Chelsea 4-3 Watford: Changed champions entertain

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  • Terry scores early (video)
  • Gifts equalizer to Capoue
  • Blues make nine changes to XI
  • Batshuayi, Azpilicueta score
  • Fabregas gets classy winner

Stefano Okaka’s 74th minute goal looked to give Watford a surprising draw at much-changed Chelsea on Monday at Stamford Bridge.

But Cesc Fabregas found an 88th minute moment of class to give the Premier League champions a record-tying 29th win of the season in a 4-3 win. A win over Sunderland this weekend would set a new PL standard.

John Terry, Cesar Azpilicueta, and Michy Batshuayi posted Chelsea’s goals, as the Premier League champions moved their point total to 90.

Etienne Capoue and Daryl Janmaat also scored for Watford, which trailed 1-0 and 3-1 in the game. Watford remains 16th with 40 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Azpilicueta, N'Golo Kante, and Eden Hazard were the lone regular starters in the XI, with Nathaniel Chalobah, Nathan Ake, and Kenedy handed rare starts in front of second-string keeper Asmir Begovic.

The class of Chelsea’s depth was on display early, with Willian — how is he not a starter? — burning down the right wing.

Willian curled an 11th minute free kick toward Nathan Ake, but Watford backstop Heurelho Gomes collected it.

Michy Batshuayi beat Sebastian Prodl into the box in the 21st minute, but the defender recovered to force a corner that turned into Chelsea’s opener. Terry rose

Watford leveled it within moments, this time victimizing Terry. Capoue nabbed his seventh of the season when Terry’s poor header went into the path of the Watford man, who headed past Asmir Begovic.

Gomes flew to punch a ball away from Hazard on a 29th minute break, calls for a penalty rightfully ignored by referee Lee Mason.

Hazard then came close to cooking the Watford defense when Willian sent a half-field arrow to the Belgian, who cut to the middle and saw his shot deflected just… though a corner was not given.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Defenders were on show, and Azpilicueta made it 2-1 in the 36th minute drilling a low shot through traffic to beat a diving Gomes.

Batshuayi nabbed a goal after the break from a similar spot on the field as his league-clinching winner from Friday. Kenedy’s shot deflected to Ake, who played square for Batshuayi to tap home. 3-1.

Yet another quickfire reply came from Watford, as Daryl Janmaat dribbled into the 18 and turned Ake the wrong way to pull the Hornets back to within one.

Azpilicueta had a chance to score a second off a Janmaat turnover, but Gomes pushed a low shot wide of the far post.

Okaka took advantage of confusion between Kurt Zouma and Terry to belt a Tom Cleverley pass beyond Begovic to make it 3-3 in the 75th minute. Conte responded by taking off Kenedy for Ola Aina.

The only goal remaining went to Fabregas. Kante won the ball, which wound up on the boot of Willian for a square pass that Fabregas snuck inside the post.

Prodl then saw a second yellow card in stoppage time to send Watford down a man.

Golden Boy shortlist revealed

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The top 20 players under the age of 21 in European soccer have been announced, as the famous Golden Boy award nominees for 2019 will raise a few eyebrows.

An award dished out by Italian outlet Tuttosport, previous stars to be named Golden Boy include Raheem Sterling, Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney and Paul Pogba, as Matthijs de Ligt was the winner in 2018 and is nominated once again.

Nominees must be under the age of 21 and play in one of Europe’s top-flight leagues.

Four of the 20 finalists play in the Premier League with Mason Mount, Phil Foden, Matteo Guendouzi and Moise Kean all named on the shortlist.

Alongside de Ligt, the likes of Joao Felix, Jadon Sancho and Kai Havertz are all expected to be among the favorites for the award. Felix’s rise to stardom at Benfica and Atletico Madrid will likely see him win this award.

Canada’s Alphonso Davies is a finalist as the former Vancouver Whitecaps star continues to develop at Bayern Munich.

Below is the full list of nominees for 2019, with the winner announced on December 16 as media outlets across Europe vote for the winner.


Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich)
Matthijs de Light (Juventus)
Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan)
Ansu Fati (Barcelona)
Phil Foden (Manchester City)
Matteo Guendouzi (Arsenal)
Erling Braut Haland (RB Salzburg)
Kai Havertz (Bayer Leverkusen)
Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid)
Dejan Joveljic (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Moise Kean (Everton)
Kang-in Lee (Valencia)
Andriy Oleksiyovych Lunin (Real Valladolid)
Donyell Malen (PSV)
Mason Mount (Chelsea)
Rodrygo (Real Madrid)
Jadon Sancho (BVB)
Ferran Torres (Valencia)
Vinicius Jr (Real Madrid)
Nicolo Zaniolo (AS Roma)

UEFA wants to “wage war on racists”

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UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has reacted strongly to the racist abuse of England’s players in Bulgaria on Monday.

