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.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ] 

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.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

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.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings

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.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

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.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score

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.

UEFA: Wales in trouble; Spain dominates; Buffon hits 1000

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Friday’s matches mark the midway point of the main round of qualifying in UEFA, and the tables remain tight near the top of Groups D and G.

[ MORE: Smalling hurt, Gibson called up ]

Group I, however, is seeing some distance between first and second thanks to Croatia’s result versus Ukraine.

Republic of Ireland 0-0 Wales

Neil Taylor was sent off in the 69th minute for Wales, whose World Cup hopes are in trouble.

Seamus Coleman was stretchered off after the tackle, with a scary-looking injury that will leave Everton fans sick in more ways than one. Coleman’s leg was broken, and left dangling by the challenge.

Ireland couldn’t take advantage of the sending off, and failed in a bid to overtake Serbia for first in Group D. The Irish trail on goal differential, and will host Serbia on Sept. 5.

But Wales will rue the result more, remaining four points back of second-place Ireland. Chris Coleman’s side drops a point behind Austria as well, and will not have Taylor or Gareth Bale (card accumulation) in its next match. That comes against leaders Serbia.

Italy 2-0 Albania

Daniele De Rossi scored a 12th minute penalty kick won by Andrea Belotti, and Ciro Immobile scored late to provided the goals in Gianluigi Buffon’s 1000th appearance for club and country. Fittingly, it ended in a clean sheet. The match was briefly delayed after flares were thrown onto the field.

Spain 4-1 Israel

David Silva, Vitolo, and Diego Costa stakes the Spaniards to a three-goal lead, with Lior Refaelov ruining David De Gea‘s clean sheet with 11 minutes to play. Isco scored the match’s final goal.

Spain remains atop Group G on goal differential, eight better than second place Italy. Israel is four points behind both.

Croatia 1-0 Ukraine

Fiorentina’s Nikola Kalinic’s 38th minute goal was enough for the hosts, and Croatia is now five points clear at the top midway through qualifying.

Elsewhere
Austria 2-0 Moldova — RB Leipzig’s Sabitzer nabs winner
Liechtenstein 0-3 Macedonia — Ilija Nestorovski bags brace
Kosovo 1-2 Iceland — Sigurdsson PK the match winner
Georgia 1-3 Serbia — Mitrovic, Tadic lead the way
Turkey 2-0 Finland — Brace for Cenk Tosun

Boro’s Gibson called to England after injury to Man Utd’s Smalling

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Scoring goals has been the biggest problem for Middlesbrough in its return to the Premier League, and that overshadows how well the Northeast club has defended its own goal.

Ben Gibson has been a huge part of that, and now he’ll earn the chance to represent his nation thanks to an injury to Chris Smalling. Gibson will join England ahead of Sunday’s home World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.

[ MORE: Podolski leads Germany past England ]

Gibson has far and away been Boro’s best player, leading the side in blocked shots and clearances. The blocked shots total is tied for ninth in the Premier League, 11 behind current leader and new England teammate Michael Keane.

Smalling’s undisclosed injury is a bigger problem for Manchester United, which had already lost center back depth on England duty when Phil Jones was hurt.

Dele Alli to miss next three European matches, UCL or UEL

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Tottenham Hotspur is primed to qualify for a second-straight UEFA Champions League campaign this year, and will have to start that sophomore run without Dele Alli.

The 20-year-old playmaker has banned for his next three matches. If Spurs finish fourth, that would mean both qualifying matches and an additional match.

[ MORE: Five questions for USMNT ]

If they finish higher, Dele will miss the first three group stage matches.

Dele was shown red for a tackle on Brecht Dejaegere in Spurs’ 2-2 draw with Gent in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32, as Tottenham left the tournament.

Men in Blazers podcast: Man City-Liverpool review, USMNT preview

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Rog and Davo recap the Top Four battle between Manchester City and Liverpool, ask (again) whether it’s time for Arsene to go, and break down two of the most important USMNT games in modern history.

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