Chelsea 1-2 Sunderland: Blues’ title dreams in ruins, as Black Cats grab shock win (video)

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Sunderland recorded a stunning 2-1 win away at Chelsea on Saturday, as the Black Cats came from behind to secure a crucial three points in their fight against relegation.

As for Chelsea, their title dreams now lie in tatters as Jose Mourinho saw his unbeaten Premier League record at home ended after 77 games without defeat.

It all started so well for the Blues, who went 1-0 up thanks to Samuel Eto’o’s early volley but then Connor Wickham equalized after 18 minutes as stand-in ‘keeper Mark Schwarzer could only parry a shot into the path of Wickham who cleaned up.

(VIDEO: Mourinho’s sensational swipe at officials after Chelsea suffer shock defeat)

Chelsea huffed and puffed throughout the remainder of the game but couldn’t break down a stubborn Sunderland and the pivotal moment of the game arrived in the 82nd minute. U.S. international striker Jozy Altidore came off the bench and won a penalty kick after being brought down by Cesar Azpilicueta with the linesman flagging and Mike Dean pointing to the spot. Fabio Borini, on loan from Liverpool, struck the spot kick straight down the middle to hand his parent club the initiative in the title race and leave Mourinho and Chelsea stunned.

With the win Sunderland are still bottom of the PL standings but are just three points from safety, while Chelsea are in second but are two points behind leaders Liverpool after playing a game more. Incredible drama in West London.

(Premier League Roundup: Chelsea blow it, Swansea, Spurs and Palace win)

Chelsea started brightly at Stamford Bridge, yet the first real chance of the game fell to one of their former strikers, Borini, but the Italian forward on-loan from Liverpool smashed his effort wide of the far post from distance. Despite an even start to the match, Chelsea went 1-0 up after 12 minutes when Willian’s corner found Eto’o in the six-yard box and the Cameroonian striker volleyed the ball home to put the Blues in front.

Yet despite that perfect start for the title-chasers, Sunderland were level six minutes later. A corner kick routine found Marcos Alonso on the edge of the box and his low drive could only be parried by Chelsea’s stand-in ‘keeper Schwarzer, as Wickham cleaned up to net his third goal in two games.

source: Getty Images
Borini and Sunderland stunned Chelsea, as the bottom club beat the title chasers.

Chelsea bossed the rest of the first half in terms of possession, as Sunderland sat back and were happy to stay level. Oscar curled a shot straight at Vito Mannone midway through the half as the Blues struggled to break down the Red and White wall before them. A long free kick to the back post saw Nemanja Matic head the ball back across goal for John Terry to volley home, but the linesman raised his flag for a foul on Jack Colback by Matic, which looked extremely harsh.

(MORE: Latest Premier League standings)

In the 36th minute Chelsea almost went back in front as another left wing corner found Branislav Ivanovic in the six-yard box but the Serbian’s downward header was tipped onto the bar by Mannone who gathered the ball at the second attempt. As half time approached Chelsea continued to press as Matic saw his long-range effort saved by Mannone, who then saved Mohamed  Salah’s follow up as Chelsea piled on the pressure. Moments later Manonne missed a cross but Ramires failed to direct his header on goal when under pressure from Sebastian Larsson.

After the break Chelsea showed off their sublime counter-attacking nous as Willian set up Eto’o on the left hand side of the box but the Blues striker sent his effort just wide of the far post. Sunderland were content to sit back and hold on to the point they had, as Chelsea chucked the kitchen sink at their opponents. With 30 minutes to go Demba Ba arrived on the pitch, as the superb sub was tasked with digging Chelsea out of the hole they’d got themselves in.

Sunderland were holding firm and stopping the Blues from creating any clear cut chances as Ba slipped when latching onto a pull back and skewed his effort horribly wide. With 25 minutes to go U.S. national team striker Altidore came on to try and nick an invaluable winner for Sunderland in their battle against relegation.

Altidore played a pivotal role in proceedings as he picked up the ball on the edge of the box, ran towards goal and was brought down by  Azpilicueta for a penalty. Both players seemed to slip, but Dean pointed to the spot and Borini slammed home the penalty to seal a vital win for Sunderland which leaves Chelsea’s title hopes in ruins.

