Match analysis: Dempsey goal gives Seattle 1-0 win over Chivas

Seattle Sounders FC put in a complete performance against Chivas de Guadalajara as they thrilled the home crowd with a 1-0 win. Both sides played aggressively and the game became an end-to-end affair for much of the second half. A strong defensive performance from Chad Marshall and Stefan Frei helped Seattle keep a clean sheet while it was Clint Dempsey who would score the winner in the 78th minute.

Chivas opened the match with intense pressure on the ball, forcing Seattle into mistakes early on. Eleven minutes into the match Alejandro Mayorga slipped into the box in front of the Seattle defense to register the first shot of the match. Stefan Frei had to make himself big to make the save and then paw away the rebound and keep a clean sheet.

In the 33rd minute a slip by Roman Torres gave Alan Pulido a one-on-one opportunity versus Frei and it looked like Chivas would take the lead. Pulido’s final touch was too strong and allowed Frei enough time to close down on the ball an deny Pulido from finding the net.

Seattle seemed to wake up after the Pulido chance as they began to gain more possession and create chances although the chances were further from goal and didn’t trouble keeper Rodolfo Cota.

Don’t miss: In pictures – Seattle Sounders 1-0 Chivas Guadalajara

The second half seemed the exact opposite as Seattle came out as the team pressuring the ball and forcing the issue looking to take the match in their control. Seattle did well to cut down passing lanes and frustrate Guadalajara when in possession to force turnovers. They attacked Chivas down the wings, stretching the defence and creating gaps in the box that would eventually give them the opening goal.

Henry Wingo came on as a substitute in the 73rd minute for Handwalla Bwana, who had an impressive performance in his first start, and made an immediate impact on the wing. Wingo was able to consistently get dangerous balls into the box from out wide and pick out players in open space. In the 78th minute Wingo makes a run towards the corner flag into space and receives a pass from Jordan McCrary. He lets the ball run until about five yards from the endline before whipping in a low cross right in between four Guadalajara players to the feet of Dempsey for a first-time strike past Cota.

Through much of the second half, Guadalajara left space open around the top of the box and were beat to crosses as Sounders began to take control of the match. Dempsey had two other chances that looked similar to the play he was able to score on, where a cross from a wide area pulled Chivas out of position and allowed Seattle to find Dempsey for a scoring opportunity. The third of these chances came in the 82nd minute and it looked as though Dempsey would have a wide open goal to target but his shot was skied over the bar.

Seattle will hope the missed opportunities do not come back to haunt them in the second leg as they travel to Guadalajara Wednesday March 14th looking for a result that will send them to the CCL semifinals for the second time in club history.

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In pictures: Seattle Sounders 1-0 Chivas Guadalajara – Dempsey fires Sounders to first-leg victory

The Seattle Sounders completed the job in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal clash with Chivas Guadalajara on Wednesday night. Clint Dempsey fired the game’s only goal late into the second half, giving the Sounders the advantage ahead of the return leg in Mexico.

It was a fairly even match, as expected, with both sides creating opening they will feel they could have scored from. Stefan Frei came up big for Seattle in the first half, denying Alejandro Mayorga and Alan Pulido to keep the score at 0-0.

Will Bruin then came closest to opening the scoring as his header clipped off the post. But Seattle kept plugging away and got their reward on 78 minutes. Henry Wingo came off the bench and did well down the right flank. And it was the homegrown attacker who provided the pass for the breakthrough.

Wingo’s low cross was met by Dempsey in the box, who slotted in first time to earn an important first-leg win for the Sounders. The two sides will meet again next Wednesday at Estadio Chivas to determine who advances to the semi’s.

Check out exclusive photos from Wednesday’s game below, courtesy of MLSGB photographers Denise McCooey and Paul Kahl.

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Hazard leaving Chelsea? – Star set to go after top four failure

After a performance that has been heavily criticised by pundits, Chelsea’s loss to Manchester City has made finishing in the top four look extremely unlikely for the Blues. Champions League football is a must for attracting and keeping top players. Missing out could be a catalyst for Eden Hazard leaving Chelsea.

