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.

Serie A: Juve keep winning to remain 1 point back of Napoli

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TURIN, Italy (AP) Juventus closed the gap on Serie A leader Napoli back to just one point as the six-time defending champion eased past Genoa 1-0 on Monday.

Douglas Costa scored in the 16th minute, the first conceded by Genoa in five league matches. It was a less than convincing performance from Juventus but it was never really troubled, as goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny – standing in for the still-injured Gianluigi Buffon – was little more than a spectator.

“What was important was to win,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “At the end there was a bit of nervousness because we were lacking in energy a bit.

“We could have finished off the match in the first half, and again with a couple of occasions after the break. We didn’t manage to so compliments to Genoa.”

The battle for the Serie A title is shaping into a two-horse race. Juventus moved 10 points clear of third-placed Lazio, although the capital side has a match in hand.

“The season is still long and all those who are behind us can still get back into the race,” Allegri said. “It was important to stay in Napoli’s slipstream.”

Juventus needed to win after Napoli beat Atalanta 1-0 on Sunday.

Allegri’s side started brightly and had an early chance to take the lead but Genoa goalkeeper Mattia Perin did well to keep out a free kick from specialist Miralem Panic.

However, it did not take much longer to strike. Douglas Costa passed out left to Mario Mandzukic, who played a delightful return ball for the Brazil midfielder to slot into the bottom left corner.

League Cup semi: Man City take 2-1 lead into 2nd leg vs. Bristol

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Manchester City can move one step closer on Tuesday to claiming their first of four potential trophies this season, when Pep Guardiola‘s men take on Bristol City in the second leg of the League Cup semifinal.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday ]

After coming back to beat the Robins in the first leg at home, Man City must now go on the road and take care of business to reach the Feb. 25 final at Wembley Stadium. As he has done so many times — and so famously — in the sky blue of City, Sergio Aguero grabbed the late winner (91st minute — WATCH HERE) 14 days ago.

For a few not-so-insignificant periods of the game, Bristol were very much the aggressors and appeared more likely to make the score 2-0 than for City to get back to 1-1. Bobby Reid converted from the penalty spot in the 44th minute after her was brought down under John Stones‘ wild, sliding tackle. Kevin De Bruyne leveled things up 10 minutes into the second half, setting the stage for Aguero’s late heroics.

[ MORE: Alexis-for-Mkhi swap complete | De Bruyne’s new contract ]

Since the first leg on Jan. 9, City have failed in their bid to finish the PL season with an unbeaten record before bouncing back to beat Newcastle United on the weekend, courtesy of a hat trick from Aguero — Guardiola quotes, from Sport24:

“I said many times it was going to happen, we can lose, so (it is) important the reaction we have. Still we have 42 points to play (for). It is 14 games. It is a lot of games to play and difficult games like Saturday and like Liverpool. It is important to show the team is still there but I don’t have the feeling we give up.

“We want to go through to the final in the (League) Cup and the FA Cup, so (we have) a lot of games but I think the people have the desire to keep going, to keep going, to keep going.”

[ MORE: One dream January signing for each top-six side ]

Bristol, meanwhile, have fallen on hard times: it’s been nearly a month (Boxing Day, to be specific — five losses, one draw) since Lee Johnson’s side last won a game in any competition, and they’ve fallen from second to fifth in the Championship table — Johnson quotes, from the Guardian:

“We don’t want to be brave losers, we want to compete to win. It’s up to the players to be focused and tactically aware, and who knows what will happen if we can show the same quality as we have shown in the previous rounds?

“We have to make sure we’re really bold. If you’re going to deliver a corner, do it like you mean it. I’d rather fail bold than fail timid. We know we have to score. I hope Pep picks his absolute best team and we can give them a right go. I’m not sure you could go and play an under-23 side against us at the moment and I think he’ll know that.”

The winner of Arsenal versus Chelsea (0-0 after the first leg) awaits in the final.

The 2 Robbies: Alexis-Mkhitaryan Swap Becomes Reality

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe react to the Alexis Sanchez-Henrikh Mkhitaryan swap deal between Arsenal and Manchester United finally becoming reality (0:20), Swansea’s stunning 1-0 victory over Liverpool (9:20), Southampton’s much-needed draw with Spurs (22:30) and Watford’s decision to part ways with Marco Silva (36:20). The gents end the show sharing their memories of the late English striker, Cyrille Regis (39:45).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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Inter Milan sign Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan

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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan completed the signing of Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan until the end of the season, with a view to a permanent move.

Inter can sign the Brazil international permanently for $43 million plus $3.7 million in bonuses, and said on Monday that option “must be taken up before the end of the season.”

Rafinha, who was born in Sao Paulo, had been at Barcelona since 2006, when he joined its youth team. He spent the 2013-14 season on loan at Celta Vigo.

After nine months out after surgery on his right knee, he made his first appearance of the season last week as a late substitute in Barcelona’s Copa del Rey defeat at Espanyol.

“It’s an important stage in my life,” he said, “and I had a lot of desire to approach this new phase in my career.”

Inter has slipped to fourth in Serie A, 11 points behind leader Napoli.

It could slip out of the Champions League places if Roma wins its match in hand on Wednesday.

“I hope to play in as many matches as possible and help the team to reach our objective which is Champions League qualification,” Rafinha said.