Three things learned from Man City v. Chelsea

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MANCHESTER — Manchester City continued their procession towards the Premier League title as Pep Guardiola‘s side beat Chelsea 1-0 to seal a 14th consecutive home league win and increase their lead atop the table to 18 points.

[ MORE: Conte defends Chelsea

The lone goal of the game came seconds in the second half with Bernardo Silva slotting home, as Antonio Conte‘s set his Chelsea side up in an ultra-defensive system and they never looked like getting anything from this game. The reigning champs were outclassed by the champions elect.

Here’s what we learned from the Etihad Stadium as City edged closer to the title.


CITY COAST TO YET ANOTHER VICTORY

With four more wins needed to secure the Premier League title, Man City can be excused for easing to the trophy.

Their 1-0 win against Chelsea should have been by a far more comfortable scoreline but Guardiola’s men didn’t need to force the issue as they cantered to their 25th win in 29 games. Just as they did at Arsenal on Thursday, City dispatched a top six side easily and at times in the second half they were at walking pace as the knocked the ball around and created chances whenever they wanted to.

City had 71 percent of the possession and 13 shots to Chelsea’s three and this was one of the easiest 1-0 victories you will ever see.

Guardiola’s side are in UEFA Champions League action on Wednesday with their last 16 tie against FC Basel all but over after a 4-0 first leg win in Switzerland. That means City can rest players in midweek before they face Stoke City next Monday.

City want to get the PL title wrapped up as soon as possible and you feel as though they’re playing with the handbrake on. They’re that good they could stick the car in reverse and win at a canter.

At times Chelsea threatened on the counter in the second half, but any slackness from City was followed up an attack which nearly lead to a goal. City will be worthy champions when it is all confirmed, and once again they dominated a rival with incredible ease.


CHELSEA CHECKING OUT

“Stay! Stay! Stay!” that was the word bellowed time and time again by Antonio Conte in the first half as he urged his Chelsea team to stay tight in what often resembled a 5-4-1 formation.

They didn’t muster a single shot on target during an awful display.

Much like their recent draw with Barcelona in the Champions League, Conte set Chelsea up not to lose as Willian, Pedro and Eden Hazard were the three forwards and Hazard was particularly frustrated as the false nine.

Balls were hoofed up to Hazard time and time again, with the Belgian wizard looking to the heavens in disgust. In midfield the loss of N'Golo Kante through injury left Conte without a true defensive midfielder as Danny Drinkwater and Cesc Fabregas struggled to contain City’s fluid attack and provide a substantial shield for the back three.

In attack there were ironic cheers from City’s fans whenever Chelsea got a corner and they looked devoid of confidence on the ball with so many needless giveaways.

It appears that Chelsea’s players are checking out and Conte continues to underwhelm as the Blues have now lost four of their last five games in the Premier League. Five points off the top four with nine games to go, Chelsea only play two of the current top six (Tottenham and Liverpool) in the final months of the season and you wouldn’t bet against them going on a run which sees them creep back into the top four.

However, the manner of narrow defeats at Man United and Man City in the past two weekends has summed up just how far Conte’s side have regressed since they were crowned Champions of England last May. The Blues have won just once in five games away at the big six this season, while for the first time in 14 years they have lost four-straight games away from home in all competitions.

All of that adds up to an unhappy dressing room…


HAZARD’S ATTITUDE SUMS UP CHELSEA’S PLIGHT

Eden Hazard trudged off the pitch as he was replaced by Alvaro Morata in the 90th minute on Sunday.

He didn’t shake hands with Conte and looked miserable in the pouring rain in Manchester. He looked that way all afternoon.

The Belgian forward did not look happy at being asked to play in a false nine position once again, with long balls lumped forward towards him and Hazard throwing his hands in the air whenever that happened.

A moment in the second half summed up how Hazard and his Chelsea teammates didn’t appear to enjoy playing in Conte’s defensive style.

Hazard tried a clever flick 40 yards from his own goal and gifted the ball straight back to Man City and his manager stood with his arms out as he questioned Hazard’s actions.

They’ve now got a mountain to climb just to finish in the top four, plus reach the last eight of the Champions League, and Hazard will continue to be linked with a move to Real Madrid as his attitude summed up the cloud hanging over Chelsea right now.

This all seems incredibly familiar to the way Hazard and Co. checked out when Jose Mourinho deployed extreme defensive tactics back in the 2015-16 season.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 11 — England, Colombia back in action

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Day 11 of the 2018 World Cup is up next, on Sunday, with England back in action and in need of three points — and a resounding win — to keep pace with Belgium in Group G.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Following Belgium’s 5-2 thrashing of Tunisia — the same side that England beat in stoppage time earlier in the week — on Saturday, the Red Devils have positioned themselves perfectly to win the group with a draw against the Three Lions on Thursday. England need a five-goal victory at 6-1 or higher to the finish top of the group following a draw on the final day.

Then, it’s a pair of Group H fixtures, kicked off with Japan (1st) versus Senegal (2nd) — both of whom won their first game — followed by Poland (3rd) versus Colombia (4th).

Below is Sunday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Sunday, June 24

Group G
England vs. Panama: Nizhny Novgorod, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group H
Japan vs. Senegal: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Poland vs. Colombia: Kazan, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

FIFA opens case against Xhaka, Shaqiri for celebrations

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FIFA’s disciplinary committee opened disciplinary proceedings against Swiss players Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri for politically charged goal celebrations during their 2-1 World Cup win over Serbia in Kaliningrad.

