Three things we learned from Chelsea’s win vs. Tottenham

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LONDON — Chelsea beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday as Antonio Conte‘s men went back to the top of the Premier League after a comeback win which handed Spurs their first defeat of the season.

Despite Spurs dominating much of the first half, they only led 1-0 through Christian Eriksen‘s screamer and right on half time Pedro‘s stunning curling effort made it 1-1 and totally changed the momentum of the game. Victor Moses scored the eventual game-winner early in the second half to hand Chelsea their seventh-straight win in the Premier League.

[ MORE: Match recap ]

Here’s what we learned from another feisty London derby between these teams as Spurs’ last league win at the Bridge is still back in 1990.


SPURS FAIL TO MAKE MOST OF BRIGHT START

There was no UEFA Champions League hangover from Tottenham after their disappointing exit from the UCL at the hands of Monaco on Tuesday.

The opening 30 minutes were perhaps Tottenham’s best of the season. But it wasn’t good enough.

Mousa Dembele and Dele Alli were dictating play in midfield. Eric Dier and Jan Vertonghen weren’t giving Diego Costa a sniff and Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen looked dangerous in attack.

Yet Spurs didn’t make the most of their chances when they were on top and it cost them, big time. In the first half Harry Kane had a goal disallowed for offside and rifled a shot towards the top corner which Thibaut Courtois pushed over. They dominated play with eight shots to Chelsea’s one inside the opening 35 minutes, but apart from Kane’s drive they lacked a true cutting edge. Then, Pedro’s goal on half time knocked the stuffing out of fragile Spurs and they never truly recovered despite Eriksen having a half chance and Alli shanking a shot over from a glorious chance.

Tottenham’s run as the only unbeaten team in the Premier League is over and it will be intriguing to see how Pochettino’s young side bounce back from a week which has seen their UCL dreams dashed and their unbeaten run end at the hands of their London rivals.


CHELSEA STRUGGLE WITH HIGH PRESS

Yes, Chelsea recovered from a poor start but they once again looked ruffled after a high-press approach from their opponents. The Pl leaders have looked imperious since their switch to 3-4-3 following the defeat at Arsenal in September but there were a few chinks in their armor.

Just like their defeats to Arsenal and Liverpool back in September, Conte’s side started sluggishly and Tottenham’s typically intense high-pressure looked to be getting the job done. Chelsea got out of jail with Pedro’s goal right on half time and they knew they had to make the most of the gift they’d been given.

Even when they went ahead, Conte wasn’t pleased with his teams sloppy play in midfield as they gave the ball away and almost let in Kane and Alli. Conte screamed in frustration on the sidelines, kicking over a water bottle when Nemanja Matic was guilty of a particularly poor giveaway. For the closing stages he was desperately shouting at his midfielders, urging them to slow down and take care of the ball. Going forward, Chelsea know they have to handle the high-press tactics employed by many PL teams better if they’re going to keep this incredible form going.


COSTA THE CREATOR

The Premier League’s leading scorer didn’t find the back of the net on Saturday but he made key contributions when it mattered most.

Diego Costa was a menace. For Moses’ goal he surged into the left side of the box and pulled a perfect ball back for the Nigerian to sweep home. Seconds later he did the same on the right side of the box as he teed up Marcos Alonso but he skied the ball over the bar. That was Costa at his best and he certainly had a tough time against Spurs’ two bruising center backs.

It was clear Costa was targeted by Spurs. After two minutes Eric Dier clattered into him and Jan Vertonghen looked at him and gave him the nod. For the first 30 minutes Costa didn’t get a kick but he battled on and proved decisive in the end.

With his key contributions the Brazilian striker is making a huge difference as Chelsea’s surge to the top of the table shows no signs of ending.

LAFC erase 2-goal deficits to beat Montreal in 8-goal thriller

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The game in 100 words (or less): LAFC are, by definition, an expansion team; they are, to the eye, also very much an expansion team, in that they experience drastic mood swings from one game to the next and, on a number of occasions already this season, from one half to the next — or, as evidenced in Saturday’s 5-3 win over Montreal Impact, one 15-minute period to the next. 2-0 down after 16 minutes, Larent Ciman wanted the ground to open up and swallow him whole as his return to Montreal wasn’t going so swimmingly. The Belgian proceeded to score a stunning free kick eight minutes later. Montreal went down to 10 men and Evan Bush saved a penalty in the 33rd minute. Ignacio Piatti completed his hat trick on 43 minutes to restore the two-goal lead. LAFC score four second-half goals to run away with all three points, racking up 26 shots (18 of which were on target) in the process. Through two games this weekend, MLS has seen 14 goals scored.

[ MORE: Sporting KC increase West lead with 6-0 win over Vancouver ]

Three Four moments that mattered

24′ — Ciman’s free kick just about bursts through the back of the net — If not for the net, this ball continues to slowly rise until it cross the U.S.-Canada border and begins to orbit the planet in outer space.

43′ — Piatti smashes past Miller for 3-1 — Piatti takes his hat trick with aplomb, letting the ball bounce across his body before pulling it back across the face of goal and just inside the far post.

52′ — Feilhaber picks out the top corner for 3-2 — The comeback is on… again.

83′ — Vela bags the winner from the spot — Bush denied Marco Ureña from the spot in the first half, and so nearly did it again in the 83rd, but Carlos Vela’s effort crept over the line to make it 4-3.

