Chelsea beat PAOK in Europa League opener

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It is six wins from six for Maurizio Sarri as Chelsea manager, with the Premier League side winning 1-0 at PAOK Salonika in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday.

Willian‘s early goal was enough to grab the win for a dominant Chelsea side, with Alvaro Morata having several chances but failing to score.

Next up for Chelsea in Group L are Videoton, who they host at Stamford Bridge in two weeks time. PAOK travel to BATE Borisov, who beat Videoton in Hungary in their opening game of the competition.

[ MORE: Europa League standings ] . 

Chelsea had the perfect start as Ross Barkley ran free and slipped in Willian brilliantly and the Brazilian finished low under PAOK’s goalkeeper Paschalakis to make it 1-0.

PAOK struggled to recover from that early deficit as Chelsea dominated the ball and Alvaro Morata should have scored a second but he headed Pedro‘s cross wide.

Morata then dragged a shot wide of the far post after a clever ball from Antonio Rudiger as Chelsea continued to push PAOK back. Marcos Alonso found Pedro before the break but the Spaniard’s effort was saved by Paschalakis and from the resulting corner Morata headed inches wide.

Right on half time Chelsea were a little lucky not to give away a penalty kick as Barkely looked to pull the shirt of a PAOK attacker in the box.

In the second half Chelsea poured forward in search of a second but Willian blasted over the bar and Alonso’s effort was deflected just wide.

Paschalakis saved Pedro’s shot late on but Chelsea held on for victory in Greece ahead of their London derby at West Ham in the Premier League on Sunday.

Premier League player Power Rankings

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With Week 4 of the 2018-19 Premier League season done and dusted, it is time to focus on the star performers.

[ MORE: Full Power Rankings archive ]

Heading into the international break there are a ton of new entries in this list, with 12 of the top 20 coming into our latest rankings.

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League and based on them actually playing in the previous Matchweek. If they didn’t play due to injury or suspension, they aren’t going to make this list. Simple.

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.

  1. Eden Hazard (Chelsea) – Up 2
  2. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – Up 11
  3. Romelu Lukaku (Man United) – New entry
  4. Abdoulaye Doucoure (Watford) – Up 6
  5. Marcos Alonso (Chelsea) – New entry
  6. Jorginho (Chelsea) – Down 4
  7. Lucas Moura (Tottenham) – Down 8
  8. Alex McCarthy (Southampton) – New entry
  9. Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal) – New entry
  10. Kyle Walker (Man City) – New entry
  11. Troy Deeney (Watford) – New entry
  12. Ruben Neves (Wolves) – Down 1
  13. Raheem Sterling (Man City) – New entry
  14. Andre Schurrle (Fulham) – Down 8
  15. Raul Jimenez (Wolves) – Even
  16. Jean Seri (Fulham) – New entry
  17. Danny Ings (Southampton) – New entry
  18. Joe Gomez (Liverpool) – New entry
  19. Glenn Murray (Brighton) – New entry
  20. Ben Foster (Watford) – New entry

After perfect start, Sarri talks about Chelsea’s title hopes

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So far, Sarri ball is perfect at Chelsea.

Maurizio Sarri will be a happy man on Saturday evening in west London after a fourth-straight victory to start the season, but will he be a happy man at the end of the 2018-19 Premier League season?

[ RECAP: Chelsea edge by Bournemouth ]

The new Chelsea manager has had a perfect start to his career at Stamford Bridge and although the Blues struggled at times to break down Bournemouth in their 2-0 win, their quality showed in the latter stages.

Speaking to the BBC after the game, Sarri revealed he is happy with his players but still believes they can improve.

“I’m really very happy with my players. For us now it’s not important to think of matchday four, it’s important to think of the next match,” Sarri said. “They were very organized and they defended very well but usually in this match you have to be patient because you can win in the last 20 minutes. At the moment we are doing very well but we can improve. For example, in the first half we needed to move the ball at a faster speed.”

What about Chelsea’s title hopes this season?

With the Blues on 12 points from 12, it’s a perfect start and Sarri is certainly happy to have the talented squad at his disposal. But can they seriously challenge Man City, Liverpool and others for the title?

“We won the first three matches so now we are more confident. At the moment I am lucky because I can choose Willian or Pedro, or Giroud, Loftus-Cheek or Morata,” Sarri said. “I am here – the club wanted to see me here. We are at the beginning of the season, and the gap between us and Man City was 30 points last season – it’s difficult to close that gap in one season.”

Based on what we’ve seen so far, Sarri’s boys will no doubt close that gap to Man City this season.

