Chelsea’s latest canter points to record-breaking title win

Leave a comment

LONDON — 10 points clear with 11 games to play. That says it all.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

“We’re going to win the league!” said Chelsea’s fans towards the end of their 2-1 win at West Ham United in the Premier League on Monday.

It’s not quite time to start tying some blue ribbons on the Premier  League trophy or planning a parade route around west London, but it’s not far off that time either as they became just the seventh team to rack up 66 points or more through the opening 27 games of a PL season.

Chelsea’s ruthless, composed display in their 2-1 win proved just how dominant they have become. Don’t look at the scoreline. It doesn’t tell the full story.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Antonio Conte‘s side have won 21 of their 27 Premier League games this season, but few were as easy as this.

“I think we played good football,” Conte said. “We created many chances to score the other goals. It is a pity to give away the other clean sheet at the end of the game. It is the second after Arsenal. We must work a bit on this aspect. I am pleased. It is not easy to play after your opponent played and won, when you know that if you drop points in these type of games, you give hope to your opponent to chase you. We played with a good pressure today but our answer was very good. I am very pleased for my players because we played very well and we controlled the game. We conceded not a lot. Our central defenders played very well against these long balls for Carroll, we defended very well. Good compact.”

That pressure will only mount in the coming weeks as Chelsea edge towards the title. With 11 games to go, everyone is waiting for Chelsea to stumble and their tricky games remaining come against Manchester City on Apr. 5 and Manchester United on Apr. 16. By the time the latter game is over, the race to win the league title may be as good as over.

Between now and then Conte knows the pressure is on.

“I think this period has started,” Conte said. “For me 11 games are a lot. Now, this period is very important to relieve the pressure in the right away. When you play the game after, you know your opponent won the game the day before. I am pleased for the commitment, the right mentality of my players. Very focused. They showed me great will to win the game and to suffer in the first half but stayed compacted but didn’t concede great chances to West Ham. Then we scored the goal, controlled the game. In some situations it is better to score more when you have the chances to better the result. I am very happy for the game because today it was.”

The reason Conte is so happy is because every single Chelsea player knew what they were doing from start to finish. They were confident, had a swagger in their step and a ruthless streak to continuously launch rapid counters as well as being able to dictate play and force opponents into mistakes.

Such has been their dominance since their 3-0 defeat at Arsenal back in September — they’ve lost just one PL game in their last 21 — there’s no reason to believe they won’t win all 11 of their remaining PL games.

If they did that they’d finish the season on 99 points, four more than the record points tally they hold from their title win in the 2004-05 campaign. They’d also set the record for most PL wins in a single-season with 32.

It seems absurd to suggest that but it is absurd how strong this Chelsea side is. They simply don’t have a weakness.

Just as much as their counters, continuity has been the key in Chelsea’s stylish canter towards the Premier League title. They’ve used 21 players in the Premier League this season, the fewest in the PL, and Conte has made just 24 team changes to his team.

We all saw last season how keeping things simple led to Leicester City’s incredible success. Chelsea have had the luxury of being able to follow that model with no European games leaving their starting lineup fresh and ready each week. It’s almost as if Conte studied Leicester’s playing style and told his Chelsea team to follow it.

It may not be easy between now and the end of the season (if it takes that long to seal the title) but they look unstoppable.

“It is not an easy ride but they aren’t going to become casual. That is 100 percent. They look very, very serious,” West Ham’s manager Slaven Bilic said. “I can see them staying on top with the quality up top but also with how solid they are and concentrated they are and most of all how physically, the shape they are in… They are 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League table for a reason.”

Conte is trying to stay calm, keeping away from praising individuals despite being asked about stunning displays from the likes of Eden Hazard and N'Golo Kante.

He was asked if he trusts his players to see this job through and deliver a title in his opening season in England?

“I must have confidence in this because I think until now we deserve to stay on top of the table and now that we stay it is important to continue to keep this position,” Conte said. “For sure it won’t be easy because Tottenham and [Manchester] City, also Liverpool, two take two points from Arsenal and two points from United today was important. The game started to be less. I think this league will be very tough until the end. I listen to the other coaches of the other teams. They trust to win. This is right to have the ambition. It is important for us to know the others have this ambition, this hunger, this will to fight and stay on top of the league. It won’t be easy. We know this.”

