West Brom 0-1 Chelsea: Batshuayi’s late goal wins the title

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  • Batshuayi’s 2nd PL goal wins the title
  • Baggies held on for dear life for 81 minutes
  • Conte’s debut season ends in a title

After taking over the Premier League lead on Dec. 11, it was always going to end this way: Antonio Conte‘s first season in England has resulted in a sixth first-division title (fifth in the PL era) for Chelsea.

[ MORE: Full “Chelsea Champions” reaction, here ]

Friday’s 1-0 victory away to West Bromwich Albion, in which Conte’s side was held in check for more than 80 minutes, was the final nail in the coffin of Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea’s closest competitors, and now they can’t be caught.

The Blues’ first-half chances amounted to little more than a pair of speculative efforts from just outside the 18-yard box early on, and a moon-bound blast from Diego Costa two minutes before halftime. Pedro spotted a narrow corridor through a sea of bodies and fired toward goal, but the Spaniard’s effort went just wide of Ben Foster‘s left-hand post. Cesc Fabregas also failed to test Foster, as his low, bouncing effort from near the corner of the penalty area flashed across the face of goal and wide of the opposite post.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Chelsea bent in transition as West Brom threatened on the counter on three notable occasions during the first half, but refused to break. David Luiz and Gary Cahill eventually arrived in the nick of time to clear danger each time Chris Brunt and Salomon Rondo asked of them.

The second half began with Foster making a spectacular diving save to deny Victor Moses. The Nigerian wing back unleashed a low, flat-line strike across the face of goal which would have found the inside netting if not for Foster’s fingertips at full stretch.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The deluge of Chelsea chances continued five minutes later, as Eden Hazard raced past Jonny Evans inside the penalty area and cut the ball back toward Pedro atop the six-yard box. Craig Dawson intervened and cut out the cross but redirected it toward his own goal which Foster had long since vacated. If not for Claudio Yacob‘s clearance off the line, an own goal might have clinched the title.

Rondon threatened, again on the counter, in the 70th minute. For the first time in months, a scenario in which Chelsea might not win the title seemed to have presented itself as the Venezuelan raced past Chelsea’s backline before skying his effort well over the crossbar. Two minutes later, another West Brom counter presented Nacer Chadli a chance to help his former club, Tottenham, but the Belgian’s low, driven shot went just wide of Thibaut Courtois‘ right-hand post.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Michy Batshuayi broke the deadlock in the 82nd minute, when Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross found the Belgian striker inside the six-yard box. Batshuayi finish came from the slightest of touches, and Foster so nearly made the save, but the ball bounced underneath him and into the back of the net.

Still waiting for these Premier League summer transfers to hit

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They seemed like hits at the time, but some significant summer transfer buys are are struggling in the Premier League.

[ MORE: LAFC close to signing third DP ]

Whereas Mohamed Salah, Nemanja Matic, and Alvaro Morata have been solid pickups, and even lesser moves like Kurt Zouma to Stoke and Grzegorz Krychowiak to West Brom have hit the spot, some purchases just have not panned out at their new clubs.

Some aren’t getting playing time, while others aren’t hitting their stride, but here are some moves which just haven’t paid off (yet).

Andre Gray, Watford — The striker has two goals and two assists, but has had problems keeping hold of the ball and has the same amount of goals as defender Daryl Janmaat and midfielder Will Hughes despite playing about 300 percent of their minutes.

Marko Arnautovic, West Ham — The ex-Stoke player was a menace in a midweek draw against Arsenal, but Arnautovic has managed just one goal for the Irons this season. That’s equal to his amount of red cards.

Renato Sanches and Roque Mesa, Swansea City — Sanches hasn’t been able to get into the squad despite being one of the more talked about loans of the summer; Mesa may be coming around in recent weeks, but was an unused sub or not in the squad in 10 of Swans’ first 13.

Jese, Stoke City – The Real Madrid attacker was almost certain to take time to adjust to the Premier League, but his match-winner against Arsenal on Opening Day remains his lone marker.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Liverpool — His deadline day move to join Liverpool, supposedly to play centrally, seemed a head-scratcher. He’s only recently seen consistent minutes in a more central role despite Liverpool having loads of problems there. Maybe that’s on Jurgen Klopp, but we’re still scratching our heads.

