Chelsea cruise past Galatasaray, as Blues make UEFA Champions League quarterfinals with 2-0 win (3-1, Agg.)

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Chelsea eased through to the final eight of the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday, after a professional 2-0 win over Turkish giants Galatasaray at Stamford Bridge.

The Blues were in cruise control early on, as Samuel Eto’o finished off a flowing move in typically clinical fashion to set Chelsea on their way. Wave after wave of relentless counter-attacks reigned down on Galatasaray’s goal as the away team never got going, and just before half time Gary Cahill slammed home a close range effort to put the tie beyond doubt and end Didier Drogba’s hopes of causing havoc on his return.

Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea head into the quarterfinals for the first time since they won the trophy in 2011-12, and the eighth time in the last 11 seasons, as the Premier League leaders will now balance a PL title charge with their quest to bring European success to Stamford Bridge.

(MORE: Three reasons why Chelsea can win the UEFA Champions League)

In the third minute Chelsea were ahead, as Eto’o latched onto a delicate pass on the right from Oscar, took one touch to steady himself and slotted the ball home to send Stamford Bridge barmy with the Blues first attack of the game. The strike was Eto’o’s 30th goal in the Champions League, as the Cameroon striker’s low shot beat the despairing dive of Muslera to give Chelsea a perfect start.

Galatasaray had a good spell after the setback but failed to carve out any clear cut chances, as Chelsea continued to soak up the pressure and pounce on the break. That happened in the 21st minute, as Frank Lampard was found on the edge of the box after another flowing move down the left, but the English midfielder toe poked his effort over the bar.

source: AP
Eto’o’s opener set Chelsea on their way, as the Premier League leaders are in the last eight.

In the 32nd minute John Terry came close to giving the Blues a 2-0 lead, as the center back thumped a left footed volley just over the bar from Frank Lampard’s superb in swinging free kick. Chelsea continued to push for a second, as Galatasaray struggled to get to grips with the home side’s rapid counter-attacking style. Oscar and Hazard combined on the left flank to set up Eto’o in the box, who dinked the ball towards Willian but the Brazilian hit a tame shot which Muslera gathered easily.

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Relentless pressure from Chelsea paid off just before the break, as Cahill slammed home an effort from close range to give the home side a dominant 2-0 lead. Terry attacked a corner kick and his powerful header was beaten out by Muslera but Cahill was already following in to finish off and send Cheslea into the interval with one foot already in the Champions League quarterfinals.

After the break Chelsea kept surging forward as Oscar had a shot blocked, then Willian drilled an effort straight at Muslera after yet another breathtaking counter-attack caught Galatasaray flagging. The away side just couldn’t get going, despite their incredible supporters creating a huge din inside Stamford Bridge. In the 65th minute Lampard went close with a header on target following yet another superb move down the left. Then Hazard forced a good save from Muslera, as the Belgian bent in a delicious effort from the edge of the box that was arrowing towards the top corner before the big Uruguayan ‘keeper tipped it wide.

The rest of the game played out with Galatasaray trying to break down a stubborn Blues defense, but Mourinho’s men were in no mood to give anything away as they sealed their spot in the quarterfinals at a canter.

LINEUPS

Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Ramires, Lampard; Willian (Kalas, 93′), Oscar (Oscar, 82′), Hazard; Eto’o (Torres, 85′)

Goals: Eto’o (3′), Cahill (42′)

Galatasaray: Muslera, Eboue (Hajrovic, 77′), Telles, Kurtulus (Balta, 67′), Chedjou, Kaya, Yilmaz (Bulut, 54′), Melo, Inan, Sneijder, Drogba

Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez injured on international duty

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Atlanta United is sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings three weeks into its inaugural Major League Soccer season, and the bite appears to be every bit as fearsome as the bark for the newcomers.

Now, the club must contend with its first bit of truly scary news.

In-form striker Josef Martinez was injured on international duty with Venezuela and is heading back to the United States for evaluation. The report says he tweaked his left thigh, and after the match head coach Rafael Dudamel said he would release Martinez back to Atlanta, saying, “I do not think it’s good for Josef to travel. This muscle tightness can take 10 days of recovery.”

Martinez was subbed off of Venezuela’s match with Peru in the 59th minute, replaced by Yangel Herrera and walking off under his own power. Venezuela drew the match 2-2, blowing a 2-goal halftime lead and leaving them bottom of the table, 14 points back of the intercontinental playoff spot.

Obviously that 10-day recovery is more ideal than any other long-term prognosis, but it would still see him miss a road visit to Seattle next Friday. The 23-year-old has a whopping five games in his first three MLS games with Atlanta and has been a force. Brandon Vazquez and Bryan Rochez are the two options currently on Atlanta’s roster to replace the Venezuelan in the lineup.

