Arsenal's Ramsey celebrates after scoring a goal against Liverpool during their English Premier League soccer match at the Emirates stadium in London

Arsenal 2-0 Liverpool: Cazorla, Ramsey send Gunners five points clear at summit

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Arsenal put in a dominant display at the Emirates to down Liverpool 2-0 and go five points clear at the top of the Premier League table.

Santi Cazorla’s first half strike was added to by Aaron Ramsey’s stunning volley, as the Gunners eased to victory and sent out a message to the rest of the league.

Liverpool never got a grasp on the game at looked shaky defensively at times as Arsenal’s midfield movement was too much for Brendan Rodgers men to handle.

With the win Arsenal stay top on 25 points, while Liverpool stay in second five points behind.

The match, which was built up as the biggest game of the season so far, started off at a blistering pace as Tomas Rosicky made a darting run forward in the 5th minute and played a one-two with Santi Cazorla to set him free. But the Czech Republic midfielder saw his shot tipped wide by Simon Mignolet in goal for Liverpool with the first effort on target for either time.

The game was back and forth during the early stages, as both teams tried to dictate the tempo and get a foothold on proceedings.

Liverpool began to pile on the pressure on Arsenal as Daniel Sturridge’s clever flick from a corner saw the ball go goalwards but the Gunners were able to clear.

However not long after, Arsenal were ahead.

Spanish international Cazorla put the Gunners in front as Bacary Sagna raced down the right flank and whipped in an inviting ball that Cazorla headed against the post before reacting quickest to the ricochet by dispatching the rebound calmly to send the Emriates wild and put Arsenal 1-0 up.

source: Getty Images
Ramsey’s tremendous second half volley settled the game for the Gunners.

Soon after Liverpool thought they had equalized through Jordan Henderson but referee Martin Atkinson waved play back. Luis Suarez was fouled by Sagna, and the Uruguayan forward acted quickly to slot Daniel Sturridge in who then found Henderson at the back post to tap the ball home. Yet Atkinson had blown his whistle to stop play, as he wanted to book Sagna. Liverpool and Suarez were incensed after some quick-thinking could’ve got the back in the game.

For the rest of the first half both teams battled it out in the center of the pitch, as Arsenal looked comfortable in possession and zipped the ball around with ease to go in ahead at the break. The last 20 times Arsenal led at half time they’d gone on to win… Liverpool were in trouble.

At the interval Liverpool brought on Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho for left wing-back Aly Cissokho, as Rodgers switched to a flat back four. It certainly worked early on, as Suarez twice got free in the box and on the second occasion his cross found Henderson who blasted over from 12 yards out on the angle.

In the 54th minute Liverpool almost gifted the Gunners a second goal as Kolo Toure’s pass went straight to Olivier Giroud who went clean through on goal but his chipped effort over Mignolet went wide.

But that didn’t matter, as Ramsey scored an absolute stunner in the 59th minute to put the Gunners 2-0 ahead. Arsenal’s player of the season so far scored his tenth goal of the campaign with a controlled volley from 25 yards out, handing his side a commanding lead just before the hour mark.

In the 72nd minute Suarez almost pulled a goal back as he latched onto a loose ball in the box and hit a shot with the outside of his right foot that clipped the post. And in the 87th minute Suarez raced clear after a sloppy pass from the Arsenal defense, but his tame finish rolled wide of the far post, and with it went Liverpool’s hopes of making a miraculous comeback.

Arsenal closed the game out expertly but bringing on full backs Nacho Monreal and Carl Jenkinson for attacking players, and could’ve adde a third thanks to good work from Giroud and Mesut Ozil as the latter went close, as the Gunners grabbed their eighth win from 10 games to start the season.

Cries of “we are top of the league” rang around the Emirates at full time. After this display, it’s easy to see why.

LINEUPS

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs (Vermaelen, 77), Rosicky (Monreal, 71), Arteta, Ramsey, Cazorla (Jenkinson, 83), Ozil, Giroud

Liverpool: Mignolet, Flanagan (Moses, 67), Cissokho (Coutinho, 45), Toure, Skrtel, Sakho, Lucas, Gerrard, Henderson, Suarez, Sturridge

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MLS Cup: Toronto FC all about the team

Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, center, celebrates his goal against the Montreal Impact with teammates Michael Bradley, right, and Steven Beitashour (33) during the second half of the second leg of MLS Eastern Conference championship series, in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Toronto, Ontario (AP) Team has been the theme for Toronto FC in the buildup to the MLS Cup final.

From boisterous practices to team-first media interviews, the All for One club motto has been plain to see ahead of the championship game Saturday against the visiting Seattle Sounders.

