Sunderland 3-4 Chelsea: Blues grab crucial away win as Hazard dazzles (video)

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Chelsea kept up the heat on league leaders Arsenal by sealing a dramatic 4-3 win over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Wednesday.

Eden Hazard scored twice in a fantastic display, while Frank Lampard added another and an own goal from Sunderland defender Phil Bardsley handed them the win. Sunderland had gone ahead through USMNT striker Jozy Altidore and pegged Chelsea back to 2-2 when captain John O’Shea scored in the second half but Bardsley cancelling out his own goal wasn’t enough to grab the Mackems anything.

With the pulsating win Chelsea stay hot on the heels of Arsenal and are in second and just four points behind the league leaders. As for Sunderland, Poyet’s men stay bottom of the league despite a display full of passionate and commitment.

Sunderland started the brighter of the two sides and pressed the Blues high up the pitch early on.

However it was Chelsea who had the first real effort as Juan Mata’s cross from the right almost found Hazard who rushed in at the back post but couldn’t get on the end of the delicious delivery.

After that Sunderland settled themselves and looked quite comfortable in possession and kept Chelsea at bay. Then the went ahead as Craig Gardner’s free kick pin-balled around the box and found its way to U.S. international Atlidore who turned his man superbly before rifling home his first Premier League goal for Sunderland.

The Black Cats were flying and pushed to try and double their lead, however Chelsea surged back and just six minutes later they were back on level terms. An over-hit cross from the right found left back Cesar Azpilicueta on the left and his delightful cross found Lampard unmarked in the six-yard box to head home his 208th goal for the Blues and make it 1-1.

After that equalizer the match ebbed and flowed but it was Chelsea who took the game by the scruff of the neck as Belgian international Eden Hazard made it 2-1 in the 36th minute. The tricky winger cut in from the left and took on two Sunderland defenders at pace before blasting an effort into the far corner to give put the West London side ahead.

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Jozy Altidore bagged his first PL goal for Sunderland but it wasn’t enough to get his side a point.

Hazard was a marked man after that terrific striker and Andreas Dossena put in a crunching tackle on the Chelsea youngster. He was limping around gingerly for a while but stayed on as the Blues saw out the half with a 2-1 lead.

Following the break Sunderland came roaring out of the traps as they pinned Chelsea back and made it 2-2. A set piece caused havoc in the box and as the Blues failed to clear Sunderland captain O’Shea slotted home as the Black Cats were back in business. Minutes later Chelsea should have been ahead after Hazard wriggled free and smashed a terrific effort in on goal that found Fernando Torres wide open by the Spaniard somehow smashed his effort over the bar.

Only five of Chelsea’s last 43 goals have come from their strikers… misses like that explain why.

But, it was that man Hazard again who came to Chelsea’s rescue as he jinxed in from the left and played the ball into Lampard. The English midfielder then played hazard in with a cheeky back heel and the Belgian side-stepped a few challenge before curling the ball home to make it 3-2.

Chelsea continued to push forward to try and kill the game off and Demba Ba went clean through and thought he’d been taken out by O’Shea as his shot went wide but referee Phil Dowd was having none of it. The Blues then looked to be home and dry as a cross from the right was needlessly knocked into his own net by Bardsley, however minutes later the Mackems right back made amends as he made it 4-3 and gave the Black Cats hope of a dramatic comeback.

In stoppage time Sunderland threw everything at Chelsea but couldn’t quite create an opening despite their best efforts as the Blues and Jose Mourinho hung on for the win.

LINEUPS

Sunderland: Mannone, Bardsley, Dossena, O’Shea (C), Brown, Ki, Colback (Larsson, 57), Gardner (Fletcher, 80), Borini, Giaccherini (Johnson, 65), Altidore.

Goals: Altidore (14), O’Shea (50), Bardsley (86)

Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta; Ramires, Lampard; Willian (Schurrle, 90), Mata (Mikel, 81), Hazard; Torres (Ba, 65)

Goals: Lampard (17), Hazard (36 & 62), Bardsley OG (84)

Inter Milan back in the Champions League after late heroics (video)

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It’s been more than a half-decade since Inter Milan qualified for the UEFA Champions League, an infamous run that ended on Sunday.

Inter scored twice in the final 13 minutes to beat fifth-place Lazio and advance into the Top Four via head-to-head record.

[ MORE: Man Utd youngster gets USMNT call-up ]

Lazio held 1-0 and 2-1 leads, but could not get the job done at home, collecting red cards in the 79th minute and stoppage time.

Uruguayan midfielder Matias Vecino scored his third goal of the season, redirecting a corner kick home in the 81st minute, as Inter clinched fourth place in Serie A.

Matic: Man Utd needs more experience in its squad

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Nemanja Matic would like to see a bit more veteran bravery in his Manchester United side.

The title-winning 29-year-old midfielder finished second in the Premier League this season, his first with the Red Devils after a strong run with Chelsea.

[ MORE: Man Utd youngster gets USMNT call-up ]

The Blues beat United in Saturday’s FA Cup Final, and Matic says the answer to winning hardware isn’t in talent as much as it is wisdom.

From the BBC:

“The only team who is better than us this year is Man City,” said Matic. “Obviously, they play amazing football. But we are second and we are in the Champions League next year, which is the most important thing. I think we need some players with some experience to bring some more qualities to our team.”

United loses one veteran cog in Michael Carrick, and both Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney have skipped town in the last year.

Who could fit the bill in terms of old hats in current United positions of weakness? Well, a full offseason for Alexis Sanchez will help, and perhaps the rumors of Toby Alderweireld make the most sense of any we’ve seen in recent weeks.

MLS Things: Shuttleworth, Quintero somehow get Loons a point vs. SKC

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Entering the day, no one was arguing that hosts Minnesota United were a better side than Sporting KC.

The Loons were 11 points and 19 goals worth of differential behind Western Conference-leading KC.

[ MORE: Other MLS Things — The Archive ]

They still are, despite a 1-1 Sunday match which carried a fitting disparity on the pitch but nothing to separate the two on the scoreboard.

Khiry gets his just desserts

Oregon State product Khiry Shelton has been wonderful for Sporting KC this season, but the striker just hasn’t found the back of the goal.

That finally changed Sunday, when his downbound header got the better of Bobby Shuttleworth — more on him later — and allowed him a richly-deserved first SKC goal which could well break down the dam.

The eighth minute saw Shelton score his goal on one of just six Loons shot attempts.

Shuttleworth back in business

It’s not always sexy to go to the veteran backstop, but it looks like Adrian Heath should’ve called Bobby Shuttleworth’s name a long time ago.

Entering the day, Shuttleworth had the second-best WhoScored.com rating of any goalkeeper to appear in more than five matches (Evan Bush).

While certainly part of that has to do with the defensive actions foisted upon him, Shuttleworth was the main reason SKC’s 24-6 advantage in attempts failed to turn into anything other than a point.

Darwin

Darwin Quintero has had more good matches than bad ones since joining the Loons, and added his third goal in seven matches with this rebound finish on Sunday.

Quintero had two goals and four assists in 17 Liga MX matches, but has been perfectly revitalized by the Minnesota air.

VIDEO: Coutinho scores brilliant curler; Iniesta walks off

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It’s often funny to read the A. in front of Andres Iniesta’s surname on his match jersey, as if there’s any other.

On Sunday, the 34-year-old midfielder walked off the field for the last time (video at bottom) as a Barcelona player, handing the captain’s arm band to Lionel Messi and beginning a new era for both the club and player.

[ MORE: Bayern salutes Heynckes (again) ]

Barcelona beat Real Sociedad 1-0 on Sunday in the final La Liga match of the season.

While the match will be remembered as Iniesta’s last with Blaugranas, Philippe Coutinho gave a glimpse of the future with his eighth goal of the season and sixth in his last five games.

Barca finishes a 1-loss season with 99 goals and a 14-point lead over La Liga runners-up Atletico Madrid.