Chelsea 2-1 Liverpool: Blues earn important win with first-half comeback (Video)

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Martin Skrtel put the visitors up on just three minutes but Chelsea earned the points with goals from Eden Hazard and Samuel Eto’o.

An entertaining first half gave way to a steady second period but Chelsea’s defense held after the early leak.

It was a frantic opening to the match, with Liverpool capitalizing on an early opportunity. With Eto’o fouling Jordan Henderson early, Chelsea would concede on a set-piece yet again.

Philippe Coutinho sent in the long free kick, and Luis Suarez latched his head onto the back end before Skrtel cleaned it up with a tap-in for a shock lead on three minutes.

The goal didn’t phase the home side, as Chelsea worked for the equalizer forcing Glen Johnson to clear off the line after a Hazard shot from well out squirted through towards the goal mouth.

On 12 minutes Frank Lampard forced Simon Mignolet into action for the first time with a thunderbolt of a shot, causing the Liverpool keeper to dive to his left and get his fingertips on the ball to touch over.

They would get that equalizer in the 17th minute as they continued to ask questions of the Liverpool defense, and it would be the in-form Eden Hazard who would spring Stamford Bridge to life.

Oscar surged down the middle with the ball, and with Eto’o streaking to his right, Oscar looked to find him.  Instead, the pass was blocked by Mamadou Sakho and fell right to Hazard who curled past Mignolet for a level score.

Jose Mourinho has struggled all year to find fluidity up front at the striker position, but Eto’o rewarded him for his selection in the 34th minute.

source: AP
John Terry, on his 600th Chelsea appearance, kept Luis Suarez at bay and led a strong team defensive effort.

Again it was the Brazilian Oscar in the build-up, and as he scythed his way into the box, he cut the ball across the face and a sliding Eto’o finished by beating Sakho.

Chelsea were asked immediately to protect their lead, as Cech palmed away an effort from Joe Allen, giving the home side the advantage at halftime.

Having already brought off Branislav Ivanovic due to injury in the first half, Mourinho elected to substitute John Obi Mikel for Frank Lampard on the second half.

The first chance of the second period fell to Liverpool in the 51st, as a quick free kick went to Jordan Henderson, and his chip found Sakho in the penalty area, but the defender headed off the corner post. Chelsea then went right down and forced a fantastic save from Mignolet as Eto’o found space and rifled on goal.

Suarez got his first chance in the 58th minute on a beautiful cut-back cross from Henderson but the Uruguayan’s volley couldn’t avoid the waiting grasp of Petr Cech.

Liverpool found it hard to press through Chelsea’s defense, although Johnson popped off a bounding shot from distance in the 74th minute that Cech could only parry away.

Suarez protested mightily when Eto’o brought him down on the edge of the box, but it was off the ball and Howard Webb wasn’t biting.

The three points for Chelsea means the top three in the Premier League table all keep pace with wins, with Liverpool falling below Everton thanks to their second-straight 2-1 loss to a title contender.

GOALS:

Chelsea – Hazard 17′; Eto’o 34′
Liverpool – Skrtel 3′

LINEUPS:

Chelsea – Cech; Ivanovic (Cole 30′), Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; D Luiz, Lampard (Mikel 45′); Willian, Oscar, Hazard; Eto’o (Torres 87′).

Liverpool – Mignolet; Johnson (Aspas 84′), Agger, Skrtel, Sakho (Toure 90′); Lucas, Allen (Smith 60′), Henderson, Sterling, Coutinho; Suarez.

Sweden announces Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not return for World Cup

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s public flirtation and seeming committal to returning to the Swedish national team for the World Cup was a big tease.

Whether it’s his call or not is up for debate.

The Swedish Football Association reports that it’s spoken with Ibrahimovic and the 35-year-old LA Galaxy striker has declined the chance to return to the fold.

[ MORE: Fulham, NFL owner to buy Wembley? ]

Sweden’s sporting director Lars Richt says Ibrahimovic has not changed his mind on international retirement despite his own words.

Sweden’s current team may have a role in that.

We imagine Richt and Sweden may be cushioning the blow for Ibrahimovic, especially if national team goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson is speaking on behalf of a team vibe when he speaks of Zlatan being “an individualist” who could ruin Sweden’s team-first concept.

Report: Fulham, NFL owner Khan agrees $700m price for Wembley

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Fulham owner Shad Khan also owns a National Football League team, and could have two top-flight teams from different nations playing in England soon.

For Fulham, the Cottagers are currently very much in the race for automatic promotion to the Premier League and at the least will have a chance at qualifying through the playoffs.

[ MORE: TFC loses CCL Final in PKs ]

For the Jaguars, who have rarely needed all the seats in their stadium, it could mean a move to London if Khan goes through with what’s being reported as an accepted $700 million bid to buy Wembley Stadium.

Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium was also built with the design to host NFL games.

Here’s how ProFootballTalk’s Michael David Smith puts a bow on it (on one of the biggest days of the NFL calendar, nonetheless):

So it’s possible that there could soon be two iconic soccer stadiums in London with strong NFL ties, one which was built with NFL games in mind, and another that is owned by an NFL owner. The league is pouring serious resources into London.

It seems unlikely Khan would move Fulham from Craven Cottage, but there are other repercussions of this move for soccer in England.

There’s the potential for the England national team to no longer utlizie a permanent home, and the FA Cup and League Cup both potentially requiring new or rotating venues for their final rounds.

A lot to monitor here, and we’ll surely have all the details as they emerge from Khan’s crew.

TFC on CCL loss: “Feels the heart has been ripped from the chest”

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Michael Bradley went 90 minutes at center back, Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco scored, and Toronto FC nearly, oh-so-nearly, became the first Major League Soccer side to win a continental title in the CONCACAF Champions League era.

[ MORE: Match recap ]

“We wanted to be the first (MLS side) to lift the CONCACAF Champions League trophy,” said goalkeeper Alex Bono, according to MLSSoccer.com. “We failed in that goal; that’s massively disappointing. … This is the way the game goes, it’s unjust; it feels the heart has been ripped from the chest sometimes.”

Bono made some big saves in regulation as TFC flipped its 2-1 first leg loss on its ear over 90 minutes, but Chivas Guadalajara scored all four of their penalty kick attempts as Jonathan Osorio hit the bar and Bradley set his effort on a path to the moon.

That part was possibly academic, as Chivas could’ve sealed it with their fifth penalty, but Marky Delgado’s miss of a perfect Sebastian Giovinco stoppage time cross is what sent the match into kicks.

Here’s how The Toronto Sun’s Kurt Larson framed his post-match interview with Delgado, described as one of the few players not to walk past the media after the loss:

“That’s football sometimes,” Delgado searched for words. “Sometimes you win. Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes it goes in. Sometimes it doesn’t. It’s heartbreaking.”

It felt cruel to keep him standing there any longer.

“Wherever we are, we want to win,” the soft-spoken American said. “Unfortunately today we didn’t, but we know we dominated the game.”

And Bradley, in the season after Toronto won a trouble but also 18 months removed from missing a PK in the MLS Cup Final — not to mention marshaling the USMNT midfield in its monumental failure to qualify for the World Cup was mostly good in playing out-of-position.

“In the biggest moments, we threw caution to the wind and played with balls, bravery, and pride in ourselves, in each other, in our club and our city,” Bradley said on Canadian television outlet TSN.

They did, and now they must hope to win the Canadian Championship, MLS Supporters’ Shield, or MLS Cup to get another shot at qualifying for the Club World Cup.

Toronto loses CONCACAF Champions League in PKs

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Chivas Guadalajara scored on all of its penalty kicks to clinch a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League Final, breaking the hearts of Toronto FC in Mexico on Wednesday and earning a berth in the 2018 Club World Cup.

Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore scored in regulation as Toronto FC picked up a 2-1 win to reverse their first leg loss and push it to kicks.

Orbelin Pineda scored Chivas’ goal.

Hometown kid Jonathan Osorio hit the cross bar on Toronto’s second PK and Michael Bradley sent the fifth offering into outer space.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

Toronto flew out of the gates, and Rodolfo Cota came flying off his line to deny Altidore a 10th minute chance.

Alex Bono collected a header off a Chivas corner kick earned by a counterattack.

Pineda then made Toronto’s task even harder with a 19th minute goal, cooking Auro’s mark to reach a through ball and dancing around Bono for 1-0.

But Altidore was somehow unmarked for Nic Hasler’s pass despite five Chivas defenders and Cota inside the six-yard box, and TFC leveled the second leg at 1.

And TFC got the next goal through Giovinco, slipped through by Marky Delgado and taking advantage of a yard of space and a second to shoot with his fourth goal of the CCL knockout rounds.

The Reds kept coming in the second half, with Delgado winning a big 50-50 ball deep in Chivas territory and Victor Vasquez ripping a shot that Cota dove to smother.

Chivas found its footing in 58th minute, sending a shot over the bar before Jesus Godinez hit the post in the 61st (though his dive seemingly had the near post covered). Bono the next knocked a free kick over the bar from a similar position as the ball that beat him in the first leg.

Javier Lopez curled a vicious attempt just over the goal in the 72nd. He’d have the next best chances moments after Altidore subbed off with an apparent hamstring injury, but dribbled onto Bono’s lap and fired off the keeper.

Giovinco worked a 1-2 with Osorio and cruised a shot just wide of the far post in the 87th minute. Delgado then mailed a sitter over the bar in the first minute of stoppage time.