Fulham 1-3 Chelsea: Spectacular Schurrle extends Blues lead at the top (video)

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Chelsea cruised past West London rivals Fulham 3-1 at Craven Cottage on Saturday, as German international Andre Schurrle bagged his first-ever hat trick for the Blues.

In a timid first half Chelsea were second best but Fulham failed to capitalize on a few half chances, one of which fell to U.S. international Clint Dempsey early on but he headed wide. But after the break Chelsea came to life as Schurrle scored twice in the space of seven minutes after half time. Eden Hazard assisted on both goals as the Belgian star tore Fulham apart with Schurrle finishing superbly.

Then in the 68th minute Schurrle scored his third after good work from Torres, but Johnny Heitinga’s late consolation scuppered Chelsea’s hopes of getting a clean sheet.

With the win Chelsea now go four points clear of Arsenal in second, while Fulham remain rooted to the bottom of the PL standings.

(MORE: Mourinho on Chelsea going four points clear at top: “It is a fake advantage”)

Fulham started the brighter of the two teams and U.S. international Dempsey had a glorious chance to put the Cottagers ahead, but the attacker headed wide in the third minute.

The game was pretty even as Chelsea tried to get a stranglehold on proceedings and Fulham’s ‘keeper Maarten Stekelenburg almost gifted the visitors a goal. The Dutch ‘keeper made a real has of a clearance and Torres looked to be clean through but he stumbled on the ball and dragged his shot wide with other Chelsea players unmarked.

Dempsey was causing Chelsea plenty of problems in and around the box as the U.S. captain dribbled through Chelsea’ defense but was thwarted by John Terry and Gary Cahill with last ditch tackles. Chelsea struggled to get going at Craven Cottage in the first half as the long midweek trip away to Galatasaray looked to have taken its toll.

Just before the break Pajtim Kasami rifled a free kick in on goal but Petr Cech got down to save comfortably and Stekelenburg saved well from Torres, as the West London rivals went in level at 0-0 at half time.

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After the interval Chelsea looked refreshed and in the 51st minute they went 1-0 up as Schurrle played a one-two with Hazard, as the Belgian star clipped a terrific ball into Schurrle’s path, and the German winger slotted coolly past Stekelenburg to put Chelsea 1-0 up. Hazard turned creator again just before the hour mark as he performed a remarkable cross by flicking one foot behind the other and Torres’ header was somehow cleared by Fulham’s defense as the Cottagers held on.

Hazard dazzled once again in the 64th minute and his clever through ball found Schurrle who stayed onside and hammered a low shot into the  bottom corner to put Chelsea 2-0 up and dash any hopes Fulham had of launching a comeback. Soon after Schurrle bagged his third goal of the game, as Torres won an aerial challenge and played the ball through to Schurrle who finished coolly for his and Chelsea’s third.

Late on Fulham pushed to try and get back into the game and defender Heitinga scored his first goal for the Cottagers to make it 3-1, but that’s how it would finish as Chelsea extend their lead at the top of the standings.

LINEUPS

Fulham: Stekelenburg; Riether, Hangeland (Burn, 15), Heitinga, Richardson; Dejagah, Parker (Karagounis, 79), Sidwell, Dempsey; Kasami (Holtby, 62), Bent.

Goal: Heitinga (78)

Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Ramires, Matic; Schurrle (David Luiz, 87), Oscar (Oscar, 78), Hazard; Torres (Ba, 82)

Goals: Schurrle (51, 64, 68)

Top Premier League storylines – Week 35

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It’s a short Premier League weekend with the FA Cup taking place, but all eyes will be on the Emirates Stadium after Friday’s stunning news.

Arsene Wenger begins his farewell tour at Arsenal this Sunday as the Gunners host a London derby against West Ham United.

[MORE: Arsene Wenger’s legacy

Arsenal aims to finish season on a high
Arsenal vs. West Ham —  8:30 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN

The decision to step down has taken attention away from Arsenal’s defeat last Sunday when Newcastle came back from a one-goal deficit to defeat the Gunners, 2-1. Perhaps with the manager on his way out, Arsenal’s players will be extra motivated to end the season on a high note. If Arsenal continue to slip up, it could be out of Europe entirely, as the club sits just two points above seventh place.

For West Ham, a win would all but ensure the club’s place in the Premier League next season, but the club currently sit just six points above the relegation zone, and with the team going through a rough past few months, every point gained at home or away counts.

Does a guard of honor await Manchester City?
Manchester City vs. Swansea City —  11:30 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN

By virtue of Manchester United’s defeat last Sunday, Manchester City became officially Premier League champions-elect.

The club will get to raise the trophy officially at the end of the season, but for now, it appears Swansea City will be the first club to show its respect to Man City’s dominance throughout the season with a guard of honor. Man City is still chasing more Premier League records, but Swansea City, just four points above the drop zone, needs this win more.

Relegation scrap on tap
Watford vs. Crystal Palace —  10:00 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN

It’s a proverbial six-pointer as Watford, about as far north you can go in the London area, takes on Crystal Palace in south London in a key relegation battle.

