I have another buddy from Colombia, who has told me they let certain sections of the crowd go out, and long periods in between, because the police wised up to them hiding their weapons (WTF?), waiting for opposing fans to come out. I'll check that vid out later. Gotta go to work.
With perfect timing, a tacky Olympic closing ceremony put the "not so great" back into Great Britain and brushed the spectacle and sportsmanship of London 2012 under the carpet. Having had its eyes opened wide to the athletic joys of handball, beach volleyball and platform diving, the British public will narrow them once more and return to obsessing over the singular pursuit that monopolizes its feverish hopes and dreams. The English Premier League is back.
Part sporting competition, part outlandish soap opera, the EPL is the most watched league in the world. It's a kaleidoscopic collision of heroes, heels, haircuts and hard cash. Yet, bereft of the salary caps, revenue shares and drafts that bring parity to American sport, the league remains an anarchical entity in which results are guaranteed as much by the balance sheet as the team sheet.
The financial imbalance means that in reality, the league is not one competition but three loosely connected leagues within a league. There is "The Battle of the Champions League" waged among an elite band of sheiks, oligarchs and the beneficiaries of a recent New York Stock Exchange IPO; a "Race for Respectability" for the middling teams that lollop toward the consoling placebo of a Europa League place; and the "Race of Death" between the cellar dwellers who are forced to scrap it out to avoid the trapdoor of relegation like slaves at the Roman Colosseum.
Three hundred and eighty games played over nine months lie between us and the inevitable sting in the tail; 34,200 minutes in which eye-popping goals will be thumped, legends forged, villains revealed, ill-advised tattoos unfurled, scandals exposed, false hopes dashed and the answers to the following questions slowly revealed:
1. Will Manchester City be its own worst enemy?
If the EPL truly were a soap opera, then petro-dollar-fueled champion Manchester City would warrant a spin-off of its very own. What a wacky drama it would be, propelled by fast-paced, flip-flopping storylines acted out by a screwball cast of characters: Mario Balotelli! Carlos Tevez! Yaya Toure! Roberto Mancini!
After Manchester City landed its first title in 44 years, confidence at the Etihad Stadium should be sky-high, but the preseason mood has been muted. In previous years, this Abu Dhabi-funded club has attacked the transfer window with the wanton abandon of a retail-therapy-craving tween visiting an Orange County mall. Yet the specter of Financial Fair Play has necessitated a tightening of the purse strings. Young Everton midfielder Jack Rodwell is the only arrival for $18.8 million. He's a player so injury-prone, City could only have made a worse investment if it had bought Manchester United shares.
Can City successfully defend its title? Enigmatic manager Mancini has attempted to use his patented "underpromise and madcaply deliver" school of reverse psychology to declare, "We are maybe second, third or fourth [favorites]," he said. The world-class depth of his squad makes that proposition hard to believe, yet the club's main challenge will be to prove it can mount a successful Premier League campaign while legitimately threatening in the Champions League at the same time.
Will United's signing of Robin van Persie be money well spent? We'll know in about nine months.
2. Can Manchester United's on-the-field performance outstrip that of its IPO?
After a season in which its trophy room collected only dust for the first time since 2005, Manchester United made two big moves. The first was on the floor of the NYSE, where a sluggish IPO saw it morph into stock ticker MANU.
The second was the avaricious capture of last year's player of the season, Robin van Persie. An attritional saga so drawn out, it felt as though Arsenal had tried to force United to import Piers Morgan along with the Dutchman in the deal. After complaining about the lack of value in the transfer market for the past five seasons, Sir Alex Ferguson splashed $37.7 million on a 29-year-old with no resale value and a patchy fitness record. Will it be worth it? Van Persie led the Premier League last season with an astonishing 30 goals, but he will have to forge a quick understanding with Wayne Rooney and the rest of his new team to repeat the feat.
United fans can try to dream only of their new striking tandem's future escapades, but memories of last year will still intrude. Its midfield appeared thinner than a bald man with a comb-over. That is less a veiled jab at Wayne Rooney and his mutating hairline and more a statement that their lack of a world-class central midfielder is apparent to all. New Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa, who has impressed teammates with his intelligence and creativity, prefers a more advanced midfield role.
Much will rest on 23-year-old Tom Cleverley's shoulders. Will he be able to reclaim the inventive form he displayed before losing much of last season to injury? And perhaps just as impressively, can he do so while sporting a new home jersey whose design appears to have been based on a 1970s couch?
3. Will Chelsea taste champagne football?
The Londoners won the Champions League last season, but the negative style they employed caused owner Roman Abramovich to receive the trophy with the relish of a man who had demanded a bottle of Perrier-Jouet champagne only to be handed a stem of award-winning broccoli. The oligarch craves vivid, attacking football. Although coach Roberto Di Matteo has had the "temporary" removed from his job title, he may have just 38 games to prove his keep.
