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

Ligue 1: Falcao, Balde score to keep Monaco close to PSG

AP Photo/Claude Paris
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PARIS (AP) French champion Monaco got back to winning ways with a 2-0 home win against Caen on Saturday.

Monaco lost three and drew one of its previous four games in all competitions. But coach Leonardo Jardim’s side was largely in control against a Caen side that started brightly and faded after Keita Balde’s opening goal and first for Monaco.

“It was important to win, to get a bit of confidence back,” Jardim said. “We’ve been working hard and the players were very serious today.”

Captain Radamel Falcao scored his league-leading 13th from the penalty spot in the 59th, confidently sending goalkeeper Remy Vercoutre the wrong way.

The win moved second-place Monaco within three points of Paris Saint-Germain, having played one game more. Unbeaten PSG is away at bitter rival Marseille on Sunday.

Falcao’s partnership with teen star Kylian Mbappe was crucial to Monaco’s charge to the league title and the Champions League semifinals last season. Mbappe left to join PSG in a high-profile move — as did several other key players — but Falcao’s new partnership with the unselfish Balde looks a promising one.

“We’ve lost a few players and we need a bit of time, it’s been a bit difficult for us,” Monaco goalkeeper Danijel Subasic said. “I hope we can stay at the top of the table and that the young players can shine. We have a lot of quality here.”

Balde has been sharp in his handful of appearances since joining from Lazio in the offseason, but mainly as a link player and a provider.

This time, the Senegal forward finished off the move as he ran onto Thomas Lemar’s perfectly weighted pass into his path, cut across a defender on the edge of the penalty area and slotted the ball into the bottom left corner.

Lemar almost created another goal when his corner was headed against the crossbar by Brazilian defender Jemerson late in the first half.

Falcao put the game beyond doubt from the spot after Slovenian midfielder Jan Repas fouled attacking midfielder Rony Lopes.


After a tricky start to his tenure at Nantes, Italian coach Claudio Ranieri has turned things around.

Nantes beat Guingamp 2-1 at home to move up to third place, extending Ranieri’s unbeaten run to eight matches after losing the first two.

Nantes, which scored through defender Chidozie Awaziem and midfielder Abdoulaye Toure, is just two points behind Monaco.

The 2 Robbies: Terriers Triumph And Chelsea Leave It Late

Nigel French/PA via AP
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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe start today’s show off by discussing Huddersfield Town’s surprising win against Manchester United (00:20), Jose Mourinho’s measured post-match interview (03:50), praise Manchester City again (10:30), discuss Sean Dyche’s next move (16:10), analyze that exciting match between Chelsea and Watford (18:30) and finally, weigh in on Slaven Bilic’s future at West Ham United (27:30).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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La Liga: Barca win to maintain lead, but Valencia won’t go away

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Barcelona regained a four-point cushion atop the Spanish league with a ho-hum 2-0 win over visiting Malaga and surging Valencia dismissed Sevilla 4-0 at home on Saturday.

Barcelona faced last-placed Malaga in the closing match of the day, with added pressure from second-placed Valencia, which has won five in a row.

Barcelona is unbeaten after starting with seven straight wins and drawing with Atletico Madrid last week.

Seldom-used Gerard Deulofeu opened the scoring for Barcelona after just two minutes, and Andres Iniesta celebrated his first of the season in the second half thanks to a brilliant assist by Lionel Messi.

Defending champion Real Madrid hosts Eibar on Sunday.

Barcelona benefited from a flagrant referee misjudgment to get its go-ahead goal against Malaga. Left back Lucas Digne was allowed to center the ball after it clearly crossed the byline, and Deulofeu acrobatically back-footed it inside the net.

Despite the blow, the visitors got back up and managed to neutralize Barcelona for most of the first half, but lost striker Diego Rolan just before the second period. The Uruguayan import was forced off by injury.

Without Rolan, Malaga lacked bite in its pressure of the home backline, and Barcelona was able to polish ball circulation and find Messi with more frequency.

Messi received a clean pass from defender Javier Mascherano, drew the defense, and dropped a perfect pass for Iniesta, whose shot was deflected by defender Roberto Rosales on its way to the upper left corner.

Malaga surrendered and Barcelona dominated the rest of the way.


Gonzalo Guedes opened the scoring for Valencia near halftime with a majestic strike from outside the box after deftly outmaneuvering two defenders on the chase.

Simone Zaza added his eighth league goal after the break with a spin and low cross shot. Santi Mina came off the bench and scored the third with just five minutes to go, finishing off a speedy counterattack for the hosts.

But the show was all Guedes, and the Portuguese midfielder rounded off his great game with the closer, subtly poking the ball over goalkeeper Sergio Rico in added time.

Sevilla has lost three in a row in all competitions. Managed by Eduardo Berizzo, the team started off red-hot in La Liga but has floundered lately, ranking fifth.

 

Serie A: Napoli’s perfect season ends after draw with Inter

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MILAN (AP) Napoli’s perfect start to Serie A finally came to an end on Saturday in an enthralling 0-0 home draw with Inter Milan, the only other unbeaten side in the Italian top flight.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup | Sunday preview — Spurs vs. Liverpool ]

There were plenty of chances at the San Paolo, and Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic was kept busier than his Napoli counterpart Pepe Reina.

It was the first time since April and a 2-2 draw at Sassuolo that Napoli has failed to win in Serie A.

Napoli remained top of the standings, two points above Inter and six above Juventus and Lazio, which face Udinese and Cagliari respectively on Sunday.

[ TACTICS SESSION: Inside the brilliant mind of Kevin De Bruyne ]

Napoli was looking for a ninth successive league win. It was boosted by Lorenzo Insigne passing fit to start after injuring a thigh on Tuesday in the Champions League defeat at Manchester City.

Inter was full of confidence after Mauro Icardi’s hat trick helped it win last week’s derby against AC Milan, but it hadn’t won in Naples in 20 years.

Napoli almost went in front but Handanovic pulled off a stunning double save to deny first Jose Callejon and then keep out Dries Mertens’ rebound attempt from point-blank range.

Handanovic then kept out an effort from Insigne following a great ball over the top from Marek Hamsik.

[ MORE: Mourinho — “We deserved the punishment of defeat” to Huddersfield ]

Inter went close shortly before halftime but Reina did well to fingertip Borja Valero’s close-range attempt over the bar.

Insigne had more chances after the break, going closest with a curling effort just past the right post.

Hamsik also fired narrowly wide, and Handanovic parried a powerful shot from substitute Piotr Zielinski.

Mertens should have won the match for Napoli in the final minute but Handanovic was again on hand to keep out his close-range volley.