The Belgian is arguably one of the best players to represent the club. Since joining in the summer of 2012 he has been a key performer for Chelsea. But the possibility of him staying with the Blues for the long haul has been constantly questioned.

Hazard has made no secret of his admiration for current Los Blancos boss Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid. The temptation for any player to pull on that famous white shirt is enough to worry adoring fans that their current favourites could move at any time.

This summer seems the most likely yet that Hazard leaving Chelsea is a real possibility. Hazard is yet to pen a new deal. Now he may be looking to move on after six seasons in the capital.

When taking a look at Hazard’s Chelsea stats, his potential departure is a major concern for the club.

Is Eden Hazard leaving Chelsea?

It’s easy to see how influential Hazard is for Chelsea. He has been directly involved in 160 goals in his 287 games in all competitions. His two Premier League titles, Europa League and League Cup is an impressive haul of trophies so far.

Hazard has successfully completed 940 dribbles in the Premier League and European competitions since joining Chelsea. That is bettered by Lionel Messi (1045), but not Cristiano Ronaldo (388) or Neymar (861).

Hazard leaving Chelsea – Title defence failure

Although City have taken the league by storm this season, Chelsea’s title defence has been poor to say the least. It’s the second title defence in a row where Chelsea have not been up to the races.

For Hazard to continue his growth as a player and to be recognised as one of the elite he needs to be winning or challenging consistently for a league title every season. That is not happening for him at Chelsea, which will be increasing his frustrations.

Hazard leaving Chelsea – New challenge & Ballon d’Or

A new challenge may be on the Belgian’s mind. As mentioned, he has been with Chelsea for six seasons now. In the modern game longevity is becoming a less frequent feature of a career.

At 27, Hazard is now in his prime years and he arguably has six seasons at left in him at the very top of his game. He will want to be challenging to win the Ballon d’Or year-on-year during that time. While Messi and Ronaldo are still dominating European stats, Hazard is a name that is constantly thrown into the ring for those who are expected to hit the highest levels.

Winning the Ballon d’Or while playing in the Premier League is not a very frequent occurrence. The last time it happened was in 2001. So even with the domination of Messi and Ronaldo from 2008 onwards – it seems unlikely for anything to change any time soon.

Hazard leaving Chelsea – Champions League desire

Winning the Champions League is at the top of the list for every player in Europe. Hazard is facing the prospect of not playing in the competition for the second time in just three seasons. While Chelsea are still in the current round of the competition, they aren’t being backed by many to advance.

His desire to win the competition is natural. It’s all to apparent how difficult it is to win the Champions League while playing with the pressure of what is known as the toughest league in the world.

While doing no discredit to the strength of the remainder of Europe’s top leagues, they are seen as easier routes to having a better chance of winning the Champions League, which may be a factor in Hazard’s decision to move on.

Is Hazard leaving Chelsea this summer?

In pictures: Seattle Sounders 4-0 Santa Tecla – Sounders cruise into CCL quarterfinals

Seattle Sounders 4-0 Santa Tecla – Seattle overturned their 2-1 first-leg defeat in emphatic style as they put four goals past El Salvador’s Santa Tecla to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.

The Sounders knew they had to break down a solid Santa Tecla defence to have any chance of progressing but they went into halftime with the score at 0-0. Brian Schmetzer made a tactical switch to a 4-4-2 diamond formation for the second minutes, and it paid dividends almost immediately.

Will Bruin opened the scoring in the 47th minute, before Nicolas Lodeiro put the hosts in the driving seat on 69 minutes. Lodeiro – who assisted Bruin’s goal – then set up Chad Marshall off a set piece in the 81st minute to make it 3-0.

Winter signing Magnus Wolff Eikrem made his debut on Thursday night, coming on for the start of the second-half. He made an immediate impact, impressing with his passing and off the ball movement. He capped off a fine debut by scoring the final goal in the 83rd minute.

The Sounders will now face Liga MX side CD Guadalajara in the quarterfinals, starting with the home leg next Wednesday.

