What we learned from Saturday’s Premier League games

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Eight games took place in the Premier League on Saturday as Manchester City, Tottenham and Liverpool secured wins, while a dramatic draw between Chelsea and Manchester United took center stage.

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All of that means that Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea remain unbeaten and this is just the third time in history that three teams are without a defeat throughout the opening nine weeks of a season.

Below is a look at the key takeaways from another frantic day across the PL.

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Mourinho should loosen Man United’s shackles

Manchester United have been at their best this season when they’re in desperation mode. That was the case at Chelsea on Saturday, as Jose Mourinho’s men fought their way back into the game in the second half and Anthony Martial finished superbly twice to put them 2-1 up. Of course, United conceded twice from set piece situations as Paul Pogba lost his man Antonio Rudiger for the first and a lofted second ball into the box in the 96th minute eventually saw Ross Barkley equalize. That will annoy Mourinho but what will please him is that he was rewarded for starting with an attacking lineup with Pogba, Martial, Romelu Lukaku, Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford all in the starting XI. United pinned Chelsea back in the second half and the hard-working displays of Rashford and Martial out wide stopped Chelsea’s full backs from joining the attack.

[ MORE: 4 things we learned | Mourinho reacts to draw ]

The main takeaway from this draw at Chelsea is that perhaps things aren’t as bad as they seem at United. Mourinho was set to be sacked two weeks ago and we will never know if that dramatic 3-2 comeback win against Newcastle saved his job. What we do know is that the fact United were disappointed to not grab all three points at Chelsea shows they’re moving in the right direction. Will Mourinho now set up his team in a more attacking system from here on out? Let’s not push it now, but the signs are promising that they can get back on track.


Tottenham win ugly once again

Spurs have been far from scintillating this season but after their 1-0 win at West Ham, Mauricio Pochettino‘s men have ground out four wins on the spin and have now won seven of their opening nine games of the campaign. For a team missing Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli, Jan Vertonghen and Danny Rose from their starting lineup at West Ham, that’s not bad. Hugo Lloris denied Marko Arnautovic on three occasions in the second half in a feisty London derby as two squad players delivered on the key moment. Moussa Sissoko did well on the right and crossed for Erik Lamela to nod home what turned out to be the game-winner. Harry Kane wasn’t at his best but he didn’t need to be as Spurs dug deep to grab another ugly win. It hasn’t been pretty from Tottenham so far but they’re two points behind leaders Man City and given the issues surrounding their stadium delay and not strengthening the squad this summer, this is probably the best start to the season Spurs could have put together. With Eriksen back fit and Dele Alli close behind him, Tottenham need two big wins in the UEFA Champions League against PSV Eindhoven to keep their season on track.


Man City’s embarrassment of riches runs riot

Riyad Mahrez, Leroy Sane, Sergio Aguero, Bernardo Silva and Fernandinho were all on target on Saturday as Pep Guardiola‘s Man City smashed Burnley 5-0. Yes, Burnley were poor. But this was like watching vintage City from last season, as shellackings of minnows happened time and time again. Mahrez and Fernandinho scored sublime goals, while Sane and Silva finished off flowing City moves. With Kevin De Bruyne making his long-awaited return from injury as a second half sub, plus Raheem Sterling was left on the bench and Guardiola had the luxury of giving David Silva and Aguero rests in the second half.

Atop the Premier League table with 23 points from their opening nine games of the season there’s a sense that the best is still to come from City. That is a scary thought for not only the rest of the Premier League but also for Europe.


Delight for Cardiff; misery for Fulham, Newcastle

Cardiff City are off and running back in the Premier League as Neil Warnock‘s men beat Fulham 4-2 in the Welsh Capital. A six-goal thriller explains the defensive issues both teams have but Cardiff scored as many goals on Saturday as they had in their previous eight games back in the top-flight. As for Fulham, they have the leakiest defense in the PL with 25 conceded and Slavia Jokanovic’s seat just got a little hotter with the Cottagers having just one win on the board so far this season.

