Three things we learned from Chelsea’s win vs. Manchester United

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LONDON — Chelsea took another tentative step towards securing the 2014-15 Premier League title on Saturday as they were out-played by Manchester United but secured a 1-0 win thanks to Eden Hazard’s first half strike.

[ RELATED: Van Gaal hails United’s “best match of season” ]

Injury-hit United can count themselves unlucky to have not got at least a point from the match, with Louis van Gaal’s side creating plenty of chances but they failed to break down a solid Chelsea outfit.

Here’s three things we learned from west London.

INJURY-HIT UNITED UNLUCKY

For most of the match United dominated the ball (they had 70 percent of possession) looked inventive going forward (had 15 shots to Chelsea’s seven) and without four first-choice defensive players, they held Chelsea at bay. But, they lost 1-0. The Red Devils did enough to win at Stamford Bridge but a combination of things conspired against them with lady luck failing to cut them a break. Well, expect for the moment David De Gea inexplicably handled outside the box to deny Hazard but got away with it. Louis van Gaal got his tactics spot on as a 4-1-4-1 saw them dictate play with Ander Herrera giving a commanding display and always wanting to get on the ball in the holding role in Michael Carrick’s absence. The one blot on Herrera’s copybook was his failure to track Hazard after Oscar’s fancy flick sit him free to score the winning goal. Wayne Rooney sprayed balls around in a deeper role and had numerous attempts which were either blocked or flew just wide.

Falcao had an effort superbly blocked by Gary Cahill in the 70th minute, smashed the woodwork moments later and the Colombian forward fired another wide after roughing up John Terry. He plugged the gaps in midfield with Kurt Zouma deployed alongside Nemanja Matic to try and quell United’s attacking threat. In a home game the league leaders played for a draw. That tells you how wary they were of an  under-strength United without the injured Diego Costa. United were up for the battle but they aren’t the first and won’t be the last team to be on the end of yet another defensive masterclass from Mourinho.

HAZARD IN A CLASS OF HIS OWN

Talking of class, Eden Hazard is in a class of his own. The Belgian winger provided the game winning moment as his sublime give and go with Oscar (hat tip to the Brazilian playmaker for a mesmerizing back heel) won the game for Chelsea. Hazard is the overwhelming favorite to win the PFA Player of the Year this season and his temperament has finally reached the levels were Chelsea knows they can rely on him in the big games.

Hazard has now scored in home wins against Arsenal, Tottenham and United, with the wing-wizard finally delivering consistent displays of true class. He was substituted late in the game to a standing ovation at the Bridge as his match-winning moment was the one moment of class Chelsea needed to beat United. The 24-year-old winger should, and will, be crowned the best player in the Premier League for the 2014-15 season. Has anyone got a problem with that?

source: Getty Images
Shaw’s superb display caught the eye.

SHAW BACK ON COURSE

Luke Shaw’s fitness was a huge issue when he first arrived at United as the “most expensive teenager in the world” last summer. The England international, 19, has been in and out of United’s team with various hamstring and muscle injuries in his debut season at Old Trafford but on Saturday, against the team he supported as a boy growing up in south west London, Shaw put in perhaps his most accomplished display in a United shirt. He hadn’t played a game in five weeks and was thrust into the lineup due to United’s severe injury problems in defense. Early on he surged forward down United’s left flank and caught out Oscar’s lack of defensive cover for Branislav Ivanovic along with Ashley Young. After three minutes Shaw surged forward and delivered a wonderful pull back to Rooney who curled the ball just wide. As the game wore on, he continued to get on the ball more and made those 30-45 yard runs which were his trademark at Saints.

In the 76th minute Shaw delivered a defense-splitting pass which found Radamel Falcao in the box. The weight of the pass was perfect and the Colombian forward turned on the ball and rattled the woodwork in one movement as United’s bad luck continue on the day. Shortly after Shaw was subbed off by LVG, but as he got to the bench his manager made a point of congratulating him on his performance. Shaw has had a season of struggle when it comes to injury and settling in at United, but his display on Saturday proved his mercurial talent is still intact and he’s back on the right track.

Napoli scores on late penalty, rare Van Dijk error in 2-0 win

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The good news is that Liverpool lost to Napoli last season in the UEFA Champions League, then went on to win the whole darn thing.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Jose Callejon won a late penalty that Dries Mertens converted, and Fernando Llorente took advantage of a Virgil Van Dijk error to pad the lead as Napoli held serve at home with a 2-0 win over Liverpool on Tuesday.


Three things we learned

1. Goalkeepers immense: No, he’s not Alisson Becker, but Adrian is probably the biggest reason Liverpool didn’t open its UCL defense with a loss. He made a pair of early stops on Dries Mertens before a show-stopping effort in the second half. Napoli got two fine saves from Alex Meret, including a terrific denial of Mohamed Salah in the 65th.

2. Salah, Mane can’t deliver in key moments: Take away Salah’s penalty in the UCL Final, and Liverpool’s two top threats have not accounted for a goal in four matches inside the competition. Mane was mostly good on the day, but misled Salah on an early second half pass which would have almost certainly been a goal. Salah simply had an off day

3. Callejon sells the drama: Liverpool’s Andy Robertson lost a 50/50 with Jose Callejon, who ran into the fulback and hit the deck to win a penalty. That was the difference here, as Mertens beat Adrian.

