Conte enjoys first Chelsea victory as new identity develops

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LONDON – Chelsea’s new manager Antonio Conte jumped into the stands to celebrate with the home fans at Stamford Bridge as his managerial debut in the Premier League ended in dramatic, glorious fashion.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Diego Costa calmly found the bottom corner of the net in the 89th minute to send Conte and Chelsea’s fans wild, as the Italian manager marked his opening game as a coach in England with a memorable moment and three points in a 2-1 win against West Ham United.

[ MORE: Bilic plays down Costa incident ]

Speaking to reporters after the game, Conte revealed the moment he walked out at the Bridge was just as special as when he saw Costa’s low shot hit the back of the net.

“It was fantastic,” Conte said. “I have to say thanks to Chelsea’s fans because the welcome was fantastic. To see the Italian flag in the stand, I had a bit of emotion with me and my wife and my daughter. It was fantastic, this welcome. I hope that with the work with my players, to repay this welcome.”

New signing N’Golo Kante improved as the game wore on for Chelsea and Conte made a point of going up to the French international midfielder and hugging him at the final whistle.

ProSoccerTalk asked Conte about Kante and the Italian midfielder revealed just how important he is to the Blues.

N'Golo Kante is a great player, a great buy and is important for the team,” Conte told ProSoccerTalk. “He is a player who has a good technique but fantastic stamina. He is able to cover a lot of space in the pitch and he is able to help always the teammates. We are happy for his performance but I am happy with the performance of all the Chelsea players.”

It wasn’t just Kante he hugged at the final whistle, he hugged most of his Chelsea players as the passionate former Juventus and Italy boss is already showing signs of fostering a real togetherness with his players after just a few months in charge.

That new identity and fast counter-attacking style is already developing.

“I think every manager, when he arrives at a new club, he tries to bring his football philosophy. We are working only one month with the players but I am pleased. Tonight I saw the right intensity and the players always tried to find the situation that we can find during the training session,” Conte said. “It is important to bring something different compared to last season. I think every manager brings his football philosophy. For this reason, I am very happy for the behavior and attitude of the players. They are putting themselves in the team. I think to have a great team this is important. The players with great talent have to put themselves in the team.”

Chelsea played a 4-1-4-1 formation with Eden Hazard cutting in from the left and Willian dangerous on the right. Nemanja Matic and Oscar played just in front of Kante and Conte was incessantly screaming at his central midfield duo to get on the ball and turn as soon as they could. Costa delivered the winning moment and has boss said that he didn’t feel like his striker deserved a second yellow for a late challenge on West Ham’s Adrian late in the game. Conte, of course, praised Costa’s passion as the Spanish international dug deep to grab Chelsea the win.

Fast transitions when winning the ball back are one of Conte’s most recognizable traits and that was evident from his Chelsea team on his PL bow.

ProSoccerTalk asked West Ham’s manager what he thought of Chelsea under Conte and the Croatian manager was mightily impressed with what his counterpart has created in just a few weeks at in west London.

“I was impressed,” Bilic revealed. “We started better the first 15 minutes but then it was exactly what we expected, for them to be on their toes and be aggressive and to use that individual class, especially on the half counter attacks in a situation where we lost the ball and gave the ball to them in a part of the pitch where you simply can’t do it. It was a very energetic Chelsea.”

Chelsea could be set to add to their squad too, with Conte revealing the club is working hard behind-the-scenes to try and bring in new players, while he revealed he is “happy” with Cesc Fabregas’ attitude despite the Spaniard being named on the bench but not brought on against the Hammers.

The likes of Romelu Lukaku have been linked with a $80 million move to Chelsea and Conte called the current market “crazy” as they look around for new additions.

“About the transfer policy, it is important to have a contact every day with the club. This is a very crazy market. Very crazy. The club knows my idea. It is important to find the right solution to improve this team. Not to buy only for buying,” Conte said. “Now we are awaiting for the right solution to improve the team but I am very happy to have these players because they show me every day great attitude, great work rate, great behavior. I am very glad. With two weeks until the end of the transfer market, we pay attention and if we find the right solution to improve the team it is okay.”

