Newcastle 0-1 Arsenal: Giroud header puts Arsenal back on top (Video)

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Arsenal weathered q fury at St. James Park as Olivier Giroud nodded in a 64th minute free kick in with his head to send Arsenal back to the top of the Premier League table.

With Manchester City having taken a two-point lead the day before, Arsene Wenger played a possession game and forced Newcastle onto the counter.

The visitors asked the early questions of the Newcastle defense, but the back line held strong early on with some quality tackles in the box.

As Newcastle settled in, the match opened up into an end-to-end affair but nothing substantial resulted inside the first half-hour.

Arsenal, often so good in the counter, played a possession game in the first half, forcing the home side to get their opportunities on the break.

An awkward moment surrounded Olivier Giroud in the 35th minute as he put in a nasty challenge on Cheick Tiote – a sentence usually reserved for the other way around – before rolling around on the ground in an attempt to play it off. He received a yellow card for his efforts despite the theatrics.

As Newcastle pressed on the counter and challenged Arsenal’s possession, the visitors were pegged onto the back foot late in the first half.

source: Getty Images
Jack Wilshere was instrumental in Arsenal’s midfield, having returned from his two-match ban.

Referee Lee Probert was called into question when it appeared Loic Remy was possibly taken down on the edge of the box near the 40th minute but it was waved off by the official.

Newcastle had their best chance of the first half on the counter in stoppage time as a blocked shot fell to Moussa Sissoko who fizzed an attempt from distance towards the top of goal but Wojciech Szczesny dove and tipped over.

The home side began where they left off in the second half, coming close seven minutes after the break but Szczesny and company managed to clear with Remy and Younes Gouffran lurking.

With Arsenal finally building back possession, they finally built the advantage they’d been looking for.  Tiote caught Santi Cazorla and sent him to ground on the ball, giving the Gunners a free kick in a central location.

Cazorla took the set-piece himself, and Olivier Giroud latched onto it with his head, beating Davide Santon in the air to touch past Krul for the away lead on 65 minutes.

They nearly doubled their lead just four minutes later as Wilshere sprung Theo Walcott through, but Mathieu Debuchy did well to press the winger and his first touch was saved by Tim Krul. Walcott attempted a chip on the rebound, but Debuchy rescued again by clearing off the line with a header.

Newcastle continued to charge forward looking to break the clean sheet, even sending Krul forward for a pair of corners in stoppage time, but they could not break through.

Arsenal return to the Premier League table’s pole position by a point over City, with Newcastle remaining in seventh two points ahead of Tottenham who play after.

GOALS:

Arsenal – Giroud 64′

LINEUPS:

Newcastle – Krul; Debuchy, Coloccini, Williamson, Santon; Anita (Shola Ameobi 74′), Tiote, Cabaye; Sissoko (Haidara 79′), Remy, Gouffran (Ben Arfa 62′).

Arsenal – Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs (Arteta 71′); Flamini, Rosicky, Wilshere, Walcott (Jenkinson 80′), Cazorla; Giroud (Bendtner 86′).

Mourinho: Tactics involved targeting young Benfica backstop

AP Photo/Armando Franca
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Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho knew that promising Benfica backstop Mile Svilar would be facing some big nerves.

The 18-year-old was making his UEFA Champions League debut, and Mourinho instructed his Red Devils to challenge the backstop at every turn.

[ RECAP: Benfica 0-1 Man Utd ]

That paid off when Svilar carried Marcus Rashford‘s free kick into the goal, the lone marker of a 1-0 loss that keeps United atop Group A and Benfica three points behind second- and third place.

“I knew how good the goalkeeper was, I told the players that. We had a little bit of a strategy, especially on set-pieces to make him uncomfortable. We put men around him on corners so he cannot come out. He risks a lot, but only top keepers do that. He was unlucky for the goal,” Mourinho said.

Svilar looked dejected after the game, apologizing to fans at the Estadio da Luz and getting consolation from a fellow Belgian in Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku.

Nemanja Matic laid out United’s strategy a bit more, from the BBC:

“The manager said to us to try and shoot and get some crosses towards their goalkeeper because he is young and playing in his first game. This is football and I know he is a great goalkeeper and I wish him well for the future.

“We had control, some difficulties in the first 30 minuets but then we controlled the pitch. We used our experience. We could not find the second goal but did not make any mistakes at the back.”

Rashford limped out of the game, and Mourinho says he initially thought it was cramps. Instead, it’s a problem with his left knee. Simon Peach of the Press Association quotes Mourinho as hoping the injury is not bad.

United completed more than 500 passes, doubling Benfica’s production. Some have been critical of Mourinho’s penchant to play it safe, and he winked at them after the match in calling his tactics “a crime.”

