A rambunctious affair played out at the Emirates, as both sides cancelled each other out in a top of the table clash.

Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea: Stalemate at the Emirates on night of heavy weather, refereeing controversy (video)

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Arsenal will have to settle for a share of the Premier League lead for Christmas after a scoreless draw Monday with Chelsea, a high-tension London derby with far more controversial refereeing moments than actual scoring opportunities.

The bulk of the tough choices went against Arsene Wenger’s club, which has been a bit luckless of late, now without a victory since Dec. 4. (That includes Monday’s draw, a Premier League loss and a Champions League loss.)

Still, the draw with the West London visitors on a rainy and fiercely windy London night was enough to nudge the Gunners back into a first-place tie with Liverpool. Chelsea crept up as well, now aligned with Everton in fourth place.

Referee Mike Dean went lenient Monday on two Chelsea challenges that could have been red cards on another day. And he declined to point to the penalty spot in the first half as the shouts of derision rained down from the Emirates.

It all played into Chelsea’s plan for the day, which was either cynical in its stubbornly defensive approach or “classic and brilliant Jose Mourinho,” depending on your affiliation and point of view.

The pitch mostly played well and true despite the rain coming down in wind-driven sheets. (Truly, the stormy weather was quite awful, even by notoriously dodgy London weather standards.)

A true stalemate of the highest order – concern over conditions or just the weight of a big London derby had both clubs leaning toward caution – did spring to life somewhat after a half hour. First came Frank Lampard’s 34th minute smash off the crossbar, arranged by Eden Hazard’s clever little chipped pass. Minutes later John Obi Mikel was very fortunate to remain on the field after his nasty challenge on Mikel Arteta.

And just minutes after that, a Willian challenge on Arsenal speedster Theo Walcott could have easily convinced Dean to point to the penalty spot. Dean was consistent in his leniency through the night, also declining to show yellow for Tomas Rosicky’s high challenge just before break. Frustration nearly boiled over after intermission.

Chelsea, without Juan Mata to create, settled into a match of mucking it up and waiting for chances on the break. And Mourinho’s team did occasionally look dangerous early, although the visitors’ chances mostly dried up after 30 minutes as Arsenal’s central defense, with Belgian international Thomas Vermaelen, in for the injured Laurent Koscielny, held up.

Opportunities for the home team were almost completely unseen before a couple of flashes near goal over the last 15 minutes, including one good look by striker Olivier Giroud that missed badly at the near post.

Stamford Bridge defensive fixture John Terry was, as usual, in the right spots as he enjoyed an outstanding evening.

LINEUPS

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Arteta, Rosicky, Ramsey, Ozil, Walcott, Giroud.

Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Mikel, Lampard; Ramires, Willian (Oscar, 77), Hazard (Schurrle, 73); Torres.

VIDEO: Alex Morgan scores goal against Costa Rica in 12 seconds

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The United States got off to a historically roaring start in Olympic qualifying. Taking on Costa Rica in Frisco, Texas to begin Group A play, Alex Morgan opened the scoring in just 12 seconds, taking just six passes to complete the masterpiece.

According to the USWNT twitter account, the goal is the fastest in U.S. Soccer history.

According to CONCACAF, the goal is also the quickest in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying, breaking Abby Wambach’s of 35 seconds in a 14-0 domination of the Dominican Republic in 2012.

[ WATCH LIVE: USWNT vs Costa Rica live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

The United States scored three goals in the first 15 minutes against Costa Rica tonight. They will take on Mexico and Puerto Rico across the next five days.

Watch Live: USWNT vs Costa Rica in Olympic qualifying

SAN DIEGO, CA - JANUARY 23:  (L-R) Carli Lloyd #10 of the United States is congratulated by teammate Alex Morgan #13 after a goal against Ireland at Qualcomm Stadium on January 23, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
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The United States women are set to begin Group A play in Olympic qualification, taking on 36th ranked Costa Rica at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas at 8:30 a.m. ET.

The game takes place after a 17-day camp at the national training camp in Carson, California.

[ WATCH LIVE: USWNT vs Costa Rica live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

Other teams in the group include Mexico and Puerto Rico. The Mexicans dominated Puerto Rico 6-0 in the first game.

LINEUP

United States: Solo; Krieger, Johnston, Sauerbrunn, Klingenberg; Brian, Horan, Dunn, Lloyd, Heath; Morgan.

Columbus, NYCFC release new kits to mixed results

NYCFC
New York City FC
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Two Major League Soccer clubs have put their kits out there for the 2016 season. They’ve received a mediocre welcome at best.

Columbus was the first, and their kit makes a bold statement moving away from the traditional yellow and black that so often adorns their regular shirts. Instead, the kit incorporates the Columbus flag onto it. The release has seen quite a negative reaction on social media.

The kit was unveiled at the Columbus City Hall on Wednesday, featuring the traditional adidas stripes, although instead of the usual placement on the shoulders, the stripes come down the side of the torso. Recently, adidas has the tendency to copy general jersey patterns across its multiple properties, so look for this design with other clubs in the near future.

The negative reaction to the Columbus release isn’t terribly surprising considering fans often enjoy sticking to tradition, and backlash is common when clubs deviate from the norm. As an additional hurdle, the color contrast between red and yellow is somewhat stark, lending to the difficult reception. Add in the bright pastel blue shorts and…yikes.

While the club didn’t describe how they will utilize this kit during the season, it’s likely to be the primary (at least for now) as the club release says the kit portfolio also includes last year’s black kit, which is traditionally the away kit.

NYCFC’s release of their secondary kit was more positive, receiving a mixed response on social media.

As you can see, adidas again copied their general outline with the stripes down the side of the torso. However, the German clothing manufacturer did much better with the general design of these kits than the Columbus ones. I will give a bit of personal opinion here: I absolutely love these kits. The ripple effect accentuates the crest with a near-3D effect, and the colors mesh perfectly which serves to assuage the eye from being overwhelmed by a busy design. If there’s any criticism, it’s that without an outline, the Etihad logo tends to get in the way a bit, but that’s nitpicking. Well done NYCFC. Columbus…I’ll leave that one to you all.

Men In Blazers podcast: Romelu Lukaku Pod Special

Men In Blazers
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Rog and Davo break down Leicester City’s 3 – 1 win at Manchester City, marvel at Spurs going second in the table, and talk about the headlines surrounding the mid-table clash between Chelsea and United.

Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

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