Britain Soccer Champions League

Arsenal cruises past Marseille, draws closer to Champions League knockout rounds

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Even in the darker times for Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, the less stable seasons of the last few years, marked by those acerbic calls for something new around the managerial offices at the Emirates, there has always been this bracing, ongoing Champions League achievement.

And here Arsenal is once again, drawing ever closer to the brightly romantic nights of Champions League knockout stages for an amazing 14th consecutive season.

Arsenal was one of five clubs with a chance to advance Tuesday. Wenger’s Gunners did their part, and quite comfortably so, getting on top of Marseille after just 30 seconds and cruising to a 2-0 win that wasn’t quite that close.

Tuesday’s win at the Emirates was so comfortable thanks to that stunningly fantastic start; Jack Wilshere’s opener, slicing up a porous Marseille back line, was finished beautifully with a curler into the upper corner.

Wilshere’s first goal in Champions League matches this year was also the fastest ever by an England player in the competition. He hit a second after the break as the Gunners went top of their UEFA group, but Dortmund’s brave win over Napoli means Wenger and Co. must wait until the final day of group play to officially book its spot.

Arsenal blew a brilliant chance for a second after 36 minutes when Aron Ramsey was taking down a step outside the penalty area. Spanish referee Mateu Lahoz was well-positioned but mistakenly pointed to the spot anyway. Mesut Ozil, having done so much to shape Arsenal’s ongoing, intriguing bid for a Premier League crown, will have better moments; the German attacker saw his so-so spot shot saved well by Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda.

But still the chances came for Arsenal against a French club that seemed less than interested in being in England, having made six changes from the weekend and probably more focused on gaining increased traction in its wayward Ligue 1 campaign. Arsenal stroked the ball around comfortably through long stretches.

Tomas Rosicky was among the brighter in Arsenal red, enjoying a night of little tricks and feints while helping drive his team’s midfield matters.

Olivier Giroud, enjoying a breakout campaign for Gunners, nearly broke through just before the half; he was upending just outside the penalty area, although Ramsey’s driven free kick could not evade the Marseille wall.

The important night remained in the balance through almost 70 minutes despite all of Arsenal’s ball-hogging and bossing. Finally, the second came as good work from Ramset set Ozil free down the right. Ozil quickly fed the breaking Wilshire in front of goal, and the Englishman had his second.

The sigh of relief managed, the Emirates came alive anew with song.

Wojciech Szczesny made one swell save at the near post as Marseille found some pride near the end but only managed a handful of mini-threats.

WATCH: PL Download — Crystal Palace: South London and Proud

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Check out the latest episode of Premier League Download, a look inside Crystal Palace and the club’s passionate supporters.

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Win, lose or draw it’s always a party for the fans of Crystal Palace and Roger Bennett travels to Selhurst Park to learn how the beloved team went from Championship strugglers to a Premier League success story.

[ WATCH: Past episodes of PL Download ]

Klopp: “Perfect result” caps off perfect week for Liverpool

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Eight days, three games, three wins, seven goals scored and just two conceded — Liverpool’s week, by the numbers.

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From the thrashing of Manchester City last Saturday, to advancing to the knockout stage of the Europa League on Thursday, to grinding out a 1-0 home win over Swansea City on Sunday, it’s been another solid week for the Reds and still-new manager Jurgen Klopp, who now find themselves all the way up to sixth in the Premier League, just four points outside the top-four.

[ MORE: Sunday’s PL roundup — Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs all draw ]

Following Sunday’s triumph as Anfield, Klopp was his usual jovial self and rightfully pleased with his side’s results over the last eight days. Klopp, speaking in his post-game television interview (above video):

“A perfect result against a strong opponent — a very, very good defending opponent. [The Liverpool players] did a good job in the last week — a good reaction on their results; they defended really good; closed their gaps. … It was a difficult game. We had to change in the second half. … It was difficult — the wind and the opponent, but the result is perfect.”