Report: Galaxy close to scooping up thrice-capped USMNT keeper

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The LA Galaxy may be turning to its Cali Clasico rival for a new goalkeeper.

Reportedly denied in its pursuit of longtime Vancouver backstop David Ousted, the Galaxy are said to be close to scooping up thrice-capped USMNT keeper David Bingham from San Jose, according to ESPN.

[ MORE: LAFC close to signing third DP ]

The deal would reportedly cost LA between $200,000 and $250,000 in TAM.

Bingham, 28, lost his starting gig to Clemson product Andrew Tarbell this season, and the latter looks intent on keeping the position.

The Galaxy have not had a long-term answer in goal since Jaime Penedo left the club in 2015 (though 24-year-old Jon Kempin showed some very good things last season). Bingham would be a fine addition for a Galaxy team that hemorrhaged the second-most goals in MLS.

FIFA worried about government interference in Spain

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Concerned about the independence of the Spanish soccer federation, FIFA said Friday it will send a delegation to the country to investigate government meddling.

FIFA said in a statement written in Spanish that it had recently sent a letter to the federation “expressing our concern for the situation that the federation is going through and reminding (its officials) that, according to the Statutes of FIFA, all member federations must manage their affairs independently and assure that there is no interference by third parties.”

Spanish newspaper El Pais reported earlier Friday that the FIFA letter warned of a possible suspension because of the government’s push to hold elections following the arrest of federation president Angel Maria Villar in July on suspicion of corruption.

[ PL PREVIEW: Chelsea vs. Southampton ]

According to El Pais, FIFA is concerned that the government’s interest in federation elections could be considered outside meddling and break its rules. If the national federation were to be suspended, Spain’s team would not be allowed to play at next year’s World Cup.

FIFA’s statement made no mention of a suspension or other punitive measures.

But the scare was big enough for Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to say that Spain will not miss soccer’s biggest event.

“I am sure that Spain will go to the World Cup in Russia and that it will win it,” Rajoy said at a news conference in Brussels.

FIFA added in its statement that “in the coming days” it will send a delegation, which will include representatives from UEFA, to Madrid to “observe and analyze the situation” of the Spanish soccer federation.

The federation said in a separate statement that its interim president, Juan Luis Larrea, had spoken with FIFA and UEFA officials at the World Cup draw on Dec. 1 and that he had passed on their “enormous concern” to Spain’s minister of education, culture and sport.

The Spanish federation said it was waiting for the ministry to set a date for a meeting.

Spanish police arrested Villar, his son, and two other soccer officials in July on suspicion of improper management, misappropriation of funds, corruption and falsifying documents.

Villar was replaced by Larrea, the body’s treasurer for three decades. Critics of Villar argue that elections are needed to make a clean start for the institution that has been tarnished by the scandal.

Newcastle linked with targets as Benitez begins transfer quest

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Newcastle United’s players have canceled their Christmas party, as manager Rafa Benitez admits he’s working on January gifts for the St. James’ Park set.

The Magpies have one point from their last eight matches, and face Arsenal, West Ham, and Manchester City in the run-up to the New Year, closing off a run of five matches in 16 days with Brighton and Stoke.

[ PL PREVIEW: Man City vs. Spurs ]

Benitez says he’s begun talks with managing director Lee Charnley about the January window. The team is expected to make moves whether Mike Ashley completes a reported sale of the team or not. From Sky Sports:

“At this time it is just to talk about ideas,” he said. “You might say ‘I would like to sign this player’ and someone will say ‘£40m’ – maybe it is not realistic.

“The main thing, we had this conversation, then we have to move forward quickly. I don’t know the details but at least we were talking about that. We have to progress and it is so obvious that we have to improve things.”

Newcastle has been linked with a number of notable names a few weeks from the start of the January market, including Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere, prolific Besiktas striker Cenk Tosun, as well as Liverpool’s Danny Ings and Manchester United’s Luke Shaw.