Arsene Wenger lauds Giroud and Ramsey after Arsenal win

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SUNDERLAND — Following Arsenal’s 3-1 win over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger heaped more praise on two of the Gunners most-improved players.

Olivier Giroud opened the scoring and put in a tremendous display of forward play, while Aaron Ramsey scored twice from midfield in the second half to grab the win for Arsenal and momentarily send them top of the Premier League.

“I am extremely happy with Giroud today,” Wenger said. “Not only because he scored but his overall link play is improving from game to game. I think he is becoming a very important player for us.”

With five goals in his first six games across all competitions, the 26-year-old French international striker is turning into the player everyone hoped he would be when Wenger signed him from Montpelier in the summer of 2012.

(MORE: Sunderland 1-3 Arsenal: Ramsey double sends Arsenal top)

And Welsh international Aaron Ramsey is looking like a new signing, as he also scored his fifth goal in six games as Arsenal are top of the Premier League with three wins from four. source: Getty Images

The 22-year-old midfielder had scored five goals in his previous two seasons for the Gunners… he already has five before mid-September.

His work alongside Mathieu Flamini, Jack Wilshere and Mesut Ozil in the engine room saw the Gunners take Sunderland by storm in the first half, even though the Black Cats fought back after the break. But then Ramsey struck with a superb volley in the 67th minute to put them back in front before slotting in Arsenal’s third in the 76th minute to seal the deal.

Meanwhile Wenger believes Ramsey is flourishing for many reasons.

“Ramsey is definitely [most improved player] compared to one year ago he is fantastic,” Wenger said. “He has intelligence, a desire to improve and listen. He has a very learning attitude and as well he has a fantastic engine.”

However there was one negative for Wenger as in-form star striker Giroud hobbled off with an injury late.

Wenger conceded that their main man is now Giroud.

“That is my worry today after the game,” Wenger said. “We are very thin at the moment so I hope it’s not serious. He is the player at the moment for us.”

Club World Cup wrap: Gremio reaches final, Urawa takes fifth place

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One half of this year’s FIFA Club World Cup final was decided on Tuesday as Brazilian side Gremio topped Liga MX champions Pachuca.

Second-half substitute Everton proved to be the difference for the Brazilians, with the attacker scoring in extra time to lift Gremio.

[ MORE: LA FC selects Urena, four others in MLS Expansion Draft ]

Pachuca’s chances of completing a comeback were extinguished with 10 minutes remaining in extra time, as Víctor Guzman was sent off upon picking up his second yellow card of the semifinal.

Meanwhile, Japanese side Urawa Red Diamonds captured fifth place in the tournament after narrowly topping Wydad Casablanca, 3-2.

Despite going behind early, Urawa responded almost immediately in the first half, before building its lead to 3-1 at the hour mark.

A late penalty kick from Reda Hajhouj gave Casablanca a glimmer of hope in the dying moments, however, the Moroccan-based club couldn’t find a way to equalize.

Gremio will await either La Liga giants Real Madrid or Al Jazira in the Club World Cup final, which will be played on Saturday. The loser of that match will take on Pachuca in the third-place game.

Below are the scores from Tuesday’s FIFA Club World Cup matches.

Gremio 1-0 Pachuca (after extra time)

Wydad Casablanca 2-3 Urawa Red Diamonds — Fifth-place match

LAFC selects Urena, 4 others in MLS Expansion Draft

Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
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Los Angeles FC selected five players in the MLS Expansion Draft, including Costa Rican national team star Marco Urena.

Whether they’ll make their way to the City of Angels is another story.

The first pick from general manager John Thorrington was goalkeeper Tyler Miller from Seattle Sounders.

[ MORE: Benitez on NUFC struggles ]

Going next was Latif Blessing from Sporting KC, an electric attacker who netted thrice with an assist last season.

Next was Urena from San Jose and the Costa Rican national team, a huge addition, and then Columbus left back Jukka Raitala before closing up the draft with Raheem Edwards from Toronto FC.

LAFC has already announced the signings or acquisitions of Carlos Vela, Walker Zimmerman, Carlos Alvarez, Monday Etim, and Guillermo Vizcarra.

The club will also loan Omar Gaber from Basel and Rodrigo Pacheco from Lanus.

WATCH LIVE: Three Premier League matches

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Chelsea visits the John Smith’s Stadium to face Huddersfield Town in one of three Premier League fixtures this chilly Tuesday in December (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The Blues are now 14 points back of Manchester City, and three points clear of fifth place.

Meanwhile there are a pair of matches on NBC Sports Gold: Burnley looks to keep pace with its Top Four ambitions when it hosts struggling Stoke City, while in-form Crystal Palace seeks a home win that would move it out of the drop zone. In its way? Dangerous, attack-minded Watford.

Burnley vs. Stoke City — 2:45 p.m. ET [ STREAM ]

Huddersfield Town vs. Chelsea — 3 p.m. ET [ STREAM ]

Crystal Palace vs. Watford — 3 p.m. ET [ STREAM ]

FIFA bans Colombia midfielder Cardona 5 games for gesture

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA has banned Colombia midfielder Edwin Cardona for five matches for making a discriminatory gesture with his eyes toward a South Korean opponent.

FIFA will allow Cardona to serve the ban in friendly games, so he should be available for Colombia’s World Cup opener against Japan on June 19.

[ MORE: Pep on post-derby celebrations ]

Cardona has also been fined 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,150) because of the incident last month in a friendly in Seoul.

Cardona apologized at the time, saying he “didn’t mean to disrespect anyone, a country or a race, but if anyone felt offended, or interpreted it in that way, I am sorry.”