Di Matteo must grapple with multiple challenges. Can the inventive big-money additions to the squad, including Eden Hazard and Oscar, adjust to the Premier League's relentless rhythm? Will John Terry's elephant-tranquilizer-esque pace become an increasing liability at the heart of the defense? Most pressingly, who will replace the scoring menace of Didier Drogba? Likable striker Fernando Torres' long-term impotence has been as unpleasant to witness as baby seals being culled. His return to form is often heralded. He will have to augment his return of seven Premier League goals in 46 appearances, or else Di Matteo will experience every minute like a grain of sand gushing through an egg timer.
4. Will Arsenal fans trip over the thin line between love and hate?
For the past eight seasons Arsenal fans have suffered as their captains have disappeared, while somehow retaining pride and optimism. This grinding summer dominated by the debate surrounding their "lack of ambition" and decline into a "feeder club" may change all that.
Last season, many supporters chafed at the accusation they were a one-man team. That one man, Robin van Persie, has jumped ship, so it remains to be seen whether its new arrivals -- Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla -- can pick up the 30-goal slack. Some may claim the money received for a gray-haired icon compensates for his loss, but like a cheap Sanyo television, Arsenal's once-mighty squad now seems to have inferior components. Jack Wilshere's return from long-term injury will be welcome, but Arsenal fans' only pleasure may be found in arguing which of their defectors they most despise: Manchester City's Samir Nasri, Chelsea's Ashley Cole or Manchester United's van Persie.
5. Can Newcastle avoid being the new "Fairweather Johnson"?
Last year's revelation, Newcastle United, needs to look no further than Hootie & the Blowfish or the Spin Doctors to uncover cautionary tales about the dangers of "that difficult second album." Senegalese striker Papiss Cisse succeeded fellow countryman Demba Ba as the team's headline hogger, but Toon fans will draw solace from the fact they have held on to the coveted Cheick Tiote, Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa. This potent midfield spine compares favorably with all comers. Their form may be the club's greatest weapon to stave off a sophomore slump. Brendan Rodgers admitted that Liverpool's resurgence will "take time and whether it will be in my time, I'm not so sure."
6. Can Liverpool exhume its now-ancient history?
Last season, Liverpool was accused of bringing a naive flavor-of-the-month quality to the transfer market. Supporters will hope bright new coach Brendan Rodgers is not a product of the same approach. Can he import the short-passing game he coaxed out of Swansea, or will he be disappointed as he was during the six-month failed stint at Reading that preceded it? The arrival of tiny pass master Joe Allen and return of the steely Lucas will provide a boon, but Rodgers has admitted, "It's going to take time, and whether it will be in my time, I'm not so sure." That's a candid reality check for a fan base proud of its team's tradition. In modern times, that tradition has been one of frustration and mediocrity.
7. Can AVB stand for anything other than humiliating failure?
The rapid Premier League return of Andres Villas-Boas and his knee-length raincoat will be one of the most interesting subplots of the season. His eight-month humiliation at Chelsea was soaked in pathos, and AVB will be hampered by the long-awaited departure of Luka Modric, absence through injury of the formerly invincible Scott Parker, and the fact that the patchy Jermain Defoe is the squad's only experienced striker. While the arrival of the creative Gylfi Sigurdsson should provide invention, Tottenham is taking a high-stakes gamble that AVB's desperate desire to prove himself will propel the team back into the top four. The young manager may have to settle once more for Ivanka Trump's definition of success: "Gorgeous hair is the best revenge."
8. Who will win the race for respectability?
A muck of muddling teams will clog the middle of the table, clamoring for the mixed reward of a Europa League place that promises all of the excitement of a vice-presidential debate. The best most fans can wish for is to trump their regional rivals and experience the cheap thrill of an FA Cup run. Aston Villa and West Brom will sample life under new management. Goal-shy Sunderland and Stoke will embark without a repeat of their 2011 spending sprees. Witnessing Stoke's new 6-foot-3 U.S. international Geoff Cameron be introduced to Tony Pulis' cruel tactics should be like watching "My Fair Lady" in reverse.
Fulham will pray the rumored departures of club stars Clint Dempsey (not just the 17 goals scored, but the 56 chances created) and Moussa Dembele do not condemn them to the mire. Meanwhile, Everton fans will wonder what their gutsy club needs to do to experience a positive start. If the season began Jan. 1, Tim Howard's team would have finished third last year.
9. Who will survive the race of death?
The battle at the bottom of the table may prove to be this season's most competitive, fought out as it is with loan players, heavy perspiration and big dreams. The newly promoted trio of gritty Reading, defensively suspect Southampton and bludgeonlike West Ham will all require substantial strengthening if they are to survive. Southampton appears particularly under-resourced. Reading has just been taken over by a 30-year-old Russian tycoon, Anton Zingarevich, whose Victoria's Secret model wife, Yekaterina Domankova, has captured the imagination of the English tabloids. The only sure thing about West Ham's return is it will instantly double the number of full-arm tattoo sleeves on display in the Premier League.
