Arsenal 2-0 Fulham: Cazorla double keeps Gunners top (video)

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Arsenal ground out yet another 2-0 win at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, as two second half goals from Santi Cazorla saw off a spirited Fulham side and kept the North London side top.

The Gunners labored at times and visitors Fulham looked dangerous on the break, but Arsene Wenger’s men grabbed their third-straight 2-0 victory at home thanks to Cazorla’s two cool finishes, one with either foot, after patient build up play around the box.

Fulham were always going to park the bus, and they did that remarkably well in the first half to frustrate the Gunners. But two goals in five second half minutes from Cazorla sees Arsenal keep their place at the PL summit, as Wenger’s men got the job done.

Hardly a vintage display but Arsenal are in first place with 51 points from 22 games, while Fulham are still battling away at the wrong end of the table as they sit just one point and one place above the relegation zone.

A bright start for Arsenal saw the home side take the game to Fulham, but the Cottagers looked solid and reduced the Gunners to long-range efforts and only Mesut Ozil got in behind but he got his shot all wrong when clean through as Fulham cleared the danger.

Arsenal huffed and puffed but it was Fulham who had the best effort on goal in the early stages. Dimitar Berbatov, a player Arsene Wenger admires, broke free down the right and found Steve Sidwell on the edge of the box and the former Arsenal youth team player volleyed a fine effort in on goal that Wojciech Szczesny palmed away to safety.

(MORE: Latest Premier League Standings)

Fulham were ruffling a few of Arsenal’s feathers with some hefty challenges in the midfield as Rene Muelensteen’s side were certainly forcing the issue. Young German attacker Serge Gnabry was trying engineer some opportunities but he couldn’t unlock Fulham’s defense in the first half.

After the break the Cottagers again looked lively as a corner caused mayhem in the Arsenal box, but the Gunners cleared and they were soon ahead after finally finding their shooting boots.

First Bacary Sagna saw his effort cleared of the line and Fulham somehow scrambled the ball away, but then from the left flank Cazorla continued his run after starting the move and Wilshere slotted the Spaniard in to make it 1-0 the Gunners in the 57th minute. That goal opened the floodgates, as Cazorla bagged his second five minutes later as the diminutive midfielder ran towards Fulham’s defense unmarked and arrowed a low shot past Stekelenburg for his and Arsenal’s second.

Substitute Lukas Podolski went close to grabbing Arsenal’s third goal of the game, as the German international was thwarted by a tremendous stop by Stekelenburg who tipped a rasping effort onto the post in the 71st minute. For the rest of the game Arsenal stroked the ball around comfortably as they passed Fulham into submission, with only Darren Bent’s unsuccessful penalty appeal to shout about late on for the Cottagers.

LINEUPS

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Wilshere, Cazorla, Gnabry (Podolski, 71), Ozil (Chamberlain, 86), Giroud

Goals: Cazorla (57 & 62)

Fulham: Stekelenburg; Riether, Burn, Hangeland, Richardson; Dejagah (Bent, 68), Sidwell, Parker, Kacaniklic (Kasami, 86); Dempsey, Berbatov

Henry, Aguero discuss playing up top under Pep

Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images
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One great striker got another one to open up on an up-and-down year at Manchester City.

Thierry Henry — one of the greatest of all-time, it must be said — sat down with Sergio Aguero ahead of Thursday’s Manchester Derby at the Etihad Stadium, and asked the Argentine about Pep Guardiola, Gabriel Jesus, and more.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

At times, it’s a fascinating discussion on playing lone striker. Even apart from the obligatory questions regarding Jesus’ arrival at City, Henry and Aguero speak their craft in a manner you don’t see too often.

That’s helped by the fact that Henry played for Guardiola at Barcelona, and can relate to the positional demands of Man City’s boss. Consider this exchange, from Sky Sports:

HENRY: When I was at Arsenal, I played up front and if I wanted to drift out to the left, I could. But when I got to Barca, I had to stay out wide and press. Sometimes doing that can be hard.

AGUERO: The thing I’ve found the hardest has been getting into my head the fact that I have to press the centre-back and the goalkeeper in matches. That’s what Pep asks me to do. It may not be a big deal, but in terms of processing it, the two of us speak a lot. He knows what I’m like.

I’ve been gradually learning and adapting to that style of pressing over the last few months. The first thing he taught me was how to press and how to do it well. Obviously there are times when I might drift out of position or I might press in an area where I’m not supposed to be, which might make it hard for the wingers or midfielders.

In the game itself, I may not realise because I’m so immersed and you can’t stop yourself. I’ve learnt a lot from him in terms of zones. He asks me to play as a No 9 and to stay in that position. I often drift out wide during matches and he looks at me and says, “If there’s a player out wide who wants to cross it in, who’s in there? Nobody.”

HENRY: I know all about that, believe you me.

I love this, because it shows how difficult it is for an elite striker to adapt his mentality. Both Henry and Aguero found world-celebrated success by playing in a certain fashion, and Guardiola understood that and still demanded a change. Earlier this season, the manager somewhat famously spoke of improving Aguero.

Aguero has been linked with Real Madrid given the tumult at City.

PHOTO: Liverpool unveils 125th anniversary kit for next season

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Liverpool rolled out its 125th anniversary kit, featuring a special crest to celebrate the occasion.

The Liver bird has 1892 on one side and 2017 on the other, with “125 YEARS” spelled out underneath the club’s emblem.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

The red shirt with a gold crest has a white V-neck and white at the ends of the sleeves. The goalkeeper kit is green.

The jersey will be available on May 19, and was announced last month.

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Jara’s goal lifts Pachuca to CONCACAF Champions League crown

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Hirving Lozano’s dipping shot rebounded into the path of Franco Jara, who scored the goal that won Pachuca its fifth CONCACAF Championship early Thursday morning.

The Argentine’s goal was the only one of the win over UANL Tigres, and gave Pachuca its first continental title since 2009-10. USMNT veteran Omar Gonzalez played for the winners, while Jose Torres started for Tigres.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

Major League Soccer teams were eliminated in the semifinals, with FC Dallas falling to Pachuca and Vancouver Whitecaps losing to Tigres.

Beginning with the 2017-18 tournament, qualified MLS and Liga MX teams will not enter the tournament until the Round of 16. The entire tournament will be held in the same calendar year.

USMNT: Brooks out with hip strain; World Cup qualifiers loom

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John Brooks is out of Hertha Berlin’s lineup “for the time being” after scans revealed a hip strain suffered in this weekend’s win over Wolfsburg.

That’s all Hertha has said, and that makes it hard to imagine whether American fans should be a little concerned or very concerned ahead of the USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers against Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago in early June.

Brooks was unavailable for two weeks with an adductor strain in September, missing a month before returning to the starting lineup.

The U.S. center back pool isn’t teeming after Brooks and Geoff Cameron. Matt Besler, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, and Walker Zimmerman were called up for the last World Cup qualifiers, and Gonzalez struggled but is a Bruce Arena favorite from their time in L.A.