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?

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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.

Saint-Maximin absence to ask more of struggling Almiron, Joelinton

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Newcastle United lightning bolt Allan Saint-Maximin is going to miss a month with a hamstring injury suffered late in the Magpies’ 2-1 defeat of Southampton at St. James’ Park.

The ebullient Saint-Maximin played deep into the match despite a minor injury, and was on of the main reasons Newcastle won. He helped set up the winning goal, but left the stadium on crutches.

That left Steve Bruce questioning his decision to keep “ASM” in the match.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Now the electric Frenchman is set to miss fixtures against Burnley, Crystal Palace, Manchester United, Everton, Leicester City, and an FA Cup third round match versus either Boston United or Rochdale.

Saint-Maximin’s absence will hurt Newcastle all-around, but especially when its counter-attack tries to take down bigger sides. His 4.5 dribbles per match makes him one of just three players in the Premier League with more than 3.1 (Adama Traore and Wilfried Zaha).

Ultimately, though, this could provide struggling Joelinton more looks at performing on the wing opposite of Miguel Almiron. The Brazilian will have to work center forward at times as Andy Carroll certainly can’t go every game, and Dwight Gayle, Christian Atsu, and Yoshinori Muto could also be asked to play prominent roles.

And, of course, this will demand much more from industrious but sloppy Miguel Almiron, whose expected goal total is 2.5 (he has zero).

Sessegnon beats Neuer to score first Spurs, Champions League goal

Photo by Peter Kneffel/picture alliance via Getty Images)Photo by Peter Kneffel/picture alliance via Getty Images)
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Ryan Sessegnon has his first Spurs goal, which also happens to be his first UEFA Champions League goal, and he’ll love telling the tale of it.

The 19-year-old Englishman ripped a rocket past Manuel Neuer of all people, collecting a deflection to equalize early in Tottenham’s match against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Sessegnon entered the day with an assist in 30 minutes spread across three appearances for Spurs, and needed just 20 more minutes to find a goal.

He made a big money move from Fulham this summer, having made a remarkable 120 senior appearances. Almost all of those came before he turned 19, and he’s scored 25 times with 18 assists.

Kingsley Coman has Bayern’s goal as the teams remain locked at 1 after Bayern hung 7 on Spurs in England earlier in the group stage.

 

Jesus hat-trick downs Dinamo Zagreb, Atalanta qualifies for knockouts

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Manchester City looked sluggish again, but Gabriel Jesus made sure it didn’t matter.

The Brazilian cropped up at a critical juncture for Pep Guardiola, sending Manchester City through into the knockout stage on a winning note as his hat-trick sealed a 4-1 come-from-behind victory that knocked Dinamo Zagreb from European competition altogether.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

The first half was especially lackluster for the English visitors to Stadion Maksimir in Zagreb, with lots of possession but little to show for it. The hosts went in front early on, punishing Man City on the counter on a fabulous volleyed finish from former Barcelona youth product Dani Olmo.

That was the best goal of the day, but Man City picked itself up and pulled back level before the break, with Jesus grabbing his first via a header as Dinamo Zagreb shut off, screaming for Man City to put the ball out with a Zagreb player down. The visitors rightly did not, and Dinamo was punished by the equalizer.

After halftime, Man City was much better, hammering the left flank to take a commanding lead. The second came on excellent work by Jesus in the box to shake a defender and finish with his right, while the third flew in minutes later on a pinpoint Benjamin Mendy cross that Jesus met with a flying karate kick. Pep Guardiola had one eye on the festive fixtures, withdrawing Jesus soon after the hour mark, replaced by Oleksandr Zinchenko who curiously took Jesus’s place at the striker position.

Phil Foden was the best Manchester City player throughout, and finished off the scoreline with seven minutes to go. An excellent buildup down the right saw Bernardo Silva sprung through, and he cut back to Foden at the top of the six-yard box who slid to meet the ball with pace and poke home the cherry on top.

Elsewhere, Atalanta topped Shakhtar Donetsk 3-0 in the Ukraine on goals by Timothy Castagne, Mario Pasalic, and Robin Gosens, meaning the Italians secured the second spot in Group A, qualifying for the knockout stage. The Ukranians were left dead in the water after right-back Dodo was sent off 13 minutes from time, leading to the second goal to seal things up. Atalanta’s advancement marks a stunning comeback given the Italian side failed to secure points in any of their first three group stage matches.

That left Shakhtar in third, dropping to the Europa League, while Dinamo Zagreb was left at the bottom of the group, on the outside looking in.

Charlotte MLS club files trademarks for eight potential names

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It is being heavily reported that Charlotte is the next city to earn a club in the rapidly expanding Major League Soccer landscape, and Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper has taken the next step towards that possibility.

The new club needs a name, and they appear to be nearing a selection. Tepper filed for eight different name trademarks, according to multiple reports, including The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue who confirmed the filings were made under Tepper’s Panthers address.

Here is the list of names he filed copyright requests for:

“Charlotte FC” would be a bare-bones and generic name that follows in the footsteps of recent MLS expansion clubs such as Orlando City SC, NYCFC or LAFC. Others are a little more colorful, including “Carolina Gliders FC” or “Charlotte Monarchs FC,” while a few others like “Charlotte Town FC” or “Charlotte Athletic FC” clearly call forth thoughts of smaller English clubs.

Rodrigue speculated that the relative lack of “Carolina” encompassing names is potentially due to the possibility of an expansion bid from Raleigh down the road, and a Carolina team would potentially provide an unnecessary roadblock to that future prospect. There is a clear lack of region-encompassing names in Major League Soccer, with “New England Revolution” the only example, and there’s no real reason to break that mold with another potential bid city down the road.

Which name is your favorite? What would you have gone with if you could name the club?