Chelsea cruise past Galatasaray, as Blues make UEFA Champions League quarterfinals with 2-0 win (3-1, Agg.)

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Chelsea eased through to the final eight of the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday, after a professional 2-0 win over Turkish giants Galatasaray at Stamford Bridge.

The Blues were in cruise control early on, as Samuel Eto’o finished off a flowing move in typically clinical fashion to set Chelsea on their way. Wave after wave of relentless counter-attacks reigned down on Galatasaray’s goal as the away team never got going, and just before half time Gary Cahill slammed home a close range effort to put the tie beyond doubt and end Didier Drogba’s hopes of causing havoc on his return.

Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea head into the quarterfinals for the first time since they won the trophy in 2011-12, and the eighth time in the last 11 seasons, as the Premier League leaders will now balance a PL title charge with their quest to bring European success to Stamford Bridge.

(MORE: Three reasons why Chelsea can win the UEFA Champions League)

In the third minute Chelsea were ahead, as Eto’o latched onto a delicate pass on the right from Oscar, took one touch to steady himself and slotted the ball home to send Stamford Bridge barmy with the Blues first attack of the game. The strike was Eto’o’s 30th goal in the Champions League, as the Cameroon striker’s low shot beat the despairing dive of Muslera to give Chelsea a perfect start.

Galatasaray had a good spell after the setback but failed to carve out any clear cut chances, as Chelsea continued to soak up the pressure and pounce on the break. That happened in the 21st minute, as Frank Lampard was found on the edge of the box after another flowing move down the left, but the English midfielder toe poked his effort over the bar.

source: AP
Eto’o’s opener set Chelsea on their way, as the Premier League leaders are in the last eight.

In the 32nd minute John Terry came close to giving the Blues a 2-0 lead, as the center back thumped a left footed volley just over the bar from Frank Lampard’s superb in swinging free kick. Chelsea continued to push for a second, as Galatasaray struggled to get to grips with the home side’s rapid counter-attacking style. Oscar and Hazard combined on the left flank to set up Eto’o in the box, who dinked the ball towards Willian but the Brazilian hit a tame shot which Muslera gathered easily.

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Relentless pressure from Chelsea paid off just before the break, as Cahill slammed home an effort from close range to give the home side a dominant 2-0 lead. Terry attacked a corner kick and his powerful header was beaten out by Muslera but Cahill was already following in to finish off and send Cheslea into the interval with one foot already in the Champions League quarterfinals.

After the break Chelsea kept surging forward as Oscar had a shot blocked, then Willian drilled an effort straight at Muslera after yet another breathtaking counter-attack caught Galatasaray flagging. The away side just couldn’t get going, despite their incredible supporters creating a huge din inside Stamford Bridge. In the 65th minute Lampard went close with a header on target following yet another superb move down the left. Then Hazard forced a good save from Muslera, as the Belgian bent in a delicious effort from the edge of the box that was arrowing towards the top corner before the big Uruguayan ‘keeper tipped it wide.

The rest of the game played out with Galatasaray trying to break down a stubborn Blues defense, but Mourinho’s men were in no mood to give anything away as they sealed their spot in the quarterfinals at a canter.

LINEUPS

Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Ramires, Lampard; Willian (Kalas, 93′), Oscar (Oscar, 82′), Hazard; Eto’o (Torres, 85′)

Goals: Eto’o (3′), Cahill (42′)

Galatasaray: Muslera, Eboue (Hajrovic, 77′), Telles, Kurtulus (Balta, 67′), Chedjou, Kaya, Yilmaz (Bulut, 54′), Melo, Inan, Sneijder, Drogba

Croatia smashes disheveled Argentina

AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan
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Ante Rebic, Luka Modric, and Ivan Rakitic have Croatia in the knockout rounds and Argentina on the verge of World Cup disaster.

Croatia scored a pair of second half goals, one aided by a Willy Caballero howler, in a 2-0 win in Nizhny Novgorod on Thursday.

