Stoke City 3-2 Chelsea: Assaidi’s screamer hands Potters massive win (video)

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Stoke City pulled off a huge shock at the Britannia, as they beat high-flying Chelsea 3-2 on Saturday thank to Oussama Assaidi’s late winner.

The winger, on-loan from Liverpool, smashed home a beauty in stoppage time to seal a magnificent win for the Potters and send them comfortably into mid-table. In a topsy-turvy affair, Chelsea went ahead through Andre Schurrle but Peter Crouch leveled just before the break. After half time Stephen Ireland put Stoke back ahead, but that man Schurrle bagged his and Chelsea’s second to make it 2-2.

It looked as though the game would end in a draw but Assaidi’s stunning strike was enough to hand Stoke just their second win in 12 PL games. Stoke rise to 12th with the win, while Chelsea missed out on the perfect opportunity to close the gap on Arsenal to just one point as they drop to third.

A bright start from Chelsea saw German international Schurrle burst into the box in the 9th minute but his pull back to Ramires saw the Brazilian forced to hit it first time and he smashed it over the bar.

Moments late Schurrle himself put Chelsea ahead as he cut in from the left, jinxed to his left and right before smashing an effort across goal and into the far corner to put the visitors 1-0 up. Stoke had the stuffing knocked out of them with that goal but they kept lobbing the ball forward and put Chelsea under pressure.

source: Getty Images
Two fantastic goals from Schurrle wasn’t enough for Chelsea as they lost to Stoke.

In the 24th minute Juan Mata released Eden Hazard on the left who sent a terrific cross into the danger area that Fernando Torres couldn’t quite connect with as Chelsea pushed for a second goal. Stoke battled hard for a way back in the game as Johnathan Walters and Crouch battled hard up front to feed off the scraps.

The remainder of the first half played out evenly and just before the break Stoke got the goal that craved. Marko Arnautovic set up Crouch to score and lift the roof off the Britannia, as the teams went in level 1-1 at the break.

After the break the home side were buoyed by their equalizer and were soon 2-1 up as substitute Ireland curled a beauty into the far corner to send the Britannia into delirium. However that lead did not last for long as Chelsea instantly equalized to make it 2-2, as German international Schurrle smashed home from the edge of the box.

It was a pulsating end-to-end the game, as both teams looked to go ahead and Schurrle thought he’d grabbed his and Chelsea’s third goal when he smashed an effort past Asmir Begovic in Stoke’s goal but his effort rattled the crossbar.

In the 66th minute Ireland went close to putting Stoke 3-2 up but he blasted his effort miles over the bar when he was found in the box. A huge battle ensued in the closing stages as both teams pushed hard to go ahead, but the closest Chelsea came to taking all three points arrived when Frank Lampard hit a low free-kick under the wall but Begovic saved easily.

But the killer blow for Chelsea arrived in the final minute, as Stoke won the game thanks to Assaidi’s terrific strike. Jose Mourinho was left shaking his head after the final whistle, as his team have conceded six goals in two games away from home in the last four days.

Full credit to Stoke, who never gave up and their fighting spirit shone through to bag them all three points.

LINEUPS

Stoke City: Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross, Huth, Muniesa; Walters (Assaidi, 84), Nzonzi, Whelan (Palacios, 86), Adam (Ireland, 17), Arnautovic; Crouch

Goals: Crouch (42), Ireland (50), Assaidi (90)

Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Ramires, Mikel (Lampard, 70); Hazard, Mata, Schurrle (Eto’o, 70); Torres (Ba, 59)

Goals: Schurrle (9 & 53)

Report: Spurs, Inter close to deal for Eriksen

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After months of posturing and working the back channels, it would appear that Christian Eriksen is close to getting his transfer away from Tottenham Hotspur.

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After months of posturing and holding firm, it would appear that Tottenham are close to getting their desired transfer fee for Eriksen despite his contract having only six months remaining.

After months of posturing and unsettling the 27-year-old star, it would appear that Inter Milan are close to getting their Danish international playmaker.

In the end, it would appear that everyone is going to get what they want, only no one truly gets what they want. Spurs spent the last year trying to sign Eriksen to a new contract; Eriksen wanted to leave in the summer and will feel like they wasted six months of his career; much like Inter would have been desperate to bolster their squad in the summer.

[ MORE: Mourinho in favor of PL’s winter break, but says timing all wrong ]

$22 million — the amount Spurs will reportedly receive from Inter — will hardly be enough to replace such an influential player, therefore Spurs come out of this long-running saga the worst of the bunch.

As for Eriksen and Inter, it’ll be a challenge for the player to immediately find his footing and shine ever so brightly in the midst of a title race, especially after the side has already slumped to back-to-back draws and fallen four points back of Juventus. Though, reportedly tripling his wages from Spurs to Inter leaves Eriksen the biggest winner in a mostly no-win situation.

Struggling Atleti in unfamiliar territory under Simeone

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MADRID — This is uncharted territory for many Atletico Madrid fans.

Few other times in recent years have they seen their team struggle so much under Diego Simeone.

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Few other times have they seen their coach fail so often while trying to put the team back on track.

Atletico hit a new low under Simeone on Thursday when it was eliminated by third-division club Cultural Leonesa in the round of 32 of the Copa del Rey. The 2-1 loss in extra time was the team’s worst result in the cup competition since losing to third-tier club Albacete at the same stage in 2011-12.

