Hazard: In Conte we trust

LONDON — Star winger Eden Hazard says Chelsea’s players will stop at nothing for new manger Antonio Conte.

Chelsea registered their third straight Premier League win on Saturday as goals from Hazard, Willian and Victor Moses secured a 3-0 victory over newly-promoted Burnley.

Hazard’s impressive solo effort was the pick of the goals as his continued resurgence under Conte and the Belgium international believes everyone is thriving under the manager’s influence.

In an apparent swipe at former boss Jose Mourinho, the 25-year-old pointed to Conte’s experience as a player when discussing the club’s upturn in results.

“He’s tries to give us confidence,” Hazard told Chelsea’s website.

“He knows players because he used to be one. We had one bad season but we are trying to do better. He tries to motivate us and we are giving everything.

“He told me to sometimes go inside, sometimes to stay wide and open up the game. He wants me to score some goals and make a difference.”

Chelsea remain in the market for defensive reinforcements, but Conte has thus far been frustrated by the ‘crazy’ demands of clubs as transfer fees spiral to record highs.

But Chelsea kept their first clean sheet of the campaign in the win over Sean Dyche’s side and Hazard was pleased to halt a string of leaky displays.

“For the defence and everybody its important,” he said. “The manager spoke about it before the game, for the last 13 matches we’ve conceded a goal so a clean sheet is always good for the confidence.

“It’s a lot easier to win when you don’t concede a goal.

“We created a lot of chances and scored three beautiful goals. There is no doubt we deserved to win and we want to play like that in every game.

“In front of the fans it’s always good to score goals, we could have scored more but three isn’t bad.” — Agencies

Raheem Sterling

Resurrection? Sterling credits Pep

MANCHESTER — Raheem Sterling says Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has been crucial to his magnificent form after scoring twice to help them to a 3-1 Premier League win over West Ham on Sunday.

Last season saw the 21-year-old struggle to hit the heights following his move from Liverpool, before he was part of England’s dreadful Euro 2016 campaign in France.

However, Guardiola’s arrival has made an immediate impact on the winger.

Sterling has scored twice and picked up three assists in just four appearances under Guardiola. It took him the last 22 matches which Manuel Pellegrini was in charge of to contribute five goals at the end of last season.

“Reborn? I keep seeing the word. It’s not unfair — obviously it was a difficult first season getting to know the club, but Pep has come in and given us a lot of courage.” Sterling told Sky Sports.

“I’m not saying Manuel didn’t do that, but the manager has come in and given me authority to go forward.

“He even had a go at me in the first half for not dibbling as much as I should do. So credit too him for really giving me a boost.”

Sterling scored the first and last of the match’s four goals on Sunday, his first rounding off a slick team-move and his second — in stoppage-time — a brilliant effort from a tight angle.

“We have players who get in pockets and are really good with one-twos. Credit to the lads, they had a cracking build-up on the left-hand side and it was my chance to get in there and get into a good position — luckily I did.

“For the second goal, if I did not pass and it hit the post, I would have probably got caned by my teammates for it. I thought it was a difficult one to square back and I would try my luck and shoot.”

City now have five straight wins under Guardiola and playmaker Kevin De Bruyne — who created his side’s other goal, scored by Fernandinho — thinks there will be chances aplenty under the new regime.

“The first half was really good. West Ham didn’t have many chances, you knew they were going to come into it more after half-time but overall we deserved it.” said the Belgian star.

“We created quite a lot of chances, all the players played really well through the lines, which makes it really difficult for the other team to defend.

“If we can keep it up we will create a lot of chances this season.”

Winger Michail Antonio scored West Ham’s consolation goal. — Agencies

Kun poser for Manchester derby

SERGIO “KUN” AGUERO is facing a potential ban ahead of next month’s derby against Manchester United after appearing to swing an elbow at West Ham defender Winston Reid on Sunday.

The Argentina international could be ruled out for three games for violent conduct if the FA choose to review the incident in Manchester City’s 3-1 win.

Referee Andre Marriner failed to act but Aguero could face retrospective punishment.

It means Pep Guardiola could be without his star striker for his first encounter against Jose Mourinho as City boss.

But the Catalan — who insisted he didn’t see the incident in real time — was relaxed about the prospect of Aguero being ruled out.

“Hopefully nothing happens,” he told Manchester Evening News.

“If it happens, we accept and adapt.

“If we lose him, we lose him. We are going to play with 11.”

West Ham’s Mark Noble said Reid was left unable to talk following the clash.

“I didn’t see it to be honest,” he said. “I didn’t know what it was about. I know he couldn’t talk.

“He said it was because he had got something in the throat.”

Guardiola and Mourinho go into the 172nd derby on Sept 10 with 100 per cent records in their new jobs.

Guardiola watched his side make it five wins out of five in all competitions thanks to two goals from Raheem Sterling and another from Fernandinho.

“Our first goal was to get through to the Champions League group stage,” he said. “Of course we can improve — there is still room for improvement.

