Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Sarri: Chelsea fell asleep after first goal, but woke up just in time

Leave a comment

Chelsea went from in complete control, to thoroughly deserving to concede an equalizer after falling asleep, to waking back up and taking their deserved victory over Newcastle United on Saturday.

[ MORE: What we learned in the Premier League, Week 22 ]

That’s how Blues boss Maurizio Sarri saw it, at least.

After going 1-0 ahead through Pedro in the 9th minute, Chelsea “slept for 20, 25 minutes, so at the end of the first half [they] were in trouble,” in Sarri’s words. Newcastle were able to find their footing and work their way back to 1-1 in the 40th minute. Smart money is on Sarri reading his players the Riot Act at halftime, thus the post-game criticism as well as the strong response in the second half — quotes from the Guardian:

“After the goal I think we thought, ‘Now it’s easy,’ but it wasn’t. We slept for 20, 25 minutes, so at the end of the first half we were in trouble. We need to improve in the mental reaction. After our first goal something happened. We need to improve.

Presumably related to his side’s up-and-down showing, Sarri also jumped at the chance to campaign for reinforcements during the January transfer window. With Cesc Fabregas leaving to join Monaco this week, central midfield is the first area Sarri would like to see strengthened, but he isn’t so sure he’ll get what he wants — quotes from the Standard:

“Today Jorginho was in trouble and, on the bench, there wasn’t a player for that position. I need an option for Jorginho.”

“I have no idea. …The club knows very well my opinion.

“I need the player there, it depends on the club decision, I think. I cannot do anything more.”

Willian wins it for Chelsea v. Newcastle (video)

Leave a comment
  • Luiz sets up Pedro opener
  • Clark levels before half for Newcastle
  • Willian scores beauty off Hazard assist
  • Magpies drop into 18th

Stop us if you’ve read this one before: Chelsea has firmed up its Top Four credentials and Newcastle United is back in the drop zone.

Keep reading anyway, as the Blues got goals from Pedro and Willian in an entertaining 2-1 win over the Magpies on Saturday at Stamford Bridge.

Ciaran Clark scored for Newcastle, who is now a point back of Cardiff City and Southampton. The Magpies host the Bluebirds next weekend.

Chelsea now has a six-point advantage on fifth place Arsenal.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Pedro made it 1-0 in the ninth minute, as David Luiz played the Spaniard over the top of the Newcastle defense. Ciaran Clark lost Pedro, who chipped Martin Dubravka with the Irish defender draped all over him.

There were not a ton more chances early, with Newcastle center back Florian Lejeune hitting a ball into the hands of Kepa Arrizabalaga in the 27th.

A surprising rush saw a nice flick by Salomon Rondon spring Ayoze Perez on goal but the lunging Spaniard hit the ball wide of his countryman’s near post.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]  

Pedro almost regained the lead for Chelsea but was denied by Dubravka in the 47th minute.

Willian restored Chelsea’s lead with a goal that earned a collective gasp from the crowd, as he cut right to earn space past Yedlin for a shot that took a slight turn off Jamaal Lascelles‘ head on its way into goal.

Perez had calls for a penalty unheard, and Willian came close to scoring again at the other end as Chelsea warmed to its attack. Dubravka made the save, but Lascelles was injured in the event.

Rondon missed with a bid to head a Javier Manquillo cross past Arrizabalaga.

Newcastle youngster Sean Longstaff earned a corner with a deflected shot deep in stoppage time. Ritchie’s service was played shot and wasted by Christian Atsu.

Watch Live: Chelsea vs. Newcastle United

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Chelsea can build a six-point gap on fifth place Arsenal by beating attack-starved Newcastle United on Saturday at Stamford Bridge (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

The Blues start Willian, Eden Hazard, and Pedro across the top, while injury-hit Newcastle has a makeshift center midfield of youngster Sean Longstaff and rare starter Isaac Hayden.

LINEUPS

Chelsea: Arrizabalaga, Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso, Jorginho, Kante, Kovacic, Willian, Hazard, Pedro. Subs: Caballero, Christensen, Emerson, Ampadu, Barkley, Hudson-Odoi, Giroud.

Newcastle: Dubravka, Yedlin, Lascelles, Lejeune, Clark, Ritchie, Hayden, Longstaff, Atsu, Perez, Rondon. Subs: Woodman, Sterry, Manquillo, Fernandez, Schar, Murphy, Joselu.

Barca back for Willian? Malcom swap rumored for Chelsea

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Well this is just weird.

A Sky Sports report says that Chelsea and Barcelona could swap Willian and Malcom, mere months after the Blues reportedly rebuffed Barca bids for the elder Brazilian.

[ MORE: Neymar wants Barca return ]

Chelsea turned down a $70 million bid for Willian in the summer, and Barcelona opted for Bordeaux winger Malcom to the tune of $47m.

The 21-year-old right wing has only played 363 minutes for Barca, however, scoring only two goals while suffering a pair of short-term injuries.

Willian, 30, is probably not a big part of Maurizio Sarri‘s plans, although he’s been used plenty by the Italian. Willian has four goals and six assists in 31 matches this season, but has one year left on his contract after this season.

It seems a leap unless Chelsea is bargaining on using the Europa League to reach the Champions League next season. The Blues splashed major cash on Christian Pulisic for a summer arrival, and it is risky to expect Malcom to return to his exceptional Ligue 1 ways via a third league in less than a year.

Color us extremely skeptical. Also, Willian? Extremely good.

La Liga roundup: It was a truly splendid day to be Barcelona

Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

Getafe 1-2 Barcelona

Sunday could not have gone any better for current leaders — now five points clear of their closest title competition — Barcelona. Not only did everyone else drop points — more on that in a moment — but Ernesto Valverde’s side picked up its fifth straight win, with many thanks to the contributions of two familiar faces.

You shouldn’t give Lionel Messi one look at goal, let alone two. Alas, that’s exactly what Getafe did in the 20th minute. David Soria did well to make the save on Messi’s initial effort, but an unlucky ricochet saw the undisputed greatest player of all time reclaim possession with a suddenly empty net. The outcome was predictable.

Speaking of Getafe not fully clearing dangerous balls into the penalty area, Luis Suarez’s sensational volley might still be soaring on a perfectly level plane if not for the back of the net.

There was also the small matter of Messi playing one of the most impossible through balls to ever be completed, even if the chance wasn’t converted on the other end.

Sevilla 1-1 Atletico Madrid

Coming into the weekend, second-place Atletico Madrid trailed Barca by just three points; Sevilla, in third, were five back. In the eyes of anyone who subscribes to “anyone but Barcelona again,” a draw was the worst possible outcome. To Barca, it’s like killing two birds with one stone.

Sevilla took the lead through Wissam Ben Yedder in the 37th minute, but Antoine Griezmann had Atleti level, by way of a stellar free kick, before halftime.

On the plus side, Atleti’s unbeaten run now stands at 15 league games, while Sevilla haven’t lost in nine.

Real Madrid 0-2 Real Sociedad

As if Barca increasing their lead to five points wasn’t enough, Sunday also saw Real Madrid, who can now be discarded as completely irrelevant in the title race at 10 points back, lose to 15th-place Real Socieded, at home.

Madrid finished the game with just 10 men after Lucas Vazquez picked up his second yellow card in the 61st minute, but Los Blancos had been a goal since Willian Jose’s 3rd-minute penalty. Ruben Pardo made it 2-0 with just seven minutes of regular time left to play.

The result, coupled with Alaves’ victory on Saturday, sees Santiago Solari’s side slip to fifth in the league table.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Eibar 0-0 Villarreal