Three things we learned: Chelsea v. Man City

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LONDON — Maybe Manchester City aren’t going to stroll to the title again this season…

Chelsea beat Man City 2-0 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday to not only blow the title race open but also breath new life into their own campaign. Pep Guardiola‘s injury hit City were blown away by Chelsea’s press, as the reigning champs had only trailed for 12 minutes all season long before this defeat.

Goals in each half from N'Golo Kante and David Luiz did the damage, as City were left stunned. They now trail Liverpool, who are top of the Premier League table by a point.

Here’s what we learned from a wild encounter in west London.


FIRED UP CHELSEA KEEP TITLE HOPES ALIVE

Maurizio Sarri said he was “very worried” after Chelsea’s midweek defeat to Wolves. Don’t worry, Maurizio. Things are much better now. Chelsea became the first team to defeat Manchester City in the PL this season, as the Blues beat the reigning champs at their own game on Saturday. Sarri’s men hunted in packs and showed the same hunger they had at the start of the season, as well as the clinical edge. Marcos Alonso recovered from a poor first half, Kante was back on form and so too was Jorginho.

Having Eden Hazard back to his best was a big reason why they defeated City, but Sarri slightly altering his approach paid huge dividends. Choosing to start without a recognized center forward was a masterstroke from the Italian coach, as Hazard, Willian and Pedro pushed high on City’s defenders whenever they could, aided by Kante not far behind them and often in front of them. Chelsea’s bite returned, especially in the second half, and so did their faint hopes of winning the title this season. They are still seven points behind City and eight behind leaders Liverpool, but Chelsea needed this win to prove that Sarri’s project is still moving in the right direction after two defeats from their previous three games. With this victory they also gave Tottenham, Arsenal and Liverpool hope that City can be stopped this season.


WASTEFUL CITY LOSE UNBEATEN RUN

When Guardiola decided to not start Gabriel Jesus on Saturday it sent out a message to Chelsea: we are going to toy with you. They did just that in the first half, and Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez saw plenty of the ball and created plenty of chances. They failed to take them. Sane, Sterling and Mahrez were all denied in the first half as they tried to pick the perfect pass or finish. Had Sergio Aguero or Kevin De Bruyne been on the pitch, it may well have been a different story. For just the second time this season they fired a blank (the other was at Liverpool) and it was only the fourth time in the last two seasons that City have failed to score in a game.

Yes, injuries are mounting up for Pep all over the pitch and City didn’t have a cutting edge on Saturday which shows just how important Aguero is to them. Gabriel Jesus came on early in the second half, but it was more in desperation than anything else as the goal on half time gave Chelsea all of the momentum and inspired their victory. City’s first defeat of the season came after 23 games last season. They only lost once after that on their way to a record-breaking title win. Guardiola will be hoping this defeat has the same galvanizing effect on his players this season.


CHELSEA DO NOT NEED A NO.9

For Chelsea much of the talk this season has been about whether or not they need to start Alvaro Morata or Olivier Giroud. Morata wasn’t in the 18-man squad on Saturday, while Giroud came off the bench late on. Hazard was frustrated for most of the first half in a false nine position, throwing his arms in the air when passes didn’t go his way, but with Pedro and Willian buzzing around him they gave City’s defense all kinds of problems and denied them time to play out from the back. Hazard may not enjoy playing in a central striking role, but this performance and the balance it gave Sarri suggests that Chelsea no longer need a No. 9. Playing a 4-3-3 with a false nine in certain games, especially against the top six, is the way forward for the Blues.

Russell hat trick snaps Sporting KC’s win streak (video)

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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Struggling, short-handed Sporting KC needed a star show to kickstart its summer, and Johnny Russell was ready to go.

Maybe the 29-year-old Scotsman was feeding off the buzz of his old club Derby County preparing for the Championship Playoff Final, but Russell scored thrice as Sporting took care of Seattle 3-2 in Washington on Sunday.

