Vito Mannone

@Bradleysfight

Sunderland’s Defoe, Mannone pay visit to Bradley Lowery

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Terminally-ill Bradley Lowery has inspired many in the soccer world with his fervent love for Sunderland.

Bradley’s relationship with several Black Cats has warmed many very cold hearts, and Vito Mannone, and Jermain Defoe took some time Thursday to catch up with their ailing little buddy.

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And Bradley — who suffers from neuroblastoma — fell asleep, wearing his soccer ball drawers, in the arms of Sunderland’s star striker.

Mannone made a lot of fans last year when he admitted that his relegation fears were more for people who worked for Sunderland than the players. And clearly his heart continues to be in the right place.

Apologies to other relegation candidates, but here’s hoping Sunderland makes Bradley’s year with a run out of the zone.

Fight on, Bradley. Learn more about Bradley’s Fight here.

Mannone wants survival to save non-players’ jobs at Sunderland

Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
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Relegation means big gobs of money off the budget and/or down the drain, and that does not escape Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone.

The Italian backstop, 28, obviously wants his side to avoid the drop out of the Premier League for competitive reasons, but understands that the team goes far beyond the players and coaches.

[ MORE: Premier League Power Rankings, Vol. XI ]

And Mannone is speaking openly about his co-workers off the pitch.

From The Sun:

“I care about each individual that might lose their job. That makes it even more important to survive.

“I love this club and, for my career and for everyone involved in the club, it is vital we come out of this.

“I mean that for everyone. From the office, from the training ground, from the stadium — everyone.”

We get tied up in rivalries and occasionally avoid the human side of this massive business we call soccer, so it’s nice when someone like Mannone helps us remember the other angles. Dislike Big Sam all you like, but there are club workers hoping their paychecks continue for another year.

Sunderland 0-1 Liverpool: Benteke goal puts Reds 7th to end 2015

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  • Benteke’s 6th PL goal of the season
  • Two Benteke-sealed wins in a row
  • Reds climb to 7th in the PL
  • Black Cats stuck in 19th

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For a second-straight game, Liverpool are 1-0 victors with thanks to a goal scored by Christian Benteke. Wednesday’s victory, sealed by the Belgian striker’s 46th-minute goal, away to Sunderland comes just four days after the $50-million summer signing sealed the Reds’ home victory over Leicester City on Boxing Day.

The game’s first real chance for a goal came in the 16th minute, when Jermain Defoe unleashed a left-footed strike from 20 yards out. Simon Mignolet was quick to rise up, though, and push the ball over the crossbar.

[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]

Liverpool went agonizingly closer to opening the scoring in the 25th minute, when Roberto Firmino‘s right-footed blast from 25 yards out clanged off the right-hand post of Vito Mannone. On first viewing, it appeared the Italian ‘keeper had been beaten by the Brazilian’s swerving effort, but replays confirmed Mannone got the slightest of touches to send the ball onto the post and keep his side level.

It was Firmino who 10 minutes later forced Mannone back into action. Nathaniel Clyne whipped in a cross from the right wing and Firmino rose above the crowd to head the ball on target, but Mannone leapt back across the face of goal to push the ball wide.

[ RELATED: Latest Premier League standings ]

The second half began ever so quickly to Liverpool’s delight, as Benteke bagged the game’s opening goal just 22 seconds into the second period of play (above video). Adam Lallana played a speculative ball through the heart of the Sunderland midfield and defense, and not a single Black Cats player took initiative enough to deal with the threat, instead letting the ball roll through for the big Belgian, who once one on one with Mannone, calmly slotted his right-footed shot inside the far post.

Sunderland struggled to take the game to Liverpool after that, as the Reds enjoyed long spells of possession during the final 45 minutes and threatened to extend their lead to 2-0 far more than Sunderland did to make it 1-1.

Benteke was also the most likely to have double the Reds’ lead, but failed to convert a one-on-one chance in the 92nd minute after getting behind the entire Sunderland defense. With only Mannone to contend with, Benteke somehow managed to hit the ball straight into the legs of the ‘keeper. 1-0, the game remained and would finish.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

With the victory, the Reds, now on 30 points, climb three places in the PL table, from 10th to seventh. Behind Manchester United only on goal differential, Jurgen Klopp‘s side now sits five points back of Tottenham Hotspur for the fourth and final UEFA Champions League place. Sunderland, meanwhile, remain 19th in the league, seven points behind 17th-place Swansea City outside the relegation zone.

