Getty Images

Three things we learned from Chelsea’s win v. Man City

Leave a comment

LONDON — Chelsea beat Manchester City 2-1 at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday as Antonio Conte‘s side moved one step closer to winning the Premier League title.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Eden Hazard‘s goals in the first half were enough to guide Chelsea past a lively City who missed numerous chances and left Pep Guardiola‘s men in an intense battle for the top four.

Here’s what we learned from a tight, tense clash in west London.


PRESSURE KICKING IN

Stamford Bridge was a nervous place as the closing minutes arrived on Wednesday, especially after their shock loss to Crystal Palace on Saturday which let Tottenham Hotspur back in the title race.

With Chelsea leading 2-1 against City, Conte looked to the crowd and urged them to get behind their team after yet another nervous lull. They responded but Chelsea limped over the line and Conte revealed afterwards that the pressure was intense in such a crucial moment of the campaign.

Thibaut Courtois saved late on from Sergio Aguero and then John Stones somehow shanked an effort over the bar from five yards out to let Chelsea off the hook.

If the game ended in a draw Conte and his players could have no complaints but, just as they have done for most of this season, Chelsea found a way to dig in and win.

At the final whistle their fans were relieved more than anything. With Spurs pulling off a miraculous late win at Swansea, Chelsea holding on for three points was a massive result both on the night and in the run-in. Chelsea still have all of the chips stacked in their favor in the title race.


MIXED CHELSEA

Eden Hazard finished superbly on two occasions in the first half to lead Chelsea to victory yet again as the Belgian playmaker stepped up to be the Blues’ main man.

Speaking after the game Conte was delighted with Hazard and revealed the message he has to his players.

“He is an important player and I think also his growing in his mentality. I think he is playing a really good season,” Conte said. “This season, for all my players and for me, we will remember this season if we win. If you don’t win, it’s a good season, good job, usually I like to say only those we win write the history.”

With Hazard coming up with the goals (albeit a weak shot which should’ve been saved and a rebound from a missed PK) he stood up when his team needed him, but Chelsea had some mixed displays suggesting some players aren’t coping with the run-in well.

Diego Costa, once again, had an off day and he’s now scored just four goals in his last 12 games in all competitions for Chelsea. His hold up play was off and his own fans often lambasted him from the stands. It would not be surprising if Chelsea’s leading scorer left for China, or elsewhere, in the summer.

In goal the usually unflappable Thibaut Courtois had a nightmare for City’s goal, pinging the ball straight to David Silva and showing a severe lapse in concentration at a pivotal moment in the game. If it wasn’t for City’s slack finishing then Courtois could’ve been punished for his error.

Even though Chelsea are cantering towards the title, the ruthlessness of Conte will surely mean he’ll remember these moments and act on them over the summer.


CITY FAR OFF

After the game Guardiola said he was “lucky to have his players” and praised Man City’s display, saying they “absolutely” were the better team.

Yet, this marked two unwanted milestones for the much-lauded manager: it was the first time he’s lost six games in a league season in his coaching career, plus it’s the first time he’s lost to the same team twice in a league campaign.

Speaking after the game Guardiola was pleased with the performance, even though finishing chances remains a huge issue.

“It’s an honor to have the amazing players I have. We come here to Stamford Bridge and play the way we have, with huge personality. I’m a lucky guy to manage these guys. It’s encouraging for the future. I’m optimistic,” Guardiola said. “It’s been like this all season but in the boxes we are not good enough. We created enough to score goals. It’s our problem. But my players play in one way and that’s why I want to be here – to help Man City for years. The people who are watching us must be proud of our fans. We did everything.”

Sergio Aguero and John Stones both missed chances, the latter a gilt-edge opportunity from five yards out with a minute to go which would’ve snatched a point.

Vincent Kompany‘s return from injury was a huge positive, while Guardiola praised Fabian Delph‘s return too, but the fact that City are 14 points behind leaders Chelsea shows how far they are behind where they should be.

Guardiola can take all the positives he wants from the performance but the project is far behind where many thought it would be when he took over last summer. The Spaniard has serious work to do this summer.

Sydney FC to face Melbourne Victory in A-League final

Stefan Gosatti/Getty Images
Leave a comment

SYDNEY (AP) Sydney FC will face the Melbourne Victory in next weekend’s grand final of Australian football’s A-League after the top-ranked teams won contrasting semifinals.

[ MORE: Spurs revel in North London rule, but want more ]

While Sydney was as dominant as it has been throughout a 27-match regular season in its 3-0 win over Perth on Saturday, Melbourne needed a 70th-minute goal from striker Besart Berisha to advance with a 1-0 win Sunday over Brisbane.

Josh Brillante, Jordy Buijs and Filip Holosko scored first-half goals as Sydney continued a seemingly unstoppable drive towards its third A-League title – and its first since 2010. The video referee interceded in two of the goals, making the win contentious, but Sydney still demonstrated superiority over the young, confident and ambitious Perth side.

Sydney lost only once in 27 regular-season matches and will enter the final as a considerable favorite.

Berisha sank the hopes of his former club, Brisbane, with his late strike in Sunday’s second semifinal. While the margin was small, the Victory deserved to win after playing more assertively throughout the match.

Its semifinal victory means that the teams that finished first and second at the end of the regular season will contest the final for the fifth straight year. The final repeats the 2015 showdown between Sydney and Melbourne, which the Victory won 3-0.