[ MORE: The meaning behind Xhaka, Shaqiri’s eagle celebration ]

FIFA also said Saturday it has opened disciplinary proceedings against the Serbian Football Association for crowd disturbance and the display of political and offensive messages by Serbian fans. FIFA also is reviewing statements that Serbia coach Mladen Krstajic made after the match.

Xhaka and Shaqiri celebrated their goals by making a nationalist symbol of their ethnic Albanian heritage. Both of their families come from Kosovo, the former Serbian province that declared independence in 2008. Serbia doesn’t recognize Kosovo’s independence and relations between the two countries remain tense.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

The Polish Football Association was fined $10,100 and given a warning by FIFA’s disciplinary committee for a banner that the governing body deemed political and offensive. The banner was displayed during Senegal’s 2-1 win over Poland on Tuesday in Moscow.

The committee also opened disciplinary proceedings against the federations of Argentina and Croatia for crowd disturbances during Croatia’s 3-0 win Thursday at Nizhny Novgorod.

Low: Germany survived “a thriller full of emotion”

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At 1-0 down, they were headed for elimination in the group stage (with a game still to play); once level at 1-1, they faced yet a steep hill to climb on the final day of the group stage; after Toni Kroos scored his stunning 94th-minute winner, Joachim Low could finally exhale and imagine himself managing the German national team for another day.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Sweden at the 2018 World Cup was, for most intents and purposes, a worrying performance for the defending world champions. Fortunately for Low and Co., the one place in which their comeback dramatic victory was a raging success is the only one that matters: the Group F table, where Die Mannschaft currently (somehow) sit second and control their own destiny — quotes from the BBC:

“This was a thriller, full of emotion, right up until the final whistle. Brandt hit the goal post just three minutes before the end too. We took out a defensive player and brought on an attacking player because we knew had to bring on everything we had to turn it round.

“We had a couple of great chances — Mario Gomez’s header being one of them. The last couple of minutes were full of drama but those matches exist in football. We’ve had these situations in other tournaments as well. For the viewers that’s part of the attractiveness of football.”

“Something I did appreciate today was that we didn’t lose our nerve, we didn’t panic after going a goal down. We kept a level head and said we needed to make quick passes and tire the Swedes out to open up spaces.

“We didn’t score a couple of good chances but we never lost hope we could win the match and I think the goal scored in stoppage time had a bit of luck involved but it did show the belief we had in ourselves.”

There’s still plenty of work to do for one of the most popular pre-tournament favorites — there’s a little matter of needing to beat, or at the very least, best Sweden’s result against Mexico — but that can wait until tomorrow, because Saturday unexpectedly became all about survival.

Germany snatches late win over Sweden to avoid elimination

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Germany dodged a fatal bullet on Saturday, coming back from a goal down to Sweden to steal a 2-1 victory at the 2018 World Cup and keep their world title defense alive… barely.

For all of 16 minutes — plus halftime — the Germans were in line to be eliminated with one Group F game still to play, but ultimately, Ola Toivonen‘s unlikely opener was canceled out by Marco Reus in very short order after the restart, and Toni Kroos broke Swedish hearts in the 94th.

Put another way, Joachim Loew survives to manage another day.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Sweden felt massively aggrieved to have not been awarded a penalty kick in the 17th minute, when Jerome Boateng took out the legs of Marcus Berg as he bore down on an out-rushing Manuel Neuer. The combination of leg-to-leg contact and a strong push in the back appeared an obvious error for the video-assistant referee to right a wrong, but the call never came.

The opening goal was the direct result of a careless giveaway by Kroos near the center circle, and needed just three touches and two passes to cut through the German defense and spring Toivonen behind Antonio Rudiger. The finish, a perfectly weighted dink — perhaps aided by the slightest of deflections by Rudiger — left Neuer with no chance (WATCH HERE).

Then, with the final touch of the first half, Berg glanced a header from a free kick that was destined to his the inside netting at the far post, but Neuer redefined the phrase “at full stretch” to keep the scoreline 1-1.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

That save proved invaluable for Joachim Loew’s side, as Marco Reus pulled the defending world champions level less than three minutes into the second half. Timo Werner dribbled to the endline and cut the ball back toward the penalty spot, and Reus got on the end of the deflected cross and struck it home with his knee. A semblance of order restored.

Bedlam ensued in the final 15 minutes, as Boateng was sent off for a second yellow card and Neuer lost his footing while scrambling across the face of goal to make a save, only narrowly preserving the 1-1 scoreline. Robin Olsen one-upped Neuer in the 88th minute, rising to his crossbar to punch Mario Gomez’s header just over.

In the fourth of five minutes of second-half stoppage time, Kroos became the hero. From a nearly impossible angle on the left side of the penalty area, Kroos rolled the ball forward to Reus on the restart, creating an ever so slightly wider angle from which to curl his shot toward the far post. It worked to perfection.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

Germany (3 points) will finish group play against fourth-place South Korea (0 points) on Wednesday, while Sweden (3 points) will face Mexico (6 points), who had clinched their place in the knockout rounds until Germany’s late winner.