Chelsea 3-0 Newcastle: Hazard’s hat trick sends Blues top (video)

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Chelsea brushed aside Newcastle 3-0 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, as Belgian superstar Eden Hazard bagged all three goals in a routine win.

Following slip ups for Arsenal and Manchester City, Chelsea now have a one point lead at the PL summit, as Hazard struck twice in the first half and then rounded off his first-ever hat trick for the Blues from the penalty spot after the break.

Chelsea were in cruise control for most of the match, as Newcastle rarely threatened going forward as they tried to stay compact.

But Hazard, who earlier this week spoke of his dream to score more goals to move into the same bracket as World Player’s of the year Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, tore Newcastle apart with his powerful runs from the flank as he proved too much to handle.

With the win Chelsea are top on 56 points, while Newcastle remain in eighth spot and have 37 points.

(MORE: Mourinho plays down Chelsea going top, how long will he keep doing this?)

A bright start from Chelsea saw Frank Lampard smash a free kick just wide of the post, but Newcastle were looking pretty solid as Hatem Ben Arfa was causing some problems with his box of tricks.

Chelsea bossed possession and Hazard tried his best to break down a stubborn Newcastle defense with several enterprising runs but the Magpies held firm in the opening stages in West London.

But in the 27th minute Chelsea broke the deadlock after Hazard played a wonderful one-two with Branislav Ivanoic and the Belgian winger swept the ball home for his 12th goal of the season. 1-0 to Chelsea.

Newcastle had a great chance to equalize just moments later as Moussa Sissoko went clean through but his touch let him down and Petr Cech saved. Then Hazard popped up to grab a second after playing another delicious one-two, this time with Samuel Eto’o, and the youngster bagged his and Chelsea’s second of the match in the 34th minute.

(Latest Premier League Standings)

After the break Chelsea had several good chances to make it 3-0, with the best coming after 57 minutes when Eto’o was found unmarked in the box but his shot was blocked by some heroic defending from Newcastle.

Moments later it was 3-0, and it was that man Hazard who bagged his third goal of the game from the penalty spot, as the winger now has 15 goals this season. The PK was given for a foul on Eto’o by Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, as he pulled the Chelsea striker to the ground as corner came in.

Chelsea were on cruise control for the rest of the match and Hazard left the pitch as sub late on to rapturous applause from the home fans. This boy from Belgium is a bit special.

LINEUPS

Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Luiz, Azpilicueta; Matic, Lampard; Willian (Salah, 78), Oscar, Hazard (Schurrle, 85); Eto’o (Ba, 71)

Goals: Hazard (27, 34, 63)

Newcastle: Krul; Debuchy (Yanga-Mbiwa, 40), Williamson, S.Taylor, Dummett; Anita (Marveaux, 84), Santon; Ben Arfa (Gosling, 64), Sissoko, Sammy Ameobi; de Jong

Championship Focus: Bluebirds flying, Villa second-last

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The wild 46-game slate that is the Football League Championship is already howling, with all 24 teams three matches deep into their campaigns toward Premier League promotion (or avoiding relegation to League One).

The three clubs relegated from the Premier League last season all sit within the Top 8 after three match days. Sunderland is unbeaten with a win and two draws, while Hull City is 1-1-1.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

Middlesbrough has two wins from three matches, three points behind three sides who’ve started a perfect 3-0.

Wolves and Ipswich Town are two of the three, and Cardiff City leads the way. Owner Vincent Tan has seen his club score six goals without conceding once in defeats of Burton Albion, Aston Villa, and Sheffield United.

Burton is 0-3, while Steve Bruce‘s Villa is just one point better and sits 23rd.

As for individual superlatives, Bristol City’s Bobby Reid has four goals to lead the league while familiar names Lewis Grabban (Sunderland) and Abel Hernandez (Hull City) are among a quartet of players to score thrice.

Meanwhile, PL transfer target Jota of Brentford continues to impress with three assists through three matches. Will he remain in the second tier by the close of the transfer window?

MLS Snapshot: Montreal Impact 3-0 Chicago Fire

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The game in 100 words (or less)Ignacio Piatti is very good at soccer, and Chicago backstop Matt Lampson is going to see him deep into his dreams. Piatti beat Lampson up close on a turnover and then, with Montreal ahead 2-0 off a PK, the Argentine curled a surprise shot from distance around the keeper. Game, set, match, and it wasn’t even halftime. The loss keeps Chicago from using its match-in-hand to catch second place New York City FC, while the three points move Montreal to within two points of the East’s final playoff position.

