Three things we learned from Chelsea’s win vs. Arsenal

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LONDON — Chelsea’s procession towards the Premier League title continued on Saturday as they beat London rivals Arsenal 3-1 to all but end any slim chance the Gunners had of wining the PL crown.

[ RECAP: Chelsea batter Arsenal ]

Marcos Alonso, Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas grabbed the goals as a poor defensive display from Arsenal display saw Chelsea punish them ruthlessly.

Here’s what we learned from a sunny Stamford Bridge.


ALONSO’S GOAL DUBIOUS

If Marcos Alonso makes the challenge for his goal anywhere else on the pitch, he’s getting a free kick given against him and probably a yellow card.

Because he made it five yards from goal it seemed to be tolerated. It was a very dubious goal.

Alonso had a five-yard run on Hector Bellerin and climbed above the Spanish right back fair and square. However, his elbow was out to protect him and it smashed into Bellerin’s face. In real-time it didn’t look malicious but when you see the replays time and time again, Alonso knew what he was doing.

[ LISTEN: 2 Robbies on Chelsea v. Arsenal ]

A dazed Bellerin had to be subbed out such was the impact he felt and Arsenal never truly recovered from both his absence and the momentum the early goal gave them.

Martin Atkinson allowed the goal but the decision was at best 50-50. Alonso and Chelsea probably got away with one. When you’re running away with the title after winning 16 of your last 18 Premier League games, those are the kind of calls that tend to go in your favor.

Look below and make up your own mind…


ARSENAL’S TITLE HOPES END IN A WHIMPER

12 points back with 14 games to go, Arsenal can now safely wave goodbye to their title hopes for another season after another abject display at Chelsea.

With Arsene Wenger watching on moodily from the stands, his players didn’t look up for the physical battle and were bullied by Chelsea. Especially in midfield.

The excellent N'Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic stopped Mesut Ozil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from getting on the ball, and the lack of effort Theo Walcott made to track Alonso’s run for the opener said it all.

Desire. Drive. Determination. That was all missing from this Arsenal display.

Oxlade-Chamberlain was tasked with shutting down Kante in Chelsea’s midfield and about five minutes he ducked out of a challenge 40 yards from his own goal. Challenges like that set the tone.

Arsenal’s title hopes were on the line after their shock defeat at home to Watford in midweek. You would have never guessed that watching them limp to yet another defeat at Chelsea as they’ve now lost their last five PL trips to Stamford Bridge, conceding 15 goals and scoring three.

With the future of Arsene Wenger, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez still up in the air, the next few months could be very uncomfortable for the Arsenal board as their side battle for an FA Cup final spot and a place in the top four once again. The latter is seeming increasingly at risk given the closeness of their competitors.


HAZARD BACK TO HIS BEST

The old Eden Hazard is back.

His jinxing runs were plentiful and his goal which sealed victory reminded us of the player who took the PL by storm in the 2014-15 season.

Hazard, still just 26 years old, has now scored 10 Premier League goals this season. His best tally in a single season is 14 which he achieved in back-to-back campaigns from 2013 to 2015.

It wasn’t just his goals and his clever ducking and diving which got fans on their feet, his hunger was evident as he did plenty of work back on the edge of his own box in the first half. He was everywhere.

Much has been made of Diego Costa‘s goals and Chelsea’s switch to a 3-4-3 system improving their defense, but if they do go on to win the title then Hazard’s return to glorious form will have played just a big a part.

Now, the challenge for him will be sustaining his magic for the next two to three seasons. His mojo is back but we all saw last season how quickly it disappeared.

Championship Playoff Final preview: Huddersfield Town vs. Reading

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These two teams weren’t supposed to be here, at Wembley on Monday at 10:00 a.m. ET playing for a spot in the Premier League.

Everyone talked about how beautiful Fulham played. Everyone talked about how Sheffield kept on winning. Everyone kept talking about the favorites. Everyone wrote off the other guys.

Yet here we are. Reading, owner of a +4 goal differential. Huddersfield Town, owner of a -2 goal differential. Reading, winners over Fulham thanks to a bogus handball. Huddersfield, on to Wembley after a penalty shootout in the rain.

Here we are. The game that will catapult one team to the riches of the Premier League, the game that will send another team back to the depths of the Championship, consigned to progress with the heartbreak of knowing they were so close.

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The Championship playoff final is one of the biggest enigmas in the European soccer landscape. Teams like Reading looking to return to familiar lands of plentiful bounty, others like Huddersfield looking for glory never experienced before.

Huddersfield has not seen top flight action since 1972, and former American international David Wagner has them on the precipice. “There were a lot of statements before the semi-finals about momentum and about form,” Wagner said. “It is another example where we have proven that experience and what has happened in the past is irrelevant. After the 120 minutes against Sheffield Wednesday there were a lot of tired legs, but now after a training camp in Portugal and training on the grass here, everybody is ready to go.”

As far as form goes, Town is struggling. They drew both legs of the Sheffield Wednesday playoff semifinal 0-0, and finished the regular season on a three-match losing streak. They haven’t won a match since April 14th.

Reading, meanwhile, finished the year with wins in seven of their final nine regular season games, and they downed an attacking Fulham side 1-0 at home in the second leg of their semifinal. They’ve been stellar at winning close games all year, winning 18 regular season games by just a single goal, and losing just four, with seven draws. If Jaap Stam can lead his side back to the Premier League, it would mark just a four-year turnaround from their previous relegation from the top flight.