Check out exclusive photos from Seattle’s win over Santa Tecla on Thursday night, courtesy of MLSGB photographers Denise McCooey and Paul Kahl.

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Three reasons Man Utd suffered most in the PL this weekend

Saturday saw Manchester United held to their third 0-0 draw at home in the Premier League this season, as West Brom became the eighth team to leave Old Trafford with a point to further damage the Red Devils’ top four hopes.

Jose Mourinho’s side have only managed to win 40% of their home games in the top flight this season and wins for Spurs and Liverpool on Saturday mean that the challenge of securing a top four spot just got a whole lot tougher.

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Yes, Chelsea lost at home to Crystal Palace. That was a shock result and one that many will say was worse – on paper at least – than United’s home draw with the Baggies. But the difference is that the Blues had a 10-point cushion at the top of the table. They can afford to drop a few points and still lift the title. United can’t if they want to beat rivals to a Champions League spot.

Here are three reasons Manchester United were this weekend’s biggest losers:

1. Widening gap to top four

The biggest problem for United this weekend is that the gap to the top four widened by a point, following Liverpool’s Merseyside Derby win over Everton earlier in the day. Mourinho’s side were four points off Liverpool with two games in hand heading into the weekend, but not sit 5 points off Manchester City in 4th, who have only played one game more than United.

2. Easiest fixture of the month?

Man Utd will have played a staggering nine times before the end of April, with an average of a game every three days in the Premier League and Europa League leaving Mourinho with the most frantic period of his season. He will have to rotate his squad more than ever over the next four weeks but he’d had the entire international break to plan a victory over West Brom. He couldn’t do that and will now only have a couple of days to spend on preparations for each upcoming game in April.

3. Short rest time

As mentioned above, United’s hectic schedule means Mourinho will need to manage his players extremely well if they’re to emerge out of this month in good shape. Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be available again for Tuesday’s home clash with Everton after serving his suspension but the 0-0 draw to the Baggies on Saturday meant the United boss had to leave his best players on the pitch for 90 minutes. Henrikh Mkhitaryan was the only played substituted but still had to get through 75 minutes first. The fact that Mourinho was unable to bring players off to save them for Tuesday might cost them when Everton come to town tomorrow evening.

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Three reasons Liverpool will secure a top four finish this season

Liverpool kept their impressive unbeaten record against the league’s top sides intact with a 1-1 draw at Manchester City earlier today and remain in fourth place with nine Premier League matches to play.

The Reds are four points clear of Manchester United in fifth and six clear of Arsenal in sixth but their chasing rivals both have two games in hand to try and close that gap. Jurgen Klopp’s men still have a huge challenge on their hands if they are to qualify for next season’s Champions League but they have three big reasons to be optimistic.

1. No distractions

Liverpool’s nine remaining league games are the only matches they have left to play in all competitions this season. That means they have maximum time to prepare for each game and will be able to play full strength sides in every fixture. Roberto Firmino returned to the team at Man City on Sunday, while Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge should be fit again by the time Everton come to Anfield on April 1, so Liverpool have all their key men available for the final stretch.

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In stark contrast, Manchester United still have a minimum of 13 games to play as a result of their Europa League commitments, while they could play as many as 16 more if they reach the final of that competition – something many expect them to do. Arsenal still have 11 Premier League games to play and also have an FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City to contend with. The fact that Liverpool have only one competition to focus on should give them an advantage in the run-in.

2. Goalscoring form

Klopp’s side are the league’s top scorers, having netted 61 times in 29 games so far – an average of 2.1 per game. Not only does that make them the most threatening team in the division, it also means they have a strong chance of having superior goal difference to their nearest rivals. Only Chelsea and Spurs have better goal difference than the Reds at this stage and they will look to keep it that way as they battle with both Manchester clubs as well as Arsenal for the final remaining Champions League spots.

The Reds have only failed to score in one of their last 17 league games and will fancy their chances of outscoring each of their remaining nine opponents until the end of the season.