“All we need is (defensive) stability. Everybody can see our skills on offense when we can play and have a little bit of space. Of course we can create more chances and can play better passes in some situations, but for a few players it’s really hard in this moment because they have to play always. … I’m really proud tonight.”

Easily the toughest part of competing in Europa League is the quick return to Premier League action from Thursday to Sunday, well over half the time against a side that didn’t any one of Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Playing in the Europa League has cost clubs like Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur an unbelievable (though, relatively unquantifiable) number of points in their respective bids to break back into the PL’s top-four over the last few seasons. There’s a reason Slaven Bilic‘s West Ham United essentially punted on the Europa League back in August.

Premier League Sunday roundup: Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs all draw; Reds win

NORWICH, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 29:  Petr Cech of Arsenal looks dejected as Lewis Grabban of Norwich City (7) scores their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and Arsenal at Carrow Road on November 29, 2015 in Norwich, England.  (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images)
Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images
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The Europa League slate helped give us a quartet of Sunday morning Premier League fixtures, but only five goals through those four games.

Only Liverpool seized the chance to make a move up the table, as James Milner‘s penalty conversion moved the Reds closer to the Top Four, while Chelsea, Spurs and Arsenal all settled for draws.

[ SUNDAY RUMORS: Vardy, Neymar, Stones all in the headlines ]

And Arsenal is facing a worsening injury crisis

Tottenham Hotspur 0-0 Chelsea — RECAP

The most notable storyline heading into this match was Diego Costa‘s reported feud with Jose Mourinho, and the Chelsea boss opted to use Pedro up top instead of his best center forward. The play was even, and Chelsea probably looked the better for a goal, and Costa remained unused before tossing his bib toward Mourinho. Surely more to come. From the Spurs’ angle, the North London side missed a chance to assert itself as a title contestant. Mauricio Pochettino‘s side remains four points back of first place.

Liverpool 1-0 Swansea CityRECAP

Not much to like here, and Liverpool could’ve scored several times before Swans’ Neil Taylor gave up a penalty by keeping his arms out as he turned away from Jordon Ibe’s cross. James Milner converted, sending Jurgen Klopp‘s side closer to the Top Four (four points back of No. 4 Arsenal).

Norwich City 1-1 Arsenal — RECAP

Speaking of the Gunners, they scored a goal off a John Ruddy gaffe, but lost Laurent Koscielny and Alexis Sanchez to injury, also sacrificing an equalizer when Robbie Brady and Lewis Grabban teamed up to get the better of Gabriel Paulista and Petr Cech. Heady times for title hopes at the Emirates, but Sunderland and Aston Villa are next.

West Ham United 1-1 West Bromwich Albion — RECAP

A simply-gorgeous free kick goal from Mauro Zarate was on of several good bits of work by the home side, but Winston Reid picked up an own goal on his 150th West Ham appearance to leave this one a draw.

Liverpool 1-0 Swansea City: Milner’s PK the difference for Reds

James Milner, Liverpool FC
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Jurgen Klopp‘s resurgent Liverpool is within four points of the Top Four after a second-half penalty helped the Reds to a 1-0 win over Swansea City at Anfield on Sunday.

James Milner converted a Jordon Ibe-won PK to boost Liverpool to 23 points, good for sixth place.

Swansea is in 15th place with just 14 points, having cooled off considerably.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Liverpool nearly opened the scoring in the sixth minute when Adam Lallana slipped Jordon Ibe in on goal, but Kyle Bartley slid to tackle the ball off the goal post.

The opening 20 minutes belonged to the Reds, with timely tackles and deflections saving Swansea on several occasions.

Nothing got through.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Click here for full lineups, stats, box score ]  

Liverpool went ahead on a PK. converted the chance after Ibe’s cross was handled by Neil Taylor.

Swansea looked better from the goal onward, but couldn’t find an equalizer.