LINEUPS

Chelsea: Schwarzer; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Ramires, Matic; Willian, Oscar (Ba, 59′), Salah (Schurrle, 66′); Eto’o (Torres, 74′)

Goal: Eto’o (12′)

Sunderland: Mannone, Vergini, Alonso, Brown, O’Shea, Cattermole, Colback, Larsson, Johnson (Giaccherini, 66′), Borini, Wickham (Altidore, 66′)

Goals: Wickham (18′), Borini (82′)

USMNT’s Arriola likely will miss MLS season, six World Cup qualifiers

Paul Arriola
AP Photo/LM Otero
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WASHINGTON (AP) D.C. United midfielder Paul Arriola had major knee surgery Monday and likely will miss the entire Major League Soccer season and the United States’ first six qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup

The operation was to reconstruct his right anterior cruciate ligament. The team said there was no additional cartilage damage.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The 25-year-old midfielder injured his knee Feb. 15 during D.C. United’s preseason match against Orlando in Tampa, Florida.

Arriola has been a regular starter for the U.S. national team under coach Gregg Berhalter. Arriola has five goals in 33 international appearances.

After failing to reach the 2018 World Cup, the U.S. starts qualifying for the 2022 tournament this year. The Americans have two matches each in September, October and November, then complete qualifying with two games apiece in March and September 2021.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

State of play in CONCACAF Champions League

CONCACAF Champions League
AP Photo/Carlos Gonzalez
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Four of five Major League Soccer clubs alive in the CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 are in fine shape to reach the quarterfinals after one leg.

The fifth has a tall hill to climb.

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LAFC trails Club Leon by two and did not collect an away goal in Mexico during first leg play last week.

“It’s 2-0, but we’re going to work hard,” said LAFC attacker Latif Blessing. “We’re going to prepare ourselves to win the next game. … We did good, but we want to win. It couldn’t happen that way but we’re going to prepare next game to win this game. We need to win.”

The second leg in L.A. is one of the last two matches of the round, kicking off at 10 p.m. ET Thursday just as Seattle Sounders square off with Olimpia.

The Honduran side managed a controversial comeback in the 2-2 draw with Jordan Morris-fueled Seattle last week, but the Sounders will be happy to have those two away goals and home field.

Montreal Impact has the same situation for Deportivo Saprissa’s visit at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday, while Atlanta United scored an away goal in a draw with Motagua and hosts the visitors from Honduras’ capital at 8 p.m. ET Tuesday.

That leaves us with NYCFC, who got a Heber hat trick amongst five away goals at Costa Rican side San Carlos in a 5-3 win. The second leg begins at 6 p.m. ET Wednesday at Red Bull Arena (yes, you read that correctly).

Elsewhere, Liga MX sides don’t have it much better. Cruz Azul leads Portmore 2-1 heading back to Mexico, while Club America scored an away goal in a draw with Comunicaciones.

Finally, Tigres UANL trails 2-1 after one leg with Alianza in El Salvador.

CCL second leg schedule
all times ET

Atlanta United v. Motagua (1-1) — 8 p.m. Tuesday
Cruz Azul v. Portmore United (2-1) — 10 p.m. Tuesday
NYCFC v. San Carlos (5-3) — 6 p.m. Wednesday
Montreal Impact v. Deportivo Saprissa (2-2) — 8 p.m. Wednesday
Tigres UANL v. Alianza (1-2) — 8 p.m. Wednesday
Club America v. Comunicaciones (1-1) — 10 p.m. Wednesday
Seattle Sounders v. Olimpia (2-2) — 10 p.m. Thursday
LAFC v Leon (0-2) — 10 p.m. Thursday

Eleven to go: Ranking obstacles on Liverpool’s unbeaten path

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Liverpool has won all five of its matches since the last time we evaluated its path to an unbeaten Premier League season.

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Those matches were ranked 14th, 12th, 11th, 10th, and 4th on our first rankings of obstacles to immortality, so very little of the heavy lifting has been conducted.

Let’s get something out of the way: If Liverpool is unable to overturn their first leg deficit against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League, you can probably etch that zero in the league loss column into stone.

That said, many expect the Reds to overcome that 1-0 disadvantage from Madrid, so here’s where we slot the difficulties moving forward.

Unranked — Crystal Palace at home (March 21) and Brighton away (April 18) — Both of these dates are very easy on the eyes, but will be moved if Liverpool is alive in the FA Cup.

