Arsenal 2-0 Southampton: Giroud double extends Gunners lead at the top (video)

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Arsenal stretched their lead at the summit of the Premier League standings with a hard-fought 2-0 win over Southampton at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

The Gunners were gifted their first goal as a calamitous from Saints goalkeeper Artur Boruc let Olivier Giroud tap into an empty net. To their credit Southampton pushed the league leaders hard and had some great opportunities to draw level through Jay Rodriguez and Victor Wanyama.

Late on Arsenal sealed the win when Giroud scored from the penalty spot, as the Gunners wen four-points clear of second-placed Liverpool and six points ahead of Southampton in third.

After the kick off was delayed at the Emirates Stadium due to problems on the London Underground, visitors Southampton took the game to the Gunners as the Saints took the game to the home side.

The first chance of the game almost produced a goal as Jack Wilshere surged into the box and his delicate chip towards the back post got the faintest of touches from Southampton ‘keeper Boruc who deflected the strike onto the post and away to safety.

In the 17th minute the Gunners hit the woodwork again as Mesut Ozil cut in from the right and found Aaron Ramsey with a delicate cross. The Welsh international performed a terrific back heel flick towards which looked to be going in but clipped the far post.

Shortly after Southampton shot themselves in the foot with an absolute howler from Polish goalkeeper Boruc. The ball was played back to him and instead of launching it upfield or out of play, he tried a Cruyff turn to get around Olivier Giroud three times before he was dispossessed by the French striker who then tapped home the opener into an empty net.

Arsenal looked quite comfortable after they were handed a 1-0 lead but the Saints did press forward and Adam Lallana forced Wojiech Szczesny into a fine stop as the England man volleyed a superb effort goalwards. Shortly after Lallana’s fellow England international Jay Rodriguez forced Szczesny into making another great stop.

Saints came back into the game as the half time whistle went but that costly mistake from Boruc proved the difference at the interval.

After the break Saints had the majority of the play as Daniel Osvaldo came on and the South Coast club threw the kitchen sink at Arsenal. Both Rodriguez and Lambert went close as Arsenal planned to pounce on the counter attack.

The Gunners, as always, looked controlled in possession but Saints looked incredibly dangerous from set pieces and in the 78th minute a James Ward-Prowse corner was cleared to the edge of the box and Victor Wanyama hammered a shot just over the bar as Southampton pushed for an equalizer.

Late on Arsenal opened up their legs and substitute Theo Walcott almost wrapped up the win against his former side but his rasping shot went wide of the far post in the 82nd minute.

In the 85th minute Arsenal did seal the win as Giroud scored his and Arsenal’s second from the penalty spot following Jose Fonte’s tug on Per Mertesacker in the box.

The Saints were their own worst enemies as the Gunners marched on at the top of the table, with a ninth win from 12 PL games this season.

LINEUPS

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Arteta (Rosicky, 74), Ramsey, Wilshere, Ozil (Monreal, 81), Cazorla (Walcott, 70), Giroud

Goals: Giroud (21), Giroud (85)

Southampton: Boruc, Clyne, Fonte, Hooiveld, Shaw (Davis, 45), Wanyama, Schneiderlin, Ward-Prowse, Lallana (Osvaldo, 54), Rodriguez, Lambert.

Serie A: Juve keep winning to remain 1 point back of Napoli

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TURIN, Italy (AP) Juventus closed the gap on Serie A leader Napoli back to just one point as the six-time defending champion eased past Genoa 1-0 on Monday.

Douglas Costa scored in the 16th minute, the first conceded by Genoa in five league matches. It was a less than convincing performance from Juventus but it was never really troubled, as goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny – standing in for the still-injured Gianluigi Buffon – was little more than a spectator.

“What was important was to win,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “At the end there was a bit of nervousness because we were lacking in energy a bit.

“We could have finished off the match in the first half, and again with a couple of occasions after the break. We didn’t manage to so compliments to Genoa.”

The battle for the Serie A title is shaping into a two-horse race. Juventus moved 10 points clear of third-placed Lazio, although the capital side has a match in hand.

“The season is still long and all those who are behind us can still get back into the race,” Allegri said. “It was important to stay in Napoli’s slipstream.”

Juventus needed to win after Napoli beat Atalanta 1-0 on Sunday.

