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.

Lineups

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.

Spartak and Zenit fined in latest Russia fan racism cases

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MOSCOW (AP) Spartak Moscow and Zenit St. Petersburg have both been fined for racist chants by their fans, the latest such incident in World Cup host nation Russia.

Spartak’s fans were accused of aiming monkey chants at FC Tosno player Nuno Rocha, who is black, while some Zenit supporters allegedly chanted a Nazi slogan during a league game.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

The clubs must each pay a 100,000-ruble ($1,600) fine, and Spartak has been hit with a partial stadium closure for its next cup game, state news agency RIA Novosti quotes Russian Football Union disciplinary committee head Artur Grigoryants as saying.

The verdict comes after FIFA charged Russia with racist abuse of France players during last month’s friendly.

Zenit has also faced two racism charges from UEFA this season.

Europa League: Arsenal, Marseille host semifinal 1st legs

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Arsenal’s Champions League dreams could be in for a rude awakening against tournament-tested Atletico Madrid.

The Premier League vs. La Liga match-up is one of two Europa League semifinal first legs set to be served up Sunday, with Marseille and Red Bull Salzburg meeting in the other.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

There’s something romantic about Arsene Wenger closing out his time at Arsenal against French opposition in Lyon, but Atleti and Salzburg won’t step aside for poetics.

Both matches kickoff ay 3:05 p.m. ET

Arsenal vs. Atletico Madrid

It’s a bit stunning that this tie has no history considering both club’s statures in their leagues and Europe, but that’s what we’ll se when Arsenal welcomes Atleti for the first leg.

Arsenal boasts two of the top 10 performers in the UEL this season — it would be three had the Gunners not sold Theo Walcott — and are paced by Aaron Ramsey, who has four goals and an assist. Mesut Ozil, who’s ready to return to the pitch, has the reverse with a goal and four helpers.

The Gunners have outscored UEL opposition 29-10 this season.

It’s no surprise that Antoine Griezmann has been Atleti’s best attacker since the Madrid side dropped out of the UCL to run rampant through the UEL knockout rounds. Atleti beat Copenhagen 5-1, Lokomotiv Moscow 8-1, and Sporting Lisbon 2-1 for an aggregate score line of 15-3.

Marseille vs. Red Bull Salzburg

Don’t expect this to be a simple case of Ligue 1 bossing inferior opposition: This pair met in the group stage, with the Austrian side winning at home and drawing 0-0 in France.

Salzburg has shown its mettle in various ways during the UEL. After allowing just one goal in an unbeaten group stage, they’ve won 4-3 over Real Sociedad, 2-1 against Borussia Dortmund, and 6-5 versus Lazio. That’s no easy road, and Marseille represents another big challenge.

Marseille is bidding to make its first European final since 2004, and has been led by Dimitri Payet‘s three goals and four assists, and Lucas Ocampos’ four goals and one assist. Marseille has knocked off RB Leipzig, Athletic Bilbao, and Braga after the group stage.

Names you’ll need to know from Salzburg: defenders Stefan Lainer and Paulo Miranda have been spectacular, and Munas Dabbur and Valon Berisha have each scored five times in the tournament.

Mourinho on longtime nemesis Wenger: ‘We can be friends in future’

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Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger have had a poor relationship, but the former thinks he’s soon to get along with the latter.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

Manchester United boss Mourinho, 55, heaped praise on the departing Arsenal manager ahead of the two sides’ Sunday meeting at Old Trafford (Watch live at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), saying the Frenchman has earned much respect.

Branding Wenger “iconic,” Mourinho says his fiery rivalry with Wenger stemmed from Arsenal’s stature in the Premier League when the Portuguese took over Chelsea.

“If he respects me even 50 percent of what I respect him we can even be friends in the future,” Mourinho told Sky Sports News. “I have lots of respect for him. But the reality is that he was at Arsenal, he was the champion and I came to the country in 2004 and wanted to steal his title. That’s football.”

Mourinho said he’s tried to show his respect for Wenger, 68, over the past few seasons. It may become a passable relationship, but we find it hard to believe the pair will be dining together on a regular basis as the sun sets on their managerial careers (Mou has a while to go, we think).

Real’s Modric on Bayern feeling unlucky: “That’s their problem”

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Bayern Munich produced far more chances than visiting Real Madrid in Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg in Germany, but lost 2-1 at the Allianz Arena.

Franck Ribery butchered an open shot at goal, Robert Lewandowski beat Keylor Navas but didn’t score late, and Thomas Mueller missed getting contact on a shot inside the six.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

It was that kind of day, and Mueller is baffled that his team did not finish more than Joshua Kimmich’s opener.

“Everybody is wondering why this game is 1-2 for Madrid,” Mueller reportedly said. “We still cannot believe it.”

The quote comes from BeIN Sport’s Tancredi Palmeri, who has a stinging rebuke from Real Madrid maestro Luka Modric.

Real wasn’t great on Wednesday, but also limited their big mistakes to one: Marcelo’s lapse of judgment which helped Kimmich to open the scoring for Bayern Munich.

The hosts had a huge giveaway from Rafinha on the match-winner, and backup backstop Sven Ulreich didn’t have a phenomenal day on either goal. Throw in Arjen Robben’s injury requiring an 8th minute substitution, and Bayern did not have much good fortune on the day.

This one, though, doesn’t seem over, even with the tie moving to the Bernabeu.