[ MORE: USWNT wins final match before World Cup (video) ]

The right winger scored his fifth, sixth, and seventh goals of the MLS season as Sporting won its first match since March 30.

Russell scored 35 goals with 34 assists in 205 matches with the Rams, but has destroyed that mark with KC. He now has 19 and 16 in 55.

Seattle loses ground on LAFC in the race for the Supporters’ Shield, while KC is now within four points of the playoff places.

 

 

Report: Newcastle in takeover talks with UAE billionaire

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Reports out of Northeast England say Newcastle United supporters who want owner Mike Ashley out at all costs have new hope.

United Arab Emirates billionaire Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed Al Nehayan is said to be in talks with Ashley about a takeover of the St. James’ Park-based club, though there’s a lot of work to do for a deal to be complete.

[ MORE: USWNT wins final match before World Cup (video) ]

One report goes as far as to say Ashley has agreed to accept $444 million for the Premier League club.

Sheikh Khaled, 61, was educated at American colleges Boston University and Michigan State. He’s the cousin of Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and was turned down with a $2.5 billion bid for Liverpool last season.

From The Chronicle:

NUFC have confirmed some talks with Sheikh Khaled. But say there is still “some way” to go on a deal. Newcastle United refusing to make any further comment at this time.

Takeover talks are nothing new at Newcastle, and there does seem to be some heat to these reports, but Ashley and his crew have spun these stories of interest in the past. And with Magpies supporters waiting for news on Rafa Benitez‘s new deal, some will be way of a smoke screen for an inability to reach an agreement with the celebrated Newcastle manager.

Wondolowski scores 149th, 150th goals; Earthquakes win

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TORONTO (AP) Chris Wondolowski scored his 149th and 150th MLS goals in the San Jose Earthquakes’ 2-1 victory over Toronto FC on Sunday night.

The MLS career goals leader scored both from close range.

[ MORE: Kante to miss Europa League final ]

Wondolowski got a yard’s separation from Drew Moor and deftly redirected in Cristian Espinoza’s cross in the 37th minute to tie it at 1. The go-ahead goal in the 81st minute was a virtual replay, with Espinoza finding Wondolowski in space.

The San Jose striker has six goals in two games. He scored all four goals in a 4-1 victory over Chicago last weekend to surpass Landon Donovan’s league record of 145 goals and up his career total to 148.

Richie Laryea opened the scoring for Toronto (5-6-2) in the 28th minute

San Jose (5-6-2) won for the first time in six road games this season.

Chairman Mubarak: Other clubs are ‘jealous’ of Man City’s success

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Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak believes that other clubs — namely those who have fallen miles back of the back-to-back Premier League champions — are “jealous” of the club’s success.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante to miss Europa League final with new injury ]

The root of the perceived jealousy is, of course, Man City’s seemingly unlimited spending power which dwarves that of just about — if not — every other club in the PL. There’s a growing sense around the league — and around the world — that clubs like City, just to name one, are doing the game a disservice by distorting the transfer market and building an infallible super-team with the aid of unprecedented financial resources.

Mubarak believes that these feelings also stem from other clubs’ failed dealings in the transfer market: spending comparable — if not more — money on players who don’t justify that price tag the same way some of City’s big-money buys have done — quotes from the BBC:

“With success, there is a certain level of jealousy, envy, whatever you call it. That’s part of the game.

“It’s not easy for our competition, we know that. But the reality is, we didn’t buy the most expensive player in the Premier League [Paul Pogba], we didn’t buy the most expensive goalkeeper [Kepa Arrizabalaga], we didn’t buy the most expensive midfielder, we didn’t buy the most expensive striker [Romelu Lukaku].

“People make decisions, they’ve got to live by them. This is a well-run club.”

City’s financial dealings have regularly been in the headlines of late, as they are believed to have circumvented FFP rules by lying about sponsorship deals so as to balance a larger expenditure on transfer fees and player wages with revenue generated by the club.