Martinez was signed on loan from Serie A side Torino, but the move was made permanent last week.

Kevin de Bruyne questionable for injury-laden Belgium

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Belgium, already without superstar Eden Hazard for the upcoming World Cup qualifier against Greece, will now be without playmaker Kevin De Bruyne, who picked up an injury in training on Friday and will miss both the match against Greece and the subsequent friendly against Russia three days later…maybe.

The Belgian National Team official Twitter account sent out a quote from manager Roberto Martinez that confirmed De Bruyne would miss the pair of matches, but the tweet was quickly deleted.

Instead, this one was pushed out in its place, correcting his availability and also updating the type of injury:

Should De Bruyne miss out, it means Belgium would likely rely heavily on Dries Mertens and Kevin Mirallas for the playmaking duties, with midfielder Radja Nainggolan potentially taking on a more attacking role as well.

Belgium and Martinez also confirmed that right-back Thomas Meunier will miss out after failing to recover from an ankle injury, while Marouane Fellaini‘s status is unknown after he was held out of Thursday’s training session.

The injury also leaves De Bruyne’s status for Manchester City up in the air, with a pair of massive games in London in quick succession after the injury break. City visits Arsenal next Sunday, followed by a hop over to Stanford Bridge on Wednesday.

Landon Donovan retires again, this time for good

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After coming out of retirement last fall to join the LA Galaxy for one more shot at an MLS Cup, Landon Donovan has once again called time on his career, saying he’s certain he will not play again.

With a number of other ventures on his plate, the USMNT all-time leading scorer is looking forward to spending his time elsewhere.

“Yeah, I’m done,” Donovan said. “I’m done. No more playing for me. I have not [gone public with it yet]. But that is definitely the case.”

Donovan scored one goal in nine games for the LA Galaxy in his comeback bid, with the club ravaged by injuries and still gunning for the Cup. However, after the season was over with a loss to Colorado in the Conference Semifinals, the Galaxy confirmed it was nothing more than a short-term stopgap.

“With Landon, when he came back, it was always going to be a short-term thing,”team president Chris Klein said to the L.A. Times in December. “He’s enjoying what he’s doing and we see we’re comfortable in the direction that we’re headed.”

In January, reports claimed Real Salt Lake had offered Donovan a Designated Player contract, but it appears he’s turned it down, and will now have time to concentrate on his other ventures. Off the field, Donovan is an analyst on Fox’s soccer coverage, is on the advisory committee for the Los Angeles 2024 Olympics bid, and has joined the ownership group attempting to bring an expansion MLS team to San Diego.

Former Spurs midfielder Paulinho scores thunderbolt for Brazil

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Brazil topped Uruguay 4-1 to move on the verge of World Cup qualification, but there was much more to the first half of this match than meets the eye.

Uruguay went ahead 1-0 on a 9th-minute penalty won and scored by Edinson Cavani, and for a moment it seemed like the home side might find its way to pull within a point of Brazil at the top of the CONMEBOL standings. That would not last very long.

[ MORE: Full roundup of CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying action ]

Just 10 minutes later, a bad giveaway near the midfield stripe saw Neymar casually feed Paulinho a good 50 yards from goal. The former Spurs man took matters into his own hands, charging forward and unleashing a vicious strike that continued to rise until it ripped the chords in the top-right corner.

 

Not only was the goal a sight to behold, it was an important moment in the match. Brazil was back level at 1-1, and Paulinho would be on his way to an eventual hat-trick with a pair in the second half. Neymar scored once as well to complete the 4-1 final scoreline, and the three points for Brazil saw them remain perfect in the World Cup qualifying round as they march seven clear of Uruguay at the top of the standings.

For Paulinho, the hat-trick brings him to four goals in the World Cup qualifying round, adding to his score in the 3-0 win over Argentina. They also mark an important moment for the Chinese Super League, where Paulinho now plays, having moved from Spurs in July of 2015. Some national team coaches have left players on the outside of the squad for moving to leagues such as the Chinese League or Major League Soccer, but Paulinho has clearly been an asset to Brazil despite his club situation. In fact, in China, Paulinho has scored four goals in his four league matches for Guangzhou Evergrande this season plus another in the Asian Champions League, leaving him in top goalscoring form coming into this international break, something which has clearly translated directly to international play.

The 28-year-old had lost his place in the national team squad in 2014, going over two years without a single international appearance, but has been a mainstay in the Brazilian side during this World Cup qualification cycle.