“For sure, I trust my players,” Conte continued. “Because my players show me commitment not only during the games but during the week, in every training session, great will to working very hard to improve our work. I trust. Absolutely.”

It’s easy to trust your players when they’re 10 points clear at the top with 11 games to go.

Sergio Aguero continues to display brilliance for Man City

Leave a comment

It’s hard to say that Sergio Aguero is an unforgotten man in Manchester City’s loaded lineup of talented attackers, but sometimes it does feel that way.

[ MORE: PL Roundup — Top three all victorious, Gunners thrash Palace ]

The 29-year-old striker proved his worth once again though on Saturday afternoon at the Etihad Stadium after scoring his second hat-trick of the 2017/18 Premier League season in Man City’s 3-1 victory over Newcastle United.

Although the match never seemed in doubt that Pep Guardiola‘s side would come out on top, Aguero has a way of finding himself in all the right positions, and more importantly, capitalizing on the chances he has when he gets into those spots.

An overwhelming amount of possession — which exceeded 80 percent in favor of Man City — gave the hosts the opportunities that it needed, and City manager Pep Guardiola has full confidence in Aguero, who continues to light up English football in his 200th PL appearance.

“I said we are not going to buy a striker because we have Sergio Aguero and in 2-3 weeks we will have Gabriel Jesus,” Guardiola said after the match. “We are so happy for him. We need a guy who scores the goals.”

The Argentine international is now tied for sixth-place in England’s top flight with seven career PL hat-tricks in his time with Man City.

The true beauty of what Aguero does though isn’t the fact that he scores so many goals, but instead how he manages to score them.

It certainly helps out when you have creative masterminds in the attack like Kevin De Bruyne, Leroy Sane and David Silva, but it’s been Aguero’s genius that has helped pace the Cityzens for so many years now.

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The veteran goalscorer kicked things off for City 11 minutes before halftime, after nodding home the slightest header into the far corner.

Aguero then proceeded to score from the penalty spot in the second stanza, before adding his final finish after finding himself in the right position when Sane decided to take on the entire Newcastle backline.

[ MORE: Wenger hails Arsenal, talks Aubameyang move ]

Overall, Aguero’s 16 goals in the PL are third-most this season, only trailing the likes of Harry Kane and Mohamed Salah — who have had superb campaigns in their own right.

One thing is for certain though, if the Cityzens go on to become the “greatest team in PL history” much of the team’s success will — and should be — attributed to its star striker in Sergio Aguero.

PL roundup: Top three all victorious, Gunners thrash Palace at Emirates

Clive Mason/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Get caught up on all seven of Saturday’s Premier League fixtures…

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Manchester City 3-1 Newcastle — FULL RECAP

For awhile it looked like a fierce fight, but Sergio Aguero’s hat-trick gave the Cityzens yet another PL win on Saturday at the Etihad Stadium.  Jacob Murphy gave the Magpies a temporary moment of relief, though, as the Newcastle front man finished off a perfectly-executed counterattack. City is once again 12 points ahead of Man United at the top of the table.

Arsenal 4-1 Crystal Palace — FULL RECAP

The scoreline indicates a rout, and that’s exactly what it was at the Emirates Stadium. The Gunners found themselves up 4-0 inside the opening 22 minutes, and that spelt absolute disaster for the Eagles, who haven’t won at Arsenal since October 1994. Arsene Wenger‘s side remains five points outside of the top four, however, that deficit could be increased to eight with Liverpool holding a match in hand.

Manchester United 1-0 Burnley — FULL RECAP

Burnley’s defense is always tough to break past, but Anthony Martial‘s second-half blast off the underside of the crossbar proved to be the difference for Jose Mourinho’s men. The Red Devils are now unbeaten in their last seven matches in all competitions, including Saturday’s PL win.