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Man of the match: Ignacio Piatti

Goalscorers: Piatti (9′, 16′, 43′), Ciman (24′), Feilhaber (52′), Raitala (57′ – OG), Vela (83′ – PK), Blessing (89′)

Mourinho’s message to Man United’s much-maligned stars

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LONDON — All week the talk was about Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez not being good enough for Manchester United and that they may be left out of the starting lineup for the FA Cup semifinal at Wembley.

On Saturday at Wembley they dragged their team back into the contest and past Tottenham Hotspur to reach the FA Cup final.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

After a shaky start, Pogba’s powerful tackle on Mousa Dembele was followed up by a perfect cross to Sanchez who expertly headed home in, using every last muscle in his neck, to make it 1-1 in the 24th minute. United never looked back.

Pogba and Sanchez grew stronger as the game wore on and the latter bullied Kieran Trippier for United’s winner as the tireless Chilean speedster ran down a lost cause and helped set up Ander Herrera to score the winner.

The duo have been heavily criticized since the turn of the year with Pogba hauled out of the team by Mourinho, then having to deal with issues such as rumors about his United future following Pep Guardiola‘s claim that Man City were offered the Frenchman in January. While Sanchez has scored just twice in the Premier League since his January move from Arsenal which made him the best paid player in the Premier League and was left out of United’s lineup for the win at Bournemouth on Wednesday.

Mourinho had a message for his much-maligned stars after they stole the show at Wembley: he wants consistency.

“I told Alexis the same thing I told Paul a few weeks ago, I cannot expect my players to be Man of the Match every match. I cannot expect them to score goals every match. I cannot expect them to be perfect every match,” Mourinho said. “What I expect is a certain level that you don’t go below that. That level is the level of the basic things in the game. If you do the basic things of the game and then in some matches your talent appears and you makes the difference. That is fine. I am not waiting for Alexis the next match to score again and to be the Man of the Match. I just want him to be stable and I think  in Alexis’ case next season gives him much better conditions to be a top player for us.”

Despite their gutsy and pivotal displays, both Pogba and Sanchez (the Man of the Match) still showed glimpses of their poor form with wasteful passes from Sanchez and slack defensive play, early on, from Pogba. Their confidence still remains brittle but at least they showed their talent when it mattered most.

But the main thing is that they dug deep to grind out the win and keep United’s hopes of a piece of silverware this season alive. That is what top players do and both delivered, even if Pogba’s United future remains uncertain beyond this season. This was a game where the duo showed Mourinho they could be trusted to dig deep and after they combined for United’s equalizer they grew in confidence and, most importantly, did the dirty work to help United reach the final.

Pogba and Sanchez aside, Mourinho was keen to ask why United have so many critics, even though they are on course to finish second in the Premier League this season and the fact that he has reached his third major final out of six tries since he arrived at the club in the summer of 2016.

“This season is successful if we finish second. If we do a better Premier League than Spurs, Liverpool Chelsea and Arsenal, if we do that I think it is successful,” Mourinho said. “To break the 80-point target to finish second against an untouchable winner is good. To make a lot more points than last season to win more matches, to score more goals, to concede less goals, to have much better results against the top teams I think is a successful teams.”

Dele Alli, Pochettino after FA Cup ouster: “We can’t keep doing this”

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This felt like a different year for Spurs, one which would include something shiny.

[ MORE: Match recap | 3 things ]

Instead, Tottenham Hotspur will exit another season without hardware after blowing an early lead and fairly controlling first half with a 2-1 loss to Manchester United in the FA Cup semifinal on Saturday at Wembley Stadium.

This was at their home venue, even if they weren’t the home team. And it just fell apart.

Here’s Dele Alli, from the BBC:

“Everyone talks. We want to win trophies, we have the staff that want to win. We can’t keep doing this. We can’t throw it away. We have got to improve.”

His boss, Mauricio Pochettino, was more upbeat regarding his Spurs project but no less disappointed in the result. The North Londoners are only going to face more questions all offseason and into next.

“I think we need to understand where we have come from,” he said. “It’s easy to talk about winning trophies. To win a trophy when you face a side like Manchester United, Chelsea or Manchester City is not easy. But the most important thing is we are able to compete.”

Tottenham is on the up, and will continue to grow in resources but not renown until it puts something in its trophy case under Pochettino. It really did feel like this could be the year.

Man Utd races past Spurs to reach FA Cup Final

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  • Man Utd reaches 20th FA Cup Final
  • Alexis plays role in both Utd goals
  • Dele scores for Spurs

Alexis Sanchez and Ander Herrera scored as Manchester United came back to beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 at Wembley Stadium in Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal.

United will meet the winner of Sunday’s semifinal between Southampton and Chelsea at Wembley on May 19.

Dele Alli scored Spurs goal.

[ MORE: Full box score ]

Spurs went ahead through Dele, as Paul Pogba lost Christian Eriksen as the Dane raced onto a long ball. Eriksen crossed to the back post for Dele’s sliding finish.

Pogba made amends in his preferred third of the pitch, stealing the ball from a Mousa Dembele and lofting an inch-perfect cross for Alexis to nod home. The headed finish was anything but easy, hit across the goal while falling to the pitch.

Michel Vorm made a save on a deflected Pogba rip in the 44th minute, and Ander Herrera hit a chance high and wide off the ensuing corner.

And Eric Dier cranked a shot off the framework in stoppage time.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

The best chance of the early second half saw Harry Kane‘s deflected shot go out for a corner, set up by Dele.

Herrera put United ahead just after the hour mark, as Lingard dummied a mistouch from Romelu Lukaku.