Associated Press

Chelsea top Malmo in Europa League

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Ross Barkley scored 30 minutes in, and that was all Chelsea needed as they picked up a solid first-leg advantage with a 2-1 victory over Malmo in Sweden.

The former Everton midfielder made a blistering run to reach Pedro‘s deep cross, losing his defender while collecting the ball and firing an off-balance shot into the back of the net on the half-hour mark. Olivier Giroud added the icing on the cake in the 58th minute as Willian sent the ball across the face of goal and the Frenchman was on hand to poke it in on the doorstep.

It wasn’t elementary for the Blues, as Malmo was dangerous throughout the match, especially in the start of the second half as blocks from David Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta kept the home side out. Ultimately, despite holding just 33% possession, Malmo somehow outshot Chelsea 14-4 through the first hour of the match but could only put one of those on target. Anders Christiansen eventually grabbed a late goal for Malmo in the 80th minute to give the Blues something to think about in the second leg. The Danish international struck on the break as he beat Emerson to a through-ball and muscled him off for the finish.

Mateo Kovacic was the biggest influencer in the match for Chelsea, completing a hefty 115/117 passes and completing all three of his one-on-one take-ons. Barkley was the most dangerous going forward, scoring the first goal and then running the break before distributing to Willian ahead of Giroud’s finish.

The win for the Blues is a solid bounce-back from its embarrassing 6-0 defeat at the hands of Manchester City, as winning on the road in European play is always a positive result. It also means Chelsea has reached 10 straight European games unbeaten, with nine wins and a draw in that span.

Chelsea now heads home for the second leg on February 21, holding a solid advantage in the matchup. Malmo would need to outscore Chelsea by two goals and also score more than two goals to win in regulation.

Three things we learned: Man City v. Chelsea

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MANCHESTER — This is what you call making a statement.

Manchester City hammered Chelsea 6-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, with Pep Guardiola‘s men scoring four times in the first 25 minutes to move back to the top of the Premier League table on goal difference.

A hat trick from Sergio Aguero and goals from Raheem Sterling (two) and Ilkay Gundogan did the damage, as Chelsea collapsed away from home once again to cast fresh doubt over Maurizio Sarri‘s future as the Blues’ manager.

Here’s what we learned from a huge win for Man City, and another demoralizing defeat for Chelsea.


ANOTHER FAST START PROPELS CITY

Nothing eases tension in a title race better than an early goal. In three of Man City’s last four Premier League games they’ve scored their opener with less than four minutes on the clock, and Sterling’s opener set the tone for the entire game. City should have been 5-0 up inside 25 minutes, but they had to settle for 4-0 as Aguero scored twice and missed a sitter, while Gundogan added another. City got the ball wide as quickly as they could and dominated the individual battles with Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso. City are showing no signs of nerves because they are just blowing teams away early on and they have now opened up a +10 goal differential lead on Liverpool which like an extra point.

Aside from their early goal at Newcastle, which seemed to breath overconfidence into the team which led to their shock defeat, scoring early has put Guardiola’s men back in the title race. The fast start also provided Guardiola with the luxury of subbing off the likes of Aguero, Fernandinho and Kevin De Bruyne for well-earned rests. In two weeks time City play against Chelsea at Wembley in the League Cup final and this display will leave Chelsea shuddering with fear. Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp will be watching on with a similar feeling of angst. City are pushing themselves to the limit as they chase winning all four competitions they’re in.


A NEW LOW FOR CHELSEA UNDER SARRI

Chelsea have had some embarrassing moments recently but the capitulation at Man City took the biscuit. These are the kind of defeats which instantly get you fired. Sarri knows that. Of course, City can do this to any team in the world but the way Chelsea totally lost their shape and any defensive stability was painful for Sarri to watch. You could see it etched on his face throughout the game. For the first time since December 1999 Chelsea conceded four times in the first half of a PL game and for the first time in the PL era they’ve lost three top-flight games in a row on the road without scoring.

Coming after their similarly horrific defensive displays at Arsenal and Bournemouth, Sarri has a huge problem to solve. If he’s given the chance to solve it. After they went 4-0 down, Chelsea did okay in the first half. Gonzalo Higuain went close on a couple of occasions and they patched together some fluid attacks, but that all came when City had taken their foot off the gas. Chelsea have now failed to beat any of the so-called ‘big six’ in their last seven away games against them, and this display underlined how far from a title-challenging team they are.

Many would suggest Chelsea’s players have chucked in the towel and after conceding 12 goals and scoring zero in their last three PL away games (all defeats) things are quickly unraveling for Sarri. The way a disinterested Eden Hazard failed to track back on City’s first goal, Ross Barkley nodded to Aguero to score and the general lack of defensive cover for full backs suggests Chelsea are in a whole world of hurt. The Blues are only one point off the top four and sit in fifth, but at this rate you’d put money on Manchester United and even Arsenal finishing above them. You also wouldn’t put much money on Sarri lasting beyond this season as his tactics and man-management aren’t working at all. Sarri-ball has been kicked into touch in a big way with this embarrassing shellacking.


AGUERO, GUNDOGAN KEY IN TITLE BID

Aguero is on the kind of tear which ends up winning a Premier League title. He’s now scored seven goals in his last four PL games and his treble on Sunday saw him equal the most hat tricks scored (11) in Premier League history. In truth, he should have scored five as he hit the bar and missed an absolute sitter early on. But we will let him off… City’s all-time leading goalscorer has now scored 10 goals in his last seven PL matches, with that run starting in City’s win against Liverpool on Jan. 3. If City win the league this season, it will be because Aguero remained fit and kept scoring goals. Simple. The stats around Aguero are mind-boggling. He’s now scored eight goals in his last six PL games against Chelsea and he has scored 14 times in 12 home games for City this season. He also leads the PL, along with Mohamed Salah, in goals with 17.

