Conte pleased with Chelsea’s resilience in victory over West Brom

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It certainly wasn’t the most convincing victory in the team’s nine-match win streak, but Chelsea did just that on Sunday — win.

[ MORE: Costa leads Chelsea to ninth straight win on Sunday ]

Antonio Conte‘s group captured a 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion at Stamford Bridge after Diego Costa netted his 12th Premier League of the campaign with under 15 minutes remaining from time.

[ MORE: Dier says EURO 2016 affected Spurs’ midfielder early in season ]

The Blues were often stifled in the outing by the Baggies and their ability to get numbers behind the ball, however, a moment of brilliance from the Spaniard in the 76th minute opened up the opportunity for the game’s lone finish. And it was one that Costa hasn’t been missing all season.

Chelsea remain atop the PL on 37 points, and Conte stated following Sunday’s victory that his side’s latest result exemplifies their “maturity and intelligence.”

“It was a very difficult game but we knew it would be, I spoke a lot in the week about the difficulty of the game because we faced a very tough team, very physical and difficult to break down,” said Conte. “I’m pleased because we showed great maturity and intelligence to find the right solution. It’s another clean sheet and now it’s important to think about the next game away at Sunderland.

“We have only two days to prepare for the game but we must be focused, it’s an important period. Christmas is very difficult for all the teams so it’s important to win, be focused and play football with good intensity.

“I’m pleased today because this game was very difficult and I like to see my team fight in the same way as West Brom, it wasn’t easy, but they showed me great character and a great motivation to win.

“I’d prefer to score early and take the lead but we know it’s not easy in this league. We are working very well on different aspects, not only tactical, but physical, to arrive at the end and play with great intensity, to run and to put great pressure on.”

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

In regards to the Italian manager’s league-leading striker, Conte believes that while the goals are great that it is Costa’s high effort up the field that makes him such a danger to opposing teams.

“He’s showing great passion, he likes to play football,” said Conte. “He’s showing me great commitment and work-rate with and without the ball to help the team. It’s important for him to continue in this way, I’m very happy with him. Diego is a great striker and he can continue to improve his football but I’m satisfied with the work we are doing with him and the team.”

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

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

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia

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…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

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.”