Fulham v Arsenal - Premier League

Fulham 1-3 Arsenal: Podolski double seals win (Video)

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On a wet and wild afternoon at Craven Cottage, Arsenal beat Fulham 3-1 to pick up their first points of the 2013-14 season.

A Lukas Podolski double and an early strike from striker Olivier Giroud did the damage for the Gunners, who claimed their first win of the season down by the banks of the River Thames.

Giroud gave Arsenal the lead in the 13th minute in slightly fortuitous fashion, as Aaron Ramsey’s shot ricocheted perfectly into the Frenchman’s path.

Ramsey‘s shot smashed into Giroud’s legs as he tried to jump out of the way in the penalty box, however the ball hit the Frenchman’s legs and bounced straight into his stride and he coolly slotted past David Stockdale in goal for Fulham.

But as the first half wore on, Fulham got into the game and were unlucky to not equalize.

A tremendous double save from Wojciech Szczęsny denied the Cottagers an equalizer and Fulham looked the most likely to score as half time arrived.

However the Gunners put on a terrific counter-attacking move in the 41st minute, as Santi Cazorla released Theo Walcott, and the England winger’s shot was saved by Stockdale. But the rebound was only pushed into the path of German international Lukas Podolski who swept the ball home to make it 2-0.

Following the interval, Fulham again made all the pressing but couldn’t find a way past Szczęsny and Arsenal’s resolute defense. Scott Parker and Steve Sidwell tried to get things going in midfield, but Ramsey was everywhere and provided Arsenal with bite in the tackle and poise on the ball.

source: ReutersAs the game closed out, Fulham brought on new signing Darren Bent to try and force the issue but Arsene Wenger’s side were just too good.

That was evident as Arsenal grabbed their third goal with a terrific strike from Podolski for his second goal of the game.

In the 67th minute, Giroud fantastically brought down a long ball and fed it wide to Cazorla who cut inside and teed up Podolski. The German attacker took one touch and rifled a left-footed shot across Stockdale and into the net.

Yet the Bent-Berbatov partnership for Fulham showed early signs of becoming a fruitful one, as in the 76th minute Berbatov controlled the ball majestically before sweeping a shot towards the back post.

In typical predatory fashion, Bent arrived on cue to knock the ball home for a debut goal.

Fulham tried to press for another goal, but Arsenal’s defense held firm to seal the win despite a spirited display from Martin Jol’s Cottagers.


Fulham: Stockdale; Riether, Hughes, Hangeland, Riise; Duff (Bent 57), Parker, Sidwell (75 Karagounis), Taarabt (Kacaniklic 62); Kasami; Berbatov. Subs not used: Etheridge, Briggs, Boateng, Ruiz.

Arsenal: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Sagna, Gibbs, Ramsey, Rosicky (Wilshere 70), Cazorla, Walcott, Podolski (Sanogo 81), Giroud (Monreal 72). Subs not used: Fabianski, Frimpong, Zelalem, Gnabry.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

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Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

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I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.