Chelsea 1-1 Southampton: Neither side finds a winner in entertaining affair (video)

Leave a comment

First-half goals from Diego Costa and Dusan Tadic just eight minutes apart set the game up for an exciting final 45 minutes, but the open and explosive game couldn’t provide a winner.

The two best defensive teams in the Premier League started exactly as you would imagine they would, with some positive attacking flow but no true chances in the opening 10 minutes. Then, somehow, Chelsea unlocked the Saints with the simplest of moves.

Eden Hazard worked hard to get the ball to Branislav Ivanovic on the wing. The Serbian full-back delivered a pinpoint cross into the box, and Costa shockingly got a free header and powered it home with ease on 11 minutes. The goal was shockingly simple for Chelsea considering it was just the second time all season Southampton has conceded a headed goal.

[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]

Southampton nearly equalized straight away as Tadic forced a good save from Thibaut Courtois, but it would only delay the inevitable. A fantastic one-two from Saido Mane beat Nemanja Matic, and the Chelsea midfielder scythed his opponent down in the process, forcing referee Mike Dean to award Southampton just their second penalty of the season. Tadic would strike home the spot kick off Courtois’s foot, and level the score.

The goal buoyed Southampton, and they had all the chances for the next 10 minutes as Mane, Tadic, Shane Long, and Ryan Bertrand all looked positive for the visitors. Neither side picked up another breakthrough before halftime, but Southampton proved the better side over the first 45 minutes.

[ RELATED: Latest Premier League standings ]

The second half started much like the first ended, with Southampton owning much of the bright play, but that quickly changed. Jose Mourinho brought off Nemanja Matic on a yellow card and brought on Ramires, and it instantly boosted the Blues. Diego Costa nearly poked home in a goal-mouth scrum but he hit the post in the 56th minute allowing Mane cleared off the line.

As the game exploded open, Southampton wouldn’t go away. Tadic opened things up for Long in the 62nd but it was heroically blocked by Gary Cahill. Chelsea had a chance 10 minutes later but Fraser Forster made an awkward double save on both Oscar and Eden Hazard, with the former doing poorly not to head Chelsea into the lead.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The home side began to slowly stifle Southampton by keeping more patient possession while still creating chances, and it bolstered them into a commanding position with 10 minutes to go. Cesar Azpilicueta nearly teed up a winner as regulation came to a close but Forster again saved well. The Southampton keeper continued to shine as moments later he kept out Willian as the defender looked to volley home a corner from close range, and John Terry rifled wide on the rebound.

The sides shared the points as time ran out, and each will likely be happy with the result. Chelsea goes six points clear of Manchester City, and while a win would have really closed the door on the title race, the deficit will still make things very hard on those behind the Blues. Southampton will be glad to have something out of a game at Stamford Bridge, and they looked positive throughout, drawing level with Spurs on points and going above into sixth on goal differential.

LINEUPS:

Chelsea: Courtois; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Matic (Ramires 53′), Fabregas; Willian (Cuadrado 83′), Oscar (Remy 82′), Hazard; Diego Costa.

Goals – Costa 11′

Southampton: Forster, Clyne, Fonte, Alderweireld, Bertrand, Wanyama, Schneiderlin, S. Davis (Ward-Prowse 71′), Tadić (Djuricic 71′), Mané, Long (Pelle 83′).

Goals – Tadic 19′ (pen)

It’s another Zlatan day, as Galaxy star rips Vela, talks Area 51

Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Zlatan Ibrahimovic took a shot at his rivals and his league in one fell swoop.

Perhaps Major League Soccer’s hit is down to proximity and not intent, but the LA Galaxy star certainly didn’t disguise his feelings when asked whether LAFC star Carlos Vela is the best player in the league.

[ MORE: De Ligt joins Juve ]

Vela, 30, has lit MLS on fire to the tune of 19 goals and eight assists in 19 matches, driving the second-year squad to the top of the Western Conference.

Zlatan and the Galaxy’s seasons have trailed behind, relatively speaking. The third-place Galaxy are 12 points behind LAFC, with Ibrahimovic contributing 13 goals and three assists in three fewer games.

“29, he’s playing in MLS and he’s in his prime. When I was 29, where was I?”

Herculez Gomez replies that Ibrahimovic was in Europe (Vela turned 30 in March. At 29, Ibrahimovic scored 21 goals in 41 appearances for AC Milan, on loan from Barcelona. At 30, he scored 35 in 44 for Milan).

“Big difference, exactly.”

Vela, for what it’s worth, spent 2005-17 in Europe. Anyway, here is the exchange.

But wait, there’s more.

Zlatan was also quizzed on Area 51 while in a scrum. For those who may not know, Area 51 is a classified United States military facility in Nevada which has long been speculated as the home of extraterrestrial testing and scientific experimentation.

