With one round left to play in the English Premier League, Chelsea have secured a top four spot, guaranteeing them a return to UEFA Champions League. It’s only slightly ironic that somebody who may not be with them next fall was the one to seal their fate; somebody who is now the leading scorer in club history.
With two second half goals today at Villa Park, Frank Lampard lifted Chelsea to a 2-1 win at Aston Villa, giving the third place Blues a six-point lead on fifth place Tottenham Hotspur. If Spurs get full points, they would also have to turn around a 17-goal gap in goal difference. And the Blues would have to lose next weekend at home against Everton.
Lampard’s goals also move him to 203 in his Chelsea career, passing Bobby Tambling to sit first on the club’s all-time scoring list. His 15 league goals also mark the third time in his career he’s reached that plateau, this being the 10th consecutive season Lampard’s posted double-digit tallies.
Lampard’s first pulled back Christian Benteke’s early opener, the Chelsea midfielder finishing high past Brad Guzan after his left-footed shot took a slight deflection off defender Nathan Baker. Minutes after Benteke had been sent off (evening the sides at 10 after Ramires’s earlier dismissal) and with just under half an hour to play, the Blues were even: 1-1.
Then in the 88th minute, Lampard was in the right spot as work from Eden Hazard and Ashley Cole gave the Belgian attacker a chance to slam a ball across the face of goal. Lampard was far post for the easy finish, one that likely pushes his club into Champions League.
Lampard, however, may not experience that campaign. With no contract for next year (and, reportedly, an offer only recently coming), the 12-season veteran at Stamford Bridge could be leaving the club, with only the Europa League final and the season finale next weekend left on his current Chelsea schedule. With 203 all-competition goals in 606 appearances, Lampard will leave the club as one of its most heralded players, if performances like today’s can’t forge a future for him at Stamford Birdge.
Sometimes, soccer players can be accused of being too disconnected from the fans who travel across their country to support their side. But not Pontus Jansson.
The Leeds defender traveled to London Thursday evening to join Malmo fans as they marched, sang, and chanted outside Stamford Bridge. It’s unclear if Jansson actually went into the stadium for the Europa League match, but what is clear is that he’s never lost his affection for his boyhood club. He even led some supporters in one of the Swedish club’s chants.
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Jansson joined Malmo’s youth academy in 2006 and made his professional debut for his hometown side in 2009, playing in Sweden until 2014. Jansson has been a regular for Leeds each of the last three seasons since joining from Torino.
Like thousands of other Malmo fans, he probably figured this was his best chance to see a European away game of his favorite club close by. So there he went from Leeds to London to join the Malmo fans.
Mark it down.
The Premier League announced that the 2019-2020 season will begin on Saturday, August 10. That’s just 90 days after the 2018-2019 season will finish on May 12.
In addition, the Premier League is continuing with closing their summer transfer window before the start of the season. August 8, at 5 p.m. local is the next transfer deadline day.
Additional news about next season’s schedule is expected to be announced in the coming months.
Manchester United opened the 2018-2019 season on Friday, August 10 with a 2-1 win over Leicester City.
Arsenal looked right at home back in the friendly confines of the Emirates Stadium.
After losing twice on the road this month, including a surprise 1-0 defeat last Thursday to BATE Borisov, Arsenal took care of business at home. The Gunners defeated BATE, 3-0 on the night (3-1 on aggregate), with goals from centerbacks Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis Papastathopoulous, while BATE’s Zakhar Volkov scored an own goal early to tie the scoreline between the two legs.
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South of the Emirates Stadium, Chelsea built on their 2-1 aggregate lead over Malmo FF with a resounding 3-0 win. Malmo finished with ten men and the game was highlighted by goals from Callum Hudson-Odoi and a Ross Barkley free kick.
With the wins, both Premier League sides advance to the Europa League Round of 16. The draw for the Round of 16 will be held on Friday, with matches taking place March 7 and 14.
Arsenal took an unexpected lead in the fourth minute of the match. A seemingly harmless cross from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was somehow turned into his own net by BATE centerback Zakhar Volkov. After some shaky moments early, Arsenal settled in and controlled the match, leading to the go-ahead goal. Granit Xhaka played the first of his two assists as Mustafi got on the end of a corner kick to head the ball in for a goal.
In the 60th minute, Sokratis’ header off a corner kick put the game away and allowed Arsenal fans to relax for the final half-hour of play.
Chelsea, meanwhile, didn’t get the early goal like Arsenal but didn’t end up needing it.
Maurizio Sarri sat Jorginho, David Luiz and Marcos Alonso and it led to a better defensive performance, albeit Malmo isn’t a world beater. Olivier Giroud opened the scoring in the 55th minute with a tap-in after great work from N’Golo Kante and Willian. It was Giroud’s sixth Europa League goal this season.
Barkley delighted the Stamford Bridge crowd with a terrific free kick from the edge of the box in the 74th minute and Hudson-Odoi put the cherry on top with a right-footed strike ten minutes later.
PARIS (AP) Veteran midfielder Lassana Diarra announced his retirement on Thursday, hours after he terminated his contract with French league leader Paris Saint-Germain by mutual agreement.
The 33-year-old Frenchman joined PSG in January 2018 and his contract was set to expire in June. Diarra’s career ends after 15 years and many high profile stops. He played for Arsenal, Chelsea and even Portsmouth in England, as well as spending three strong seasons with Real Madrid.
After Real Madrid, Diarra became a journeyman, playing two seasons in Russia and part of a season in the United Arab Emirates. With PSG, Diarra made 10 league appearances last season under former coach Unai Emery, and has made only three in the league this season in Thomas Tuchel’s team.
Diarra made 34 appearances for France and was a regular starter during the qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup.