Arsenal 2-2 Swansea City: Stoppage time own goal from Flamini sees Gunners drop points at home (video)


Late match heartbreak compounded Arsenals’ woes on Tuesday, with a stoppage time own goal from  Mathieu Flamini giving visiting Swansea City a surprise result at the Emirates. With Leon Britton’s stoppage time run ending with the French midfielder’s inadvertent equalizer, the Gunners were relegated their second straight disappointing result, this time being drawn at home by Swans, 2-2.

Arsenal, coming off this Saturday’s embarrassing result at Stamford Bridge, appeared set for full points when second half goals from Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud reversed Wilfred Bony’s 11th minute opener. As they tried to see out the game, however, Britton’s run into a seem in front of goal caused stoppage time chaos, with Flamini, Per Merstesacker, and Wojciech Szczesny’s convergence on a ball in the middle of the penalty area leading to the shock equalizer.

The point may prove a valuable one for Swansea, now five points above the drop after its unexpected result in North London. Arsenal, on the other hand, is left in fourth place, the club’s 63 points leaving it six up on Everton in what may yet devolve into a surprise battle for the Premier League’s final Champions League spot.

An Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain shot driven toward Michel Vorm in the fourth minute highlighted Arsenal’s early control, giving the impression the match would play out according to expectations. Dominating possession while maintaining play within Swansea’s half, the Gunners seemed primed to immediately reverse the form that saw them routed Saturday at Chelsea.

In the 11th minute, however, Arsenal was down again. Allowing Neil Taylor an uncontested cross from high on Swansea’s left, the Gunners saw Swans striker Wilfred Bony cut across Thomas Vermaelen and beat his mark to the near-post ball. From 10 yards out, the Ivorian headed into the left of goal to make it 1-0, Swansea City.

It was the only shot on target the visitors would have before intermission, though Arsenal only provided Vorm with slightly more pressure. Despite 60 percent possession and nine shots, the Gunners could only put two attempts on frame, never meaningfully testing the Dutch international before going into halftime down one.

The second half picked up where the first left off: Arsenal dominating the ball; Swansea looking comfortable in defense; Michel not bothered by shots fired well clear of his goal. As the half pushed on, the shots stopped coming as Arsenal began trying for quality over quantity. Not moving quickly enough to tax Swansea’s defense, the Gunners continued to give Vorm an easy night.

In the 73rd minute, that all changed. With Swansea’s defense pushed into its own penalty box, Arsenal left back Kieran Gibbs dribbled around the defense and found Podolski at the edge of the six-yard box. With its first shot on target in 30 minutes, Arsenal was back even.

One minute later, relief became joy as Arsenal went in front. Dashing down the left side, Podolski made for the byline before firing a ball into the six-yard box. With Vorm stapled to his line, Giroud got a foot to the cross, lifting it up and into goal to put Arsenal in front.

Comfortable over the next 16 minutes, Arsenal appeared set to see out its 20th win of the season, with Swansea showing little sign it had recovered from the Gunners’ two-goal outburst. In the 91st minute, however, Leon Britton took it upon himself to test the Arsenal defense, bursting through a seem in the defense and onto a pass that forced a lunging stop from  Mertesacker. The resulting ball went off Szczensy, hit Flamini, and went into Arsenal’s vacated goal, leaving the match drawn at two.


Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Flamini, Arteta; Oxlade-Chamberlain (Podolski 57′), Rosicky (Kallstrom 79′), Cazorla; Giroud (Sanogo 89′)

Goals: Podolski (73′), Giroud (74′)

Swansea City: Vorm; Rangel, Williams, Chicgo, Taylor (Davies 73′); Britton, Shelvey (Hernandez 79′); de Guzman, Michu (Dyer 63′), Routledge; Bony

Goals: Bony (11′), Flaimini (o.g., 91′)

MLS Cup Playoffs: D.C. United 2-4 Montreal Impact (video)

CORRECTS DATE - Montreal Impact forward Matteo Mancosu, back, celebrates his goal with Ignacio Piatti (10) during the first half of an MLS playoff soccer match against D.C. United, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
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The game in 100 words (or less): There are epic playoff collapses, and there is the MLS Cup Playoffs abomination put forth by D.C. United on Thursday. Playing host to a Montreal Impact side that won just two of its last eight regular-season games and crawled over the finish line, United — winners of four of their last five and one of the hottest teams in the league down the stretch — no-showed Thursday’s knockout-round tie, and their season is deservingly finished. Laurent Ciman put the Impact ahead inside the first five minutes, and United never recovered or seemed the least bit urgent with their season on the line. Matteo Mancosu bagged a brace either side of halftime to make it 3-0, and Ignacio Piatti, who was his usual brilliant self — so good, in fact, he made you forget Didier Drogba was unavailable due to injury/dispute over his role as a substitute — added a fourth not long before full-time. Lamar Neagle grabbed a late consolation goal for United, bringing them back to 4-1 before Taylor Kemp fired a laser past Evan Bush for 4-2 late in stoppage time, but that’s as close as they’d get. Up next for the Impact, it’s the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference semifinals, beginning Sunday.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

Three moments that mattered

4′ — Ciman slots home from a corner for 1-0 — An absolute dream start for Montreal, as Ciman gets front side of his marker and benefits from a fortunate bounce after he scuffs the shot.