Newcastle would love to have a win on the board so far but that’s not the case for Rafael Benitez’s team who have become just the fourth team in English top-flight history to lose their first five home league games of the season. Newcastle sit bottom of the PL and were booed off by their fans after losing 1-0 against Brighton at St James’ Park. With owner Mike Ashley watching on, tensions are high on Tyneside with the home fans enraged that more money wasn’t spent in the summer after Benitez guided the Magpies to a tenth place finish last season. Right now, Newcastle and Fulham look likely to battle it out with Cardiff and Huddersfield to stay out of the three relegation places. That is a desperate situation for a massive club in Newcastle and a newly-promoted club in Fulham who spent a record amount on new players over the summer.


Trouble is never too far away from Mourinho

To be fair to Mourinho he wasn’t the instigator here at all. Seriously.

Marco Ianni, Chelsea’s second assistant coach, will be lucky to not escape a touchline ban as he celebrated in front of Mourinho and Man United’s bench, punched the air in delight and let Barkley’s last-gasp equalizer get the better of him.

Speaking after the game, Mourinho revealed that Maurizio Sarri and Ianni had apologized and he accepted it.

“Bad education,” Mourinho said of Ianni’s actions. “But I also made mistakes in football matches and I will make more. So when after the game he came to me to apologize, I accepted his apology and nothing more to say.”

For once, Mourinho was in the right as Sarri admitted his assistant had made “a big mistake” and the matter would be dealt with internally. Of course, the emotion of a late equalizer has got to us all but the melee around the tunnel at Stamford Bridge could have been even uglier than it already was.

Serie A: Milan ends skid, Fiorentina blanks Atalanta, Gervinho scores

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AC Milan ended a three-game winless streak by storming Sassuolo 4-1. It started on a first-half breakaway goal by 21-year-old Franck Kessie. The Ivory Coast international ran on the ball from his own defensive third on a breakaway, ending in a three-on-two situation and taking it himself and firing low into the back of the net.

The visitors would score twice more by the hour mark, as Suso gave Milan its second on a fantastic curler from the top-right corner of the box soon after the break, and 23-year-old Spanish international Samu Castillejo bagged their third with a left-footed shot from the top of the box. It’s just the second win of the season for AC Milan, pushing them to 10th in the Serie A table above SPAL and Torino on goal differential.

In somewhat controversial fashion, Fiorentina moved up to 4th with a 2-0 victory over Atalanta at home. The key moment came in the 62nd minute when Federico Chiesa went down at the edge of the box under pressure from Atalanta defender Rafael Toloi. The referee pointed to the spot for a penalty, but replays showed Chiesa clearly went to ground on his own from little to no contact.

Still, Jordan Veretout buried his penalty strongly into the top-left corner, and Fiorentina took a 1-0 lead. The visitors pushed hard for an equalizer, holding 65% possession and ripping off 17 shots to Fiorentina’s seven, but Atalanta only managed to put three of those on target, and were unable to pull back level. The hosts killed off the game in stoppage time on a goal by Cristiano Biragi and they moved to 13 points, level with Sassuolo and Inter.

23-year-old Polish international Krzysztof Piatek bagged a double for Genoa three minutes apart as they win on the road at Frosinone 2-1. Both of Piatek’s goals came off poor defensive mistakes, giving him an incredible eight goals just six matches into the season, including at least one in every game thus far. His first came in the 33rd minute on a speculative long-ball into the box that met the head of Christian Kouamé who beat his defender with ease, and all Piatek had to do was turn and shoot. His second came just three minutes later as Bartosz Salamon flubbed collecting a Genoa long-ball and had his pocket picked by Kouame, who fed Piatek on the two-on-none break for an easy finish.

Former Arsenal and Roma winger Gervinho scored the game’s only goal as Parma topped Empoli 1-0. The 31-year-old scored from a tight angle on a brilliant feed from Antonino Barillà in the 33rd minute.

Bologna earned its second win of the season by beating Udinese on an 82nd minute winner by Italian U21 international Riccardo Orsolini. Federico Mattiello whipped a cutback from the right edge of the box and it hit Orsolini perfectly in stride for the finish. Previously, Ignacio Pussetto saw his 32nd minute opener canceled out by Federico Santander just before halftime.

Chievo Verona and Torino went scoreless for 88 minutes before Simone Zaza scored to earn the visitors all three points at Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi. Zaza slid to finish off an absurd through-ball from Alex Berenguer seemingly out of nothing. It earned Torino its second win of the season moving them into 10th with nine points.