9. Newcastle away, time TBD May 17 — We’re now calling this the easiest date left. Klopp’s men aren’t going to lose an unbeaten season at the altar just because Steve Bruce bunkers down. St. James’ Park is a hassle, but

8. Watford away, 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday Klopp probably feels like he’s already playing with house money in the FA Cup, so there’s no reason to think he’ll hand any priority at all to the following FA Cup meeting with Chelsea.

7. Bournemouth home, 7:30 a.m. ET March 7 Situated between Chelsea in the FA Cup and the home UCL second leg versus Atleti, it’s not easy…  but the Cherries have given us less reason to believe they’ll threaten the Reds than any other team besides Newcastle.

6. Aston Villa home, 11:30 a.m. ET April 12Dean Smith‘s desperate Villans will have Villa Park rocking before Liverpool’s possible UCL quarterfinals 2nd leg days later.

5. Burnley home, 7:30 a.m. ET April 25 — Taking place just before a possible UCL quarterfinal first leg, Burnley will try to trouble the Reds in a similar manner to West Ham.

4. Chelsea home, time TBD May 9 — Both the Blues and Reds could be coming off UCL semifinal second legs. Don’t forget that Chelsea took the Reds to the wire in the UEFA Super Cup despite it being very early in Frank Lampard‘s tenure.

3. Arsenal away, time TBD May 2 — Both sides may be days away from needing a result to qualify for the UCL or UEL final.

2. Everton away, 4 p.m. ET March 16 — This may as well be the only match left on the Toffees’ docket that matters more than another, as Carlo Ancelotti and his men know the message they could send regarding the building up of Everton.

Not only that, but Everton has nothing else left to circle, no other competitions, nothing.

1. Man City away, 11:30 a.m. ET April 5 — Taking place 3-4 days before the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals and on the heels of an international break, it’s the lone date on the calendar that Liverpool won’t be heavy favorites to win.

Champions League: Chelsea, Napoli aim to slow Lewandowski, Messi

UEFA Champions League preview
Photo by Power Sport Images/Getty Images
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Four of the most dangerous attacks in Europe begin their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 ties on Tuesday.

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For Chelsea that means trying to find a way to limit the damage of away goals when Bayern Munich visits Stamford Bridge.

Of course, that means trying to slow lethal Robert Lewandowski. The 31-year-old Polish striker has scored 38 times in 32 appearances this season.

Here’s Frank Lampard, via Football.London:

Form of his life means something special with Lewandowski because of how well he’s been consistently in Europe for the last, how many years, I don’t know,” Lampard said. “Everything about him, from a distance, from afar, is just top class. Having the opportunity to watch a lot of Bayern in build-up to this game, that shines through. Of course, he’s going to be a huge threat. He’s not the only threat but he is a spearhead.”

Lampard points to the Blues work without the ball and away from it that will determine whether they can limit Lewandowski and Bayern.

“We traveled to Ajax and had a fantastic game off the ball,” he said. “We’ve had games like that this year in the league as well. But the levels have to go up.”

The Blues won’t have Christian Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi, and N’Golo Kante, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek is finally available after a long injury absence. Pedro may play.

[ MORE: JPW’s score predictions ]

Tuesday’s other first leg sees Napoli hosting Barcelona, which means Gennaro Gattuso trying to find a way to cool down Lionel Messi.

The world’s top player scored four goals at the weekend and had six assists in his three previous La Liga outings.

Another player who’s helped Barcelona reclaim the league lead will be critical to controlling the midfield against Napoli, and that’s Frenkie de Jong.

The 22-year-old has had fits and starts at Barca, especially this month. He admits that he’s had an odd time adjusting to Messi, the teammate, though it hasn’t been part of the problem. From FCBarcelona.com:

“When I began training with him it was strange, because when I was 12, still in secondary school, I used to watch a lot of football. He was already the best in the world. He won the Ballon d’Or back then, so I was a fan, or whatever you want to call it.”

Napoli boss Gattuso was a bit more effusive when addressing Messi, via Football.Espana:

“I have read whether to make a cage or not, but we need the collective game to combat someone like him, and it is not just him,” Gattuso said. “He is the best in the world, for how he has lived his entire career. He is always perfect, never a misplaced word, he is an example for everyone. He does things that I only see on the PlayStation. He has an incredible quality and for years he has been the best of all-time.”

Both matches kick off at 3 p.m. ET Tuesday.