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EURO 2020 qualifying: Spain rout Faroe Islands, Italy hold off Finland

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The paths of Spain and France to victory were contrasting, however, both teams continued their winning ways in Sunday’s EURO 2020 qualifying.

[ MORE: EURO qualifying wrap ]


Spain 4-0 Faroe Islands

Who knows if it was planned, but Spain put on a lively celebration for Sergio Ramos, who equalled Iker Casillas’ international caps on Sunday night in Gijon, in their 4-0 drubbing of Faroe Islands.

Even then, the scoreline isn’t a clear reflection of Spain’s dominance over a vastly inferior visiting side, who registered less than 30 percent possession and took two shots throughout 90 minutes.

La Roja, comfortable as ever, had time to experiment and put together well-orchestrated attacks.

Rodrigo started the scoring frenzy in the 13th minute with a tap-in, before adding a second in the second half after his left-footed strike wad deflected into the back of the net.

Substituted in the 61st minute for Real Sociedad’s Mikel Oyarzabal, Paco Alcacer added his own brace over the span of three minutes to seal the night for Spain, who stay unbeaten after six qualifying matches and atop of Group F.

Finland 1-2 Italy

Italy’s victory in Finland was controversial, to the say very the least.

Norwhich City’s man of the hour, Teemu Pukki, scored a penalty in the 72nd minute, only to be nulled by Chelsea’s Jorginho, who converted one of his own, which turned out to be the Italian’s match-winning goal.

The call that led to the penalty, however, was worthy of video review.

Finland’s Sauli Väisänen, with his arm attached to his torso as he turned away, made contact with Nicolò Barella’s shot. The official, who was on the opposite of the box, instantly deemed it a penalty and showed a yellow to the defender, despite the heavy petitioning from the Finish players.

With the victory, Italy, who like Spain have yet to lose, remains ahead of second-place Finland in Group H by six points.

VAR is not used in the qualifying process, but will be implemented in the 2020 European Championship, according to UEFA.

Elsewhere

Switzerland 4-0 Gibraltar
Georgia 0-0 Denmark
Sweden 1-1 Norway
Greece 1-1 Liechtenstein

Hot Hazard runs Chelsea past Watford

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  • Kabasele stretchered out of stadium
  • Hazard scores in each half
  • Pereyra nets terrific equalizer (video)

Eden Hazard scored a pair of goals to lead Chelsea back up the table in a 2-1 win over Watford at Vicarage Road on Wednesday.

Roberto Pereyra scored a beautiful volley for Watford, but the Hornets will be more concerned with Christian Kabasele. The defender needed to be stretchered from the stadium after sliding into the goal post in a bid to block Hazard’s opener.

Chelsea is back into fourth, two points ahead of Arsenal and four back of Man City, while Watford finishes Boxing Day in the table’s ninth position.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Willian came near to making it 1-0 when Cesc Fabregas slotted him into the left of the box, and he beat Ben Foster but not the goal post.

Christian Kabasele slid hard into the post and needed plenty of help from the trainers. He tried to gut out a performance, but Adrian Mariappa needed to take his place.

Hazard missed a chance to open the scoring earlier in the half, but made no mistake in stoppage time. The Belgian squared his hips to shoot to the right, then kept dribbling and shot left after Ben Foster committed his body to the feint. Mateo Kovacic set up the goal.

Watford leveled the score within moments, a training ground play when saw Pereyra sneak atop the 18 for a volleyed finish inside the near post.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Gerard Deulofeu thought he’d won a penalty off David Luiz in the 54th minute, but no whistle came for what appeared to be shoulder-to-shoulder.

Hazard won a penalty off Foster in the 57th, and left no doubt with his conversion.

N'Golo Kante and Troy Deeney missed chances at each end as the game reached its final 10 minutes.

Foster stopped a Willian chance cued up by Marcos Alonso in the 89th, the ensuing corner kick nearly serving the same purpose of a third goal.

Super Spurs end Chelsea’s unbeaten run

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As odd as this sounds, Tottenham Hotspur was wasteful in a 3-1 demolition of Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.

Ascendant all afternoon, Mauricio Pochettino‘s men missed several chances to further a score line which would not have deceived anyone who watched Spurs climb over their London rivals and into third place.

Tottenham now has 30 points, five back of first, thanks to goals from Heung-Min Son, Harry Kane, and Dele Alli.

Chelsea will finish the weekend fourth, with 28 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Kepa Arrizabalaga had a pair of early moments, including a collection of a ball Harry Kane nodded off the head of his marker.

It was a precursor to the opener, as Arrizabalaga could not handle Dele’s header to the back post. The effort was enough to throw off the keeper, as Christian Eriksen‘s free kick was on a similar trajectory before the turn.

Eriksen was in the richest vein of form, chipping an effort over three backs for Heung-min Son to hammer just over the frame.

Son then cooked Antonio Rudiger to force Arrizabalaga into a leg save.

Kane was shown acres of space and Arrizabalaga was nowhere to be found when Luiz moved to stop the Spurs’ man shot from hitting his backside. 2-0 after 16 minutes.

Eden Hazard sprung to life as the match reached the latter stages of the first half, forcing Hugo Lloris into a couple interventions.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

And then, my goodness, an exclamation point from Son.