Allegri’s side started brightly and had an early chance to take the lead but Genoa goalkeeper Mattia Perin did well to keep out a free kick from specialist Miralem Panic.

However, it did not take much longer to strike. Douglas Costa passed out left to Mario Mandzukic, who played a delightful return ball for the Brazil midfielder to slot into the bottom left corner.

League Cup semi: Man City take 2-1 lead into 2nd leg vs. Bristol

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Manchester City can move one step closer on Tuesday to claiming their first of four potential trophies this season, when Pep Guardiola‘s men take on Bristol City in the second leg of the League Cup semifinal.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday ]

After coming back to beat the Robins in the first leg at home, Man City must now go on the road and take care of business to reach the Feb. 25 final at Wembley Stadium. As he has done so many times — and so famously — in the sky blue of City, Sergio Aguero grabbed the late winner (91st minute — WATCH HERE) 14 days ago.

For a few not-so-insignificant periods of the game, Bristol were very much the aggressors and appeared more likely to make the score 2-0 than for City to get back to 1-1. Bobby Reid converted from the penalty spot in the 44th minute after her was brought down under John Stones‘ wild, sliding tackle. Kevin De Bruyne leveled things up 10 minutes into the second half, setting the stage for Aguero’s late heroics.

[ MORE: Alexis-for-Mkhi swap complete | De Bruyne’s new contract ]

Since the first leg on Jan. 9, City have failed in their bid to finish the PL season with an unbeaten record before bouncing back to beat Newcastle United on the weekend, courtesy of a hat trick from Aguero — Guardiola quotes, from Sport24:

“I said many times it was going to happen, we can lose, so (it is) important the reaction we have. Still we have 42 points to play (for). It is 14 games. It is a lot of games to play and difficult games like Saturday and like Liverpool. It is important to show the team is still there but I don’t have the feeling we give up.

“We want to go through to the final in the (League) Cup and the FA Cup, so (we have) a lot of games but I think the people have the desire to keep going, to keep going, to keep going.”

[ MORE: One dream January signing for each top-six side ]

Bristol, meanwhile, have fallen on hard times: it’s been nearly a month (Boxing Day, to be specific — five losses, one draw) since Lee Johnson’s side last won a game in any competition, and they’ve fallen from second to fifth in the Championship table — Johnson quotes, from the Guardian:

“We don’t want to be brave losers, we want to compete to win. It’s up to the players to be focused and tactically aware, and who knows what will happen if we can show the same quality as we have shown in the previous rounds?

“We have to make sure we’re really bold. If you’re going to deliver a corner, do it like you mean it. I’d rather fail bold than fail timid. We know we have to score. I hope Pep picks his absolute best team and we can give them a right go. I’m not sure you could go and play an under-23 side against us at the moment and I think he’ll know that.”

The winner of Arsenal versus Chelsea (0-0 after the first leg) awaits in the final.

The 2 Robbies: Alexis-Mkhitaryan Swap Becomes Reality

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe react to the Alexis Sanchez-Henrikh Mkhitaryan swap deal between Arsenal and Manchester United finally becoming reality (0:20), Swansea’s stunning 1-0 victory over Liverpool (9:20), Southampton’s much-needed draw with Spurs (22:30) and Watford’s decision to part ways with Marco Silva (36:20). The gents end the show sharing their memories of the late English striker, Cyrille Regis (39:45).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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Inter Milan sign Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan

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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan completed the signing of Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan until the end of the season, with a view to a permanent move.

Inter can sign the Brazil international permanently for $43 million plus $3.7 million in bonuses, and said on Monday that option “must be taken up before the end of the season.”

Rafinha, who was born in Sao Paulo, had been at Barcelona since 2006, when he joined its youth team. He spent the 2013-14 season on loan at Celta Vigo.

After nine months out after surgery on his right knee, he made his first appearance of the season last week as a late substitute in Barcelona’s Copa del Rey defeat at Espanyol.

“It’s an important stage in my life,” he said, “and I had a lot of desire to approach this new phase in my career.”

Inter has slipped to fourth in Serie A, 11 points behind leader Napoli.

It could slip out of the Champions League places if Roma wins its match in hand on Wednesday.

“I hope to play in as many matches as possible and help the team to reach our objective which is Champions League qualification,” Rafinha said.