Chelsea, Leicester put on a show in draw

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An amazing encounter saw Chelsea draw 1-1 with Leicester City at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, as Frank Lampard‘s tough start to life in charge of the Blues continued.

Academy graduate Mason Mount, his first for the club, put Chelsea ahead early on but Leicester rallied valiantly in the second half as Wilfried Ndidi headed home the equalizer.

The game then turned into a wild end-to-end clash as the Foxes impressed mightily.

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Chelsea have now failed to win any of their opening three games of the season, with a defeat at Man United, a penalty shootout defeat against Liverpool in the Super Cup and now a draw at home against Leicester.

The Foxes have now drawn both of their opening games, against Wolves and Chelsea, in a solid start to the season for Brendan Rodgers, who will be a little upset they didn’t make the most of their second half chances.


3 things we learned

1. Fast start evaporates once again: This is now becoming a slightly worrying theme for Lampard. Just like they did against United and Liverpool, Chelsea dominated the early proceedings but failed to make the most of it and Mount’s goal was as good as it got. The high-press was relentless in the first 20 minutes but Chelsea don’t seem to have the fitness levels to regain that momentum, and the way they needlessly gave the ball away in the second half was worrying. Lampard’s midfielders, Jorginho and Kante, failed to provide a shield and this young Chelsea side were a little too naive. Plenty of work today for the Blues.

2. Classy Leicester shine: It took them about 25 minutes to get going, but once they did Rodgers’ side showed their class. Tielemans and Ndidi dominated midfield and Maddison and Vary were so dangerous in attack. This Leicester side has dealt well with the departure of Harry Maguire as Caglar Soyuncu looked composed in central defense. A very promising display from a team who will push for a top six finish.

3. Pulisic struggles to make impact: It was a rough first start in the PL for the USMNT star, who had a few nice touches early but just couldn’t get into the game after Leicester improved dramatically. He played well in Istanbul on Wednesday and maybe he was a little tired after a big few weeks. Not his best display as he failed to get in dangerous positions and was subbed out in the 70th minute.

Man of the Match: James Maddison – Ripped Chelsea apart in the second half and grabbed an assist, plus should have scored the winner but fired over. Incredible quality as he ran at Chelsea’s ragged defense time and time again.


Chelsea almost got off to a perfect start as Olivier Giroud teed up Pedro but the Spaniard sent his volley into the side-netting. Moments later Mount and Christian Pulisic almost scored but Kasper Schmeichel denied both players after a lovely forward pass from Jorginho.

And Chelsea’s rapid start grabbed them a deserved opener as Mount robbed Wilfried Ndidi of the ball and slotted home past Schmeichel as Lampard had his first PL goal as Chelsea boss.

Leicester eventually settled down as Ricardo Pereira broke free but couldn’t find Jamie Vardy, while Mount headed at goal after a cross from Cesar Azpilicueta. James Maddison’s free kick almost found Ndidi at the back post but he couldn’t get on the end of it as Leicester improved as the game wore on.

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The Foxes started the second half well and Maddison rounded Kepa but Chelsea cleared after he played the ball back. Hamza Choudury whipped in a dangerous cross which Kepa held on to as Leicester continued to pour forward in the second half.

Leicester’s equalizer arrived from a corner kick as Ndidi atoned for his error which led to Chelsea’s goal with the Nigerian rising above Cesar Azpilicueta to make it 1-1.

Maddison should have put Leicester 2-1 up moments later as Fuchs found him in the box and he bundled towards goal before somehow firing over from eight yards out. Jamie Vardy then drilled just wide after good work from Maddison as the Foxes continued to flood forward.

Youri Tielemans smashed a shot on goal which was pushed away, then Vardy couldn’t get his feet right in the box as Leicester had the final big chance of the game and were left feeling a little underwhelmed with their point gained at Chelsea. That says it all.

Mancini says he wants Balotelli back with Italy on merits

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FLORENCE, Italy (AP) — Italy coach Roberto Mancini says he prefers to recall Mario Balotelli for his qualities as a player, not as a message against racism.

Balotelli has not been called up by Mancini in more than a year but Italian soccer federation president Gabriele Gravina has said naming him in the squad would send a strong message after the Brescia forward was racially abused recently.

Mancini said Monday that “if Balotelli gets another chance, it will be because he deserves it from a technical point of view.”

Balotelli was included in Mancini’s first two squads but again was omitted from upcoming European qualifiers against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Armenia.

Balotelli has long said his goal is to rejoin the national team for next year’s European Championship.

The 29-year-old striker has scored two goals in seven matches this season.

Cardiff City parts ways with Neil Warnock

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Cardiff City has fired manager Neil Warnock with the 70-year-old boss in his fourth season with the club.

The Bluebirds sit 14th in the Championship table, on a six-match run that features just a single win.

Warnock’s tenure at Cardiff City featured promotion from the Championship in 2017/18 via a second-place finish in the league table. It wouldn’t last long, as they were relegated the next year, finishing 18th, two points back of Brighton Hove & Albion in safety.

“I am leaving my beloved Bluebirds after over three years of which have been some of the best days in my long football career,” Warnock said, with the club officially stating the decision came via mutual consent. “It is a shared belief that this is the right time for a new voice as we believe this squad of players is more than capable of getting success.”