Grades, key takeaways on each PL club so far

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With four games done and dusted as we head into the first international break of the 2018-19 Premier League season, now seems like a good time to focus on how each team team has looked so far.

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It’s never too early for this. Trust me.

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Below we give each PL club a grade based on their early season performances (I can hear you screaming ‘it’s a marathon not a sprint’) and what the key takeaway has been for each so far.


Arsenal

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Grade: C+
Key takeaway: Plenty of work to do defensively and the possession style from the back is going to cost Petr Cech his role as a starter. Slick going forward but where does Mesut Ozil slot into Unai Emery‘s plans? Still a lot of questions unanswered with the Gunners looking likely to finish outside the top four after some early season struggles. That said, if Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette get going, they could easily finish in the top four.


Bournemouth

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Grade: B+
Key takeaway: Eddie Howe continues to work wonders on the South Coast as the Cherries’ only defeat came at Chelsea, and they pressed the Blues pretty hard and missed some big chances. Bournemouth look like they can push for the top 10 and Callum Wilson is fired up this season. A better start than they’ve had in recent years since gaining promotion to the Premier League in 2015.


Brighton & Hove Albion

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Grade: B
Key takeaway: Glenn Murray continues to defy father time with three goals already. Two defeats have come against Watford and Liverpool, while the win over Man United showed their improved attacking prowess. Any injuries to key defenders and they could struggle but much more adventurous this season, especially at home where their form remains fantastic. Solid and steady start for the Seagulls under Chris Hughton.


Burnley

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Grade: F
Key takeaway: We see it season after season. Qualifying for the Europa League will impact the fortunes of the so-called smaller PL teams and Burnley not only failed to make the Europa group stages, but they’re also without a win in the PL. Sean Dyche has had injuries to key players to contend with but their lack of defensive solidity, and goals, show how remarkable their seventh-place finish was last season. Relegation battle coming up for the Clarets.


Cardiff City

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Grade: C
Key takeaway: Just two points on the board for the Bluebirds but this is pretty much exactly what we expected from Neil Warnock‘s side. Hard to break down and they gave Arsenal a heck of a scare in the Welsh capital on Sunday. They will rue not beating Newcastle and Huddersfield when having a man advantage for large spells of the game, especially with a tough run of games coming up. Scoring goals will be the main issue for Cardiff with Bobby Reid and Kenneth Zohore off target through the first four weeks.


Chelsea

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Grade: A-
Key takeaway: They should really get an A given the way the players have already adapted to Maurizio Sarri‘s tactics, but the only real test was against Arsenal and they showed plenty of weaknesses in that game. Chelsea’s players look rejuvenated going forward, with Jorginho pulling the strings, N'Golo Kante leading the high-press in a new advanced position and Eden Hazard their main man. Defensively the duo of Antonio Rudiger and David Luiz in a 4-3-3 formation have been caught out at times and that will be a concern for Sarri against  tougher opposition. Four wins from four is a great start for the new Italian coach. But he knows his pressing game will take months for his Chelsea side to perfect. Off the pitch, Roman Abramovich’s situation is slightly worrying but it doesn’t seem like the club will be sold anytime soon.


Crystal Palace

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Grade: C
Key takeaway: The Eagles had a great win at Fulham on the opening day and although they lost to Liverpool and Watford, they impressed in both games. Without Wilfried Zaha they had no answer in their third-straight defeat, which came at the hands of Southampton. We’ve learned that Palace are more reliant on Zaha this season than they were last season. Any long-term injury to Wilf and it’s tough to see where the goals will come from for Roy Hodgson‘s men.


Everton

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Grade: B
Key takeaway: Still unbeaten under Marco Silva, Everton have flattered to deceive a little but they’ve been superb on the counter attack which is the style the Portuguese coach loves. Richarlison was flying before his silly red card at Bournemouth and Silva’s inability to arrange his teams effectively at defensive set piece situations continues. Sloppy draws against Bournemouth and Huddersfield show their defense needs work, but in fairness they’ve had injuries galore at that position. Top seven still a real possibility for the Toffees.