3. Home comforts

Liverpool will play five of their remaining league fixtures at Anfield, where they have only lost one game all season. The Reds have the fourth best home record in the division this season and have back-to-back home clashes against Everton and Bournemouth coming up after the international break to try and solidify their position in the top four. They are unbeaten in four at home, winning three of those, and have played Chelsea, Spurs and Arsenal in that stretch.

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Their remaining home fixtures see them face just two sides who currently sit in the top ten in Everton and Southampton, while they will be expected to beat Bournemouth, Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough. They have easier home games remaining that Manchester United and Arsenal, who have to play each other at the Emirates Stadium on May 6 in what will prove to be a pivotal match in the race for the top four.

Do you think Liverpool will secure a top four spot in the Premier League this season?

The scary similarities between Leicester’s Champions League run and Chelsea’s success in 2012

Leicester enjoyed another historic night as they thrived as underdogs to beat Sevilla 2-0 on Tuesday night to seal their passage to a first-ever Champions League quarter-final, beating the Spanish side 3-2 on aggregate.

It was another special night under the King Power Stadium’s lights that supporters will never forget and means the Foxes have now won three consecutive games since Craig Shakespeare took charge of the team following Claudio Ranieri’s controversial sacking less than a month ago.

Despite being embroiled in a relegation dogfight for the past couple of months, Leicester now find themselves moving up the Premier League table and into the last-eight in Europe’s elite club competition.

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Their upturn in form and fortune is extraordinary but also seems eerily similar to what happened at Chelsea exactly five years ago, with the Blues going on to win their first ever Champions League title against Bayern in Munich against all odds.

When you compare their season with Chelsea’s 2011-12 campaign, you get the feeling we might be about to see Leicester do the same and write another chapter in the book of the biggest football shocks of all time…

Premier League

2011/12 Chelsea:

The Blues’ league form was far from good enough as they failed to challenge for the Premier League title, despite spending £60 million in the summer. They had finished second the season before but found themselves down in fifth when Roman Abramovich lost patience with Andre Villas-Boas, who was sacked in early March after 27 games. Assistant manager Roberto Di Matteo stepped up and took control until the end of the season, breathing some fresh life into the squad.

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2016/17 Leicester:

Leicester entered the season as reigning champions, and while few expected them to retain their crown this term, no one really expected to see them fighting for their Premier League status six months into the campaign. Just like Chelsea in 2011, the Foxes spent £60 million on summer signings but they haven’t taking the club to the levels expected. They dropped into the relegation zone on February 12 and Claudio Ranieri was eventually sacked 25 games into the season, with his assistant manager Craig Shakespeare taking control of the reigns. Shakespeare has won his first two league games since taking over and has moved them up three places in just two weeks.

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Champions League

2011/12 Chelsea:

Chelsea won their Group with relative ease, taking 11 points from their six games and winning all three of their home fixtures. Their biggest group stage win came over Belgian side Genk, who eventually finished bottom of the group. They drew Napoli in the Round of 16 and struggled to contain the Serie A side in the first leg away from home, losing 3-1 to leave their Champions League hopes hanging by a thread in what was AVB’s final European game in charge. Di Matteo was in charge for the second leg, in what was his third match in charge, as the Blues turned the tie on its head to win 4-1 at Stamford Bridge and advance 5-4 on aggregate. Chelsea drew Benfica in the last-eight and beat them 3-1 on aggregate before being matched up against Barcelona in the semi-finals, with very few people expecting them to get past the Spanish giants.

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But Chelsea were playing with the hunger and determination that had been missing for large parts of the season and ended up advancing 3-2 on aggregate. Fernando Torres’ stoppage time goal to secure their place in the final was his most iconic moment in a Chelsea shirt. The Blues’ chances were once again written off as they travelled to face Bayern Munich in their own home, the Allianz Arena for the final. But their character shone through as Didier Drogba’s 88th minute header forced the game into extra-time, before the Ivorian stepped up to score the winning penalty in the shootout to fire the Blues to a historic title.