Argentina will enter its final match against Nigeria on the outskirts of the knockout rounds regardless of how Nigeria-Iceland ends on Friday.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Ivan Perisic forced a big save out of Wily Caballero for an early Croatia corner kick that came to nothing.

Messi had a chance stopped inside of 10 minutes, then started a play that Dejan Lovren blocked for a corner in the 13th.

Enzo Perez missed an open goal off a poor Croatia giveaway in the 30th minute.

There were a pair of fouls not out of place on a red card lowlight reel, one for each team, but neither resulting in a sending off.

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Croatia took the lead through Caballero’s gaffe and Rebic’s smash in the 54th.

Argentina nearly answered moments later. After a mazy Messi dribble, Argentina regained possession in the 64th minute, spearheaded by a Gonzalo Higuain run that led to a corner.

Croatia came close to making it 2-0, as Mario Mandzukic couldn’t turn a flick on frame and instead saw it glide into the outside of the goal.

Then Modric put the match to bed as the clock hit 80, an absolute beauty. Another huge defensive mistake allowed Mateo Kovacic to cue up Rakitic for the third.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

WATCH: Caballero blunder punished as Rebic rip puts Argentina on ropes

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Willy Caballero has made one of the bigger blunders in recent World Cup history.

His Argentina side needs at least a point from Thursday’s match-up with Croatia, and the match remained scoreless into halftime.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

But 10 minutes after the break, Caballero flubbed a clearance in a big way.

The Argentina goalkeeper then could only watch as Ante Rebic kept his composure to blast a side volley into the goal.

It was a fine finish, to be sure, but not possible without such a terrible gaffe.

Transfer rumor roundup: Chelsea in for Pjanic; Lozano to Juventus?

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Pro Soccer Talk examines some of Thursday’s top transfer stories, including a Premier League giant looking to add to its midfield.

[ MORE: Uruguay reaches Round of 16 courtesy of Luis Suarez ]


Chelsea could be set to join Barcelona in the race for Juventus midfielder Miralem Pjanic, according to the Daily Mail.

The Blues and new manager Maurizio Sarri are said to be open to looking to Serie A to solve some of the team’s troubled areas, including in the center of the park to join France international N'Golo Kante.

Sarri is already said to be keen on signing Napoli star Dries Mertens, whom he has coached for several years at the Stadio San Paolo


Meanwhile, Juve has interest in a World Cup star, with Mexico’s Hirving Lozano attracting significant looks from around the world.

Lozano scored for El Tri in their 1-0 victory over Germany to open their 2018 World Cup campaign, and has become an instant star in the Dutch Eredivisie with PSV Eindhoven.

PSV would reportedly be willing to complete a deal if the Serie A champions shell out over $40 million.


Sticking with Juve, Emre Can‘s move to the Turin side appears to be close to finalization.

Can is set to have a medical in Italy on Thursday, as the 24-year-old anticipates completing a five-year contract with the Serie A giants.


Finally, West Ham United is looking to add to its attacking options next season, and the club could be nearing a record move.

Lazio winger Felipe Anderson is reportedly set to come to the London Stadium in 2018/19 as the Hammers prepare a $46 million deal.

Anderson tallied four goals in 21 Serie A matches last season for the Biancocelesti.

RB Leipzig names Julian Nagelsmann future manager

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Julian Nagelsmann won’t take over at his new club until the 2019/20 season, but Red Bull Leipzig has put a lot of confidence in one of the youngest managers in global football.

[ MORE: Ronaldo’s tally gives Portugal win over Morocco ]

On Thursday, the Bundesliga side announced the appointment of the Hoffenheim coach, who will continue in his current capacity for the upcoming 2018/19 German campaign.

Nagelsmann signs on with Leipzig until the conclusion of the 2022/23 season.

The 30-year-old has spent two seasons managing Hoffenheim, guiding the club to back-to-back top-four finishes in the Bundesliga.

Leipzig is currently without a manager ahead of the next season, so it remains unclear who will take over until Nagelsmann assumes his role in 2019.