No Costa, no problem for EPL leaders Chelsea

first_imgLEICESTER, England (AP): Chelsea easily coped without top-scorer Diego Costa, sweeping aside fading champion Leicester 3-0 to go seven points clear in the English Premier League yesterday. Marcos Alonso scored twice and Pedro Rodriguez headed in the third as Chelsea put their title bid back on track after a 13-match winning run ended at Tottenham in the previous game. “It was a very professional, solid performance by us on the back of the Spurs game,” Chelsea defender Gary Cahill said. “We had to prove it. It’s all about bouncing back.” Whether Costa returns to the Chelsea team is unclear, with the striker linked with a move to China, but is officially out of the game due to a back injury. “He wasn’t there today and we managed to put Pedro, Hazard and Willian up there so you try to defend against those three boys it’s very difficult,” Cahill said. “We are blessed to have talent like that, and if someone is missing, someone comes in and produces a performance like that.” Chelsea’s early opener came from an unlikely source in the sixth minute. Cesar Azpilicueta’s delicious cross caused chaos in the Leicester defence before it fell to Hazard to tee up the unmarked Alonso to hammer in from six yards. There was little reaction from Leicester as Chelsea threatened a procession. Leicester completed just 15 passes inside the opening 15 minutes. The rotation of Chelsea’s front three – Hazard, Willian and Pedro – caused Leicester issues. Willian was particularly impressive, and any threats were batted away by Cahill and David Luiz as the subdued host looked short of ideas. Without Riyad Mahrez, on African Cup of Nations duty with Algeria, Leicester lacked their main supply line to Jamie Vardy and Musa. The only real alarm for Chelsea came when Thibaut Courtois palmed away Vardy’s low cross, but the visitors always held a degree of control. A second goal arrived six minutes into the second half. Willian was fouled by Christian Fuchs and his right-wing free kick was only half cleared to Alonso. The left-back’s low 18-yard drive hit Wes Morgan to squirm past goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. Shock hat-trick Delicious cross Chelsea went hunting for more as Cahill’s overhead kick was blocked before Alonso was inches away from a shock hat-trick when his ambitious first-time volley dropped wide. But Pedro wrapped up the points in the 71st as Chelsea underlined its superiority and the gulf between the two sides. His flick found Willian and, when the midfielder’s cross looped off Schmeichel, Pedro rose to nod into an empty net. Yesterday’s results: Tottenham 4 West Brom 0; Burnley 1 Southampton 0; Hull City 3 Bournemouth 1; Sunderland 1 Stoke City 3; Swansea 0 Arsenal 4; Watford 0 Middlesbrough 0; West Ham 3 Crystal Palace 0; Leicester 0 Chelsea 3.last_img read more

Saracens step up a gear to cruise past Gloucester as Alex Goode excels

first_img … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we made the choice to keep our reporting open for all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We hope you will consider supporting us today. We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism that’s open and independent. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Saracens sauntered to the play-offs after yet another second-half siege laid Gloucester to waste. They have now not conceded a second-half point in four matches – it was 40 unanswered here – and are hell-bent on returning to Twickenham later this month. Wasps will be the visitors in the semi-finals but after another nine-try showing, Mark McCall’s side are coming to the boil perfectly.Their day in the sun was tempered by concerning injuries to Liam Williams (shoulder) and Schalk Burger (hamstring) but they demonstrated an ability to race through the gears in the second half. “The lesson we got at Leinster [in the Champions Cup] was that against really top teams in semi- and quarter-finals there are no second chances,” said the Saracens director of rugby, Mark McCall.Gloucester’s bright points were restricted to an excellent opening 40 minutes from their New Zealand-born, England-qualified full-back, Jason Woodward, in front of the watching Paul Gustard, and a blistering start to first-team rugby from Tom Seabrook.Gustard will surely have noted Alex Goode’s excellence, too. Both he and Woodward are the form full-backs in the Premiership this season yet neither have registered recently on England’s radar. While those wearing the No15 jerseys shone, it was the wingers making their mark on the scoreboard and that all four scored tries within the opening 17 minutes revealed everything about the laissez-faire attitude of both sides. It was hardly surprising as Saracens were already guaranteed to finish second and, while Gloucester had the chance to cement a top-six spot, 11 changes were evidence that Friday’s Challenge Cup final is the priority. Nonetheless they were first on the scoreboard through their 19-year-old Seabrook, who dotted down less than a minute into his first-team debut after a fine break from Woodward. Share on Pinterest Saracens Since you’re here… Read more match reports Saracens responded after a bit of magic from Schalk Brits led to Sean Maitland over in the left corner but Gloucester were ahead again with Woodward once more the architect, breaking free of two tackles down the left before feeding David Halaifonua inside. Two minutes later Williams stepped inside and plunged through a pile of bodies for 12-12. An Owen Farrell penalty gave Saracens a three-point lead and, when the England playmaker cruised under the posts on the stroke of half-time,, after Alex Lozowski’s break, Gloucester’s goose seemed cooked.Juan Figallo barrelled over within seconds of the restart before Maro Itoje and Chris Wyles went over in quick succession towards the right. This led to a raft of substitutions – Saracens were caused such disruption that Ben Spencer and Ben Earl ended up on the wings and Goode at fly-half – but a penalty try ended the mini-drought in points before Ben Spencer’s late double.Gloucester finish the season in seventh but already assured of a place in next season’s Champions Cup and they can end a promising campaign with silverware in Friday’s showdown with Cardiff Blues in Bilbao. “We must come in with a positive frame of mind on Monday,” said the Gloucester head coach, Johan Ackermann. “It’s a massive challenge but it’s a must that we perform for 80 minutes.”Premiership roundup: Banahan treble helps Bath run riotMatt Banahan scored three of Bath’s nine tries on his farewell appearance as the home side sneaked into next season’s European Champions Cup after a 63-19 win over London Irish at the Rec. Since Sale and Gloucester lost without a losing bonus point, Bath leapfrogged both to clinch sixth place in the table having been all but written off only a couple of weeks ago.It took them three minutes to open the scoring through Taulupe Faletau, who signed a new contract last week. Banahan combined on the right with Cooper Vuna, who found the Wales No 8 with an inside pass.No one would have begrudged the visitors a try and it came just short of the hour as their flanker Josh McNally stretched over the line. Greig Tonks hit the post with his conversion attempt to leave the score at 49-5 before Bath ran up the score.Northampton finished a difficult season with a rousing bonus point victory over Worcester at Franklin’s Gardens. Tries from No 8 Mitch Eadie, centre Nafi Tuitavake, full-back Ben Foden and wing Tom Collins ensured a 32-24 victory that means Saints end the campaign ninth.Their fly-half, James Grayson, kicked three conversions and a penalty and Stephen Myler added another penalty. The Worcester centres Will Butler (2) and Ben Te’o grabbed their side’s tries, with fly-half Dorian Jones converting all three and adding a second-half penalty. Share on Twitter Share via Email Sign up to the Breakdown for the latest rugby union news Topicscenter_img Rugby union Support The Guardian Share on Facebook Gloucester The Observer Share on Messenger Premiership Reuse this content Share on WhatsApp Share on LinkedInlast_img read more