José Mourinho surprised by Norwich approach

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In the late Sunday game, Norwich managed to hold Chelsea to a goalless draw at Stamford Bridge. The result leaves Chelsea dependent on upcoming results from Liverpool, who play Crystal Palace on Monday, and Manchester City, who play Aston Villa on Wednesday. Only if both sides drop points will the Blues remain in the race for the Premier League title.

Norwich, who recorded just six shots, three of which were on target, surprised many who watched the match. Despite having one of the league’s worst defenses, with 60 goals conceded, the Canaries focused on making sure Chelsea couldn’t break through – which leaves Norwich still in trouble, sitting two points behind Sunderland, who have a game in hand.

(READ MORE: CHELSEA 0-0 NORWICH CITY)

The approach employed by Neil Adams surprised José Mourinho as well. The Chelsea boss spoke about it after the match:

It was quite a day. We had one team that needed three points to have a chance to survive – but didn’t play to win and a team that needed a point to finish third and guarantee a Champions League group stage place that played to win. Norwich’s gameplan surprised me. We were waiting for a crazy game, especially in the second half, where they would gamble everything, but it didn’t happen. But we don’t have a right to criticise.

Mourinho, perhaps unsurprisingly, felt the Blues should have taken all three points. He referenced a better second half, after a double substitution introduced David Luiz and Eden Hazard: “During the first 45 minutes, our players were very slow. There was no intensity. In the second half it was different – the players wanted it much much more.David gave us more intensity as did Eden Hazard. We should have won, but football is about goals.”

Unfortunately for Chelsea, “should have won” doesn’t give them a boost in the title race. Barring major mistakes from Liverpool and Manchester City, the Blues will be left ruing the way that Norwich were able to catch them off guard at home.

UEFA: Wales in trouble; Spain dominates; Buffon hits 1000

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Friday’s matches mark the midway point of the main round of qualifying in UEFA, and the tables remain tight near the top of Groups D and G.

[ MORE: Smalling hurt, Gibson called up ]

Group I, however, is seeing some distance between first and second thanks to Croatia’s result versus Ukraine.

Republic of Ireland 0-0 Wales

Neil Taylor was sent off in the 69th minute for Wales, whose World Cup hopes are in trouble.

Seamus Coleman was stretchered off after the tackle, with a scary-looking injury that will leave Everton fans sick in more ways than one. Coleman’s leg was broken, and left dangling by the challenge.

Ireland couldn’t take advantage of the sending off, and failed in a bid to overtake Serbia for first in Group D. The Irish trail on goal differential, and will host Serbia on Sept. 5.

But Wales will rue the result more, remaining four points back of second-place Ireland. Chris Coleman’s side drops a point behind Austria as well, and will not have Taylor or Gareth Bale (card accumulation) in its next match. That comes against leaders Serbia.

Italy 2-0 Albania

Daniele De Rossi scored a 12th minute penalty kick won by Andrea Belotti, and Ciro Immobile scored late to provided the goals in Gianluigi Buffon’s 1000th appearance for club and country. Fittingly, it ended in a clean sheet. The match was briefly delayed after flares were thrown onto the field.

Spain 4-1 Israel

David Silva, Vitolo, and Diego Costa stakes the Spaniards to a three-goal lead, with Lior Refaelov ruining David De Gea‘s clean sheet with 11 minutes to play. Isco scored the match’s final goal.

Spain remains atop Group G on goal differential, eight better than second place Italy. Israel is four points behind both.

Croatia 1-0 Ukraine

Fiorentina’s Nikola Kalinic’s 38th minute goal was enough for the hosts, and Croatia is now five points clear at the top midway through qualifying.

Elsewhere
Austria 2-0 Moldova — RB Leipzig’s Sabitzer nabs winner
Liechtenstein 0-3 Macedonia — Ilija Nestorovski bags brace
Kosovo 1-2 Iceland — Sigurdsson PK the match winner
Georgia 1-3 Serbia — Mitrovic, Tadic lead the way
Turkey 2-0 Finland — Brace for Cenk Tosun

Boro’s Gibson called to England after injury to Man Utd’s Smalling

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Scoring goals has been the biggest problem for Middlesbrough in its return to the Premier League, and that overshadows how well the Northeast club has defended its own goal.

Ben Gibson has been a huge part of that, and now he’ll earn the chance to represent his nation thanks to an injury to Chris Smalling. Gibson will join England ahead of Sunday’s home World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.

[ MORE: Podolski leads Germany past England ]

Gibson has far and away been Boro’s best player, leading the side in blocked shots and clearances. The blocked shots total is tied for ninth in the Premier League, 11 behind current leader and new England teammate Michael Keane.

Smalling’s undisclosed injury is a bigger problem for Manchester United, which had already lost center back depth on England duty when Phil Jones was hurt.

Dele Alli to miss next three European matches, UCL or UEL

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Tottenham Hotspur is primed to qualify for a second-straight UEFA Champions League campaign this year, and will have to start that sophomore run without Dele Alli.

The 20-year-old playmaker has banned for his next three matches. If Spurs finish fourth, that would mean both qualifying matches and an additional match.

[ MORE: Five questions for USMNT ]

If they finish higher, Dele will miss the first three group stage matches.

Dele was shown red for a tackle on Brecht Dejaegere in Spurs’ 2-2 draw with Gent in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32, as Tottenham left the tournament.

Men in Blazers podcast: Man City-Liverpool review, USMNT preview

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Rog and Davo recap the Top Four battle between Manchester City and Liverpool, ask (again) whether it’s time for Arsene to go, and break down two of the most important USMNT games in modern history.

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