43′ — Mancosu slams home Piatti’s cross for 2-0 — Someone tell DCU that the knockout round is most definitely win-or-go-home. Horrific defending. Ball-watching all over the place. This is not the same team that won four of their last five in order to host this game.

58′ — Mancosu heads home at the near post for 3-0 — Steve Birnbaum has not had the greatest end to the 2016 season. Stay healthy, John Brooks and Geoff Cameron.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Matteo Mancosu

Goalscorers: Ciman (4′), Mancosu (43′, 58′), Piatti (83′), Neagle (90′), Kemp (90+4′)

FOLLOW LIVE: 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round

Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer, center, is congratulated by teammates, including midfielder Roger Espinoza (27), following his goal during the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Houston Dynamo in Kansas City, Kan., Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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The knockout round of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs concludes on Thursday, as four teams vie for the final two places — one in the Eastern Conference, one in the Western Conference — in the conference semifinals, which begin on Sunday.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round ]

Up first, the East’s fourth-seeded D.C. United welcome the five-seed Montreal Impact to RFK Stadium for the two sides’ third meeting of the 2016 season. Each of the year’s first two clashes finished a 1-1 draw, in July and August. Didier Drogba is expected to be unavailable for the win-or-go-home tie. United finished the regular season with four wins in the last five games, while the Impact won just two of their last eight.

[ MORE: Preivewing Thursday night’s knockout-round games ]

In the nightcap, the West’s fourth-seeded Seattle Sounders will take on the five-side, Sporting Kansas City, at CenturyLink Field. Sporting were victorious in both regular-season meetings this year — 1-0 on opening day, and 3-0 in late-July, the day the Sounders essentially quit on Sigi Schmid. Since that blistering hot day in KC, the Soudners have lost just twice in 14 games (eight wins, four draws).

Thursday’s MLS Cup Playoffs schedule

D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC — 10 p.m. ET

Cristiano Ronaldo says Ashley Cole is the toughest player he faced

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Cristiano Ronaldo has faced the best defenders in the world during his time with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team.

He has also caused fits for most of those defenders with goal after goal for club and country. But, there have been some players who have at least made it difficult for the all-time leading goal scorer in Real Madrid and Champions League history.

According to Ronaldo, former Chelsea and Arsenal defender Ashley Cole was the toughest player he has faced in his career.

[ MORE: VIDEO: Incredible Pelle goal in China ]

“Over the years I had some great battles with Ashley Cole, he does not give you a second to breathe,” Ronaldo told Coach Mag. “He was such a tenacious player when he was at his peak, quick, tough in the tackle. You knew it would never be an easy game.”

During his time with Manchester United, Ronaldo faced Cole on numerous occasions while Cole was with Arsenal and Chelsea. The two have also faced off in international competition between Ronaldo’s Portugal and Cole’s England.

It’s certainly high praise for Cole, who now plays in MLS for the LA Galaxy. At the age of 35, Cole has started 25 matches for the Galaxy this season, scoring one goal.

Phil Neville praises Juan Mata’s play to Manchester United

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Juan Mata has appeared in 116 matches for Manchester United since moving to Old Trafford in 2014. In that time, Mata has scored 29 goals and recorded 18 assists.

Despite his performance for the team, some thought Mata would be moved when Jose Mourinho came to town, including former United player and assistant coach Phil Neville.

Neville told Sky Sports, “I actually thought he would be the first out of the door when Jose came, but he’s actually becoming one of the most important players.”

Neville praised Mata’s contributions and versatility for United. “He is never injured, he provides a lot of assists, he plays in two or three different positions, and he scores important goals.”

Manchester United has lacked an identity under Mourinho and recently faltered in the Premier League as the team is winless in its last three matches.

[ MORE: Mourinho gets FA charge ]

Could Mata be the answer to some of United’s problems?

The Spaniard is a classic No. 10 with the ability to dictate his team’s attack and create scoring opportunities for his teammates. Mata can also put the ball in the back of the net as evidenced by his winner against Manchester City in the EFL Cup.

Mourinho has options in the center midfield with the likes of Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick in addition to Mata on the roster.

However, given the team’s Premier League struggles, it could be worth giving Mata a chance as the team’s No. 10.