2016/17 Leicester:

Leicester made the most of their first-ever Champions League campaign by winning their group with ease. The Foxes took 13 points from their six games, with their biggest victory also coming against a Belgian side in the form of Club Brugge, who finished bottom of the group. The Foxes drew Sevilla in the Round of 16 and failed to deal with their attacking threat in the first leg away from home, losing 2-1 on the night in what was Ranieri’s final game in charge. Shakespeare was in charge for the return leg, who just like Di Matteo was taking control of his third match as boss, with Leicester going on to win 2-0 and secure their passage into the quarter-finals.

The Foxes still have four games between them and the 2017 Champions League final in Cardiff but their campaign is scarily similar to Chelsea’s in 2011/12 and it would take a brave man to continue to write their chances off. Chelsea proved that defending deep and playing on the counter-attack can work against some of the world’s best teams and now Shakespeare will be looking to emulate Di Matteo’s success from five years ago with his rejuvenated group of Leicester players.

Has the red carpet been laid for Liverpool’s top four push?

Liverpool took another huge stride to finishing in the top four this season after coming from behind to take all three points against Burnley. The Reds remain 4th on 55 points five, ahead of Arsenal in 5th, but The Gunners do have two games in hand.

It’s no secret that Liverpool have underperformed against the sides in the lower half of the table, losing five of those 11 games. In stark contrast Jurgen Klopp’s side are unbeaten against the top ten, so will they be in the top four at the end of the season?

Over the course of the last five seasons the average points tally to finish 4th is 71. Liverpool need just 16 points from their final ten games to equal that number. So let’s see if they can manage 70+ points from their remaining fixtures based on how they fared in those games earlier in the season.

Liverpool’s remaining fixtures:

Manchester City (A) – Reverse Result: W
Everton (H) – Reverse Result: W
Bournemouth (H) – Reverse Result: L
Stoke (A) – Reverse Result: W
West Brom (A) – Reverse Result: W
Palace (H) – Reverse Result: W
Watford (A) – Reverse Result: W
Southampton (H) – Reverse Result: D
West Ham (A) – Reverse Result: D
Middlesbrough (H) – Reverse Result: W

Above we can see the ten games Liverpool have left to play followed by the result in the reverse fixture. In those games they picked up 23 points, if they are to replicate that form they will finish the season on 78, which based on the average of the last five Premier League seasons would be enough to finish in the top four.

Obviously there is little chance that the results will be identical but what’s encouraging for Liverpool is they remain on course to finish in the top four, something that was a hope more than an expectation at the start of the season.

Do you think Liverpool can make the top four? 

United vs City: Are the Manchester clubs set for failure this season?

It’s no secret both Manchester Untied and Manchester City are not living up to the high expectations set by the fans, pundits and club in general so far this season. Both sides are currently outside the top four more than halfway through the domestic campaign, which is no where near where they expect to be, so are the two set for failure this season? Lewis Addley explores… 

Ten games into the Pep Guardiola era at Manchester City things were looking like a foregone conclusion for the season ahead. The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss looked to have bought his style of play to England with success, winning ten games on the bounce, but fast-forward to January and City are struggling in 5th place.

Things are not much different domestically for Jose Mourinho at Manchester United either. The Red Devils remain outside the top four and look a long way behind league-leading Chelsea.

Both clubs have reached the knockout stage in Europe, City in the Champions League and United in the Europa League, which surely will be the focus of their seasons respectively come the return of the competitions in a few weeks. United are on the brink of reaching the final of the League Cup, but that alone will not be enough to reduce the pressure on Mourinho, with more always expected of the Manchester giants.

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So are both of these clubs set for failure?

In a word, no. There are plenty of games for the league table to continue to change. But the competition for the top four is so intense that it is difficult, with current form in mind, to think both sides will make the cut. United had just began to pick up form but their consecutive draws suggest they’re still one step away from troubling the sides above them on a consistent basis.