Brighton & Hove 0-4 Chelsea FULL RECAP

When the Blues are at their best, they’re so, so fun to watch. Willian‘s brilliance shone through on the day with a brilliant finish that came after one of the better combination plays you’ll see. Meanwhile, an Eden Hazard brace in the opening six minutes set the tone for Chelsea on the road, while Victor Moses gave Antonio Conte‘s side a fourth in the game.

West Ham United 1-1 Bournemouth — FULL RECAP

West Ham’s improvement under David Moyes has been noted, but they’ll need more goals from Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez in order to sustain their success. The Mexican international scored his first goal for the home side in nearly three months at the London Stadium, which proved to be critical after Ryan Fraser‘s superb strike had given Bournemouth the lead nearly a minute prior.

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Leicester City 2-0 Watford — FULL RECAP

Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez came up big on Saturday for the Foxes, who pulled themselves up to seventh place in the PL. Leicester has now held five consecutive clean sheets, as Claude Puel‘s club continues to find its best form in the second half of the season. Meanwhile, Watford’s struggles just carry on with the Hornets winless in 10 of their last 11 matches.

Stoke City 2-0 Huddersfield Town — FULL RECAP

Paul Lambert‘s Stoke picked up their first win under their new manager, after goals from Joe Allen and Mame Biram Diouf gave the Potters a much-needed victory to put the side into 17th place. The loss for Huddersfield leaves the PL newcomers just three points above the relegation zone.

Everton 1-1 West Bromwich AlbionFULL RECAP

The result did no favors to relegation side West Brom, however, the discussion of the match was undoubtedly James McCarthy‘s gruesome leg injury, which halted the match for over seven minutes. Theo Walcott made an instant impact in his Toffees debut, setting up Oumar Niasse for the game’s equalizer. West Brom had gone ahead with a Jay Rodriguez finish after just seven minutes after the attacker timed his run in on goal perfectly.

Bundesliga wrap: RB Leipzig slips; USMNT’s Chandler scores

Photo by Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images
Leave a comment

There’s congestion at the top and bottom of the Bundesliga table, as RB Leipzig fell to Freiburg and Koln continued its long climb back from a horrible start to the season.

[ RECAP: Man City 3-1 Newcastle ]

Schalke can go second with a Sunday win, while Bayern’s table lead could be as much as 16 if it wins its match.

Freiburg 2-1 RB Leipzig

The hosts moved further clear of relegation danger and put the race for second place into severe congestion with a comeback win against third place RB Leipzig.

Timo Werner had put the visitors ahead in the 65th minute, but Janik Haberer and Robin Koch scored four minutes apart to boost all three points for the hosts.

Freiburg is now seven points clear of the relegation playoff spot, while RBL’s 31 points makes it one of six teams within one point between second and seventh.

Mainz 3-2 Stuttgart

Yoshinori Muto scored on both sides of halftime as Mainz came back from 1-0 down and held on to move four points clear of 16th while Stuttgart is ahead of the victors by a single goal of differential.

Wolfsburg 1-3 Eintracht Frankfurt

American midfielder Timmy Chandler scored for the first time in three Bundesliga seasons and Eintracht Frankfurt pulled into a tie for fifth place with a win at Wolfsburg. Sebastien Haller and Luka Jovic also scored for the visitors.

“It’s not such a difficult thing whether it’s my right or left, because I can also play with my left,” Chandler joked after the win.

Hamburg 0-2 Koln

Simon Terodde scored his second and third goals in two matches for Koln, and the visitors continued their climb out of the Bundesliga basement with a third-straight win.

