Cesar Azpilicueta

Manchester United blanks Chelsea in VAR-heavy affair

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Manchester United took all three points from Stamford Bridge, but VAR was the star of the Red Devils’ 2-0 win on Monday.

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Anthony Martial and Harry Maguire scored the goals, the latter getting his first PL goal for United after VAR declined to prosecute an unsavory incident by the center back on the touchline.

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United moves into seventh place with 38 points, three behind fourth-place Chelsea. It’s Manchester Unired’s first league double over Chelsea since 1987/88.


Three highlights

1. Bailly, Wan-Bissaka pass tests: Chelsea targeted the right side of United’s defense and, after an early mistake from returning center back Eric Bailly, the defenders on that side stood tall. Wan-Bissaka chipped in with an assist on Martial opener.

2. Maguire dodges VAR red card for a mindless move: There’s no debating that a prone Harry Maguire left his right foot extended and made a sneaky move to make sure he connected squarely with Michy Batshuayi‘s groin on the touchline. It wasn’t spotted by the ref, though the Chelsea bench sans Frank Lampard reacted angrily. VAR saw nothing, somehow, and perhaps was unwilling to award a yellow and not a red? Weird stuff (view video of the incident here).

3. VAR then overturns Zouma equalizer: Chelsea appeared to equalize through a Kurt Zouma header, but VAR spotted a foul on Brandon Williams that led to the goal. The problem? Manchester United’s Fred shoved Cesar Azpilicueta into the United youngster. It’s somehow more controversial given the fine margins in the race for Champions League places.

Man of the Match: It’s gotta be Wan-Bissaka for his two-way game, though Maguire was the No. 1 man of note in the contest.


Reece James belted a shot wide of the far post in the sixth minute, and Willian missed by more three minutes later.

Bruno Fernandes and Fred worked a 12th-minute exchange that led to an unproductive corner kick.

Mason Mount came on for an injured N’Golo Kante after a dozen minutes.

There was a bizarre lack of address when a prone Harry Maguire stuck his boot into Michy Batshuayi’s groin.

The first half was filled with near-misses. Willian couldn’t cue up Michy Batshuayi around the 20-minute mark. That one was the Belgian’s fault, but he was quite poor when Mason Mount set him up centrally in the 26th.

United’s Anthony Martial drove into the box and spun a shot wide 10 minutes later, but found his goal before halftime with a classy header of Wan-Bissaka’s tremendous cross.

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Chelsea appeared to make it 1-1 in the 55th minute through a Kurt Zouma header, but it was ruled out by VAR. Cesar Azpilicueta knocked over Brandon Williams, but the Chelsea defender had been shoved into the defender by Fred. Stunning.

Bruno Fernandes smashed the post in the 64th minute, and United would find its second soon afterwards when Maguire got the better of Rudiger to head home.

Giroud gave Chelsea a shout with a 77th minute header, but his front foot was offside before he headed home a Mason Mount cross.

Odion Ighalo subbed into the match in stoppage time and was deprived of a debut goal by Willy Caballero.

Newcastle stuns misfiring Chelsea

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Chelsea couldn’t find a clinical edge and Isaac Hayden scored in stoppage time as Newcastle United beat Chelsea 1-0 at St. James’ Park on Saturday.

The visitors had 70 percent of the ball and a massive edge in shots, but couldn’t capitalize on the few chances they found behind the back line.

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Isaac Hayden powered a header home off a stoppage-time set piece to give the Magpies a shocking win and 29 points, seven clear of the Bottom Three.

Chelsea stays on 39 points, five ahead of fifth-place Manchester United. The Red Devils play Liverpool on Sunday.


Three things we learned

1. Fortunate Magpies get big payoff late: Hayden had not scored in a year and turned Saint-Maximin’s desperate cross of a poorly-cleared corner kick past Kepa Arrizabalaga. A solid if unspectacular midfielder, Hayden has dealt with a lot and might’ve left the Northeast due to family reasons. He’s stayed, Steve Bruce has him confident, and the Magpies have a win against all odds.

2. Newcastle’s low block heroics highlight Chelsea need: Frank Lampard‘s attackers were limited to shots from distance, as Steve Bruce’s men might be even better than they were under Rafa Benitez when asked to defend deep. A lot of this is due to spending on attackers who keep defenders honest, but that doesn’t excuse Tammy Abraham and Callum Hudson-Odoi‘s inability to produce much. The former had Dubravka beaten but failed to find finish on the day.

The defense-first style can be boring to, well, everyone including the home fans and managers loathe when it’s employed against them. But Newcastle has now beaten Chelsea, Spurs, and Manchester United this year, also drawing Man City. The expected goals table says Newcastle is having one of the luckiest seasons on record, but don’t bother the Geordies with that right now.

3. Lampard waits for Abraham: Related to point No. 1, Lampard showed faith that his struggling striker would show up late. After all, the 22-year-old has 13 goals and three assists this year. Abraham got behind the Magpies back line twice and also flicked a ball off the bar, but it was the right move to get Michy Batshuayi out there. Alas, it probably should’ve come before the 80th minute.

Man of the Match: Ciaran Clark and Federico Fernandez were the key parts of the aforementioned low block, and we’d give the honors to Clark. But Hayden, man.


Newcastle loan star Jetro Willems are stretchered off the pitch with his head in his hands are an innocent play out wide, a new worry for the injury-ravaged Magpies.

Then Isaac Hayden pulled up lame after being stretched in a 50-50 with Mason Mount.

