Chelsea 0-0 Norwich City: No goals, no consequences (yet)

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Chelsea have put their destiny in others’ hands. By failing to beat relegation-threatened Norwich City at Stamford Bridge, the Blues’ title hopes rest on Liverpool dropping points against Crystal Palace on Monday. And should that happen, Chelsea will need to root for Aston Villa to beat Manchester City come Wednesday.

As for Norwich, they survive to see another day – but safety still looks unlikely. They’ll face Arsenal on the final day, and the Gunners have nothing left to play for, but the problem is Sunderland. The Black Cats have two games left, against West Brom and Swansea, and considering the Canaries’ -32 goal difference, almost certainly need just a point.

In the first half, Chelsea simply didn’t look like a team set for a challenge. Rather, they looked like a side broken by being knocked out of the Champions League midweek. Understandable, but it didn’t help that José Mourinho decided to rest the likes of Eden Hazard and David Luiz.

André Schürrle had a go in the third minute, but it was Norwich who could very well have been up before 15 minutes were out. Martin Olsson had no trouble slipping past an oblivious Ashley Cole to get on to the end of a pass from Bradley Johnson. Rushing in to save Cole’s blushes, John Terry tripped up Olsson, bringing him down inside the area. Neil Swarbrick waved away penalty appeals, while Neil Adams was absolutely livid on the sidelines.

Shortly thereafter, Demba Ba messed up a glorious chance to put the home side in front. The forward, free on the left, had two blue shirts available inside the area. However, the cross from Ba was terrible, and the ball collided with goalkeeper John Ruddy.

Around the half-hour mark, the woodwork declared itself a Canaries fan, doing its part to keep out a curling shot from Schürrle. Minutes later, Ruddy saved another shot from the German.

Johnson very nearly gave his side the lead going into the break. In the 40th minute, Terry just barely got a piece of a shot from the midfielder, but it was enough to deflect it out for the corner. The sides went into the locker rooms locked in a goalless draw.

Mourinho, having apparently remembered his side was still in the title race, made a double change to start the second half. Off came Mohamed Salah and Frank Lampard, on came Eden Hazard and David Luiz.

The change was immediate, with Chelsea having a much greater spring in their step. After just three minutes, the post had to bail out Norwich once more, this time denying a shot from David Luiz.

Then came Chelsea’s time to shout for a penalty…twice. First Branislav Ivanović and Schürrle both went down inside the area. A few minutes later, it appeared that Ryan Bennett went in recklessly on Hazard, who tumbled over. But with the offside flag already up, Swarbrick barely blinked.

Chelsea continued to ramp up the pressure, but somehow, Norwich held on. A rare advance on Mark Schwarzer’s goal looked like it might end with the ball in the back of the net, but an excellent challenge from Gary Cahill stopped Robert Snodgrass from getting his shot in.

The Blues kept coming, attacking in waves, but for once, luck was on Norwich’s side. A brilliant shot from Hazard prompted a terrific save from Ruddy. Moments later, a first-time volley from Schürrle was deflected out for a corner.

LINEUPS

Chelsea: Schwarzer; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Cole; Lampard (David Luiz), Matic (Torres 73); Salah (Hazard), Willian, Schurrle; Ba

Norwich City: Ruddy; Martin, R Bennett, Turner, Whittaker; Tettey; Snodgrass, Johnson, Howson, Olsson; Elmander (Redmond 69)

Subs: Bunn, Bassong, van Wolfswinkel, Fer, Hooper, E Bennett, Redmond

MLS (afternoon) roundup: Historically awful MNUFC spanked again

Photo credit: New England Revolution / Twitter: @NERevolution
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The fourth (partial — playing during international breaks should be banned) MLS Saturday of 2017 is two-thirds of the way complete. A quick roundup of the day’s early games…

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New England Revolution 5-2 Minnesota United

What else needs to be said about Minnesota at this point? What else can be said? The number of goals they’ve conceded in their first four MLS games: 5, 6, 2, and 5. While (we think) a bit of luck will eventually go their way, and they’ll curtail the goals they’re conceding (we can’t be sure anymore), Adrian Heath’s side is on pace to conceded 153 goals this season.