Their high-pressing style gradually grinds their opponents down and Bournemouth did have chances on the break and from set pieces, but Marcos Alonso, Jorginho, Eden Hazard and Pedro had the quality to be patient and pick their moments.

Hazard, in particular, was superb and after a summer of rumors linking him with a move to Real Madrid, the Belgian star is eager to carry Chelsea’s title bid this season.

“I’m feeling confident, I’m enjoying my football, we have a new manager and lots of good players,” Hazard said. “I know when I play good the team play good, so I need to be ready for everything. The season is long, but we will fight to the end, and we will keep improving.”

If Chelsea do keep improving then they will push Man City and Liverpool all the way for the title.

The next big challenge for the Blues is the UEFA Europa League as Sarri will get to rotate his squad and give plenty of youngsters a chance to develop.

For now, wins against Huddersfield, Arsenal, Newcastle and Bournemouth have given him a great start to life in England.

Chelsea stay perfect, edge by Bournemouth

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  • Pedro, Hazard score
  • Chelsea make it 4 wins from 4
  • First defeat of season for Bournemouth

Chelsea beat Bournemouth 2-0 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, with Maurizio Sarri‘s side laboring to victory.

Pedro and Eden Hazard scored in the second half against a spirited Bournemouth side, as Chelsea huffed and puffed but looked sluggish throughout.

With the win Chelsea remain perfect with 12 points from 12 heading into the international break, while Bournemouth stay on seven points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 

Chelsea started brightly enough but Bournemouth pressed them high and Callum Wilson just couldn’t get on the end of a cross after Mateo Kovacic was dispossessed.

David Luiz then gave the ball away cheaply and N'Golo Kante saved him as Bournemouth looked dangerous on the break.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Despite Chelsea’s pressure, Bournemouth should have gone ahead as Rico whipped in a great cross but Wilson couldn’t get on the end of it.

Marcos Alonso then hit the post with a mishit effort from outside the box which snuck through the crowd but not past the woodwork.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

After the break Alonso then forced Asmir Begovic into a save from close-range as the home side tried to crank through the gears.

Former Chelsea man Nathan Ake somehow missed from close range after the break with the away side dangerous throughout.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Chelsea took the lead late on as substitute Olivier Giroud and Pedro linked up, with the Spaniard’s deflected shot making it 1-0.

Late on they finished off Bournemouth as Alonso played in Hazard and the Belgian finished superbly for his second goal in as many games.

Chelsea, Newcastle react to late controversy

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For 75 minutes Chelsea had the ball and Newcastle lined up in a 5-4-1 formation, defending for their lives.

Then, the game sprung into life with plenty of late controversy at St James’ Park on Sunday.

Chelsea left with a 2-1 victory, but were the Blues lucky? You could say that both Chelsea and Newcastle were feeling a little hard done by at the full time whistle as a banged up Magpies squad didn’t have the ball often but frustrated Chelsea throughout.

Maurizio Sarri, who now has three wins from three as Chelsea’s boss looked unimpressed by Newcastle’s negative tactics as they had just 19 percent possession throughout.

“I have never seen a Rafa Benitez side play with five defenders,” Sarri said. “I think it is very difficult to play here for every team – not only us. We were a bit unlucky when they scored to make it 1-1.”

First up: a huge moment of controversy arrived as Marcos Alonso surged into the box and won a penalty kick, although Fabian Schar looked to have got the ball with his challenge and a piece of Alonso too.

It was certainly a harsh call on a Newcastle defense who had been so tough to break down, but Alonso didn’t think so.

“I think I touched the ball and got in front of the opponent,” Alonso told Sky Sports. “It’s not that I felt the contact and went down, he made me. It was a good win and the three points are massive for us.”

Then came another huge moment of controversy as USMNT and Newcastle right back DeAndre Yedlin appeared to shove Olivier Giroud (unintentionally) but no free kick was given and he sent in a wonderful cross for Joselu to head home an equalizer.

You could say Yedlin was lucky to not have conceded a free kick but moments later he was very unlucky indeed. Alonso’s shot across goal from a free kick was heading wide but under pressure from Ross Barkley behind him, he knocked the ball into his own goal.

Speaking about the big calls, Newcastle’s manager Rafael Benitez (who was missing five key players for the clash) didn’t believe the result was fair on his team.

“The penalty was soft. The foul was soft [for the free-kick for the winner]. It’s a pity because we were very close,” Benitez said. “We knew playing open against them, with their ability, they can beat players. We needed to be compact, maybe we could frustrate them into mistakes and we’d have chances. The penalty changed everything and we had to be open.”