The South Korean star torched Jorginho for pace, rounded the corner, and cut back David Luiz before beating Arrizabalaga low inside the far post.

Magical stuff.

Kane missed a chance to make it 4-0 in the 68th, firing an 8-yard effort well over the bar.

Chelsea substitute Olivier Giroud rose above Serge Aurier to pound a header off the ground and past Lloris in the 85th minute to ruin the clean sheet.

Europa League preview: Arsenal’s biggest test yet; Chelsea to rest stars

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Arsenal has a very tricky few days ahead of itself, facing the toughest test of its Europa League group stage before returning home for a London Derby against Crystal Palace in the Premier League.

[ MORE: Champions League Weds. wrap ]

A trip to Sporting Lisbon is first, with Bruno Fernandes and Nani poised to knock Arsenal of its perch atop Group E. Both sides have defeated Vorskla Poltava and both have knocked off Qarabag, with Arsenal leading its Portuguese opponents on goal difference.

Unai Emery is very, very focused on Thursday. From Arsenal.com:

“This is a very, very big match and important for our confidence and to try to continue working tactically on the things  with the players with a lot of respect for them. We want to win against Sporting.”

Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri is keeping the Premier League fixtures in the forefront as his Blues host BATE Borisov in the Europa League on Thursday.

The Blues will face Burnley at Turf Moor, and will be looking to keep their undefeated league record in tact following a 2-2 draw with Manchester United. Sarri will be giving some rest to his stars’ legs. From ChelseaFC.com:

“We need to think and be careful. For instance Jorginho needs to rest now as he played two 90 minutes in two match for the Italy national team and then nearly 100 minutes in our last game, so it is time to rest for him. Tomorrow Eden Hazard is out for sure. He has a back problem,’ the boss continued. ‘We are trying to solve the problem for Sunday,’.”

Other key matches include Celtic seeking a big result at RB Leipzig, AC Milan and Real Betis squaring off for Group F’s driver’s seat, and Rangers hosting Russian opposition in a bid to keep up a surprise run through Group G.

Elsewhere

12:55 p.m. ET kickoffs
AC Milan vs. Real Betis
Copenhagen vs. Slavia Prague
Zenit Saint-Petersburg vs. Bordeaux
Red Bull Salzburg vs. Rosenborg
Zurich vs. Bayer Leverkusen
Anderlecht vs. Fenerbahce
Sporting Lisbon vs. Arsenal
F91 Dudelange vs. Olympiacos
Qarabag vs. Vorskla Poltava
AEK Larnaca vs. Ludogorets Razgrad
Spartak Trnava vs. Dinamo Zagreb
RB Leipzig vs. Celtic

3 p.m. ET
Villarreal vs. Rapid Vienna
Sevilla vs. Akhisar Belediyespor
Marseille vs. Lazio
Rennes vs. Dynamo Kiev
PAOK vs. MOL Vidi
Standard Liege vs. FC Krasnodar
Chelsea vs. BATE Borisov
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Apollon Limassol
Besiktas vs. Genk
Jablonec vs. Astana
Sarpsborg vs. Malmo
Rangers vs. Spartak Moscow

Premier League leaders through eight matches

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The sample size remains relatively small, but the Premier League season is closing in on its quarter-point and we’re able to get a decent perspective on whose hot starts are becoming solid seasons.

The international break is a good time to analyze the early season numbers, so let’s run through WhoScored.com and a number of other sites to see who’s shining in England (and Wales, though we don’t expect to see a lot of Bluebirds).

[ MORE: Hazard would play for Mourinho again ]

Let’s start with team stuff. Obviously, Man City, Chelsea, and Liverpool all boast league-best 6W-2D records, while Newcastle and Cardiff are league-worst 2D-6L.

City has scored the most goals (21), while its tied with Liverpool for fewest allowed in league play (3). Huddersfield Town and Cardiff (4) have scored the fewest, and Fulham has allowed the most (21).

City also has the most possession (65.3 percent), shots per game (21.8), and pass accuracy (89.9 percent). Worst possessors? Newcastle. Worst passers? Cardiff. Fewest shots? Newcastle.

Now, the fun stuff. Let’s praise individuals in a sport with 22 players on the field most of the time.

It will come as no surprise that this season is all about Eden.

Goals: Eden Hazard, Chelsea (7)

Assists: Six players have four, with Benjamin Mendy of Man City doing it in the fewest amount of minutes (450).

Man of the Match awards: Hazard (5)

Key passes per game: David Silva, Man City (3.7)

Dribbles per game: Hazard (2.8)

Times fouled per game: James Maddison, Leicester City (3)

Average passes per game: Jorginho, Chelsea (106.6)

Crosses per game: Kieran Trippier, Spurs (2.6)

Tackles per game: Idrissa Gueye, Everton (5.3)

Interceptions per game: Etienne Capoue, Watford (3.4)

Clearances per game: Steve Cook, Bournemouth (7.9)

Blocks per game: James Tarkowski, Burnley (2)

Yellow cards: Jose Holebas, Watford (5)

Red cards: Wes Morgan, Leicester City (2)