Toronto score 4 goals in ET to bounce DCU, Rooney (video)

Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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The game in 200 words (or less): Toronto FC outplayed D.C. United by a wide margin but needed extra time — and a 13-minute explosion of goals — to book their place in the Eastern Conference semifinals, where they’ll face top-seeded New York City. The Reds led for exactly an hour, thanks to Marco Delgado’s goal just after the half-hour mark, only to throw their advantage away — after failing to convert a number of chances to go 2-0 up — in second-half stoppage time. The 1-1 scoreline lasted for all of about three minutes of game time before Toronto scored not once, not twice, not three times, but four times in the first period of extra time. Now, Greg Vanney’s side will cross its fingers and hope to get Jozy Altidore (quad) and Omar Gonzalez (hamstring), who didn’t play in this one, back for Wednesday’s game against NYCFC.

[ MORE: Lampard “pleased for Pulisic,” praises subs in Chelsea win ]

What did we learn?

  • Worst time for a goalkeeping error: You might be thinking, “Well, yes, duh, of course it is, there isn’t a good time for that.” The playoffs, however, are really not the right time, however, and United learned that the hard way when Bill Hamid failed to hold onto a simple bouncing ball in front of goal. Stefan Frei was lights out for the Seattle Sounders earlier on Saturday and Jesse Gonzalez recovered from a poor start (and was bailed out by three goals scored by FC Dallas), and Quentin Westberg was stellar for Toronto in this one.

  • Set-piece defending, once again: Earlier in the day, we saw Seattle fail to defend set pieces and let Dallas back into their game on multiple occasions. Toronto weren’t any better in the dying seconds of regular time. With under two minutes remaining, this is how they defended a United corner kick…

That’s comically bad for a regular season game in the middle of April, let alone for a dark-horse candidate in the playoffs, up a goal in stoppage time. Every chance counts tenfold in the playoffs, and set pieces are no different.

  • D.C.’s desire still in doubt: To lose in extra time, away from home, is one thing. To capitulate and concede four goals in 13 minutes — almost as if to say you didn’t want to score the late equalizer in the first place — is shameful. Wayne Rooney‘s time in MLS ends with his team down 5-1 in extra time and him being subbed off after 105 minutes.


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Man of the match: Jonathan Osorio

Goalscorers: Delgado (32′), Rodriguez (90’+3), Laryea (93′), Osorio (95′, 103′) DeLeon (105’+1)

Serie A: Juventus win 5th straight; Napoli cruise past Verona (video)

Photo by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images
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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ LA LIGA: Real Madrid lose to Mallorca; Messi, Suarez, Griezmann send Barca top ]

Juventus 2-1 Bologna

Juve were made to work a bit — but not too much — en route to a 2-1 victory over Bologna. It’s their fifth straight win in league play and again puts them four points clear of Inter Milan, who are yet to play this weekend.

Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring with a pinpoint finish from a tight angle in the 19th minute, but Bologna hit back just seven minutes later when Danilo smashed home a half-volley after Juve failed to clear a corner kick. It was 1-1 at halftime, but not much longer than that. Miralem Pjanic picked out the near post and slotted home past the goalkeeper in the 54th minute to give Juve their deserved winner.

Napoli 2-0 Verona

Napoli, on the other hand, had their backs against the wall early when Verona visited the San Paolo Stadium. Goalkeeper Alex Meret was the hero early on with a fantastic double-save before Carlo Ancelotti’s side settled in and took control of the game.

Arkadiusz Milik got on the end of Fabian Ruiz’s cross right in front of goal, leaving the Polish forward with the simplest of tap-ins to make it 1-0 in the 37 minute. Milik made it 2-0 when he got a glancing touch on a sensation free kick from Lorenzo Insigne in the 67th.