Two days after that loss in 2011, Atletico hired the then-mostly unknown Simeone to replace Gregorio Manzano, a move that kick-started one of the club’s most successful eras and led to a Spanish league title, two Europa League trophies and two Champions League final appearances.

Atletico did go through difficult moments under Simeone, including when the team failed to advance past the group stage of the Champions League a couple of seasons ago.

“There were always complicated moments in past seasons, maybe after we didn’t make it in the Champions League, or when we lost in the Champions League finals,” Simeone said. “After being at the club for so long, things like this can happen, although they shouldn’t happen.”

There is a greater sense of urgency about the team’s struggles this time.

In addition to Wednesday’s embarrassing Copa del Rey elimination, Atletico lost the Spanish Super Cup final to Real Madrid on Jan. 12, and already is eight points off the Spanish league lead after 20 matches.

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Before, there used to be a notion that Simeone would quickly turn things around and put the team back on track, but this time there aren’t many signs things will improve again soon.

Atletico has yet to impress since undergoing its biggest squad revamp under Simeone at the end of last season, when it lost Antoine Griezmann and other veteran players such as Filipe Luis and Diego Godin. Young Portugal forward Joao Felix, who arrived to replace Griezmann after a transfer from Benfica worth more than 120 million euros ($133 million), has yet to meet expectations.

More concerning, Atletico is not being nearly as effective as it used to be, when it always seemed to find a way to win matches despite not playing well.

The team remains solid defensively — it has the second-best defense in the Spanish league with 14 goals conceded — but it hasn’t been able to do much in attack recently.

“Everything is harder when you can’t score,” Simeone said.

Only seven teams have scored fewer goals than Atletico’s 22 in the 20-team standings.

Diego Costa has been mostly out injured, and Victor “Vitolo” Machin and Alvaro Morata haven’t done much in attack. Morata is the team’s leading scorer with 10 goals in all competitions, and no one else has more than five.

“We have to be humble enough to be self-critical,” Simeone said. “We need to keep working to try to be ready for the challenges that we have ahead of us. We have a very good squad and I’m sure that the results that we want will start arriving soon.”

Atletico biggest chance to rebound will come next month against European champion Liverpool in the last 16 of the Champions League. The first leg will be on Feb. 18 in Spain.

Mourinho in favor of PL’s winter break, but says timing all wrong

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Jose Mourinho seems to be quite happy that the Premier League will implement its first-ever winter break next month, allowing players a bit of rest and recovery time during a marathon campaign, but says its timing makes the break almost worthless for clubs competing in European competitions.

[ VIDEO: Haaland has played 59 minutes, scored 5 goals for Dortmund ]

The next four weeks will play out as follows for Tottenham Hotspur: FA Cup against Southampton this weekend; PL fixture against Manchester City next weekend; the following weekend off which results in two weeks without a game; PL fixture against Aston Villa the following weekend; Champions League first leg against RB Leipzig three days later.

In Mourinho’s perfect world, that first round of PL fixtures following the break would be held a week earlier, leaving the seven English clubs competing in the Champions League and Europa League with a week and a half between games before setting out once again to chase European glory. Instead, Tottenham, Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea will all have a quick turnaround from PL action to UCL competition — quotes from the Guardian:

“It is what it is. I’m not happy that the break comes in the wrong moment. The break should be before the Champions League and, in the end, before the Champions League we don’t have the break. We have to play Aston Villa on the Sunday, playing [RB Leipzig three] days later. So we don’t really care about the break, honestly.”

Mourinho’s point is a solid one: if the winter break is going to exist — and it should — then why shouldn’t its benefits be maximized? Non-European sides — typically those with smaller squads — would still have the full two weeks between games, while those in Europe are able to better leverage their slightly larger squads with only 10 or 11 days between games — still a lengthy break relative to the rest of the season.

[ MORE: Report: Man United’s list of possible new strikers revealed ]

It’s only the first year of the winter break in the PL, so perhaps hopefully they’ll receive Mourinho’s criticism — and that of any other managers — constructively.

Serie A: AC Milan extends unbeaten run since Zlatan’s arrival

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BRESCIA, Italy (AP) Ante Rebic scored his third goal in two matches, goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma was superb and AC Milan won 1-0 at relegation-threatened Brescia on Friday to climb into the Europa League places in Serie A.

[ MORE: Report: Man United’s list of possible new strikers revealed ]

Rebic, who scored twice in a win over Udinese last weekend, pounced on a loose ball directly in front of the goal following a cross from Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the 71st minute.

Since Ibrahimovic’s return to Milan over the holiday break, Milan is unbeaten with four wins and a draw across all competitions.

Donnarumma produced several difficult saves to deny Dimitri Bisoli and Ernesto Torregrossa.

Also, Milan fullback Theo Hernandez hit the crossbar in the closing minutes.

The Rossoneri moved up to sixth place, four points behind fifth-place Atalanta.

[ MORE: Solskjaer’s transfer update; positive on rebuild ]

“Our goal is to qualify for Europe,” Donnarumma said. “We’ve got to continue like this and not rest for a moment. There’s another big Italian Cup match coming up with Torino midweek and we want to reach the semifinals.

“We’ll take it one game at a time and try to keep this momentum going.”

Brescia was without Mario Balotelli, who was suspended for two matches after protesting a booking last weekend that ended up with the striker being sent off.

Brescia remained one point above last-place Genoa.