Chelsea 3-1 Sunderland: Champion Blues come back to finish what they started at home

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With the Championship already sealed, Chelsea made sure their home fans got one more day to remember as a pair of goals from substitute Loic Remy helped complete a comeback against Sunderland at Stamford Bridge.

Didier Drogba had the game’s first chance in the third minute as Chelsea pressed hard early, but his shot from the right post skidded across the line without going over. The Blues had another chance 15 minutes in when Branislav Ivanovic went down in the area under a challenge from Seb Larsson but the referee waved away the penalty shouts.

The Blues were the better team until the 20-minute mark before Sunderland began to build into the game. They’d get the opener on 27 minutes as Steven Fletcher headed home a corner at the far post after sneaking away from John Terry.

[ RELATED: Final Premier League standings ]

The Blues gave Didier Drogba a sendoff as he was substituted after a half-hour, replaced by Diego Costa as the Chelsea team carried the Ivorian triumphantly off. The home side was level soon after, as Juan Cuadrado won a penalty as he touched past John O’Shea and was hauled down, with Costa netting the equalizer on 37 minutes, his 20th goal of the season.

Loic Remy, on for an injured Cuadrado just before halftime, nearly marked the beginning of the second half with a stunning individual goal, but he couldn’t complete his blistering 54th minute run with a finish on target.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The comeback would be complete with 20 minutes to go as a brilliant touch from Eden Hazard got him past Jack Rodwell and Sebastian Coastes, and he poked to Remy in acres of space in front of the 18-yard box. The Frenchman stroked the ball past Vito Mannone who got a very late break on the low shot.

[ RELATED: Premier League stats ]

Remy got his second and Chelsea’s third to seal things as Matic sent a cross through the box, and Remy finished it easily with confetti covering the ground. The game finished with another three points for Chelsea, giving them 87 to finish the season with a final eight-point lead. Sunderland finishes 16th with 38 points.

LINEUPS:

Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Mikel (Christensen 78′), Matic; Cuadrado (Remy 44′), Willian, Hazard; Drogba (Costa 30′).
Bench: Courtois, Filipe Luis, Christensen, Boga, Remy, D Costa, Solanke.

Goals: Costa 37′ (pen), Remy 70′, 88′

Sunderland: Mannone, Jones, van Aanholt, O’Shea, Coates, Larsson, Rodwell, Johnson (Giaccherini 75′), Fletcher, Wickham, Defoe.
Bench: Cattermole, Reveillere, Graham, Giaccherini, Vergini, Buckley, Pickford.

Goals: Fletcher 27′

Watch Live: Chelsea vs Sunderland (Lineups and Live Stream)

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Chelsea will lift the Premier League title trophy after 90 more minutes, but first they have a season to complete, today at Stamford Bridge against Sunderland at 10am ET live on NBCSN or live online at NBC Sports Live Extra.

The home side still features a healthy amount of regulars having already secured the season championship. PFA Player of the Year Eden Hazard will is still in despite the removal of his wisdom teeth on Wednesday. Also in is Juan Cuadrado who hopes to impress Jose Mourinho and earn some time next season.

Didier Drogba starts up front in what the 37-year-old Ivorian confirmed will be his last match for the Blues, as he looks to extend his illustrious career outside of Stamford Bridge on the expiration of his one-year contract. Another man who could be earning his last start for Chelsea is Petr Cech, who starts in goal but is largely expected to change clubs this summer after 493 Chelsea appearances across 12 seasons at Stamford Bridge.

Cesc Fabregas is suspended for the match thanks to his red card against West Brom, while Kurt Zouma and Oscar miss with injuries.

WATCH LIVE: Chelsea vs Sunderland live online at NBC Sports Live Extra

For Sunderland, the Black Cats are safe from relegation but still could finish as low as 17th if they fail to win today, so Dick Advocaat will look to make this season appear much less stressful than it actually was.

Lee Cattermole is one yellow card away from a one-match suspension, so in order to avoid missing the opener next season, he is only on the bench. Seb Larsson is fit despite a midweek knock, but goalkeeper Costel Pantillimon is injured so Vito Mannone comes into the side. Despite speculation that Advocaat could name some young players in the team, he has elected against that.

LINEUPS:

Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Mikel, Matic; Cuadrado, Willian, Hazard; Drogba.
Bench: Courtois, Filipe Luis, Christensen, Boga, Remy, D Costa, Solanke.

Sunderland: Mannone, Jones, van Aanholt, O’Shea, Coates, Larsson, Rodwell, Johnson, Fletcher, Wickham, Defoe.
Bench: Cattermole, Reveillere, Graham, Giaccherini, Vergini, Buckley, Pickford.