Man of the Match: Meret was especially good, the 22-year-old Italian goalkeeper big in several key moments to edge Mertens for the honor.


Napoli thought it had gone ahead through El Tri star Hirving Lozano, who nodded over the line following two Alisson Becker saves on Dries Mertens, but the Mexican was offside.

Sadio Mane had a 20th minute chance at the other end, but pumped a point blank low shot to Napoli keeper Alex Meret which led to a corner kick.

Fabinho intervened in the 53rd minute as Napoli emerged from the locker room with energy, but the best chance of the early second half was flubbed in uncharacteristic fashion: Sadio Mane was through 2v1 with Mohamed Salah but made a miserable pass to his teammate.

The first goal arrived when Callejon tapped the ball past Robertson and leapt into the defender to earn a penalty from referee Felix Brych.

It was 2-0 in stoppage time when Fernando Llorente ran onto a Virgil van Dijk error and passed beyond Adrian.

UCL AT HALF: Marsch’s Salzburg rolling; Champions holding firm; Chelsea’s Mount hurt

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We’ve got news after 45 minutes of six more UCL matches, including a big injury at Stamford Bridge and a monumental start for an American in Austria.

[ UCL: Scores, lineups, stats, box scores ]

Chelsea 0-0 Valencia

No goals to report here, but early season hero Mason Mount has left the match with an injury for the Blues. He was not replaced by Christian Pulisic, rather Pedro.

Liverpool 0-0 Napoli

It’s been a pretty even affair, though Liverpool can thank Adrian for a pair of great saves on Dries Mertens before Hirving “Chucky” Lozano’s goal was ruled offside.

Red Bull Salzburg 5-1 Genk

Jesse Marsch is now officially the first American man to manage a team in a UEFA Champions League game.

The Red Bull Salzburg boss is also the first to hold a second minute lead, as red hot striker Erling Braut Haland scored his 15th, 16th, and 17th goals in nine matches under Marsch.

Haland also five assists on the season, having entered Tuesday’s match with 658 minutes across all competitions.

Haland is the son of former Leeds, Man City, and Nottingham Forest manager Alf-Inge Haland.

Hwang-Hee Chan has Salzburg’s other goal, and two assists.

Elsewhere

Inter Milan 1-1 Slavia Prague — RECAP
Lyon 1-1 Zenit Saint-Petersburg
Borussia Dortmund 0-0 Barcelona
Ajax 1-0 Lille
Benfica 0-0 RB Leipzig

Yedlin nears return, hoping for October USMNT call-up

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Hindsight being 20/20, it’s easy to see that DeAndre Yedlin didn’t look right last season.

The Newcastle United and USMNT right back was not up to his standards during the 2018-19 season, and Yedlin says the injury that’s cost him the start of this season has been the culprit for a long time.

[ MORE: Neymar ban reduced ]

Yedlin, 26, went through surgery this May for a sports hernia which he says bothered him on game days for almost a year and a half.

From NUFC.co.uk:

 “It was tough, and it was a bit confusing because it would come and go. There would be months that I’d be playing with it and I’d take pain killers before the game and try to get through it, then there’d be times when it didn’t bother me at all,” he said.

“Even in warm ups, I’d be thinking ‘it’s going to be tough to make it through this game.’ Once the pain killers hit in, you can’t really feel anything anymore and then adrenalin hits in but, yeah, it’s tough. As a player you don’t want to stop and then lose your place, but you’ve also got to do what’s best for you and for the longevity of your career.

That’s not good, and both USMNT and Newcastle supporters will hope the injury was the reason behind his decline in form.

Yedlin’s stats dropped in each of his last two PL seasons. For a player whose blessed with blazing speed, a sports hernia is only going to dramatically affect performance.

He says he has been in touch with USMNT boss Gregg Berhalter.

“That’s been tough. I’ve had contact with the manager and they’re keeping updated on how I’m doing. This last international break was just a bit too soon but hopefully the next one, I’ll be ready for and hopefully I’ll have some minutes under my belt by that time, then really crack on from there.”

Conte’s Inter avoids UCL upset in stoppage time

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The Champions League nearly began with an upset, as Slavia Prague led Inter Milan 1-0 into stoppage time at the San Siro on Tuesday.

But a pair of Inter loanees produced a play to tie the score in the second minute of stoppage, as Stefano Sensi (Sassuolo) curled a free kick off the bar and Nicolo Barella (Cagliari) first timed the rebound through traffic and inside the far post.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

Peter Olayinka started and finished the play for Slavia Prague’s second half opener. The scorer took the ball to the end line and cut back for Lukas Provod, whose shot was saved by Samir Handanovic.

But Olayinka followed the play and took advantage of the marker who slid to block his initial pass. On the doorstep at the back post, the Nigerian smashed the ball into the top of the goal.

The goal was deserved, and the score line represented the tightness of the contest. Inter barely out shot the Czech visitors and had just a little bit more of the ball.

Romelu Lukaku nearly thumped home a header in the sixth minute of stoppage, but Slavia keeper Ondrej Kolar made a fine save.

Here’s the equalizer: