European football round-up: Chelsea march on

Sport360 staff 17/12/2016

PREMIER LEAGUE

Chelsea strengthened their grip at the top of the Premier League as they claimed a 1-0 win at Crystal Palace.

Diego Costa headed his 13th goal of the season from Cesar Azpilicueta's cross in the 44th minute to move Antonio Conte's side nine points clear of nearest rivals Liverpool and Arsenal.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was this week described as ''phenomenal'' by Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho and the big striker once more proved his worth with both goals in the 2-0 win at West Brom.

Ten-man Leicester rallied against the odds as the champions overcame Jamie Vardy's contentious 28th-minute dismissal and a two-goal deficit to draw 2-2 at Stoke.

LA LIGA

Saul Niguez made the difference as Atletico Madrid secured a hard-fought 1-0 win over Las Palmas in La Liga.

Both sides hit the woodwork in an entertaining opening 45 minutes, with Saul striking the inside of a post from an acrobatic volley before Mauricio Lemos stepped out of defence to crack a 40-yard shot against the Atleti crossbar.

LIGUE 1

Paris St Germain lost more ground on Ligue 1 leaders Nice as they were beaten 2-1 at Guingamp.

Second-half goals from Yannis Salibur and Nill de Pauw stunned Unai Emery's team and, despite an 80th-minute Edison Cavani effort, the reigning champions were left four points adrift of the summit.

BUNDESLIGA

RB Leipzig knocked Bayern Munich, who they meet in five days' time, off the top of the Bundesliga on Saturday with a 2-0 win at home to Hertha Berlin.

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2016 Ballon d'Or: Everything you need to know

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Barcelona forward Lionel Messi is hoping to retain the Ballon d’Or in 2016, though Cristiano Ronaldo remains the overwhelming favorite to win the prestigious award for the third time in his career following a trophy-laden year.

Despite playing little part in the grand finale, Ronaldo’s Euro 2016 triumph with Portugal and his Champions League success with Real Madrid has placed the 31-year-old in pole position.

His old nemesis Messi has, however won La Liga and the Copa del Rey trophies, and Lionel continues to make his mark in world football.

Taking every club competition into consideration, Messi has a remarkable ratio of scoring a goal every 86.78 minutes, compared to Ronaldo’s 97.44. In addition, the Barcelona star man registers an assist in less than two games while Ronaldo provides an assist every three games.

Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann also continues to gather admirers, while Premier League champions Leicester City’s attacking pair Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez are also named on the 30-man shortlist, with Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne, and Manchester United’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba also in contention to claim the annual individual award.

WHEN IS THE BALLON d’OR CEREMONY?

The winner of the 61st Golden Ball award will be announced on Monday, December 12 in a ceremony that begins at 16.30 GMT.

WHERE IS THE BALLON d’OR CEREMONY?

The 2016 Ballon d’Or ceremony will be held in the capital of France, Paris.

WHO IS ON THE BALLON d’OR SHORTLIST?

The 30-man shortlist for the buzz-worthy award was announced in late October and the shortlist includes 13 players from La Liga, eight from the Premier League, five from the Bundesliga, three from Serie A and one from Portuguese Super League.

WHO DECIDES THE WINNER?

A panel of 173 renowned journalists will decide the winner of the 61st Golden Ball award.

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European football round-up

Sport360 staff 10/12/2016

PREMIER LEAGUE

Mesut Ozil's crafty header inspired Arsenal to a 3-1 comeback victory over Stoke City on Saturday as Arsene Wenger's side supplanted Chelsea at the Premier League summit.

Charlie Adam's penalty put Stoke ahead at the Emirates Stadium, but Theo Walcott equalised before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain teed up Ozil to float a header over Lee Grant in the 49th minute.

Alex Iwobi completed victory to lift Arsenal top on goal difference above Chelsea, who go in search of a ninth consecutive win against West Bromwich Albion on Sunday. Arsenal went into their meeting with Stoke on the back of one-sided wins over West Ham and Basel, but the first half hour of the match suggested their luck might be about to turn. Italian striker Stefano Okaka scored his first Watford goals as Walter Mazzarri's side came from behind to beat Everton 3-2, leaving Ronald Koeman's men with one win from their last 10 league games. Romelu Lukaku netted twice for Everton, bookending the scoring, but Okaka's double -- the first a brilliant volleyed flick -- and a Sebastian Prodl header earned the hosts victory. Watford leapfrog Everton to seventh place, level on points with Manchester United, who host fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday. Swansea City climbed off the foot of the table at Sunderland's expense with a 3-0 home win over David Moyes' side in which Spain international Fernando Llorente scored twice.
Gylfi Sigurdsson broke the deadlock with a 51st-minute penalty, awarded for handball against Jason Denayer. Sigurdsson's corner set up Llorente to add a second and the former Athletic Bilbao striker made the game safe from Jefferson Montero's cross to propel Bob Bradley's men clear of the bottom three. Wilfried Zaha starred as Crystal Palace rescued a point in a topsy-turvy 3-3 draw at fellow strugglers Hull City. Robert Snodgrass's 27th-minute penalty put Hull ahead, but Zaha won a spot-kick that Christian Benteke converted before dancing past Tom Huddlestone and Sam Clucas and slamming home to give Palace the lead. Adama Diomande equalised and Jake Livermore gave Hull an 78th-minute advantage, only for Zaha to tee up Fraizer Campbell for a headed 89th-minute equaliser. Jeff Hendrick's brilliant 13th-minute volley set Burnley on the path to a 3-2 home win over Bournemouth. The Irishman netted from 25 yards and further goals from Stephen Ward and George Boyd secured victory despite Benik Afobe and Charlie Daniels netting for the visitors.
LA LIGA Lionel Messi struck twice as Barcelona recorded their first win in four La Liga games to close to within three points of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga with a 3-0 win at Osasuna. Barca should have killed the game off in the first half as Luis Suarez and Messi missed two big chances each against La Liga's bottom side. However, Suarez rounded off a fine team move to break the deadlock just before the hour before Messi's double in the final 17 minutes moved him ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo as La Liga's top scorer with 11 for the season. Real can extend their lead once more and set a new club record unbeaten run of 35 games when they host Deportivo la Coruna later on Saturday.
BUNDESLIGA Robert Lewandowski netted twice as Bayern Munich returned to the top of the Bundesliga on Saturday with a 5-0 win over Wolfsburg after RB Leipzig lost their unbeaten record. Leipzig's shock 1-0 defeat at bottom side Ingolstadt, who finished with ten men, ended their three-week stint as leaders after Carlo Ancelotti's Bayern cut the three-point gap and regained top spot on goal difference with both teams on 33 points. Second-placed RB had their 13-match unbeaten run ended, a record for a club at the start of their first Bundesliga season, as coach Ralph Hasenhuettl was stunned on his return to Ingolstadt, who he left after last season. Bayern will host Leipzig at Munich's Allianz Arena on December 21.
   

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