Chelsea 3-1 Manchester United: Eto’o hat trick extends Moyes misery (video)

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Manchester United continue to struggle against top of the table teams this season as a trio of goals from Samuel Eto’o extended Jose Mourinho’s unbeaten Premier League run at Stamford Bridge.

The storied striker couldn’t miss on the day, as everything went his way to give Chelsea a deserved victory.  United got one back late but it’s little to hang their hat on as Nemanja Vidic was needlessly sent off late, adding insult to injury.

Eto’o struck with a deflected shot under 20 minutes in, and again just before halftime to give David Moyes no way back.  There was a clear gap in quality between the sides, as the new United manager will now find it nearly impossible to maintain his outspoken title hopes.

The visitors wasted no time getting their feet under them, as Ashley Young tested Petr Cech under two minutes from kickoff.  The Red Devils pressured every single Chelsea ball handler, and the home fans were vocally frustrated early.

The tough luck for Manchester United would continue though, as a very tough break would lead to a Chelsea goal against the opening run of play.

With Chelsea on the break in the 17th minute, the ball bounced around and fell to Samuel Eto’o.  A brilliant bit of individual play saw him send Phil Jones tumbling to the ground with a one-two move, and fire on goal from distance. The shot immediately deflected off Michael Carrick’s outstretched foot, and the carom looped the ball up and into the top corner.

While the deflection serves as a tough-luck finish on the visitors, the move by Eto’o to get past Jones and give himself space for the shot deserves plenty of credit.

source: AP
Adnan Januzaj impressed for Manchester United, but with no support it was Samuel Eto’o’s day at Stamford Bridge.

Adnan Januzaj, playing with free rein behind Danny Welbeck was fabulous for United in the first half, but had little support. A number of times he cut a ball across the face of goal with nobody there to connect.

The young Belgian found Welbeck in the 37th minute, but with the 23-year-old in on goal, Cesar Azpilicueta made a last-ditch tackle to force the striker into shooting straight at Cech. United fans may rue the lack of a penalty given by referee Phil Dowd, as Azpilicueta lashed through Welbeck’s feet from the back without contact on the ball.

With Manchester United failing to finish their chances in front of goal, Eto’o would make them pay with his second just before halftime.  Ramires found Gary Cahill on the right flank, and the defender crossed perfectly to Eto’o who lashed home from close range. Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea could have done better, but given little time to react the ball deflected off his feet and into the net behind him.

After the break, Eto’o would complete his hat-trick thanks to the hard work of Cahill yet again.  Off a corner Cahill slotted himself into a bit of space in the box, and the defender leaped above all else for the header.  De Gea’s reaction save was on point, but Eto’o was waiting to pounce on the rebound and he did just that for the tap-in.

Manchester United made a few changes to personnel and tactics, looking to claw their way back into the match, but with time running out and Chelsea bringing on defensive reinforcements, they could only muster one consolation goal from substitute Javier Hernandez with 12 minutes remaining.

That was little consolation for Manchester United, who had to finish out the final three minutes of stoppage time with 10 men and will be without Nemanja Vidic for the forseeable future after the United defender hacked down Hazard in frustration and was sent off.  They were lucky not to receive another as just after Rafael went into Gary Cahill with two feet elevated but only received yellow from Phil Dowd.

The victory for Chelsea keeps them on pace with Arsenal and Manchester City, just two points off the lead in third place as Mourinho looks to make his case for the Premier League title.

For David Moyes though, his continued inability to get results against top clubs will allow Manchester United fans to continue to ask questions about his ability to take the club back to its former heights.  They remain back in seventh position, four back of Moyes’ old club Everton and just one above Newcastle in eighth.

GOALS:

Chelsea – Eto’o 17′, 45′, 48′
Manchester United – Hernandez 78′

DISCIPLINE:

Manchester United – Vidic (straight red) 90+1′

LINEUPS:

Chelsea – Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Ramires, Luiz; Willian (Matic 86′), Oscar (Mikel 68′), Hazard; Eto’o (Torres 79′).

Manchester United – De Gea; Rafael, Evans, Vidic, Evra (Smalling 51′); Valencia, Carrick, Jones, Young (Hernandez 56′), Januzaj; Welbeck.

New York Red Bulls introduce space at RBA for autistic families

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls
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HARRISON, N.J. (AP) The Red Bulls have announced plans for a permanent sensory-friendly space at their stadium for families impacted by autism.

Formerly executive offices, the space overlooking midfield is a calm area that is free from the crowds and the noise of Red Bull Arena during matches. Families can use it for free.

The team announced the new space on Saturday before the Red Bulls were set to host the Chicago Fire. It was Autism Awareness Night at the stadium.