Three moments that mattered

6′ — Piatti starts the party — Gifted a chance with the keeper by a sloppy missed clearing attempt, the Argentine deftly pops the ball over Fire keeper Matt Lampson.

36′ — Lampson hurts his cause — Chicago’s backstop wasn’t at fault on the opening goal, but he was for the second. After chopping down Matteo Mancosu in the box, Lampson guessed wrong on the striker’s penalty kick and the Fire went down 2-0.

38′ — It’s not your night, Lamps — Pretty sure you can anyone named Lampson, Lamps. Anyway, this time it was one of MLS’ top newcomers who set up Piatti for a goal. “Nacho” has his 12th of the season thanks to Blerim Dzemaili, and my goodness did Piatti do well here.

Man of the Match: Piatti.

Forbes ranks the top supporters in Major League Soccer

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Forbes claims the shared honor will give two Cascadia Cup rivals one less thing to argue about, but we completely disagree.

The celebrated magazine says their metrics show the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders tied for the honor of who has the best fans in Major League Soccer.

The post says the determination was made through four factors: attendance, local TV ratings, merchandise sales, and social media followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Attendance was weighted heaviest, which certainly gives Atlanta United hope to go charging up the rankings in the future. For now, the “Five Stripes” are not included in the list.

The Galaxy finish third in the rankings, while the sixth-place New York Red Bulls edge New York City FC by one spot.

For the report and full explanation, head here.

Europa League preview: Everton, Milan, Marseille take next steps

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The UEFA Europa League playoff round takes full flight Thursday, a day after Utrecht struck a blow for the Eredivisie with a 1-0 win over Zenit Saint-Petersburg in a Wednesday first leg.

Premier League participants Everton will be seeking a result at home against Hajduk Split, the third-place team from Croatia’s top flight.

Gylfi Sigurdsson passed his medical at Goodison Park but will not be available for Everton on Thursday.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

As for the match, manager Ronald Koeman knows the Thursday matchdays for the UEL will try his club’s endurance and depth. From EvertonFC.com:

“We know English teams have some problems. I think it is more mental than physical because if you play in the Champions League – so Wednesday and Saturday – you have the same amount of days to recover. I try to put out the strongest team to start the game. That will take into account the tactical aspects of each game. That will mean different players start and different options in terms of substitutions.”

Captained by Zoran Nizic and managed by Joan Carrillo, Hajduk has a young star in the making in the form of 19-year-old attacking midfielder Nikola Vlasic, but Everton is heavily favored at home with Hajduk given 12:1 odds by bookmakers.

[ MORE: Barca GM says Coutinho, Dembele “close” ]

Those numbers are a relative sure thing compared to AC Milan’s visitors. Macedonia club Shkendija are a 33:1 underdog for its trip to Italy.

Elsewhere, Slovenian side Domzale is a longshot at home to visiting Marseille.

Speaking of bookmakers, Arsenal won’t enter the competition until the group stage but is considered the favorite to win the UEL by a hair over Milan. Everton, Villarreal, and Athletic Bilbao are level with third-best odds.

UEFA Europa League playoff first legs
Utrecht 1-0 Zenit — Weds.
BATE Borisov vs. Oleksandriya — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Apollon Limassol vs. Midtjylland — 1 p.m.
Krasnodar vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m.
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Skenderbeu — 1 p.m.
FH vs. Braga — 1:45 p.m. ET Thursday
PAOK vs. Ostersund — 2 p.m. ET Thursday
Vardar vs. Fenerbahce — 2 p.m.
Plzen vs. AEK Lamaca — 2:15 p.m. ET Thursday
Altach vs. Maccabi Tel-Aviv — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Ludogorets Razgrad vs. Suduva — 2:30 p.m.
Panathinaikos vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:30 p.m.
Domzale vs. Marseille — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Osijek vs. Austria Wien — 2:45 p.m.
Viitorul vs. Red Bull Salzburg — 2:45 p.m.
Ajax vs. Rosenborg — 2:45 p.m.
Legia Warsaw vs. Sheriff — 2:45 p.m.
AC Milan vs. Shkendija — 2:45 p.m.
Club Brugge vs. AEK — 2:45 p.m.
Partizan vs. Videoton — 3 p.m. ET Thursday
Everton vs. Hajduk Split — 3:05 p.m. ET Thursday
Maritimo vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:30 p.m. ET Thursday