Chelsea 3-1 Arsenal: Ruthless Blues continue title charge

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  • Chelsea 12 points clear of Arsenal
  • Alonso, Hazard, Fabregas score
  • Gunners lose second-straight PL game
  • 16 wins in last 18 PL games for Chelsea

Chelsea beat Arsenal 3-1 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday as Antonio Conte‘s side took another massive step towards clinching the Premier League title.

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Marcos Alonso‘s controversial first half header put them ahead, then a superb solo goal from Eden Hazard made it 2-0 and Chelsea eased to victory when Cesc Fabregas jumped off the bench and lobbed home. Olivier Giroud scored a stoppage time header which was nothing more than a consolation.

With the win the Blues remain top of the table and now have 59 points, while Arsenal has 47 and are embroiled in a battle to finish in the top four with their title chances all but over.

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Arsenal started brightly with a high-press pushing Chelsea back and that forced a mistake between Thibaut Courtois and David Luiz. The loose ball fell to Alex Iwobi but his shot deflected just wide. A let off for Chelsea.

The Blues looked dangerous on the break and from one of those counters Victor Moses won a free kick. From that set piece situation Gary Cahill headed into the ground and over the bar.

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Chelsea didn’t have to wait much longer for the opening goal as Diego Costa‘ header hit the bar, looped up in the air and the onrushing Alonso clattered into Hector Bellerin and headed home. 1-0 to Chelsea. A dazed looking Bellerin was forced off after Alonso’s elbow struck him in the face and Gabriel come on in his place.

Before half time Costa went close as he slammed a shot into the side-netting at the near post, while Shkodran Mustafi was booked for cynically hauling down Hazard on a breakaway. Chelsea went close through Pedro who forced Petr Cech into a save and then the Gunners went close agonizingly to equalizing. A corner was half cleared and then a cross from the right was met by Gabriel. The Brazilian defender sent a towering header towards goal but Courtois denied him with a sprawling one-handed save. Magnificent.

Despite that chance, and Mesut Ozil going close with a low effort, Arsenal failed to regain much of their early momentum but the Gunners only trailed 1-0 at the break.

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Koscielny made a perfect last-ditch tackle on Hazard as he threatened to race through and N'Golo Kante was at his destructive best early in the second half as Chelsea won the ball back time and time again in midfield to break up any of Arsenal’s flow.

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Then came a moment of magic which all but wrapped up the victory for Chelsea.

Hazard picked up the ball on the halfway line with nothing on. He surged past Francis Coquelin with the Arsenal midfielder all over him, then cut inside Koscielny and another Arsenal defender before tucking him past Cech. 2-0 to Chelsea a Stamford Bridge erupted.

Arsenal came close to grabbing a goal back as a cross from the left almost found Theo Walcott but Cahill snuffed out the danger to clear for a corner.

Late on Arsenal pushed to get back in the game with Giroud and Danny Welbeck coming on, and the latter had a glancing header brilliantly pushed wide by Courtois.

In the end Chelsea eased to victory as Fabregas made the most of Cech’s mistake and lobbed home to rub salt in Arsenal’s wounds, and Giroud’s late header was nothing more than a consolation for the Gunners.

Chelsea’s procession towards the title continues.

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alex Sanchez this weekend ]

The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alexis Sanchez over the weekend ]

The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

[ MORE: Chicharito talks heating up with LA FC ]

On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.