Hoffenheim reaches Champions League qualifiers for 1st time

AP Photo/Michael Probst
Leave a comment

BERLIN (AP) The youngest coach in the Bundesliga, 29-year-old Julian Nagelsmann, has steered Hoffenheim to a place in the Champions League qualifiers in the club’s best ever season.

Hoffenheim could even secure its first appearance in the Champions League group stage if it holds on to third place – where it now stands after Benjamin Huebner scored in the last minute to snatch a 1-0 home win over Eintracht Frankfurt on Sunday. It has three more matches to play this season.

Huebner’s late goal, a powerful header to Sebastian Rudy’s corner, moved the side one point above Borussia Dortmund, which was held to a scoreless draw at home by Cologne on Saturday.

The goal was scored by the son of Frankfurt sporting director Bruno Huebner.

“A lucky win,” acknowledged Hoffenheim backer Dietmar Hopp, the software billionaire whose finances helped his hometown club progress from minor leagues to the Bundesliga.

A co-founder of the SAP software giant, Hopp became the first private owner of a Bundesliga side when he took a majority stake in Hoffenheim in 2015. By then he had already spent an estimated 350 million euros on the team.

However, Hoffenheim’s best appointment to date appears to be that of Nagelsmann, who took over in February 2016 after Huub Stevens stepped down for health reasons.

Then 28, Nagelsmann hadn’t even earned his coaching credentials from the German football federation (DFB). But he saved the side from relegation and Hoffenheim is enjoying its best ever season this year.

The win over Frankfurt extended its unbeaten run at home to 16 games and ensured it beat its previous best-mark of 55 points from the 2008-09 season.

As a player, Nagelsmann lined up for Bavarian sides Augsburg and 1860 Munich before turning his attention to coaching. He spent almost a decade coaching the youth sides of 1860 Munich and then Hoffenheim, for which he was also assistant coach in 2012-13.

Earlier this year, Nagelsmann was named the German football federation’s coach of the year for 2016.

Dortmund hosts Hoffenheim next weekend for a game that is likely to decide which side goes into the qualifiers and which secures automatic qualification for the Champions League.

AUGSBURG 4, HAMBURGER SV 0

Hamburger SV slipped closer to its first ever relegation in a humiliating defeat at fellow struggler Augsburg.

Hamburg, the last founding member of the league to have played every season since its formation in 1963, was left in the relegation playoff place with three games remaining.

“We’re all affected by the performance we showed today,” Hamburg coach Markus Gisdol said. “We were hoping for something different. But we’ve got over other setbacks before and have to deliver the best in the next game.”

Hamburg goalkeeper Tom Mickel and the left post denied Augsburg early on before Halil Altintop fired the home side ahead, midway through the first half.

Altintop scored another before the break, set up by Philipp Max, to give Augsburg some breathing space.

Michael Gregoritsch reacted with a brutal challenge on Dominik Kohr, for which the Hamburg midfielder was fortunate to escape with a yellow card.

Max sealed the result on a counterattack before setting up Raul Bobadilla to complete the scoring late on.

“We could even have scored more goals,” Augsburg coach Manuel Baum said. “But more than three points wouldn’t have been possible.”

Victory lifted Augsburg out of the relegation playoff place and two points above Hamburg, Wolfsburg and Mainz, all level on 33 points. Hamburg, which has conceded a league-worst 59 goals in 31 games, has an inferior goal difference to the other two.

Ingolstadt and Darmstadt occupied the automatic relegation spots. Ingolstadt was four points behind Hamburg, while Darmstadt was all but doomed, nine points behind.

Balotelli, Nice may have spoiled PSG’s title chances

Leave a comment

Monaco took care of business at the top of Ligue 1 on Saturday and now the Champions League semifinalists could be closing in on France’s crown.

[ MORE: Spurs revel in ruling North London, but want more ]

Paris Saint-Germain slipped up on Sunday with a 3-1 loss against third-place Nice, and it could spell the end for the Parisians’ hopes of winning Ligue 1 in 2016/17.

Mario Balotelli sprung Nice in front after 26 minutes with a curling left-footed effort from outside the box, before Ricardo Pereira doubled the advantage for the hosts just three minutes into the second stanza with a lovely curler of his own.

PSG managed to pull a goal back in the 64th minute as Marquinhos gave the visitors a glimmer of hope to keep their title hopes alive.

However, the final minutes of the match took a drastic turn for the worse for PSG as Thiago Motta and Angel di Maria were both shown red cards for violent tackles on Nice players.

Nice also found a third finish after PSG was dwindled down to nine men when Anastasios Donis headed home a lofted cross from the left wing.

With three matches remaining for PSG, Unai Emery’s side sits three points behind league leaders Monaco, who also have a match in hand. PSG finishes up their Ligue 1 account with matches against Bastia, St Etienne and Caen.

Video: Camilo Sanvezzo scores wonder goal for Queretaro

Twitter/@InvictosSomos
Leave a comment

Camilo Sanvezzo scored two goals on Sunday for Queretaro but many won’t even remember the score of the game after his brilliant first effort.

The Queretaro forward scored the first of two finishes in the 66th minute after winning the ball in his own half, carrying it into the Toluca end and unleashing a deadly shot from just inside midfield.

Sanvezzo eventually scored his side’s second goal in the dying minutes of the match, and his 88th minute finish proved to be the winner for Queretaro, who currently sit 13th in Liga MX.

The 28-year-old should be familiar to MLS fans after Sanvezzo’s time with the Vancouver Whitecaps from 2011 to 2013. The veteran scored 39 goals in 92 matches with the Canadian side.