The victory sees Napoli hang onto fourth in the league table and move to within two points of second-place Inter.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Lazio 3-3 Atalanta

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Sassuolo v. Inter Milan — 6:30 a.m. ET
Sampdoria v. Roma — 9 a.m. ET
Udinese v. Torino — 9 a.m. ET
Cagliari v. SPAL — 9 a.m. ET
Parma v. Genoa — 12 p.m. ET
AC Milan v. Lecce — 2:45 p.m. ET

Sounders top Dallas in all-time, extra-time playoffs classic (video)

Andy Bao/The Seattle Times via AP
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The game in 200 words (or less): How about one word? Insanity. Simply put, an all-time classic in MLS Cup Playoffs history. It’s a small sample size, no doubt about it, but MLS’s new single-elimination playoff format appears to have solved the problem of uninspiring early-round action. Seattle advanced to the Western Conference semifinals, where they’ll face the winner of Real Salt Lake versus Portland Timbers, with a 4-3 extra-time victory, but it wasn’t without 120 minutes of nonstop drama. Seattle went from 2-0 up inside the first 25 minutes, to level at 2-2 inside 65, to 3-2 up 10 minutes later, to level again with under 10 minutes of regular time remaining. They needed 113 minutes to do it, but Seattle broke the deadlock for the final time when Jordan Morris completed the first hat trick of his career.

[ MORE: Lampard “pleased for Pulisic,” praises subs in Chelsea win ]

What did we learn?

  • Sounders making magic out wide: No matter how many times they saw it, Dallas simply couldn’t slow down the Sounders wide attackers and full backs from creating superb scoring chances from out wide. This has been one of the Sounders’ greatest strengths for a couple seasons now, yet Dallas seemed wholly unprepared for it. The speed and crossing ability they have out wide is a huge problem for a lot of teams, especially when Morris and Raul Ruidiaz are moving around freely in the box.

  • Sounders’ defensive struggles unsolved: For all the chances they created on one end, Seattle couldn’t control the game or even slow it down in middle and defensive thirds. Whether it was on the counter-attack, through sustained possession by Dallas or set pieces, Seattle struggled in the worst way. Even after going ahead in extra time, Seattle stood idly by as Dallas created a couple of golden scoring chances and were so close to finding themselves level again at 4-4. They won’t have (m)any more “get out of jail free” cards to play as they advance to the latter rounds.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Jordan Morris

Goalscorers: Ruidiaz (18′), Morris (22′, 74′, 113′), Cannon (39′), Hedges (64′), Acosta (82′)

La Liga: Real Madrid shocked by Mallorca; Messi, Suarez, Griezmann send Barca top

AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos
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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Lampard “pleased for Pulisic,” praises subs in Chelsea win ]

Eibar 0-3 Barcelona

Lionel Messi goal – check; Luis Suarez goal – check; Antoine Griezmann goal – check; clean sheet – check. If there exists a perfect recipe for a Barcelona victory this season, the Blaugrana put it to good use en route to a fourth straight La Liga victory and top spot in the league table on Saturday.

Griezmann opened the scoring in the 13th minute, followed by Messi in the 58th and Suarez in the 66th. Marc-Andre ter Stegen didn’t have to make a single save as Eibar managed just five shots in the game.

Mallorca 1-0 Real Madrid

Real Madrid’s unbeaten start to the season was snapped at eight games on Saturday, when Los Blancos went to Mallorca and suffered a hugely underwhelming 1-0 defeat. Zinedine Zidane’s side — already without the likes of Gareth Bale (calf), Luka Modric (bruise), Toni Kroos (adductor) and Marco Ascensio (knee), among others — finished the game with 10 men after Alvaro Odriozola earned his second yellow card in the 74th minute. The defeat sees Madrid fall off the top spot, now sitting second behind Barca.

Lago Junior scored the game’s only goal in the 7th minute and Mallorca held on for 83 more, allowing just four shots on target (12 in total). The early goal was Mallorca’s only shot on target over 90 minutes.

Atletico Madrid 1-1 Valencia

Atleti coughed up a late lead and settled for a 1-1 draw with Valencia, but the worst news of the day comes in the form of an injury suffered by Joao Felix. The 19-year-old’s ankle buckled underneath him late in the second half. Atleti finished with 10 men after their $140-million superstar was forced off.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Getafe 2-0 Leganes

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Alaves v. Celta Vigo — 6 a.m. ET
Real Sociedad v. Real Betis — 8 a.m. ET
Espanyol v. Villarreal — 10 a.m. ET
Athletic Bilbao v. Real Valladolid — 12:30 p.m. ET
Sevilla v. Levante — 3 p.m. ET