Anyway, New England picked up their first win of the season. The quality (and ease) of goals scored will tell you everything you need to know about Minnesota’s defending.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

New York Red Bulls 0-0 Real Salt Lake

Five days after firing head coach Jeff Cassar, RSL returned to their inept, toothless ways in a scoreless draw away to New York. Through four games, the Claret and Cobalt have scored all of one goal, and genuinely look the league’s most lifeless side; Minnesota have at least shown signs of quality in the attacking half.

On Saturday, New York created the majority of the game’s best chances — a pair of shots from distance, masterfully saved by deputy goalkeeper Matt VanOekel — but the chance that will live in the memories of RSL fans for a lifetime came and went in agonizing fashion.

Albanian federation denounces “extremist acts” of their fans in Italy

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s soccer federation has strongly denounced the incident that halted the World Cup Group G qualifier with Italy for nearly nine minutes on Friday.

During the match, which was won by Italy, 2-0, a group calling itself Illyrian Elite threw flares onto the pitch.

“Such totally extremist actions from the grouping Illyrian Elite have nothing to do with the excellent Albanian fans” who were distinguished in the EURO 2016 finals in France for their friendship and camaraderie in their festivities, the statement added.

The federation said an coach Gianni De Biasi also was “upset by the flares,” adding that during five years he has been in charge “I’ve seen something that’s never happened before.”

USMNT: 4 players, including Brooks, Lletget, released; Arriola added

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Hours after his side’s 6-0 thrashing of Honduras to resuscitate dreams of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, Bruce Arena announced on Saturday five changes to the U.S. national team roster ahead of Tuesday’s qualifier against Panama.

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John Brooks (sinus infection), Sebastian Lletget (foot), Jordan Morris (knee) and Michael Orozco (knee) were all released back to their club teams, while Club Tijuana midfielder Paul Arriola was added to the squad.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Brooks dealt with the sinus infection throughout USMNT camp this past week, as Morris did his knee injury which he picked up last weekend. Lletget left Friday’s win over Honduras in the 18th minute and will undergo further tests to determine the severity of his injury; he was seen leaving the stadium on crutches and wearing a walking boot.

The USMNT’s roster for Tuesday’s qualifier in Panama City, Panama, now stands at 23 players, and reads as follows:

Goalkeepers: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Rapinoe won’t back down on social issues despite U.S. Soccer policy

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Megan Rapinoe recently earned her spot back in the U.S. Women’s National Team squad ahead of next month’s friendlies against Russia, but the veteran won’t remain silent when it comes to her stance on the social climate of America.

[ MORE: Looking back on USMNT’s big win over Honduras ]

The 31-year-old was scrutinized for joining NFL player Colin Kaepernick in 2016 when they knelt during their respective sporting events, along with dozens of other athletes across the United States.

While Rapinoe admits that the form of protest is up for discussion, she also states that social inequality issues in the U.S. go far beyond that.

“What has surprised me the most, especially post-election, is that people are still sort of arguing against it. It’s really obvious that we have very serious inequality in this country across many different spectrums,” Rapinoe told the Guardian. “Yes, we can talk about the form of protest, or the way it’s done, or this or that. But it’s still not really the conversation that I think we desperately need to have more of in this country.”

A few weeks back, U.S. Soccer announced that it now requires all players that represent the Stars and Stripes to stand when the national anthem is played, and Rapinoe has agreed to do such.

While her days of kneeling on the pitch are in the past, Rapinoe believes she wouldn’t do anything different because she was simply trying to spark discussion amongst the American people.

“I don’t think there’s any perfect way to protest. I think if there was something else being done, something else would have been said about it. I can’t look back and say that I would have done this different, this different or this different.

“I can sleep at night knowing that I genuinely tried to have a really important conversation, or at least tried to open it up. I think I came to it with an open mind, an open heart and tried to get as many people to talk about it as I could.”