City on the other hand seem to have no league form whatsoever, they’re fast becoming a side who look beatable from the off and Pep is going to have to change something. They’ve gone from having a powerful, tight backline to a nervy outfit who look like they will concede with every shot, something Claudio Bravo is picking up an unwanted affiliation for, having conceded the last six efforts on goal he has faced.

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As previously mentioned United are on track to reach the League Cup final but given the current nature of expectancy, that trophy alone is not enough for a title-chasing side. Both Manchester clubs are still challenging in the FA Cup, a tournament they are going to need to reach the latter stages in at least, such as the regard winning it is held in.

European action offers contrasting situations, City face PSG in the Champions League, while United drew Saint-Étienne in the Europa League. City’s performance last year was their best effort to date in the competition and given the strength of the sides they can pull in the latter rounds if they are to progress, winning it would be some feat, although not impossible given the quality of players available to Guardiola. 

United’s progression in the Europa League wouldn’t be something Mourinho is bothered by, if you’re to believe his stance on the competition, however winning it would guarantee them a place in the Champions League next season regardless of their league finish. With that in mind United have to take it seriously, no doubt they will.

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There is no doubt both Manchester clubs have the ability to win some silverware this season between them, but domestically it isn’t looking overly promising. With track-record in mind, many have been surprised with the struggles the two have endured in their first season. In the modern game transitional periods are becoming less and less acceptable, especially considering the amount of money that’s being spent on transfers. Perhaps not the first season of the Mourinho and Guardiola era their fans would have had high hopes for?

Is it too early for the word failure to be thrown around or have Mourinho and Guardiola not lived up to expectation so far? 

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Manchester United vs Tottenham Hotspur

Competition: Premier League – Manchester United vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Venue: Old Trafford – Sunday, December 11 – 14:15 GMT (09:15 ET)

Match Odds: Manchester United 6/5 – Draw 23/10 – Spurs 23/10

Match Preview

Manchester United welcome Tottenham Hotspur to Old Trafford on Sunday in the standout fixture of the Premier League action this weekend.

United know they’ve got a game on their hands with the visit of Spurs, this meeting usually offers an exciting tie, but given recent league form for United a draw would be far from surprising.

Jose Mourinho’s side are frustrating their fans. They’re creating well in games but are missing hatfuls of chances and aren’t strong enough defensively to hold out when they take the lead.

Despite the negatives, United are unbeaten in five in the league (W1, D4). Their draw last weekend at Everton was a disappointing result considering they looked to have the points wrapped up, but it’s another game unbeaten nonetheless.

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Tottenham will be full of confidence coming into this game. They thumped Swansea 5-0 at home last weekend and it could and probably should have been nearer double figures.

Mauricio Pochettino’s men are six points ahead of United in the league. They sit 5th, three points outside the top four and six points off top spot, they’re well in the mix.

Spurs need to win this game to keep pace with the top four. If results go in their favour they could end the weekend in third place.

The North London side have lost just once in their last 14 outings. They’re in fine form and are scoring freely, so they have to start with their usual high-press and intensity to put United on the back-foot from the word go.

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Team News

Manchester united are still expecting to be without Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw for this tie. Eric Bailly could be in line to start his first Premier League game in six weeks, he played 90 minutes in the Europa League in midweek. Wayne Rooney is available again after serving his one-match suspension.

Tottenham have just three injury concerns ahead of this tie. Erik Lamela and Vincent Janssen are both expected to remain out, while Ben Davies is a doubt. Toby Alderweireld could make his first Premier League start since October 15 after he featured in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Key Points

Manchester United’s last five: D/W/D/D/D

Tottenham’s last five: D/D/W/L/W

Key Stat: Manchester United have won just once in their last nine Premier League games.

Key Player: Harry Kane – The Spurs talisman is in fine form. He has netted seven league goals this season and will be excited at the prospect of getting at a nervy United defence. He will have to outshine Zlatan Ibrahimovic to ensure Spurs take all three points here.

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Score Prediction

Manchester United 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur – United to fall to another unfavourable result against one of the top sides in the league. Spurs know they have the chance of taking all three points at Old Trafford, but just because United are out of form by no means makes this an easy tie.