Fulham

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Grade: B
Key takeaway: Silly defensive mistakes have riddled Fulham’s first four games. They’ve got four points on the board as they smashed Burnley and drew at Brighton, but they led the latter 2-0 before coughing up two needless goals. Slavisa Jokanovic‘s side are lovely on the eye and Mitrovic, Seri and Schurrle have impressed. More composure in both boxes needed.


Huddersfield Town

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Grade: D-
Key takeaway: Two points on the board shows that the Terriers are still very capable of battling for points in the Premier League, but there’s a sense of a Sophomore slump. Where will the goals come from? David Wagner isn’t getting too worried after heavy defeats to Man City and Chelsea, but it’s clear for all to see Huddersfield will be in a relegation scrap this season.


Leicester City

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Grade: B+
Key takeaway: Their results may not show it but Leicester have been very good early in the season. They lost 2-1 to Man United and Liverpool but could have easily won both games and deserved a point from both at the very least. Claude Puel has injected youth into the Foxes with James Maddison, Ben Chilwell and Demarai Gray all impressing. A really nice balance about this team now compared to their previous incarnation as a counter-attacking monster.


Liverpool

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Grade: A
Key takeaway: Jurgen Klopp‘s men have found a handy knack of not playing well but still winning games. Four wins from four suggests it’s a great start. They edged by Brighton and Leicester despite not being at their best and that came after blowing past West Ham and Crystal Palace. Virgil Van Dijk and Joe Gomez are developing a strong partnership at center back, while Alisson had a solid start but his huge blunder against Leicester should help him out, in the long run, as he figures out the Premier League. The usual suspects continue to fire in attack and with Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri arriving, plus Daniel Sturridge fit, Klopp’s squad is a lot deeper this season.


Manchester City

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Grade: B+
Key takeaway: The only blot on the copybook was the 1-1 draw at Wolves and without the injured Kevin De Bruyne City have struggled to break down teams as easily as they did last season. That said, big wins against Arsenal and Huddersfield proved their strength in-depth and they look set for a big title charge again this season. Pep Guardiola‘s men will have to deal with teams sitting even deeper against them this season. How is that possible? Still, Sergio Aguero and David Silva are delivering again for the reigning champs but both Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez have struggled early in the season.


Manchester United

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Grade: D
Key takeaway: Jose Mourinho’s men have had a tumultuous start to the season and the main issue has been defensive deficiencies. After a summer of searching for new center backs and not buying any, Mourinho’s current defenders are all over the place. Add in rumors about Paul Pogba not being happy, Mourinho’s post-Tottenham meltdown and two-straight defeats and there was an air of panic around Old Trafford. The win at Burnley settled things down before the international break but Mourinho is still in fighting mode as many believe another third-season syndrome is in full-flow. Six points on the board from four games isn’t great, but United will still be challenging for the top four at the very least.


Newcastle United

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Grade: D
Key takeaway: No wins yet for Rafael Benitez’s men but they were handed a pretty awful start in terms of the fixture list. Narrow defeats to Tottenham, Chelsea and Man City have seen him set up his team differently for each and key injuries haven’t helped. The main takeaway is that Benitez is working miracles with the squad at his disposal and Newcastle’s fans shouldn’t forgot that after many criticized his ultra-defensive tactics against Chelsea, where they almost grabbed a point. A season above the relegation zone would be a huge success.


Southampton

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Grade: C+
Key takeaway: Mark Hughes‘ men have every right to feel a little hard done by with their points tally after four games. But at least they have their first win on the board after beating Crystal Palace. Danny Ings will be their savior this season as he looks sharp and Hughes has finally settled on his best starting lineup in a 4-4-2 formation. Narrow defeats against Everton and Leicester prove they probably aren’t good enough to challenge for Europe this season but they shouldn’t be dragged into another relegation scrap.


Tottenham Hotspur

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Grade: B-
Key takeaway: Heading towards four wins on the spin to open the season, a late implosion at Watford ahead of the international break showcased the reason for Mauricio Pochettino‘s recent pessimism. Even after Spurs’ 3-0 shellacking of Manchester United at Old Trafford, Poch warned his side they weren’t performing well. Given the fact plenty of his starting lineup reached the final two days of the World Cup, there is a healthy hangover among this squad. Throw in their stadium delay and no new signings this summer and three wins from four is very decent. Lucas Moura‘s form has been a huge boost and he’s been like a new signing, plus Harry Kane has actually scored (twice) in August. Spurs will be in the top four mix again.