Eyebrows were raised when City’s resident magician David Silva was left out of their starting lineup for such a pivotal game in the title race, but that was soon forgotten. Gunodgan pressed Jorginho into making several mistakes and scored City’s fourth with a trademark cool finish. The German midfielder is finally injury free and his freshness as a combative playmaker could prove pivotal in the big games coming up. Gundogan doesn’t do anything outstanding. He just oozes class at whatever he does. From his chipped pass to Sterling to set up City’s second goal against Arsenal last week to his caressed finish against Chelsea, Gundogan is popping up with vital contributions in the title run.

Manchester City destroy Chelsea (video)

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  • Aguero earns two league records via another hat trick
  • Sterling scores two
  • Chelsea sinks 6th, below Arsenal

Sergio Aguero wrote his name twice more in the record books as Manchester City smashed Chelsea 6-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

Aguero scored a hat trick for the second week in-a-row, joining Alan Shearer as the only players to register 11 Premier League hat tricks. He also went atop the Man City leaderboard for league goals.

Other guys played, too, with Raheem Sterling and Ilkay Gundogan scoring while Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva put on playmaking and possession master classes.

City goes back atop the Premier League table on goal differential, now nine better than Liverpool having played one more game. Chelsea drops below fifth place Arsenal on goals scored, the goal differential level.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

City’s habit of striking quickly continued with a 4th minute goal off the boot of Sterling.

Left all alone at the back post to collect a David Luiz-deflected cross from Bernardo Silva, Sterling hammered the ball into a gaping space.

Aguero also worked himself into a back post position and skewered his chance to tap in Bernardo’s unreal dribble and pass through the six.

Eden Hazard work Chelsea up in the 12th minute with a long dribble down the left producing a shot that Kepa Arrizabalaga collected wide of the post.

Maybe the tap-in was too easy, because Aguero then took a Kevin De Bruyne feed and curled a 20-yard beauty around a flying Arrizabalaga.

Aguero helped produce the fourth, his dribble blocked by Antonio Rudiger onto the path of Gundogan for another long distance goal.

Ederson made a second decent save of the half when Gonzalo Higuain tore into a shot from distance, but Chelsea did not pull any goals back before halftime.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

Aguero nearly nodded home for his hat trick when his header of a De Bruyne cross hit the cross bar.

Mike Dean pointed to the spot after Cesar Azpilicueta took down Sterling in the 55th minute, and Aguero had his chance for back-to-back hat tricks and a share of the Premier League hat trick record.

De Bruyne sent an arrow of a free kick around the wall, but Arrizabalaga stopped it.

Substitute Gabriel Jesus was shoved by Luiz as he attempted a 1v1 shot on Arrizabalaga, but Dean stopped short of awarding another penalty.

Sterling got his second in a similar enough fashion to his first. It was 6-0 with 10 minutes to play.

Higuain, Hazard too much for Huddersfield (video)

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  • Higuain scores his 1st two Chelsea goals
  • Hazard also scores twice
  • Luiz adds deflected marker

Whatever Maurizio Sarri said after Chelsea’s beatdown by Bournemouth, it was the tonic.

Gonzalo Higuain and Eden Hazard both bagged braces as Chelsea hammered Huddersfield Town 5-0 on Saturday at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea is likely to stay the weekend in fourth with 50 points (unless Arsenal beats Man City by five or more goals on Sunday).

Huddersfield Town is 12 points off safety.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Both teams tempted the goal early, with Ross Barkley just missing his target with a spinning effort and Huddersfield’s Aaron Mooy snapping a shot wide himself.

Higuain put Chelsea ahead from a terrific pass from N'Golo Kante, and the finish was very much as advertised, with touch and power to the short side of Jonas Lossl.

Hazard then took advantage of a chance from the spot produced by a tripping Cesar Azpilicueta and his mark Elias Kachunga. He finished it, then was upset not to win another chance himself in stoppage time.

Town was very unfortunate in the 55th minute, when Andreas Christensen stepped on Kachunga in the box but was not whistled for a penalty.

Hazard turned his mark inside out in the 64th minute, but no one was at the back post for his dangerous cross through the six.

So he did it himself; Hazard ran onto an incisive Barkley pass and broke Lossl’s ankles before slotting inside the near post.

Kante then set up Higuain again, a deflected strike which looked pretty after zipping into the upper 90.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

AT HALF: Higuain gets first Chelsea goal; Wolves keep firing

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Gonzalo Higuain is on the scoreboard as a Premier League player, and his first contribution is very much what we’ve come to expect from the former Napoli man.

But penalties are the name of the game(s), accounting for three of the day’s six matches.

Chelsea 2-0 Huddersfield – NBCSN [STREAM]

Higuain took a terrific pass from N'Golo Kante, and just hammered a shot to the near side of Jonas Lossl. Eden Hazard converted a Cesar Azpilicueta-won penalty for the other goal.

Crystal Palace 1-0 Fulham – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

A Cyrus Christie handball sent Luka Milivojevic to the spot, and the Palace man rarely misses those (even if Sergio Rico got a piece of it).

Everton 1-2 Wolves – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

An early Ruben Neves penalty was canceled out by a nice Andre Gomes strike, but red-hot Raul Jimenez has restored the Wolves lead.

Brighton and Hove Albion 0-0 Watford – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

The Seagulls had the best chance to go ahead, but so far it’s level.

Burnley 0-0 Southampton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

Ashley Barnes is very fortunate to not be sent off after a reaction to a yellow for diving that might make Wilfried Zaha blush.