Manchester City 6-3 Arsenal: Pulsating clash swings City’s way as offense explodes (video)

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A dominant attacking display from Manchester City saw them brush aside Premier League leaders Arsenal 6-3 at the Etihad Stadium, as the Citizens are now just three points behind the Gunners after a pulsating clash.

City took the lead through Sergio Aguero’s stunning first half volley, but Theo Walcott equalized soon after for Arsenal. Before the break City regained the lead when Alvaro Negredo finished off a superb team move to make it 2-1. After the interval City extended their lead when Fernandinho curled home a beauty but Walcott pulled Arsenal back into the game with a stunner of his own moments later.

City went 4-2 up as David Silva smashed home from close range and then Fernandinho added his second to make it 5-2. Arsenal grabbed a consolation through Per Mertesacker but City had the last say as Yaya Toure scored a penalty as the Citizens momentarily move into second spot in the PL.

With the win, Manuel Pellegrini’s men are just three points Arsenal as the Gunners lead at the summit is reduced after City’s explosive offensive display. The Citizen’s have now scored 35 goals in their eight home games so far and have won all eight as they sent out a message to the rest of the PL.

Manchester City dominated the early stages as they poured forward to try and go ahead early but Arsenal held firm and gradually grew in confidence as the first half wore on.

And it was the Gunners who had the first big chance of the game, as Walcott got free down the right and found Jack Wilshere unmarked at the back post in the 11th minute but the England international horribly skewed his volley and Olivier Giroud couldn’t direct his header goal wards in the ensuing melee.

Moments later Aguero gave City the lead as he acrobatically finished at the back post after a flick on from Martin Demechelis after a corner was swung in. Aguero peeled off away from his marker and volleyed home in style to put City 1-0 up after 13 minutes as the Citizens’ bright-start was rewarded. The goal marked the Argentine’s 15th goal in his last 14, and his 19th goal in 20 games this season.

City were playing with a real swagger and confidence and in the 19th minute central defender Vincent Kompany strolled forward and played in Negredo who smashed an effort just wide of the near post as the Citizens’ pushed for a second.

Wave after wave of City attack continued to come in on Arsenal’s goal as the Gunners struggled to get out of their own half. But in the 31st minute they were back on level terms as Yaya Toure was caught in possession and Arsenal pounced to make it 1-1.

Mesut Ozil was found on the edge of the box and he waited to play in Walcott who side-footed his effort goal wards and Demechelis got a slight touch on it as the ball hit the back of the net and there has to be question marks about Costel Pantilimon’s positioning in goal for City.

A fantastic end to the first half ensued as Negredo was played in and ‘the beast’ curled his left-footed effort wide of the far corner as City looked to hit back straight-away.

source: AP
Walcott curled in a beauty for his and Arsenal’s second goal of the match.

Eventually they did go back in front, as Negredo put City 2-1 up when Toure and Pablo Zabaleta combined superbly to set the Spanish striker up for a easy tap-in in the 39th minute. Laurent Koscielny was injured for Arsenal as he tried to stop Negredo from scoring and was replaced by Thomas Vermaelen.

In the second half City lost their in-form striker Aguero within a few minutes of the restart as the Argentine forward injured his calf and was replaced by Jesus Navas with City switching to a 4-5-1 formation. Moments later City were 3-1 up as the Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho curled home his first goal in the league for City in the 50h minute.

Arsenal attacked straight-away as Wilshere’s ball found Giroud at the back post but the Frenchman blazed over from close-range. As the Gunners pushed to get back into the game Zabaleta looked to have handled a through ball which stopped Walcott from going clean through but referee Martin Atkinson waved away the calls for a PK.

Walcott made it 3-2 in the 63rd minute as he curled home a beauty to score his second goal in his first game since returning from injury. The England winger cut in from the left and put his effort right into the top corner to give the Gunners hope of a stunning comeback.

But two minutes later Silva restored City’s two-goal advantage as he powerfully swept home a cross from the right as the game took yet another twist to put the Citizens 4-2 ahead.

Late on the game opened up and City almost extended their lead as Navas went clean through, rounded Szczesny in Arsenal’s goal but put his effort into the side-netting instead of slotting home. It didn’t matter though because City scored again thanks to a cool finish from Fernandinho for his second PL goal of the season but Mertesacker pulled a goal back in stoppage time with a header. But Toure rounded it all off from the penalty spot in the 94th minute to make it 6-3.

City are now within touching distance of top spot.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Nasri, Silva (Milner, 70), Aguero (Jesus Navas 48), Negredo

Goals: Aguero (14), Negredo (39), Fernandinho (50 & 87), Silva (66), Toure (90)

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny (Vermaelen, 41), Monreal, Flamini (Gnabry, 70), Wilshere, Ramsey, Ozil, Walcott, Giroud (Bendtner, 75)

Goals: Walcott (31 & 63), Mertesacker (90)

Three things we learned: Chelsea v. Southampton

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LONDON — Chelsea beat Southampton 2-0 in the FA Cup semifinal at Wembley on Sunday, with the Blues setting up an FA Cup final clash with Manchester United on May 19.

Antonio Conte‘s side scored twice in the second half with Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata on the scoresheet against a sorry Saints outfit.

Here’s what we learned as Chelsea have set up a tasty clash with Jose Mourinho next month.


GIROUD AN ELEGANT ASSASSIN

Olivier Giroud is quickly becoming a cult hero at Chelsea. The Frenchman dribbled delicately around three Southampton defenders and goalkeeper Alex McCarthy before prodding home to put his side ahead.

It was a elegant, yet clumsy, goal and summed up Giroud’s penchant for delivering goals of the highest difficulty.

Giroud has now been involved in 22 goals in 26 FA Cup appearances (15 goals, 7 assists), more than any other player in the completion since his debut in 2013.