Watford

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Grade: A+
Key takeaway: The surprise package of the season so far, Watford have four wins from four after their comeback win against Tottenham. Javi Gracia‘s men were one of the relegation favorites before a ball was kicked but they’ve once again started a season on fire. Can they keep it up? They seem to have many contributors this season rather than relying on Richarlison like they did before he left for Everton. Abdoulaye Doucoure has taken his game to another level, plus Andre Gray, Troy Deeney and Roberto Pereyra have all chipped in. It seems like the Hornets could challenge the top six this season. What a huge surprise.


West Ham United

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Grade: F
Key takeaway: If we could give them a lower grade, we would. A simply shocking start for the Hammers under new manager Manuel Pellegrini. They spent over $130 million on new players in the summer but there’s no balance to their team, huge holes in central midfield and they’re leaking goals galore. Not a great combo, right? West Ham’s owners will soon see protests and more from the fans if this run continues. That means Pellegrini, quite unbelievably, is the bookmakers favorite to be the next PL manager to get the sack. Defeats to Liverpool and Arsenal were expected but home losses to Bournemouth and Wolves were not. Felipe Anderson has shown bright sparks along with Marko Arnautovic up top, but that’s about it.


Wolverhampton Wanderers

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Grade: B+
Key takeaway: Wolves look the part in the Premier League. Ruben Neves is a wizard alongside Joao Moutinho in midfield, Raul Jimenez is a handful up top and Rui Patricio is a star in goal. New arrivals throughout their spine have helped Nuno Espirito Santo keep the core of his team which won promotion last season but also take to life in the top-flight effortlessly. Wolves could easily have won all four games (they’ve had to settle for five points instead) and they are a team which has a clear identity to press high in a 3-5-2 formation. As the season wears on we should expect to see them in the top 10.


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.”

Chelsea edge Newcastle amid late Yedlin drama

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  • Hazard scores on first start
  • Joselu equalizes in controversial fashion
  • Yedlin scores late own goal
  • Chelsea make it 3 wins from 3

Chelsea beat Newcastle United 2-1 on Sunday at St James’ Park after plenty of late drama.

In a frantic final 15 minutes Eden Hazard scored a disputed penalty kick, then Joselu equalized before USMNT right back DeAndre Yedlin was unlucky to score a late own goal to seal the win for Chelsea.

Maurizio Sarri‘s Blues have now won their opening three games to kick off the season, while Newcastle is still searching for their first win as Rafael Benitez had to make plenty of changes to his team due to injuries as the Magpies were set up in a 5-4-1 formation.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 

An even start to the first half saw Newcastle rarely threaten but DeAndre Yedlin had plenty of surging runs down the right flank.

However, Chelsea got going as Hazard, in particular, recovered after a few knocks to create plenty of chances.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Hazard teed up Pedro after a mazy run but Martin Dubravaka saved, while Cesar Azpilicueta had a shot blocked and Alvaro Morata also went close.

The Blues were doing all the pressing but Newcastle’s makeshift five-man defines held firm for the first 45 minutes. Just.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

At the start of the second half Azpilicueta had a tame effort saved as Chelsea continued to have all the play but Newcastle were a solid defensive unit.

Antonio Rudiger was inches away from a stunning goal to break the deadlock as the German defender smashed a shot from distance which rattled the crossbar from 35 yards out.

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Chelsea took the lead with 15 minutes to go as Fabian Schar tackled Marcos Alonso in the box and although Newcastle’s Swiss defender got the ball, he was adjudged to have fouled Chelsea’s left back. Hazard slotted home the spot kick as Newcastle’s fans booed loudly.

Soon they were cheering as Yedlin held off Olivier Giroud and it looked like a foul but play was waved on and he crossed superbly for Joselu to head home. 1-1.

But Yedlin went from hero to villain moments later with the USMNT right back redirecting a shot across goal into his own net to make it 2-1 to Chelsea in the 88th minute.

What a finish to the game which is best described as a slow burner.