“We were in control, David De Gea did not have one save to make. I never felt we could concede a goal and were solid defensively. Sometime I feel being good defensively is a crime, but that is a way of getting results.”

Chelsea 3-3 Roma – Thrills at the Bridge

AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
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  • Luiz, Hazard put Chelsea up 2-0
  • Kolarov, Dzeko brace flip lead
  • Hazard nabs equalizer
  • U.S. U-20 mid Scott on bench for Chelsea

Eden Hazard scored twice as Chelsea overcame the sacrifice of a 2-0 lead and the Blues drew AS Roma 3-3 at Stamford Bridge in UEFA Champions League action on Wednesday.

David Luiz also scored for Chelsea. Ex-Man City men Edin Dzeko and Aleksandar Kolarov starred for Roma, with Dzeko scoring twice and Kolarov adding a goal and an assist.

Chelsea has seven points to lead Group C, two more than Roma and five ahead of third-placed Atletico Madrid. The sides will meet again in Rome on Halloween.

[ MORE: Landon Donovan, USSF prez? ]

Luiz started the scoring with a delightful strike. Call it a second bite at the proverbial apple if you must, but then admit he sunk his teeth into it.

Eden Hazard made a darting run to double Chelsea’s lead, but Kolarov pulled Roma within one with a deflected strike past Thibaut Courtois.

Diego Perotti curled a shot that hardly troubled Courtois in the 63rd minute, the Chelsea keeper just leaving his feet collect it.

Dzeko and Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Then the former Man City striker struck again, seeing a long diagonal ball over his shoulder and whizzing a perfect left-footed volley through the flailing arms of Courtois.

Dzeko then made a late move before a Kolarov free kick to lose his mark and nod home a go-ahead goal.

It wasn’t over, as Hazard found his way to space and a cross from Pedro.

The Belgian headed his chance beyond a diving Alisson, and it was 3-3 with 15 minutes to play.

American-English midfielder Kyle Scott did not make his Chelsea bow. The 19-year-old has represented England at the U-16 level and the U.S. at the U-18 and U-20 levels.

Benfica 0-1 Manchester United: Match-winner Rashford injured

AP Photo/Armando Franca
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  • No shots on goal for Benfica
  • United puts four on frame
  • Man Utd out-passes Benfica 522-237.

Marcus Rashford scored the lone goal of the match, then limped off injured in Manchester United’s 1-0 win over Benfica in UEFA Champions League action at the Estadio da Luz on Wednesday.

United is close to wrapping up a knockout round berth with the win, leading Basel by three points, CSKA Moscow by six, and Benfica by nine.

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho got his managerial start at Benfica when he replaced now-Bayern Munich boss Jupp Heynckes in 2000.

[ MORE: Landon Donovan, USSF prez? ]

Rashford’s free kick from the left fooled young Benfica backstop Mile Svilar.

The 18-year-old was making his UEFA Champions League debut, and was caught out of goal.

While retreating toward his end line, his two-handed catch carried him and the ball into the goal despite the efforts of his outstretched paws.

Report: Landon Donovan mulling U.S. Soccer presidential run

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Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl has been all over the turmoil at United States Soccer since the men’s national team’s embarrassing World Cup qualifying ouster last week.

The latest is that many interested observers are encouraging American legend Landon Donovan to run against Sunil Gulati in February’s presidential election.

[ MORE: JPW sits down with Ederson ]

Donovan retired from playing for a second time in 2016. He’s invested in Premier League club Swansea City and tried his hand at broadcasting as well.

According to Wahl, Donovan issued no comment when asked whether he is seriously considering a run for president. Gulati didn’t confirm that he’d run for a fourth term — the maximum tenure — during his post-World Cup failure conference call, but strongly lauded his credentials for another stint.

Wahl had previously reported that lawyer Steve Gans has the required letters of nomination to run against Gulati.

While Gans would challenge Gulati and perhaps make for interesting debate and a bellwether of the appetite for change amongst the constituency, Donovan’s name would likely be enough to swing some voters regardless.

Without making any judgments about the job Donovan would do, think of it as a big entertainment name like Dwayne Johnson amongst Democrats or Donald Trump amongst Republicans who might upturn eyebrows amongst folks thinking, “Maybe we need something different.” The name value isn’t the same but perhaps it’s less polarizing to compare the runs of Jesse Ventura and Al Franken, or Jack Kemp and Steve Largent instead.

A Donovan run would likely keep U.S Soccer’s cozy relationship with Major League Soccer while perhaps emboldening those who seek big changes within the youth structure (Donovan was part of the U.S. residency program which was recently canceled in a sort of “We did it” nod to academies). His experience is varied and his network exceptional.

Donovan for President? Maybe!