Just three points separate the two sides, but a win for Watford would push the club up to 40 points while a win for Palace would put the Eagles even on points with the Hornets at 37 each. Interestingly, via the Premier League, “Watford are winless in their last six home meetings with Crystal Palace in all competitions (D3 L3), since a 2-0 victory in the Championship in February 2009.”

Stats behind Wenger’s time at Arsenal

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When you manage for nearly 22 years, you’re sure to accumulate numerous statistical milestones.

Arsene Wenger holds the record for most Premier League games managed (823), FA Cups won (7) and of course, his incredible run of 49 games without defeat with the 2003/2004 Arsenal invincibles team.

[MORE: ALL COVERAGE OF ARSENE WENGER’S DEPARTURE]

Our friends at Opta have put together some statistics together on Wenger’s achievements over his time at the club that spans three decades.

Arsene Wenger’s Career (as of April 20, 2018)

Titles

Premier League 🏆🏆🏆

FA Cup 🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆

Community Shield 🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆


Games Managed

Premier League – 823 games, 473 wins, 199 draws, 151 losses, 57.5% winning percentage

UEFA Champions League – 177 games, 83 wins, 41 draws, 53 losses

FA Cup – 109 games, 73 wins, 22 draws, 14 losses

League Cup – 73 games, 42 wins, 9 draws, 22 losses

UEFA Cup/Europa League – 23 games, 14 wins, 5 draws, 4 losses

UEFA Champions League qualifying – 14 games, 13 wins, 1 draw, 0 losses

Community Shield – 9 games, 6 wins, 2 draws, 1 loss

(more…)

Bocanegra, Hucles to chair USSF technical development group

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CHICAGO (AP) Former U.S. men’s captain Carlos Bocanegra and retired women’s midfielder Angela Hucles will chair a new technical development committee established by the U.S. Soccer Federation.

The organization also appointed eight chief officers who will report to chief executive officer Dan Flynn, but the final two direct reports remain to be hired: general managers for the men’s and women’s national teams.

Bocanegra currently works as the vice president and technical director for Atlanta United while Hucles is a former CEO and has spoken at sports leadership summits. Both Bocanegra and Hucles are members of the U.S. Soccer board. Bocanegra in particular has been floated for the position of U.S. Men’s National Team general manager, and this appointment could be the first step. And with more than 100 caps for the U.S. Women’s National Team and time spent as an executive, Hucles could also be angling for the USWNT general manager position.

The USSF said its board also established a new commercial committee, raising the board’s committee total to six under new president Carlos Cordeiro, who succeeded Sunil Gulati in February.

Nico Romeijn was promoted to chief sport development officer from head of coaching education, Ryan Mooney to chief soccer officer from director of sport development and Brian Remedi to chief stakeholders officer from chief administrative officer. Tonya Wallach was appointed chief talent and inclusion officer

Department heads continuing senior roles who are direct reports to Flynn include Jay Berhalter (chief commercial and strategy officer), Neil Buethe (chief communications officer), Eric Gleason (chief financial officer) and Lydia Wahlke (chief legal counsel).

Kroenke’s statement on Wenger

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Stan Kroenke has been a mostly hands-off owner for Arsenal over the past 10 years, preferring to put his trust in Arsene Wenger.

But today, with Wenger’s public announcement that he will step away at the end of the season, Kroenke released a poignant statement, calling on the club’s fans around the globe to back the side as it looks to hold on to a place in next season’s Europa League.

[MORE: Reaction to Arsene Wenger’s decision]

“This is one of the most difficult days we have ever had in all our years in sport,” Kroenke said. “One of the main reasons we got involved with Arsenal was because of what Arsène has brought to the club on and off the pitch. His longevity and consistency over such a sustained period at the highest level of the game will never be matched.

“Arsène has unparalleled class and we will always be grateful to him. Everyone who loves Arsenal and everyone who loves football owes him a debt of gratitude. Three Premier League titles, including an entire season unbeaten, seven FA Cup triumphs and 20 successive years in the Champions League is an exceptional record. He has also transformed the identity of our club and of English football with his vision for how the game can be played.

“We have high ambitions to build on Arsène’s remarkable tenure and to honour his vision by ensuring that Arsenal competes for and wins the biggest and most important prizes in the game.

“We must now focus on making a strong finish to the season and ask our millions of fans around the world to join us in paying appropriate tribute to one of the greats of Arsenal’s history and one of the greats of the game.”

Kroenke has drawn the ire of many Arsenal fans who had been calling for Wenger to be sacked for years, as the Arsenal board year after year continued to offer Wenger a new contract. It appeared that as long as the club was stable financially, with UEFA Champions League television revenues coming in and the team competing for a top-four Premier League position, the board was content.

However, the last two seasons have seen Arsenal slip, with a record amount of defeats during Wenger’s tenure and a second-consecutive season outside of the Champions League, leading to more lost revenue.