This vulnerable trio can draw strength from this discussed stat: In the Premier League era, 28 percent of teams that survived the first campaign after gaining promotion were relegated the next season. QPR, which had to wait until the final day to secure survival, will hope the arrival of Park Ji-Sung and Fabio (loan) from United and the effervescent Junior Hoilett from Blackburn enable them to avoid a similarly anxious experience this time round. Swansea City was hailed as the Welsh Barcelona last year but must prove it can still pass and move now that Rodgers has left it. Norwich is also under new, more conservative management, and may struggle.
All three teams will look at last year's miracle survivor, Wigan Athletic, and pray that Roberto Martinez is unable to repeat his Houdini-like antics of last year.
10. SPOILER ALERT: Is this the 2012-13 EPL top three?
Donning my Paddy Power lucky underpants, I predict we will see: 1. Manchester City defend its title in a canter. 2. Chelsea push on after the January transfer window. 3. Manchester United grind out third, though its share price will be at $3.27.
Roger Bennett is a columnist for ESPN, and with Michael Davies, is one of Grantland's "Men In Blazers." Follow him on Twitter: @rogbennett.
Early goals from Branislav Ivanovic and Frank Lampard proved enough to see off the Latics, who were lively but ultimately toothless.
Aug 19, 2012
A pair of early goals from Branislav Ivanovic and Frank Lampard proved enough as Chelsea eased past a Wigan side that showed much promise but were never able to put the Blues' victory in doubt.
Wigan endured a torrid opening seven minutes as Eden Hazard showed early flashes of brilliance, first releasing Ivanovic through on goal, resulting in Chelsea leading with the first shot of the game after just two minutes. Minutes later, Hazard was again the creator as he was clumsily bundled over in the penalty area by Wigan debutant Ivan Ramis. Frank Lampard blasted the penalty home to double Chelsea's advantage, and a thrashing looked on the cards for the typically slow-starting Latics.
In reality, however, Wigan immediately upped their game and slowly began to exert their influence. The combination of James McCarthy, Shaun Maloney and Victor Moses (aided by the excellent Emerson Boyce) proved to have the creativity to penetrate the Chelsea midfield several times, but could never find the final pass, often being forced wide to cross the ball for Franco Di Santo, who stood little chance against the attentions of John Terry, David Luiz and Ivanovic, although the former Chelsea striker did have a pair of half-chances with which he should have done better.
Wigan were not the only team to spurn their opportunities either, as Chelsea had several chances to put the game beyond doubt, with Torres still looking somewhat out of sorts. The Chelsea number 9 did do well in the second half to poke the ball past Ali Al-Habsi, but he was denied by Ramis' goal-line clearance, atoning for his earlier error. Hazard's influence on the game began to wane during the second half, and he was eventually replaced for another Chelsea midfielder making his debut in Oscar.
Wigan were to enjoy heavy spells of possession, but ultimately their insistence with playing it wide and an inability to find a killer pass resulted in few chances, leaving the result looking certain from the moment Lampard had scored his penalty. Depite the result, here were encouraging signs for Roberto Martinez here, and perhaps some concerns for Roberto Di Matteo to mull over as he watched his side slip into cruise control. Then again, that proved to be enough, and with a midweek game coming up, Chelsea will be glad to get the three points out of the way.
Chelsea beats Reading on controversial Torres goal
LONDON (AP) — Fernando Torres helped spare Chelsea from an early Premier League setback Wednesday, scoring the decisive goal as the European champions came from behind to beat newcomer Reading 4-2.
The unmarked Torres tapped the ball into the net from Ashley Cole's cross from what appeared to be an offside position in the 81st minute to make it 3-2.
"It was clearly offside which was really disappointing," said Reading manager Brian McDermott, who protested to the referee's assistant. "It's just a shame he has made a mistake for such a crucial goal."
But there was no disputing the fourth in the fifth minute of stoppage time. As Reading piled forward in search of an equalizer, Eden Hazard broke free on a counterattack and set up Branislav Ivanovic to score.
Chelsea had led through Frank Lampard's 18th-minute penalty kick, but Pavel Pogrebnyak's header and Danny Guthrie's free kick put Reading into a surprise lead at half time.
Defender Gary Cahill sparked the comeback in the 69th when his long-range strike was fumbled into his own net by Reading goalkeeper Adam Federici.
Torres' goal made it two wins out of two for Roberto Di Matteo's side in their first home match since winning the Champions League for the first time. That victory over Bayern Munich— coupled with the FA Cup final win in May — glossed over Chelsea's sixth-place finish in the Premier League and secured the manager's job on a full-time basis for Di Matteo.
Freshening up the squad over the offseason has seen Chelsea burst into life at the start of the new campaign.
And it is Hazard at the heart of their newfound vigor, helping to set up two goals on Wednesday just as the former Lille player did in the 2-0 victory at Wigan on Sunday in the opening match of the season.