The Frenchman is now pushing hard to be Chelsea’s first-choice central striker ahead of Alvaro Morata, although the Spaniard did grab a goal late on to wrap up the win.

Giroud has scored four goals in 13 appearances in all competitions since arriving from Arsenal in January but the way he holds the ball up and links with Eden Hazard is a huge plus for Conte. Giroud could also start up top with Morata if Chelsea tweak their system and at the age of 31 there is still plenty of life left in him and not just as a late sub, the role Conte earmarked for him.


COULD CONTE STAY…

Antonio Conte will likely still leave Chelsea at the end of the season but the Italian coach seems to badly want his time at Chelsea to end with a trophy.

But here’s a thought: if Chelsea beat Man United and somehow make it into the top four at Tottenham’s expense (they are five points back with four games to go), will he remain in charge for the final year of his three-year contract?

The Blues cruised into the FA Cup final and looked fired up from the start as Eden Hazard pulled the strings and Giroud made a nuisance of himself.

Conte’s comments all season long suggest he will depart Chelsea this summer and seek a new project, but if he does so after winning the FA Cup (after being runners up last season) to go along with the PL title he won last season, and then finishing fifth, that’s not a bad two years in the PL.

The Italian will depart with his pride and reputation intact even if he doesn’t defeat his old foe Mourinho in the final next month.


SOUTHAMPTON’S STRUGGLES

Saints are in the Premier League’s relegation zone for a reason and their total lack of confidence was clear for all to see at Wembley.

Mark Hughes‘ men have five games left to save themselves but it almost seems as if Saints’ players have resigned themselves to relegation from the Premier League despite sitting just four points from safety. One win in their last 21 PL games (that came against West Brom) tells the story of a side crumbling before our eyes.

After they shipped 12 goals in four Premier League, all of them defeats, Hughes has set Saints up in a 5-3-1-1 formation to try and make them tougher to break down.

It is working, at least defensively, with a 0-0 draw at Leicester on Thursday, but going forward they totally lack any cohesion and only created three real chances on Sunday as Shane Long made a hash of a great opportunity, Charlie Austin hit the post and Nathan Redmond tested Willy Caballero.

Saints are in a really bad place as they now have to find a way to stop themselves hurtling towards relegation. Their game at home against Bournemouth next weekend is a must win. Simple.

Chelsea joins Man Utd in FA Cup Final

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Chelsea will meet old pal Jose Mourinho in the FA Cup Final after beating Southampton 2-0 at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata scored the goals for Antonio Conte‘s men, whose date with Manchester United comes at the same venue on May 19.

Southampton will turn its attention back to the relegation battle, four points behind 17th place Swansea City.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Willian hit the cross bar with an early effort as Chelsea looked very much up for the semifinal.

Olivier Giroud had a 39th minute chance zip wide of the frame, as Chelsea posted nine of the first half’s 11 shot attempts while holding 60 percent possession.

Saints would have been happy to get to the locker room at nil-nil.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Twenty-eight seconds into the second half: That’s when Giroud scored, with Chelsea’s first long ball knocked down by Eden Hazard on the edge of the 18 and played to the Frenchman.

Giroud cut between two Saints defenders and goalkeeper Alex McCarthy to stab home with his right foot.

Hazard curled an effort of his own wide in the 48th minute.

Saints snapped to life, and Shane Long touched around Wily Caballero but too strong to equalize at Wembley.

Nathan Redmond forced a wild save out of Caballero in the 72nd minute, and nearly claimed the corner.

McCarthy tipped a Hazard shot over the bar minutes later.

Morata put it to bed on a cross from his in-tune assist man Cesar Azpilicueta.

The finish was thrilling nevertheless, with Charlie Austin hitting the far post and Saints getting a goal line clearance at the other end.

Wenger: Praise after exit announcement “more than I deserve”

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Arsene Wenger doesn’t seem like the type to go on a victory lap, but the Arsenal boss is handling his resignation and the accompanying praise with pure class.

[ RECAP: Arsenal 4-1 West Ham ]

Wenger announced the end of his long Arsenal tenure earlier this week, and has been met by heaps of praise from ex-players, fans, current Gunners, and even rivals.

The Frenchman addressed the plaudits following a 4-1 win over West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday. From the BBC:

“I would like to thank everyone who has been very nice and kind and praised me more than I deserved it. I would like to say thank you everyone. It’s been a great period for me and I’m thankful for that.”

Arsenal punished West Ham after the Irons equalized through Marko Arnautovic, getting a lucky goal from Aaron Ramsey and two fine finishes from Alexandre Lacazette in the win.

“I was focused on winning the game. We just tried to be professional and do our job even when the circumstances are different. It was a good team spirit and good preparation for Thursday.

“I think we constructed patiently. We didn’t make big mistakes. First of all before winning a trophy, you need to get through the semi-finals. This is a good way to prepare – scoring goals against a strong West Ham team who have done well recently.”

Next up: A huge test in the UEFA Europa League semifinals, with Atletico Madrid visiting for Thursday’s first leg. Wenger rested several big names, and Atleti has just one win from its last four matches (including a Madrid Derby draw at the Bernabeu).

WATCH: Chelsea’s Giroud scores 27 seconds after halftime

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Southampton held firm against Chelsea’s challenge for 45 minutes of Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal at Wembley Stadium.

Well, 45 minutes and 27 seconds.

[ RECAP: Arsenal 4-1 West Ham ]

The first long ball of the second half saw Chelsea’s Eden Hazard leap to trap, and the Belgian played a quick ball forward to his striker.

That’s Olivier Giroud, who dribbled between two defenders and Saints goalkeeper Alex McCarthy to stab home with the outside of his right foot.