“You don’t get to this point by mistake or by accident. You get here because a group of special guys who have all bought into a philosophy, an identity,” said Toronto midfielder Will Johnson, an MLS Cup winner with Real Salt Lake and Portland.

“I say the same about Seattle. They’re bought into what they’re good at. We’re bought in, very motivated and want to sacrifice and put aside egos to get to a point as a team to compete for the big trophy.”

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

Star striker Jozy Altidore, no fan of chatting with the media, was downright prickly when a reporter asked him if he had taken time to reflect on his personal journey to the championship game.

“No,” he said definitively. “This isn’t personal, this is a team game. We’re here to try to help Toronto to be a winning team. This has nothing to do with individuals. So it has nothing to do with what I’ve been through. This is what the city’s been through, what the fans have been through, what this club has been through. That’s far more important.”

Fullback Justin Morrow, a seven-year MLS veteran, has never played this deep into the season before.

“Each week we build on top of each other and we get closer as the year goes on. It really feels like it’s a culmination this week,” he said.

[ UCL: Who can Arsenal, Man City, Leicester draw? ]

Coach Greg Vanney has made a point of praising the entire squad, including reserves who function as the scout team in practice. While he has done soccer’s equivalent of shortening his bench for the playoffs, the squad has stayed on point. If anyone has beefs, they have been kept to themselves.

That’s no small feat considering the salaries on the squad range from $7.12 million for star striker Sebastian Giovinco to $51,500 for youngsters Mo Babouli and Tsubasa Endoh.

For Morrow, being part of a tight-knit group allows you to forget that it is your job.

“When teams aren’t doing well, players tend to focus on that – their job and not about the other people on the team,” Morrow said. “And I think when teams are doing well, it becomes about the relationships between the players.”

Report: Atlanta United to acquire Parkhurst; Guardado hopes fading

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  Michael Parkhurst #4 of the Columbus Crew SC controls the ball against against the Philadelphia Union on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Atlanta United is adding MLS experience to its high-flying international acquisitions.

The expansion side is set to acquire Michael Parkhurst from the Columbus Crew, according to a report from The Sporting News.

[ MORE: Mourinho worried about Zorya pitch ]

Parkhurst, 32, has been a fixture for the Crew since returning to MLS after stints with Nordsjælland and FC Augsburg. The 25-times capped American defender would join a relatively loaded expansion unit that reportedly will also add veteran Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, it seems the first-year club’s hopes of landing Mexican star Andres Guardado are fading.

From Ives Galarcep for The Sporting News:

The club has one remaining designated player slot it is expected to fill ahead of its inaugural 2017 season, but transfer target Andres Guardado appears less likely to be the player to fill that slot, sources have told Goal USA.

The Crew was a massive disappointment last season, failing to make the playoffs one season after making a run to the MLS Cup Final. Is Parkhurst a good gamble for Atlanta?

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Men in Blazers podcast: Conte v. Pep, Cherries comeback, Spurs-Swans

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Rog and Davo relive the tactical battle between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, marvel at tiny Bournemouth’s comeback win over high-flying Liverpool and duck-and-cover while recapping Spurs 5-0 Swansea.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Mourinho accepts Zorya compliment, but says best coach “doesn’t exist”

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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On the eve of his side playing Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League, Zorya Luhansk boss Yuriy Vernydub called counterpart Jose Mourinho the best manager in the world.

And Mourinho disagreed.

Well, in principle.

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

The Portuguese was flattered by Vernydub’s compliments and isn’t one to turn down praise. Yet at the same time, Mourinho thinks a coach’s success is year-to-year. There’s no clear best in the sport, according to Mou.

From ManUtd.com:

“He was nice by saying that but I don’t think he is right. I don’t think there is a best coach in the world. It doesn’t exist in my opinion. Every season one has to win the FIFA Gold Ball but I don’t think there is the best. You can say the best of the year and that I agree. Every year there is one with the most important result. So he is just being nice, no more than that.”

That’s almost meta, Mou.

Conceptually we understand, and Mourinho would feel he was the best in the world three seasons ago but not last year or this year (yet). Yet it’s difficult to say that the bodies of work from Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Antonio Conte, Luis Enrique, and Jurgen Klopp couldn’t be measured against each other, right?

[ MORE: United, Saints advancement scenarios ]

Onto the little picture Mourinho is worried about a potentially rock hard pitch at Zorya affecting the game. This, from the BBC:

“The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy,” said United boss Mourinho.

“They are putting warmth on the top of it, but the pitch is very difficult and people cannot make miracles. Let’s hope everything goes well.”

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