"He certainly has an impact on our team, and he and Juan Mata linked up very well," Di Matteo said. "He's finding his feet very quickly which is pleasing for us … everyone wants to see a lot of flair players but to win the game you have to have balance."
In a speedy start, Juan Mata released Hazard, but the Belgium midfielder struck wide, while Raul Ramires' effort was turned wide by Federici. Torres also did well to work his way into the six-yard box but he was closed down before finding space to shoot.
Hazard won a penalty for the second successive game when he was brought down by Chris Gunter, and Lampard tucked the spot kick into the bottom left of the net.
Chelsea was in control, and looked set to coast to the win.
But against the run of play, Garath McCleary whipped a cross into the penalty area for Pogrebnyak to race onto ahead of Terry and send a low header past Petr Cech in the 25th.
And Cech was beaten again four minutes later, and this time he was at fault. The goalkeeper blocked Guthrie's free kick with his chest, but allowed the ball to squirm past him into the net.
It gave Reading the confidence to play with more verve and they found the space to trouble a Chelsea side that became increasingly subdued.
The visitors could have been further ahead, but Alex Pearce was unable to connect with Ian Harte's free kick.
Torres was as wasteful, sending a header way off target from Hazard's cross before the break.
Di Matteo rang in the changes during the second half with Oscar replacing Ramires and the arrival of Daniel Sturridge in place of John Obi Mikel giving Chelsea more of an attacking impetus.
It paid off, with Cahill equalizing before Torres and Ivanovic struck to ensure Chelsea prevailed in the clash of the Champions League and League Championship winners.
Game Highlights (in French)
Yeah, Torres was CLEARLY, 100%, without a Doubt offside...oh well, them's the breaks...sometime they break for you, sometimes against...I'll take this one and the 3 points thank you very much...
Fun game in general...can't believe we're down 1-2 for much of the game...not sure if Reading has a little something or the boys in Blue were just off a bit last night...I think a little of both...Hazard does seem like the real deal; good things happen when he has the ball under foot...
Chelsea on top of Barclays Premier League Power Rankings
The international break has come and gone, and we're back with Barclays Premier League Soccer this Saturday. Three matches in and the transfer window behind us, we have a clearer indication what these are all about.
1) Chelsea (3W-0D-0L, last week: 1) - Nevermind Chelsea's 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup. The Blues have proven worthy title contenders through three matches. Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres have alleviated any concern about quality in attack and Victor Moses can make an immediate impact up front. John Terry and Ashley Cole are in a battle for fitness for Saturday's match with Queens Park Rangers. A nagging elbow injury to goalkeeper Petr Cech is worth monitoring.
2) Manchester City (2-1-0, last week: 2) - The 3-1 scoreline didn't tell the full story in City's home win over QPR. City looked at their best at the Etihad, and should have added to their tally. Carlos Tevez has started as bright as any in the Premier League. New recruits Javi Garcia, Maicon, Scott Sinclair and Matija Nastasic promise to add more depth to the squad. More good news for City; striker Sergio Aguero is back in training.
3) Manchester United (2-0-1, last week: 3) - Manchester United never deserved three points in a struggle at Southampton. Robin van Persie showed his worth with a dramatic hat trick. Now, United hold their breath as van Persie and Shinji Kagawa return from the International break with injury. Sir Alex Ferguson still has concerns in the centre of the midfield and at the wing-back positions.
4) Arsenal (1-2-0, last week: 6) - The only side yet to concede in the Premier League looked an attacking force in a 2-0 win at Anfield. Santi Cazorla continues to impress, and the performance of Abou Diaby gives reason for promise. Diaby picked up a knock on International duty and is a question for Southampton. Time for Olivier Giroud to settle at the Emirates and regain his goal-scoring touch he showed regularly in Ligue 1. For the meantime, criticism of Arsene Wenger has come to a halt and a new contract for the manager looks to be in the works.
5) Swansea City (2-1-0, last week: 4) - The Swans perfect record was spoiled in a 2-2 home draw with Sunderland but of more concern is that promising young Welsh left-back Neil Taylor is done for the season, dislocating and breaking his ankle. Michael Laudrup has found a replacement in Dutch defender Dwight Tiendalli. All eyes will be on record signing Pablo Hernandez as the winger looks set to make his debut this weekend against Aston Villa.
6) West Bromwich Albion (2-1-0, last week: 8) - Seven points through three tough matches (Liverpool, Tottenham, Everton) could have never been predicted. Steve Clarke's side is proving a tough match-up. The Baggies have size all over the park. And six different goalscorers bodes well for squad depth. It will never be pretty. But you can't argue with results. A trip to Fulham is up next.
7) Everton (2-0-1, last week: 5) - The Toffees dream start came crashing to an end with a 2-0 loss at West Brom in disappointing fashion. David Moyes problems were compounded by comments from Marouane Fellaini this week, indicating his future lay away from Goodison Park. A true test of team quality will come Monday with a visit from Newcastle.
