Swansea 1-2 Arsenal: Quickfire Gunners double downs Swans as Arsenal top table

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With Manchester City, Manchester United, and Chelsea all slipping up earlier on, Arsenal pounced on their chance to seize the top of the table.

A game billed as the two most beautiful styles of play in the Premier League saw Aaron Ramsey and Serge Gnabry pound the Gunners through 2-1 at Liberty Stadium.

Swansea started on top, as they pressed high up the pitch and didn’t leave Ozil and company with any space to work.  The midfield seemed to be where the battle would be won or lost, as both sides proved up for the match.

Ramsey started well for Arsenal to try and counter Swansea’s pressing with his physicality, and even dragged a shot just wide in the 14th minute.  This midfield play from Ramsey allowed Arsenal to gain more possession and eventually take hold of the game.

The home side did well to keep the Gunners out early – they had opened the scoring in all of their first five Premier League matches, all inside the first 23 minutes.

source: Getty Images
8 goals in 8 games for Aaron Ramsey this season as his score proved the difference.

The game sped up and slowed down over and over, like someone pressing the rewind and pause button on their DVR.  The best chance of the first half fell to Olivier Giroud, who appeared to twist his ankle just before extra time, but came back and fizzed a low shot just wide of Michel Vorm’s goal on the stroke of halftime.

Swansea began the second half firmly on the counter-attack, and it almost appeared that Arsenal seemed lost in possession, instead wishing they were the side playing on the counter.

Finally the breakthrough came int he 58th minute, with Ramsey brilliantly laying off to Gnabry in penalty-area traffic, and the 18-year-old slotted it by Vorm for his first Premier League goal.

It was a foreshadow of things to come, as the Arsenal side blistered with confidence following the opening.  Just three minutes later Ramsey won the ball with a pinpoint slide tackle, and he received the ball back from Giroud before touching once and finishing high. Its his eighth goal in eight games across all competitions this season.

Swansea pushed hard for an opportunity to get back into the game, and they got one back in the 82nd minute. Ben Davies made a run down the left side, and Wilfried Bony played a fantastic one-two with him, one-touching a lofted pass over the defense back to Davies who finished past Szczesny.

The goal gave the Swans hope and they threw everything they had at Arsenal in the final ten minutes, but it wasn’t enough as Arsenal bent but didn’t break to close it out.

The win now has Arsene Wenger’s side by themselves in first place with 15 points out of a possible 18.  It was a valiant effort by the home side, but against a top team in top form, they fell just short.  The loss leaves Swansea mired in the middle of the table on seven points, but many would expect to see them climb in the coming weeks.

Goals:

Arsenal – Gnabry 58′, Ramsey 62′
Swansea – Davies 82′

Lineups:

Swansea – Vorm; Amat, Chico, Tiendalli, Davies; Shelvey (Bony, 58′), Dyer, Routledge (Pozuelo, 64′), De Guzman, Canas; Michu.

Arsenal – Sczcesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Wilshire (Jenkinson, 90′), Flamini; Ramsey, Ozil (Monreal, 88′), Gnabry (Arteta, 77′); Giroud.

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

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The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

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The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

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On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.