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.

CCL: Toronto wins; Wild Herediano comeback

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
Leave a comment

On a single-digit Tuesday that severely limited the attendance at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, where the Colorado Rapids and Toronto FC dueled in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.

Jonathan Osorio’s second half goal put the Reds in front and Sebastian Giovinco had a goal and an assist and the visitors take a 2-0 decision back to Ontario.

The best chance of a preseason quality first half saw Dominique Badji flub the best chance of the stage into the feet of Alex Bono.

Toronto took the lead, nabbing the away goal through Osorio’s header of a Sebastian Giovinco cross. And the Atomic Ant got on the board with a goal of his own off an Auro assist with 17 minutes to play.

[ MORE: Georgia teen heading to Schalke ]

Tuesday’s other first leg saw Herediano and Tigres play to a 2-2 draw in Costa Rica, with the Liga MX visitors taking a pair of away goals but shocked by a pair of stoppage time concessions.

Francisco Meza scored in the 15th minute and Lucas Zelarayan seemingly put it to bed with 15 minutes to play.

But Yendrick Ruiz converted a 90th minute penalty kick before ex-DC United forward Jairo Arrieta did this ahead of the Feb. 22 second leg in Mexico.

Another American heads to Schalke: Zyen Jones

@KingZyen
Leave a comment

Schalkamerica?

Bundesliga mainstays Schalke have added yet another American, this one 17-year-old Zyen Jones of Atlanta United. Jones is a forward with the U.S. U-17 national team.

Like Josh Sargent, who signed his deal with Werder Bremen on Tuesday, he’ll head overseas and sign a pro contract on Aug. 25, his 18th birthday.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Barca recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

Jones will join several potential USMNT teammates in Gelsenkirchen, including injured senior team midfielder Weston McKennie and youngster Nick Taitague (19). Forward Haji Wright is on loan at Sandhausen.

Report: Simon Dawkins making move to Minnesota

Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Loons are taking a flier on Simon Dawkins.

The London-born Jamaican international hasn’t done a ton since returning to MLS from Derby County, and turned 30 over the offseason, and Paul Tenorio says the player is on his way to Minnesota United.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Barca recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

Dawkins scored 14 goals between 2011-12 with San Jose, but scored just five times in his return to California and was blanked in 14 appearances last season. He registered just 10 shots in those matches.

The left winger would join an attack with Christian Ramirez, Kevin Molino, Ethan Finlay, and a pair of Generations Adidas forwards: Abu Danladi (2017 SuperDraft) and Mason Toye (2018).

Champions League Weds. preview: Sevilla-Man Utd, Shakhtar-Roma

Martin Rickett/PA via AP
Leave a comment

Jose Mourinho says Manchester United is one round away from having legitimate hopes of winning the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Barca recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

That makes the Round of 16 tie against Sevilla — beginning Wednesday in Spain — a bit of a dream qualifier for the Red Devils.

“I normally say that Champions League dreams start around the quarter-finals and not yet in the last 16,” Mourinho said on ManUtd.com. “Last 16 still looks a long way to go. When a team reaches the quarter-finals, I think it’s the moment where even the teams that are not favourites – which is our case – they start realising that anything is possible.

The injury-hit side got a bit of a boost on Tuesday in Sevilla, where Paul Pogba, Antonio Valencia, Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera all trained ahead of the first leg.

As for the hosts, manager Vincenzo Montella admitted that he hopes Pogba won’t play, and joked that he’d prefer to tie up and “padlock” Alexis Sanchez in a bid to defend against the Chilean star.

The final Round of 16 tie to start will be Roma’s pairing with Shakhtar Donetsk, with the first leg taking place in Ukraine.

Shakhtar hasn’t played in some time, but the great equalizer is the bitter cold at Donbass Arena, where the temperature is set to be between 21 and 28 degrees Fahrenheit come kickoff.

Don’t worry, Roma fans, Daniele De Rossi is busy breathing fire into any teammates angling for excuses:

“The cold weather could affect things a little because we’re not used to it but at the end of the day it comes down to how well you perform out there. We must be mentally ready from the get-go because the cold might hit us in the opening minutes.

“If it was that much of a factor, these teams would win the Champions League every year. You don’t go through because of the weather.”