“But we have been playing well and hopefully we can continue doing it.”
— Agencies

Shkodran Mustafi

Late rush for stars

LONDON — The summer transfer window closes tomorrow. This means English Premier League clubs, as usual, will be doing plenty of “last minute” shopping in bid to strengthen their respective squad.

Arsenal, for instance, are set to announce today the signings of Germany international and Valencia defender Shkodran Mustafi and Deportivo La Coruna striker, Spaniard Lucas Perez. The pair cost the Gunners around £52 million (RM275 million).

Meanwhile, West Ham have already signed Italy striker Simone Zaza on loan from Juventus for a fee of €5 million (RM23 million) on Sunday.

The Hammers said a permanent fee of €20 million RM91 million) will be triggered automatically after a certain number of Premier League appearances this season.

Zaza played for Italy at Euro 2016 in France, missing a penalty after a stuttering run-up in the penalty shootout defeat to Germany in the quarterfinals.

Mustafi says Mesut Ozul has helped convince him to join Arsenal.

The 24-year-old would join compatriots Per Mertesacker and Ozil at the Emirates, and said Arsenal’s attractive style of play is another factor contributing to his decision.

“I have always loved Arsenal, I like how they play here, it is not typical English,” he said.

He has been capped 12 times by Germany and scored against Ukraine at Euro 2016.

Arsenal’s bitter north London rivals Tottenham are lining up a sensational swoop for Real Madrid star attacker Isco.

Real are under pressure to reduce the size of their squad and it has become a straight choice between Isco — a £25 million (RM133 million) signing from Malaga three years ago — and Colombian ace James Rodriguez.

Club president Florentino Perez has made it known to manager Zinedine Zidane he wants James to stay, and has blocked a proposed move to Chelsea.

So Isco, a Spain international, is the one to leave, with White Hart Lane his likely destination.

Champions Leicester are trying to sign Sporting Lisbon striker Islam Slimani but will not be held to ransom by the Portuguese club.

It is understood the 28-year-old is keen on a switch to the Premier League and to join up with his international teammate Riyad Mahrez at King Power Stadium.

However, Sporting have quoted the Foxes a figure in the region of €40 million (RM181 million) but Leicester are not prepared to pay that figure.

Chelsea are closing in on Fiorentina defender Marcos Alonso, according to a Marca report.

The former Sunderland loanee is a target for manager Antonio Conte, who is determined to bolster his defensive options before the transfer window shuts and is willing to stump up £25 million (RM132 million) to complete a deal.

Signing leftback Alonso, formerly of Real and Bolton, would allow Conte to move Cesar Azpilicueta into a central role having seemingly missed out on top targets Kalidou Koulibaly and Alessio Romagnoli.

Don’t be surprised, however, at other clubs making 11th hour deals tomorrow as well. — Agencies

Fabregas dismisses exit talks

LONDON — Out-of-favour midfielder Cesc Fabregas denied being told by manager Antonio Conte he can leave Chelsea, with the Spaniard insisting he is committed to the Premier League contenders.

Fabregas has been unable to break into Conte’s starting line-up this season, named among the substitutes in all three of Chelsea’s Premier League matches so far, while he did not come off the bench in Saturday’s 3-0 home win over Burnley.

The 29-year-old Spain international, who did start in the League Cup victory against Bristol Rovers last week, has been linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge as a result of his limited game time under Conte.

However, Fabregas used social media to try and dismiss speculation, writing via Twitter: “Contrary to what has been written, the manager and I have a good relationship and he has NEVER told me that I can leave.

“He said he counts on me, as I count on him. I will continue to fight for this club until the very end and when called upon I will always give my very best.

“I’m fully committed to ‪@chelseafc and my only goal is to help them win more football matches.”
— Agencies

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Karanka open to transfer ‘surprises’

LONDON — Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka (pic) is open to more signings before the transfer deadline tomorrow despite his side’s strong start to their Premier League campaign.

An uninspiring 0-0 draw away to West Brom on Sunday took Middlesbrough to five points from their first three games and secured their first clean sheet of the new season.

Karanka had been left disappointed last Wednesday when his side crashed out of the League Cup following a 2-1 defeat after extra time to Fulham at Craven Cottage.

But Karanka, a former Real Madrid defender, was delighted with the response of his players at The Hawthorns and credited a strong transfer window for their promising first few weeks of the campaign.

“It was an important point because after last Wednesday we played 120 minutes and lost the game,” Karanka told Sky Sports.

“West Brom are a difficult team to play so I am pleased with the players.

“The discipline was good and the second half in particular, it was not easy to play the way we wanted. But if you keep this spirit we will win games.

“This team have been fighting to get into the Premier League. We have learned you always have to be 100 per cent in this league. I am pleased we have an international break to recover.

“Now we are five points on the table because the club have done well in the transfer market. I have almost the squad I wanted in pre-season.

“Now it’s just about adding the right players because the squad are almost full. The market is the market and surprises can happen.”
—Agencies

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