He doesn’t need to worry about going there, because he has his own Area 51 and there is only one Zlatan.

Who will make Ballon d’Or final three?

Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images
Leave a comment

When Luka Modric won the Ballon d’Or last summer, marking the first victor neither named Lionel Messi nor Cristiano Ronaldo since 2007, it threatened to signal a new era for the trophy in more ways than one.

Ronaldo didn’t win the honors, finishing second, but Messi was inexplicably left off the final ballot altogether.

[ MORE: De Ligt joins Juve ]

Could this be the year that neither makes the top three? Probably not, but it could be the first time Ronaldo fails to make the list since Barca swept the honors Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi in 2010.

So while most of us are not thinking of the award right now, Ronaldo has it on his brain. It’s no surprise that Marca, known for its backing of Real Madrid royalty, has thrown his name in the mix as a “favorite” given his scudetto with Juventus. That it mentions his performance in the UEFA Nations League is a little goofy — it was a two-match summer — but such is life.

Ronaldo and Messi are deadlocked on five Ballons d’Or, the most ever, and Messi’s year was superior to his longtime rival. Both won their leagues and Messi did not claim domestic honors at the Copa America — in fact he was not his phenomenal self — but Messi scored 12 goals in 10 Champions League appearances before Liverpool stunned Barcelona prior to the final (Ronaldo’s Juve lost to Ajax).

Marca proffers this “I don’t care but obviously I very much care” from CR7:

“I don’t live with an obsession about awards,” Ronaldo explained. “My numbers don’t lie, this year I’ve won three titles and I’ve been good in the Nations League. What else can I do?”

Ronaldo, it should be noted, was still incredible last season. He scored all three goals as Juventus erased a 2-0 first leg deficit in the UCL Round of 16 versus old rivals Atletico Madrid, then scored in both legs of the side’s exit via Ajax. And he likely would’ve won the top scorer’s prize in Italy had he not missed six matches through injury and rest.

Messi again breached the half-century mark in goals, scoring 51 times in all competitions for Barcelona. He chipped in 22 assists and also missed six matches between the UCL and La Liga.

Are there three players who could surpass both to make a new final three?

It would be stunning if Liverpool and Netherlands center back Virgil Van Dijk was kept off the top three, while Sadio Mane may have a Champions League crown and Africa Cup of Nations victory. And you can follow the Luka Modric logic to a land where treble- and Nations League-winning Bernardo Silva is in the discussion (Raheem Sterling was also great).

Kylian Mbappe had probably the best-looking season on Earth, scoring 39 times with 17 assists in 43 matches and navigating the attention that came with Neymar’s long-term absence by shouldering the burden to great success. We made the argument that his 19 goals and six assists in 23 Neymar-free matches is one of the prime reasons he’s be worth almost any transfer fee.

Also remember that the odds of the captains of international teams having enough ballots without Ronaldo and/or Messi named is very difficult to imagine.

Still, Messi, Mbappe, and Van Dijk seems like the final three to us. What do you think?

LIVE — UEL second legs will determine possible Wolves opponents

Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Wolverhampton Wanderers will find out its first Europa League opponent on Friday, and the field will be winnowed with a bevy of second qualifying round second legs on Thursday.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores  ]

Malmo, Aberdeen, Kilmarnock, Rangers, Legia Warsaw, and Hajduk Split are the biggest names in play on Thursday, with only the Polish side failing to hold an advantage after the first leg.

American forward Romain Gall is in the mix for Malmo, though he’s been an unused sub of late for the Swedish powers. That could change today, with Malmo in Northern Ireland with a 7-0 advantage over Ballymena United.

You can follow the dozens of ties by clicking the link above.

Klopp: Liverpool has all answers it needs even without transfers

Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Claiming Liverpool has “solutions for all the situations” that could arise over the course of a season, manager Jurgen Klopp insists that the UEFA Champions League winners need not buy anyone this transfer window.

Of course, Klopp could still spend and admits that he has at least one position he’d like to strengthen by the end of the window.

[ MORE: De Ligt joins Juve ]

He also continues to play down the idea that Liverpool will spend big annually, naming Manchester City as one of four sides which can continue down that path on the day Juventus sealed the addition of reported Reds target Matthijs de Ligt.

From The Liverpool Echo:

“People talk about it like, ‘Now another £300m or £200m’. There are maybe only two clubs in the world – it looks in the moment like Barcelona and [Real] Madrid can do the same – City and PSG that can do it every year. I’m happy with the team, we are really happy.”

Klopp has claimed that injuries and youth progression make Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Rhian Brewster transfer-like additions to the squad. Perhaps he’s been told that there’s not a lot in the budget this summer.

However, he’s also said that Liverpool has to “splash the cash” to compete with its rivals, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if this was all more Cheshire Cat talk ahead of a purchase.