“On behalf of Cardiff City Football Club, I thank Neil for his invaluable contribution to the future of this great Club,” said Cardiff City FC Chairman Mehmet Dalman in a club statement. “He not only gained promotion in his first season but played a pivotal role in uniting the fans and the club. I am personally upset by his departure and wish him the very best for the future.”

At 70 years old and completing his 17th managerial stint with 15 different clubs, it is possible that Warnock’s managerial career is complete. The Sheffield-born former Barnsley player, who turns 71 in less than a month, has taken charge of 112 Premier League games and overseen a record eight promotion campaigns in his career to date.

At Cardiff, Warnock took charge of 144 matches total, with 59 wins. He was in the position for the death of Emiliano Sala, which he called “by far the most difficult week of my career.”

Arsenal front office gives Unai Emery vote of confidence

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The Arsenal front office has publicly issued support for manager Unai Emery despite the negative run of results that has left fans wondering what is next for the Gunners.

Speaking at a pre-planned meeting with over 200 Arsenal staff members in attendence, head of football Raul Sanllehi and the managing director Vinai Venkatesham were the ones to deliver Emery’s vote of confidence.

“We are as disappointed as everyone else with both our results and performances at this stage of the season,” they said in the meeting as quoted by The Guardian and Goal.com. “We share the frustration with our fans, Unai, players and all our staff as they are not at the level we want or expect. Things need to improve to meet our objectives for the season, and we firmly believe Unai is the right man for the job, together with the backroom team we have in place.”

“We are all working intensively behind the scenes to turn things around and are confident we will. We never take our fantastic support for granted. We hope we can all stick together and get behind the team in this challenging period, as together we are stronger.”

Calls for Emery’s job have grown louder in recent weeks as the club flounders in both Premier League and Europa League competition. The Gunners have failed to win its last four league matches in a row with losses to Sheffield United and Leicester City sandwiching a pair of draws with Crystal Palace and Wolves. They also looked lackluster in a 1-1 draw against Vitoria Guimaraes in European play.

Most alarmingly, Arsenal continues to throw away winning positions, coughing up leads in both recent Premier League draws as well as the Vitoria Guimaraes match. They also threw away a two-goal lead to Watford earlier this season, and nearly lost at home to newly-promoted Aston Villa, requiring a last-gasp winner from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

The Granit Xhaka affair has also blighted Emery’s time, with the Swiss midfielder looking to earn his place back in the squad after being stripped of the captain’s armband for negative gestures towards the booing Arsenal crowd.

How should Liverpool and Egypt manage Salah injury?

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Mohamed Salah has struggled with a nagging ankle injury the last month, and the recurring problem reappeared during the 3-1 win over Manchester City.

Soon after Salah scored Liverpool’s second goal in the massive victory, he was caught by Fernandinho and lay clutching his left ankle in clear pain. The Egyptian received treatment and stayed on the pitch, but was withdrawn in the 87th minute for Joe Gomez who came on as an extra defender with Liverpool looking to see the game out.

After the game, Salah was seen with ice strapped to his ankle, and an ESPN report claims that Liverpool “has major concerns” over the winger’s recurrence. With international duty coming up, it remains to be seen how both club and country maintain his health.

Last month, with the injury still fresh following a challenge by Leicester City’s Hamza Choudhury that started this mess, Liverpool reportedly requested that Egypt leave Salah out of the squad for friendlies against Botswana and Liberia. The national team begrudgingly accepted the club’s request, although there were reports in Egypt that manager Hossam El-Badry was unhappy. Now, with Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers on the horizon this international break, Egypt will very much want its star forward in the lineup. Salah has apparently chosen to report for international duty and assess his new knock with his Egypt team doctors, and the club will have no choice but to accept that decision and wait on the results.

And yet, he now appears to be walking wounded again. Should Egypt call up Salah for a massive qualifier against Kenya on Thursday, and again for the follow-up against lowly Comoros? They produced a pair of 1-0 wins in the friendlies last time out, but with a stronger opponent in this international break’s opener, Salah’s presence would be a boost. Still, if he is less than 100%, he could be a hindrance to the squad, and harming his long-term fitness could be of concern not just to his club, but country too.

Obviously, Liverpool will hope he is omitted, but the club is in a tough position having already requested he sit last break. Salah’s overall performance has dropped since initially picking up the injury against Leicester City last month, although he still does have three goals and two assists on the board across all competitions. If he does play for Egypt this week, how should the club proceed? With Premier League games Crystal Palace, Brighton, Everton, and Bournemouth coming up, it’s possible that Jurgen Klopp saves Salah for Champions League meetings with Napoli and RB Leipzig that feel more threatening. Still, leaving the club vulnerable in the Premier League risks potentially allowing Manchester City to climb back into the title race, squandering the momentum built up this weekend.

Deciding how and when to deploy Mohamed Salah could be one of the more difficult decisions Jurgen Klopp makes over the next few months, and it could seriously affect Liverpool’s chances to secure its first Premier League title. It remains to be seen how much – if at all – Fernandinho’s challenge has worsened the issue, and