8) Newcastle United (1-1-1, last week: 7) - A 1-1 home draw with Aston Villa was a disappointing result. A busy week prior in the Europa League can be partially blamed. Injuries to goalkeeper Tim Krul and defender Fabricio Coloccini last week add more question marks for Monday's trip to Everton. That being said, Hatem Ben Arfa has been a force in the midfield and the strike duo of Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse are showing signs of returning to the superior form from a season ago.
9) Wigan Athletic (1-1-1, last week: 12) - Wigan are going to be a hard team to figure out over the course of the season. There will be good and bad days, but with Roberto Martinez - one of the top manager's in the game - the Latics will be able to stay in more games than not. Franco Di Santo has started to score goals and the loss of Victor Moses stings, but Arouna Kone looks to be a lively replacement.
10) Sunderland (0-2-0, last week: 13) - A productive transfer window that saw Martin O'Neill land midfielder Adam Johnson and striker Steven Fletcher (who scored a brace in his debut) may actually pay off. The team still doesn't have much depth, but certainly now has requisite quality in important positions to compete. O'Neill's direct style of play is effective as any.
11) Stoke City (0-3-0, last week: 14) - The tall and small partnership between Peter Crouch and Michael Owen threatens few but makes for a compelling storyline. A new-look midfield gives Tony Pulis even more muscle, but the team simply doesn't have much going forward. Three draws through three matches is predictable. The next three, however (Man City, at Chelsea, Swansea), will be a a true test.
12) Tottenham Hostpur (0-2-1, last week: 9) - Is Andre Villas-Boas a good coach? It's a more-than-fair question to ask, even after just three matches. The 34-year old needs to prove something substantial beyond his promising reputation. One point through three matches is no good enough and now he has controversy on his hands, with incoming goalkeeper Hugo Lloris unhappy with the Brad Friedel still being the preferred number one. At least Moussa Dembele looked bright in his debut.
13) Fulham (1-0-2, last week: 10) - Martin Jol sells his two top players (Mousa Dembele and Clint Dempsey) and promptly gets embarrassed at West Ham. No team was hurt more in the transfer window than Fulham. Dimitar Berbatov was influential in his first 45 minutes of action with the club but the rest of the team was poor. Fulham gets some much-needed help in the midfield with Greek captain Giorgos Karagounis joining on a free transfer but he has big shoes to fill.
14) West Ham United (2-0-1, last week: 15) - Andy Carroll was a revelation in his debut, but Hammers supporters will have to wait longer for their next taste of Carroll-mania, with the striker nursing a hamstring issue. Although some reports indicate a shock return may be in the cards, Big Sam needs Carroll. Especially with winnable games ahead.
15) Liverpool (0-1-2, last week: 11) - Liverpool isn't in full-blown panic mode, but it certainly doesn't look good at Anfield. Brendan Rodgers preaches patience, but a club like Liverpool is expected to win, and win now. His squad is simply not good enough. There are no ready-made goal-scorers up front and the defenders are not good enough in distribution to build from the back. Goalkeeper Pepe Reina's future at the club is something to watch after a sub-par start to his season. A high pressure, difficult away match at Sunderland Saturday is a real test to the character in the squad. No red balloon on the field, please.
16) Southampton (0-0-3, last week: 17) - Loveable losers Southampton continue to win acclaim while breaking hearts of their supporters in the process. Two hard fought efforts against the two Manchester sides are behind them and it's time to prove they can play with the rest of the table. Adam Lallana has been a standout performer, with the 24-year-old earning a shock call-up into the England National team and Uruguayan International Gaston Ramirez is set to make his debut. Problems in the back-four continue to plague Nigel Adkins men. But in fairness, they were exposed by the best in the Premier League.
17) Norwich City (0-2-1, last week: 20) - Back-to-back draws take the Canaries out of the bottom of our Power Rankings. Norwich is starting to look the no-nonsense team who provided a tough out in their first season back in the Premier League. Former Leeds midfielder Robert Snodgrass was a constant threat at White Heart Lane while goalkeeper John Ruddy remains one of the best in the Premier League.
18) Aston Villa (0-1-2, last week: 18) - A hard-earned point at Newcastle eases the pressure on Paul Lambert, just a little bit but the fact remains, there's too little talent outside of striker Darren Bent and Gabriel Agbonlahor. Tough times are ahead for Villa supporters.
19) Queens Park Rangers (0-1-2) last week: 19) - The busiest team in the transfer window has a lot to do to prove their shopping spree wasn't ill-fated. Midfielder Esteban Granero and goalkeeper Julio Cesar will pay immediate dividends but a shaky back-four looks to remain an Achilles heel for a team that concedes far too easily. With London rivals Chelsea and Tottenham ahead, things don't get any easier.
20) Reading (0-1-1, last week: 16) - It seems ages since Reading were robbed a result against Chelsea by an offside goal by Fernando Torres. Reading should be fresh after a postponement means they haven't played a Premier League match over three weeks. No matter what kind of break, Reading will continue to find tough sledding, having not added in the transfer window.