Elsewhere
Hertha Berlin 1-1 Borussia Dortmund — Friday
Borussia Monchengladbach 2-0 Augsburg
Hoffenheim 1-4 Bayer Leverkusen
Bayern Munich vs. Werder Bremen — 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Schalke vs. Hannover 96 — Noon ET Sunday

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Bayern Munich 18 14 2 2 40 12 28 7-1-0 7-1-2 44
 Bayer Leverkusen 19 8 7 4 39 27 12 4-4-1 4-3-3 31
 RB Leipzig 19 9 4 6 31 28 3 6-2-1 3-2-5 31
 Mönchengladbach 19 9 4 6 30 30 0 6-2-2 3-2-4 31
 Borussia Dortmund 19 8 6 5 40 25 15 4-2-3 4-4-2 30
 FC Schalke 04 18 8 6 4 29 24 5 5-3-1 3-3-3 30
 Eintracht Frankfurt 19 8 6 5 24 20 4 2-3-4 6-3-1 30
 FC Augsburg 19 7 6 6 28 25 3 4-4-2 3-2-4 27
 1899 Hoffenheim 19 7 6 6 29 27 2 5-3-2 2-3-4 27
 Hannover 96 18 7 5 6 27 28 -1 5-3-1 2-2-5 26
 Hertha BSC Berlin 19 6 7 6 27 27 0 4-3-3 2-4-3 25
 SC Freiburg 19 5 8 6 20 33 -13 4-5-1 1-3-5 23
 VfL Wolfsburg 19 3 11 5 22 24 -2 2-6-2 1-5-3 20
 VfB Stuttgart 19 6 2 11 16 24 -8 6-1-2 0-1-9 20
 FSV Mainz 05 19 5 5 9 24 33 -9 5-1-4 0-4-5 20
 Werder Bremen 18 3 7 8 14 21 -7 2-3-4 1-4-4 16
 Hamburger SV 19 4 3 12 15 28 -13 3-2-5 1-1-7 15
 1. FC Köln 19 3 3 13 14 33 -19 2-1-6 1-2-7 12

Man City 3-1 Newcastle: Aguero with perfect hat trick

Leave a comment
  • Aguero nets thrice
  • Bags second half PK
  • City table lead at 12 points
  • Newcastle two points clear of 18th

Sergio Aguero scored three times to continue his mastery of Newcastle United as Manchester City bounced back to post a 3-1 win at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

Jacob Murphy scored a second half goal to pull Newcastle to within one before Aguero finished his second hat trick of the season. The Argentine scored three and posted an assist against Watford on Sept. 16.

The win gives Man City 65 points, 12 more than second place Manchester United, and improves their goal differential to 51.

Newcastle sits 15th with 23 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Newcastle high-pressed to start, and troubled Ederson was happy to see Oleksandar Zinchenko defy a Christian Atsu cross in the first 90 seconds.

The Magpies had a 3-5-2 which was five at the back when City had the ball (which was often). Leroy Sane seemed most poised to trigger a City goal, but it remained scoreless after a quarter hour.

Raheem Sterling scored an offside goal to complete a lightning counter attack, with David Silva‘s splendid pass denied an assist by the linesman’s rightly raised flag.

Silva was fouled on the edge of the 18, and Kevin De Bruyne presided over a dangerous free kick from the right only to rifled the ball over the goal.

Newcastle backstop Karl Darlow made a save a moment before City went ahead, as Aguero just deflected — we’re talking hair not head — a De Bruyne cross home.

Darlow made a fine save on De Bruyne in the 40th minute, and another just before the break as Newcastle limited the damage to 1-0.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

City again had trouble coming through Newcastle’s tight defense, and Isaac Hayden stopped a promising pass from Sane in the 61st minute.

Paul Tierney awarded a penalty to City in the 62nd minute when Raheem Sterling dove under a Javier Manquillo challenge, and Aguero placed a perfect penalty past a correctly guessing Darlow.

Murphy then got his first goal for his club on the counter, chipping Ederson after a seeing-eye pass from Ciaran Clark put the ex-Norwich man 1v1 with the goalkeeper.

Darlow denied Sterling with an outstanding diving save after Sane’s terrific cross was turned toward the Magpies’ goal.

Newcastle could’ve had it at 2-2 when Ederson stopped Mo Diame’s hard shot but spilled the ball back to the Magpies, only to save Ayoze Perez’s rebound work.

De Bruyne and Aguero both missed curling far post efforts in bids to restore the two-goal cushion. Aguero completed his hat trick thanks to a terrific Sane assist in the 83rd minute.