“Families deserve to feel welcome and comfortable each time they step foot into Red Bull Arena, not just one night a year,” Red Bulls GM Marc de Grandpre said in a statement released by the club. “We hope all sports teams and entertainment venues are inspired to take similar action to provide comfort for families with loved ones on the autism spectrum.”

League Two game restarted in empty stadium after fans storm field

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LONDON (AP) An English soccer game restarted in an empty stadium after a pitch invasion led to the crowd being told the fixture had been abandoned.

There were five minutes remaining in Leyton Orient’s fourth-tier game against Colchester on Saturday when a sit-down protest was staged on the pitch by Orient fans against Italian owner Francesco Becchetti.

It forced the referee to take the players off the field. The protests lasted for more than an hour before the crowd was told the game had been abandoned and the stadium eventually cleared. The teams came out and finished the game.

Leyton Orient lost 3-1 a week after its relegation from the English Football League was confirmed after 112 years.

“A decision was taken with the police to announce that the game had been abandoned as it was felt this would help clear the pitch, which proved correct,” the EFL said in a statement. “However, it was deemed appropriate that the game needed to be played to a conclusion in order to maintain the integrity of the competition.”

La Liga: Barcelona, Real Madrid hold serve in tight title race

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A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Super-duper Sunday preview — North London derby, plus 6 of top 7 ]

Espanyol 0-3 Barcelona

Barcelona are doing all they can do — win — in their bid to usurp Real Madrid in the race for the title. While they entered the weekend — and still are — ahead of their El Clasico rivals based on head-to-head results this season, Los Blancos still have a game in hand which will surely decide whether Madrid claim their 33rd top-division title, or a 25th for Barca.

On Saturday, Luis Enrique’s side had more than just the title at stake — also at stake: the Derbi Barceloni, against fellow Catalan side Espanyol.

For 45 minutes, the home side held firm and refused to break, but once Luis Suarez put the Blaugrana ahead in the 50th minute, that was all she wrote. Ivan Rakitic doubled the advantage in the 76th minute, and Suarez completed the scoring 11 minutes later.

Real Madrid 2-1 Valencia

By the time the derby kicked off, Madrid had already applied the pressure and gone three points clear with a 2-1 victory that was a whole lot closer than the final score indicates.

Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring just before the half-hour mark, and Zinedine Zidane’s side was well on its way to victory. Ronaldo followed up his opening goal with a missed penalty kick 10 minutes into the second half, and Daniel Parejo pulled the visitors level with a sensational free kick just eight minutes before the end of regular time. Points looked sure to be dropped, and the door opened wider for Barca, but Marcelo was prepared to play the part of hero on the day, and the Brazilian left back bagged one of the season’s more improbable goals, a right-footed strike from the top of the box, in the 86th minute.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Las Palmas 0-5 Atletico Madrid
Real Sociedad 2-1 Granada

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Osasuna vs. Deportivo La Coruña — 6 a.m. ET
Real Betis vs. Alaves — 10:15 a.m. ET
Eibar vs. Leganes — 12:30 p.m. ET
Celta Vigo vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:45 p.m. ET

Monday’s La Liga schedule

Malaga vs. Sevilla — 3 p.m. ET

Championship Focus: It’s all about the playoff places now

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With Brighton & Hove Albion and Newcastle United having already clinched the Championship’s two automatic promotion places, all eyes turn to the four teams behind them still jockeying for playoff positioning…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s coverage of the Championship ]

3rd — Reading — 82 points, +2 GD
4th — Sheffield Wednesday — 81 points, +16 GD
5th — Huddersfield Town — 81 points, +1 GD
6th — Fulham — 77 points, +27 GD

First of all, the Championship remains the least sensible league in the world. Disagree? Just try to explain the above wildly varying points totals and the corresponding goal differentials. Go ahead, I’ll wait

As for the weekend’s results, Reading and Wednesday did themselves major favors in the race for third with victories over Wigan Athletic (1-0) and Ipswich Town (1-0), respectively, while Huddersfield, who entered the weekend in that top playoff place, played 67 minutes with a man advantage against Birmingham City, and lost 2-0. All three of Reading, Wednesday and Huddersfield have clinched their place in the promotion playoffs, which begin two weeks from Saturday, on May 13.

[ MORE: PL Sunday preview — North London derby, plus 6 of the top 7 play ]

Given Leeds United’s 3-3 draw with Norwich City, a win would have clinched the fourth and final playoff place for Fulham, but the Cottagers dropped a pair of points themselves in a 1-1 draw with Brentford at Craven Cottage. Still, Fulham are all but into the playoffs with a three-point lead on Leeds, and a goal differential that’s 13 goals better.