We got a derby with QPR the weekend...I hate them a-holes...
The script for Chelsea's European Champions League triumph last season was out of the realms of Hollywood , but Juventus refused to roll out the red carpet for the holders as the Serie A title winners came from behind to secure a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea almost had an Oscar winning performance from one of their Brazilian stars, with the former Internacional midfielder scoring twice on his debut to confirm his reputation as one of the game's most exciting talents.
Oscar's two first-half strikes looked to have given Chelsea the perfect start to their title defense until a twist in the script saw Juventus fight back to claim a deserved draw.
It was the perfect ending to a thrilling game between two of Europe's heavyweight contenders with Oscar the star of the show.
While his first goal arrived courtesy of a deflection, his second could only be described as a blockbuster.
The 21-year-old received the ball with his back to goal before pirouetting and curling an unstoppable effort into the top corner.
But there was still drama to come for Chelsea, who failed to show the kind of defense which allowed them to triumph in Munich last season.
Arturo Vidal pulled a goal back for the Italians seven minutes before the break as Juventus began to find a way back into the contest.
Fabio Quagliarella then grabbed an equalizer with 10 minutes remaining and nearly won the tie when his curling effort rebounded to safety off the crossbar.
The Stamford Bridge draw allowed Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk to lead Group E following their convincing 2-0 win over Danish side Nordsjælland.
Not the result I wanted, but a very exciting and high quality 90 minutes of football...
FA bans Chelsea soccer captain John Terry four matches for racially abusing opponent
LONDON - Chelsea captain John Terry was banned for four matches on Thursday for racially abusing an opponent in English football's most high-profile racism case.
The former England captain was also fined 220,000 pounds ($356,000) for abusing Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand during a Premier League match in October 2011.
Terry was found guilty of directing abuse at Ferdinand by the Football Association. He was cleared by a criminal court in July of a racially-aggravated public order offence.
Before the four-day FA disciplinary hearing started, Terry announced his retirement from international football on Sunday after nine years with England. The case led to Fabio Capello quitting as England coach in February in protest at the FA's decision to strip Terry of the England captaincy before the trial.
The full reasons for the FA's verdict are yet to be released, but the panel said Terry used "abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour ... which included a reference to colour and/or race."
Terry is considering whether to appeal, and the sanctions are on hold until then.
"Mr. Terry is disappointed that the FA Regulatory Commission has reached a different conclusion to the clear not guilty verdict of a court of law," Terry's management team said in a statement. "He has asked for the detailed written reasons of the decision and will consider them carefully before deciding whether to lodge an appeal."
Chelsea said the club "respects" the verdict but it would be "inappropriate" to comment further before any appeal.
In the criminal court case, Terry did not deny using an offensive term during the match at QPR but said all he did was sarcastically repeat the words he was accused of using.
Ferdinand said he had been goading Terry about his alleged extramarital affair with the former girlfriend of ex-England teammate Wayne Bridge.
The magistrate described Terry's defence as being "under the cold light of forensic examination, unlikely," but found there was not enough evidence to prove he was lying.
The FA hearing, though, had a lower burden of proof.
Terry is the second Premier League player in a year to be banned by the FA for racism. Liverpool striker Luis Suarez was banned for eight matches for abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra during another game last October.
The FA said in its Suarez verdict last year that his guilt did not depend on whether he "intended his words to be abusive or insulting," with the use of a racial slur during a match enough to convict the Uruguay international.
LONDON (Reuters) - Chelsea will host Manchester United in the League Cup after the two clubs were drawn to play each other in the fourth round on Wednesday.
United, who have won the competition four times, beat Newcastle United 2-1 on Wednesday to set up the tie of the round against Chelsea who trounced Wolverhampton Wanderers 6-0 in their third round clash.
Excellent...my wife and DD are both ManU fans...back-to-back games against ManU at the Bridge (home)...a Oct 28 regular league game, follow by a Oct 31 Cup game...
LONDON (AP) -- Chelsea came through its sternest test of the season to stay top of the English Premier League, beating Arsenal 2-1 on Saturday to open up a three-point lead after Manchester United lost at home to Tottenham for the first time in 23 years.
Spurs' 3-2 win in a thrilling match at Old Trafford saw United drop to third place and level on points with defending champion Manchester City, which needed a late goal by Edin Dzeko to grab a 2-1 victory at Fulham.
Everton is the nearest challenger to Chelsea following its 3-1 come-from-behind win over Southampton and Liverpool completed a good day for Merseyside by earning its first league triumph of the season, Luis Suarez scoring a hat trick in a 5-2 thrashing of Norwich.
Unbeaten Chelsea's fifth win in six games was secured by goals from Fernando Torres and Juan Mata and a strong rearguard display from a defense featuring John Terry, two days after he received a four-match ban for on-pitch racial abuse.