[ MORE: England’s players react ]

During the EURO 2020 qualifier monkey chants were heard from sections of the home crowds at Sofia’s Vasil Levski stadium, while Nazi salutes were also made and the officials stopped the game twice in the first half and then followed step one of UEFA’s anti-racism protocol as a message was broadcast over the speakers that the game was in danger of being abandoned.

A section of home supporters were seen leaving their seats just before half time, covering their faces with hoods and some had shirts which said “UEFA No Respect” written on them.

UEFA will investigate the incidents in Sofia after England made a formal complaint, and this comes after section of the stadium in Sofia was shut on Monday due to the racist abuse of players from both Kosovo and the Czech Republic during previous EURO 2020 qualifiers.

Ceferin called on governments and other organizations to work with them to “wage war” on racists as incidents continue to crop up across Europe.

“There were times, not long ago, when the football family thought that the scourge of racism was a distant memory. The last couple of years have taught us that such thinking was, at best, complacent. The rise of nationalism across the continent has fuelled some unacceptable behaviour and some have taken it upon themselves to think that a football crowd is the right place to give voice to their appalling views.

“As a governing body, I know we are not going to win any popularity contests. But some of the views expressed about UEFA’s approach to fighting racism have been a long way off the mark. UEFA, in close cooperation with the FARE network (Football Against Racism Europe), instituted the three-stage protocol for identifying and tackling racist behaviour during games.

“UEFA’s sanctions are among the toughest in sport for clubs and associations whose supporters are racist at our matches. The minimum sanction is a partial closure of the stadium – a move which costs the hosts at least hundreds of thousands in lost revenue and attaches a stigma to their supporters.

“UEFA is the only football body to ban a player for ten matches for racist behaviour – the most severe punishment level in the game. Believe me, UEFA is committed to doing everything it can to eliminate this disease from football. We cannot afford to be content with this; we must always strive to strengthen our resolve.

“More broadly, the football family – everyone from administrators to players, coaches and fans – needs to work with governments and NGOs to wage war on the racists and to marginalise their abhorrent views to the fringes of society. Football associations themselves cannot solve this problem. Governments too need to do more in this area. Only by working together in the name of decency and honour will we make progress.”

Turkish players defy UEFA with another military salute

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PARIS (AP) Turkish players defied UEFA with another military salute in Turkey’s 1-1 draw with France in their European Championship qualifier on Monday.

UEFA was already looking into Turkish players’ salutes from during and after Friday’s 1-0 win over Albania. The European soccer federation prohibits political statements in stadiums.

But Turkish players lined up again to show a military salute after Kaan Ayhan’s late equalizer in Paris. Captain Burak Yilmaz was joined by goalkeeper Mert Gunok and several other outfield players in giving the salute toward the crowd – in apparent support of the Turkish forces involved in the country’s invasion of Kurdish-held regions in northern Syria.

Defender Merih Demiral urged Ayhan to salute, too, leading to what looked like a heated discussion between the two, but the goal-scorer desisted and made his way back to the pitch.

Ayhan and Turkey striker Kenan Karaman both play for German side Fortuna Dusseldorf, which had issued a statement after Friday’s game to distance itself from “politically motivated acts.”

“Both players stand for values that the club lives by,” Dusseldorf sporting director Lutz Pfannenstiel said.

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

Bulgarian prime minister intervenes, Bulgaria FA chief resigns

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Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov asked for the president of their football association, Borislav Mihaylov, to resign following the racist abuse of England’s players in Sofia’s Vasil Levski stadium on Monday.

And on Tuesday Mihaylov stepped down and handed in his resignation.

During the EURO 2020 qualifier monkey chants were heard from sections of the home crowds, while Nazi salutes were also made and the officials stopped the game twice in the first half and then followed step one of UEFA’s anti-racism protocol as a message was broadcast over the speakers that the game was in danger of being abandoned.

The Bulgarian sport minister, Krasen Kralev, released a statement on the incident and said that Mihaylov, who had previously complained to UEFA about Gareth Southgate‘s concerns over potential racist abuse in Bulgaria, should resign.

“The prime minister called me urgently a short time ago,”  said. “You know that the government has done a lot for the development of Bulgarian football in the last four years. But after the recent events, having in mind the whole state of football and last night’s incidents, the prime minister has ordered me from today to suspend any relations with the BFU, including financial ones, until the resignation of Borislav Mihaylov.”

UEFA is opening a full investigation into the disgusting scenes inside the stadium, as England’s players and staff have been applauded for the way they handled themselves in their 6-0 win.

Southgate, Tyrone Mings and other England players have reacted to the abuse and say they have made a statement on and off the pitch for UEFA having to use their anti-racism protocol.

“We know it’s an unacceptable situation, and I think we’ve managed to make two statements. By winning the game, but also we’re raised the awareness of everybody to the situation,” Southgate said. “The game was stopped twice, I know for some people that won’t be enough, but we as a group were on board with that process.”