Chelsea 3-0 Bournemouth: Classy leaders win 12th straight

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  • Pedro nabs brace
  • Hazard wins, converts PK
  • Chelsea go nine clear

It’s a dozen now for the Premier League leaders, as Chelsea handled Bournemouth 2-0 at Stamford Bridge on Boxing Day.

Pedro scored his fourth and fifth goals of the season, while Eden Hazard also netted in the Blues’ 12th-straight Premier League win.

Chelsea will match Arsenal’s record for consecutive wins in a Premier League season if the Blues can beat visiting Stoke City on Saturday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Pedro won a corner with a darting run toward a long diagonal ball that Bournemouth cleared out of play, but Chelsea’s bounding effort was collected by Artur Boruc.

The Spaniard had another chance in the 22nd minute, but couldn’t get around his wide shot to make the required curl.

Deservedly, he’d score in the 24th. Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas worked it well to find Pedro in traffic, and he dug hard into the turf to chip Boruc and make it 1-0 with a classy goal.

Bournemouth fought back as Adam Smith found Jack Wilshere, but Thibaut Courtois stopped Wilshere’s close-range effort.

At the other end, Hazard decided to try a Rabona that nearly bested Boruc. The Blues were feeling lively at home, and Fabregas came very close to dipping a free kick under the bar.

Gary Cahill fouled Wilshere outside the 18, and Bournemouth was given a free kick even though Wilshere was able to unload the ball. It meant little, as the Chelsea wall blocked the Cherries’ effort.

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It took just over three minutes for Chelsea to set-up a second, as Hazard dribbled Simon Francis into a penalty-worthy foul. The Belgian got Boruc going the wrong way to make it 2-0.

Pedro should’ve tapped in Hazard’s 53rd minute pass, but it had a bit too much zip and the exclamation point would have to wait a bit.

Bournemouth nearly pulled one back when Wilshere slid a ball through for former Arsenal teammate Benik Afobe, but Courtois made a strong save to deny the English striker.

A deflected goal in the 90th minute made it 3-0 for the leaders.

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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…

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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.”