"It was a big challenge to play against a quality side like Arsenal," Chelsea manager Roberto di Matteo said of opponents who were unbeaten heading into the match at Emirates Stadium. "We were excellent. We didn't just come and sit back, we took the initiative."
Terry shrugged off jeers from Arsenal fans to deliver a composed display for Chelsea and received a rapturous welcome from the jubilant traveling support after the match, slapping the badge on his jersey.
The center back was available while he contemplates whether to appeal the suspension for making a racial slur at Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand in a league match last year.
Terry lost Gervinho for Arsenal's equalizer in the 42nd but hardly put a foot wrong otherwise.
"It was the right choice to pick him today," Di Matteo said. "John showed his leadership qualities and what a good defender he is for the team."
The loss ended Arsenal's unbeaten start and saw the team's defensive vulnerability resurface, with center back Laurent Koscielny at fault for both goals from Mata's set pieces.
"Defensively, we were just not at the level you have to be in a game like that, which is where we were punished today," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said.
Terrible Ref cost Chelsea the Game (or at least the draw)
Chelsea 2 Manchester United 3: Crazy red card for Torres and Hernandez offside goal hand United victory at Stamford Bridge
By Martin Samuel Games as good as this should be decided by a moment of magic, a sliver of sublime skill, an act of bravery or great daring. Sadly, Manchester United won here courtesy of one of the worst performances by a referee in Premier League history.
In fact, make that the worst. Even without the incredible allegations that followed, Mark Clattenburg had already lowered the bar. For while some may recall the odd match that plumbed murkier depths of ineptitude, Clattenburg’s display was such a hellish combination of incompetence and arrogance that it warped the narrative of the match and, perhaps, the title race.
These things even themselves out over a season? Really, do they? So Chelsea can recover three points the next time Manchester United visit Stamford Bridge in the Premier League this season, can they? Or was this their only chance? Alternative outcomes are purely hypothetical and maybe United would have won even without the travesty that was the second Chelsea dismissal, or the winning goal that was plainly offside, but few impartial observers would have supported that bet with total confidence.
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Luiz, Cahill, Cole, Mikel, Ramires, Hazard (Sturridge 82), Oscar (Azpilicueta 66), Mata (Bertrand 72), Torres. Subs not used: Turnbull, Romeu, Moses, Marin. Booked: Torres, Mikel. Sent off: Ivanovic, Torres. Goals: Mata 44, Ramires 53. Man Utd: De Gea, Da Silva, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Cleverley (Hernandez 65), Young, Rooney (Giggs 74), van Persie. Subs not used: Lindegaard, Anderson, Nani, Welbeck, Scholes. Booked: Rooney. Goals: Luiz (OG) 4, Van Persie 12, Hernandez 75. Attendance: 41,644 Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear) Latest Premier League results, fixtures and table
At the time Branislav Ivanovic was sent off for fouling Ashley Young, United had passed the previous 50 minutes without a noteworthy attempt at goal. Within five minutes the home team were reduced to nine by a false judgment that left them to overcome insurmountable odds, and from that point there was only one winner. It helps if you can score from an offside position, too.
From a blistering start – Manchester United deservedly 2-0 up, Chelsea rightly back in the game through Juan Mata – this match then evolved like a car crash watched in slow motion. In the 45th minute, Clattenburg booked Fernando Torres for a high, reckless challenge on Tom Cleverley that some feel was worth more. The replays looked painful for the young man, but also revealed a genuine, if misguided, attempt to win the ball on Torres’s part. A yellow card seemed fair.
Clattenburg was still carrying the popular vote – although not at Stamford Bridge, it must be said – when he dismissed Ivanovic after 63 minutes. Robin van Persie put Ashley Young through on goal, and the full back got the wrong side of him. In attempting to make amends, he clipped Young’s heels. Again there is an argument that the contact was accidental, yet equally a cynical defender could be quite adept at making the deliberate appear unfortunate. The benefit of the doubt should be with the attacker here and, as the last line of defence, Ivanovic had to go.
And then Clattenburg’s reign of terrible began.
The score still tied at 2-2, Torres burst through. Jonny Evans lunged at the approaching forward, who made to take evasive action. It was too late, Evans hit him and Torres fell. It was a blatant foul, as clear as anything seen all afternoon. The home support chanted vengefully for Evans’s dismissal. Instead, it was Torres who was banished, a second yellow sending him mystified towards the tunnel.
It was an abysmal decision. Not just wrong, but full of the alienating arrogance of modern officialdom. There is no way Clattenburg could have been sure, 100 per cent sure, stone-cold guaranteed beyond all semblance of doubt sure, that Torres had cheated. He knew the consequence of a booking would be a red card. Yet he ploughed ahead, altering the balance of power beyond repair, convicting an innocent man on a hunch. He ruined the game, there and then. It was now a matter of time before United found a way through.
