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.

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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