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park on March 6, 2016 in Bridgeview, Illinois. The New York City FC defeated the Fire 4-3.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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With the playoffs still very much in sight, D.C. United is making another attempt to boost its struggling attack.

[ MORE: NYCFC, Rapids meet in Bronx on Saturday ]

After recently trading for New York City FC forward Patrick Mullins and New York Red Bulls midfielder Lloyd Sam, D.C. has completed a trade for Chicago Fire attacker Kennedy Igboananike in exchange for target allocation money and a third-round draft selection in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft.

In over a season-and-a-half in MLS with the Fire, Igboananike notched 11 goals and four assists in 49 matches. The Nigerian forward is a Designated Player, and is due to make over $900,000, according to the MLS Players’ Union website.

[ MORE: Christian Vieri trying to make comeback in Chinese Super League ]

D.C United is currently eighth in the Eastern Conference standings, sitting on 20 points through 21 matches. The team is four points behind the New England Revolution for the final playoff position.

Report: Atletico set to offer $52 million for Chelsea’s Costa

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 09:  Diego Costa of Chelsea shoots past Thiago Silva of PSG to score a gol to level the scores at 1-1 during the UEFA Champions League round of 16, second leg match between Chelsea and Paris Saint Germain at Stamford Bridge on March 9, 2016 in London, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
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Already with one of the world’s most dangerous attacks, Atletico Madrid is prepared to add another dimension into the mix.

[ MORE: Man City makes final bid for defender John Stones ]

Daily Mail is reporting that the Spanish side is prepared to offer Chelsea over $52 million for striker Diego Costa, who joined the team from Atletico back in 2014.

While the Blues have maintained their position that Costa isn’t for sale, Atletico looks to boost its already strong offense with the 27-year-old Spaniard. Diego Simeone’s group already features talented attacking duo Antoine Griezmann and Fernando Torres.

During his previous stint in La Liga, Costa netted 56 goals across all competitions in two seasons with the Rojiblancos.

[ MORE: Christian Vieri trying to make comeback in Chinese Super League ]

Chelsea is reportedly pursuing former striker Romelu Lukaku after signing Belgian Michy Batshuayi this summer. Antonio Conte’s side also features young forward Bertrand Traore, who has made a strong impression during the preseason.

Report: Manchester City makes final bid for John Stones

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 16:  Diego Costa of Chelsea and John Stones of Everton compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Everton at Stamford Bridge on January 16, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
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Take it or leave it.

Manchester City has made a final push for Everton defender John Stones, and has set its last offer at $52 million. Last month, the Citizens made the same exact bid for the 22-year-old, which was rejected by Everton.

[ MORE: Italian legend Christian Vieri looks to join Chinese Super League ]

City is said to be looking to avoid overpaying for Stones, after compensating Porto over $55 million for centerback Eliaquim Mangala two years ago.

While Stones has gone on record saying that he wants to play for manager Pep Guardiola at the Etihad Stadium, it remains to be seen if Everton will part ways with its prized defender.