Riches await the winner. The sides couldn’t be more different, and yet on Monday, they both face the same brick wall.

Epic fake injury mars Hungarian league title match

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Sometimes it works out perfectly. Two teams, a title on the line, one match to decide it.

The top two teams in the Hungarian top flight, also known as the NB I, were set to play each other on the final day of the season to decide the title winner.

Budapest Honved hosted Videoton, with the winner set to win the league title. A draw would have given Videoton the victory on goal differential.

With the match 0-0 at halftime, it progressed tensely through the second half. So tense, in fact, that the teams felt they needed to do everything in their power to earn an edge. Even fake injuries. Terribly.

34-year-old Videoton striker Danko Lazovic, a veteran who has been around Europe with Zenit St. Petersburg, Bayer Leverkusen, and a host of Eredivisie teams,  looked to earn a foul in the attacking half. He put so much effort into selling the foul that, well, he went a little overboard. And by a little overboard, we mean he went berserk on the field, rolling around and flailing on his back.

There are many factors that make this an absolutely epic moment. First, his team had already earned a foul without the dive. The referee had blown the whistle for a shove moments before Lazovic went down. Second, his teammate looks to come over and help him sell the foul a little more realistically, and instead of accept his teammate’s assistance, he shrugs off the help and continues to flail. Third, as karma would have it, Honved would score the title-winning goal six minutes later as they would go on to win 1-0.

Kids, don’t try this at home. It’s not a good look.

MLS Snapshot: Atlanta United 3-1 NYCFC

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The game in 100 words (or less): Revenge, at the hands of a 3-1 scoreline. The match started out a little too fast for Atlanta, one of the quickest teams in MLS, but they settled things down and finished ruthlessly. NYCFC, meanwhile, defended miserably and failed to match the intensity of the hosts. First-round draft pick Julian Gressel was an utter menace down the right, and Miguel Almiron was decisive in front of net. NYCFC took advantage of the weekly Atlanta defensive mistake for a lifeline with 20 minutes to go, but it was too little too late.

Three moments that mattered

16′ – A big deflection off a NYCFC midfielder sprung an Atlanta attack, but the hosts took the chance well. Gressel latched onto the ball on the right edge of the box, and he cut the ball back where three Atlanta attackers were waiting unmarked. It came to Almiron, and while his finish was less than ideal, some ugly goalkeeping saw the ball slip under the armpit of a diving Sean Johnson who overshot the effort.

19′ – It came unraveled for NYCFC in a heartbeat. The right side of the defense fell asleep for a split second, allowing Hector Villaba to burst through on a ball by Yamil Asad, and Villaba finished expertly into the far top corner with Maxime Chanot unable to catch up.

23′ – Not even a half-hour gone and the game was already wrapped up, with the third goal sporting the most glaring defensive mistake by the visitors. As Gressel battled with Alexander Callens for a loose ball down the right, Callens appeared to have the edge, but instead of playing the ball, he went down under the slightest contact from Gressel. When the referee let play continue, Gressel was all by himself, and with a 4-on-1 developing, he found Almiron for the easiest of finishes.

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Man of the match: Juilan Gressel.

Goalscorers: Almiron (16′, 23′), Villaba (19′), Harrison (71′).

Serie A roundup: Roma pips Napoli for 2nd, Lazio falls

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Francesco Totti’s legendary career came to a close in fitting fashion as Roma scored a last-minute winner to secure 2nd place in the Serie A table.

On the final day of the season, Napoli’s win at Sampdoria moved them momentarily into second, but Roma snatched the spot back as Diego Perotti scored in the 90th minute to beat Genoa 3-2. Totti had come on as a 54th minute substitute.

[ MORE: Francesco Totti’s career achievements make him an all-time great ]

The win saw Roma end the season on 87 points, one above Napoli’s 86. That puts Roma into the Champions League group stage, while the third-place finish for Napoli places them in next season’s Champions League playoff round. They finish the season with a dominating 4-2 win over Sampdoria that saw four different Napoli goalscorers find the back of the net.

Below the Champions League battle, Atalanta held onto its fabulous fourth-place finish as Lazio fell 3-1 at Crotone. With Lazio already down 2-1 midway through the first half, Angolan defender Bastos received a second yellow card. Down to 10 men, Lazio still controlled the majority of possession but saw themselves outshot, only able to pop off three shots on target. The loss has no significant bearing, as both Atalanta and Lazio qualify for the Europa League group stage, while AC Milan seven points adrift in sixth makes the Europa League third qualifying round.

AC Milan finishes the season a point above rivals Inter despite a 2-1 final-day loss to Cagliari. The game was tied 1-1 down the stretch, but Gabriel Paletta was sent off with 15 minutes remaining, and Fabio Pisacane scored three minutes deep into stoppage time to give Cagliari the win.

Inter, meanwhile, finished the year on a high note as they hammered Udinese 5-2, most notably on a brace from Eder. Ivan Perisic and Marcelo Brozovic also scored in the win, while the fifth came on a late own goal. Inter finished the year on 62 points, five less than last season’s 67 which was good enough for fourth place.

Elsewhere, Fiorentina finished a disappointing season with a disappointing 2-2 home draw with last-placed Pescara, while Palermo beat Empoli 2-1 and five goalscorers helped Torino pound Sassuolo 5-2.