It took seven minutes. Van Persie shot, Petr Cech got his fingertips to the ball and, as it edged towards the goal-line, recovered to kick clear. His desperate attempt found only Rafael, however, who drilled a shot into the area to be turned in by substitute Javier Hernandez. If the sense of injustice inside Stamford Bridge was already palpable it exploded when replays showed Hernandez standing in an offside position when Rafael shot. He was almost on the goal-line, level with Cech at best, but behind every blue shirt. It was not a difficult offside for a linesman to spot. To be fair, Lemon Jefferson could have taken a fair swing at it. Using Ray Charles’s spectacles.
At this point it is customary to trot out the cliche about refereeing being an impossible job and its protagonists deserving of sympathy. No it isn’t and no they aren’t. Not here, anyway. It is not impossible to use common sense, as Clattenburg should have done over Torres, or to spot no blue shirt between a red shirt and goal. Yet Clattenburg’s bravado continued to the bitter end. In stoppage-time, he booked Antonio Valencia for diving when he plainly ran into Mikel. He should not be near a match as big as this for a very long time.
At 2-2 and 11 versus 11, Chelsea were the better team. Yet with 12 minutes gone, thoughts of a home victory would have appeared far-fetched. United started like a team looking to take advantage of the absence of John Terry, as Ferguson had demanded, and were a goal up after four minutes. Young found Wayne Rooney and his shot was met powerfully by Van Persie, striking a post, ricocheting out and hitting David Luiz before rebounding in. It was unfortunate for the Brazilian, although he could have asked for 50 other instances when he should have cost a goal and got away with it to be taken into account.
Soundly beaten in Donetsk last week, the game could have run away from Chelsea, but instead they rallied. They dominated the 40-minute period prior to Ivanovic’s dismissal, David de Gea making several good saves, including a smattering with his feet.
Maybe it was more good fortune, perhaps it is evidence of his individual approach but three times De Gea saved in the manner of a 12-year-old going in goal for the first time. He kept out a 30-yard free-kick from Luiz, a close-range header from Gary Cahill and a one-on-one with Eden Hazard in this manner. It hardly inspires confidence, but it certainly makes for excitement.
As do Chelsea these days. Torres, Mata and Hazard all had opportunities go close, while Evans nearly put through his own net, Luiz-style. Chelsea finally got back into the game with a fantastic left-foot free-kick from Mata, after Rooney had fouled Hazard, and eight minutes into the second half Ramires headed in an Oscar cross, after an initial effort from Mata was over-hit.
The draw a fair result? Not really. Off levels, Chelsea at least deserved to maintain their ten-year unbeaten home record in the league against United. It is the club’s misfortune that in Clattenburg, they had an official channelling the spirit of the notorious Tom Henning Ovrebo who as good as handed Barcelona a Champions League final place here in 2009. Chelsea must hope, long-term, that this result will not prove as influential for United and the title.
Chelsea need to look at their own players when it comes to explaining Sunday’s 3-2 defeat against Manchester United.
Let’s get a few things straight about Sunday’s game at Stamford Bridge. Referee Mark Clattenburg was officiating what is always a feisty encounter between two teams desperate not to lose against one another.
We should also appreciate that diving has been on the agenda practically since the season began, with referees now looking to punish simulating players. Clattenburg should be forgiven for brandishing a second yellow card to Fernando Torres after minimal contact from Jonny Evans in the second half.
It seems as though everyone forgets that Torres’ first yellow card was for something resembling a drop-kick on Tom Cleverley towards the end of the first half which could have seen the Spaniard receive his marching orders. If Di Matteo is going to be balanced with his criticism, why not point the finger at his striker for an inexplicable foul after Chelsea had got themselves back into the match?
Clattenburg also correctly sent off Branislav Ivanovic for fouling Ashley Young when the United winger appeared to have a clear run on goal, with the Serbian attempting to disguise the foul as a coming together although the referee was able to make the correct call nonetheless.
As for the Red Devils' winner, it really was a borderline call for the linesman to make and how anyone can blame Clattenburg for that decision is beyond belief. A referee relies on his assistants to make judgements and Javier Hernandez was only marginally offside before retreating to score past Petr Cech.
The simple fact is that Chelsea were sucker-punched by Sir Alex Ferguson's side in the first twelve minutes of the game and were left chasing for much of the match, something which led to Torres’ first yellow card, which was an outburst of frustration after the Blues nearly scored an unlikely equaliser before half-time.
The home side conceded two early goals, their striker drop-kicked Cleverley which meant he was on a yellow card for the whole of the second half and Ivanovic denied Young a goalscoring opportunity. So the referee is not really to blame for Sunday’s defeat - Chelsea need to look at themselves. ---------------------------------
Freckin' bullshit....I will concede the Ivanovic sendoff of just and technically the right call...and I can forgive the missed offside call...BUT the Torres Yellow and ensuing sendoff was complete crap...not only was the call horrible...even Jonny Even was shocked the call don't come his way...but by taking us down the only 9 men we were screwed...at 10 we had a fighting chance to preserve the draw, but not at 9...hard to be a team AND a ref...