The best scoring chance of the early stages came in the 22nd minute, as Kepa Arrizabalaga may have got a finger to Joelinton‘s header off the bar.

Chelsea took hold of the match at the half-hour mark, an offside Tammy Abraham flicking off the bar before Martin Dubravka saved N’Golo Kante’s effort in the 34th.

Newcastle held firm against the attack through five minutes of stoppage time.

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The Magpies opened up a little bit in the second half, and Willian missed a chance to open the scoring in the 53rd.

Cesar Azpilicueta was lively in both halves, and hammered a shot to Dubravka in the 55th.

Newcastle’s physical and aggressive back line held firm, big challenges and clearances from Ciaran Clark and Federico Fernandez on show.

Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin teamed up to tee up Joelinton, but the Brazilian drove his 88th minute shot wide of the goal.

Soon after, Saint-Maximin sent a half-desperation, half-pinpoint cross to the back post for Hayden to turn past Arrizabalaga. Insane.

Hudson-Odoi scores first Premier League goal in Chelsea cruise

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Three different Chelsea players scored in a comfortable 3-0 defeat of Burnley at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

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Jorginho, Callum Hudson-Odoi, and Tammy Abraham scored for Chelsea, who was without injured Christian Pulisic.

The Blues stay fourth in moving onto 39 points, while Burnley’s 24 are just four clear of the Bottom Three.


Three things we learned

1. Abraham’s baker dozen just the tip of the iceberg: Tammy Abraham has a nose for goal, and the 22-year-old now has 13 league goals this season despite not regularly impressing in other areas of the field. He may still dip in and out of play, sometimes for entire halves, but watch out if Frank Lampard is able to harness his knack for goal into a complete product.

2. Burnley tempting fate: We’re not here to doubt Sean Dyche, but the statistics are quite ready to ask whether the Clarets can defy logic again to remain in the Premier League. Over-simplified: Burnley readily concedes possession and doesn’t pass the ball well, depending on hustle and pressure to produce chances (as well as long balls lumped to the forwards). Its 68 percent passing will finish last in the top flight, and we’re able to project that in January. Still Dyche will probably just beat up everyone and finish 15th. His teams get it done.

3. James staking his claim: Chelsea’s 20-year-old right back Reece James was very good again on Saturday, providing an assist and forcing Nick Pope into a big save in the first half. Already an excellent passer with a willingness to tackle, the future is very much his for the taking.

Man of the Match: Willian had his nose in everything his side of the pitch, and just gets the nod over James.


Burnley thought it was ahead when Jeff Hendrick headed Ben Mee‘s flick home, but the midfielder was offside.

Chelsea then found its way to the spot when Matthew Lowton‘s short slide caught Willian inside the box.

Jorginho calmly wrong-footed Nick Pope for 1-0 in the 28th.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

The Blues made it 2-0 when Reece James crossed for Abraham to nod past a baffled Pope.

The Burnley keeper would make a point-blank save on James in the 41st for a measure of redemption.

Hudson-Odoi broke his Premier League duck in the 49th minute, the first to Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross as Burnley’s defenders were nowhere.

Report: Chelsea in pursuit of Bayern Munich’s David Alaba

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A new, natural left-back may be on his way to Stamford Bridge this winter.

Chelsea are weighing in on placing a $78-million (£60 million) bid for Bayern Munich’s David Alaba, according to a report.

Longtime left-back favorite, Marcos Alonso, has fallen in Frank Lampard‘s pecking order, making just eight Premier League appearances this season. As a result, the 41-year-old has recently instead shifted captain Cesar Azpilicueta from his natural right-back position to the left side.

20-year-old Reece James now features as the Blues’ right-back, a glaring indicator that Lampard isn’t sold on either Alonso or 25-year-old Emerson Palmieri.

Alaba, 27, has a contract with the German giants until the summer of 2021, meaning that the transfer price is not coming at a reduced price.

Debuting for Bayern’s first team in 2010, Alaba has since made 250 Bundesliga appearances, scoring 22 goals and jotting 25 assists. This season, he’s featured 17 times for the champions throughout all competitions.

At the age of 17, Alaba earned his first cap with Austria; since then, he’s registered a total of 72 caps.

The Blues are free to engage in the transfer market after their appeal on a two-window transfer ban was ratified by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in early December.

Tottenham issue statement on alleged racist abuse

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Tottenham are investigating the alleged racist abuse aimed at Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger during the Blues’ 2-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday.

According to Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta, Rudiger expressed to him that racist chants were being aimed at him during the second half of Sunday’s match, shortly after his incident with Son Heung-min.

“It is made very clear to us all that if we have heard any racist incident to report it. Tony came to me and told me he was listening to racist songs towards him so I reported it to the referee,” Azpilicueta said. “We are very concerned and aware of this behavior. Altogether we need to make it stop. I hope everything gets clear and we eradicate it as soon as possible. It‘s an issue not just in football but in life.”

The alleged incident caused the match to be paused momentarily by referee Anthony Taylor, in accordance to official protocol issued by FIFA.

Following the match, Spurs confirmed through a statement that they have launched an investigation and are ready to “take the strongest possible action” against anyone found guilty of the alleged racist abuse.

The club’s statement reads: “We are now conducting a thorough investigation which will include liaising with Chelsea and their players for their observations. Any form of racism is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated in our stadium. We take any such allegations extremely seriously and shall take the strongest possible action against any individual found to be behaving in such a way, including stadium bans.”