Arsenal 1-1 Manchester City: Gunners fight-back thwarts Citizens title charge (video)

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LONDON — Arsenal and Manchester City drew 1-1 at the Emirates on Saturday, as a pulsating clash played out between two title hopefuls.

Given Chelsea’s defeat earlier in the day away at Crystal Palace, both sides knew a win in this clash would greatly enhance their chances of lifting the Premier League crown. Man City are the champions elect, and they started off in ominous fashion with David Silva putting the Citizens 1-0 up early on after he followed up Edin Dzeko’s shot that ricocheted off the post.

For most of the first half City dominated, as Arsenal’s faint title hopes seemed to be slipping away with a whimper. However after the break the Gunners got back into the match, as Mathieu Flamini finished superbly and Arsenal dominated vast swathes of the second half. Both sides pushed for a winner late on, but the closest either side came was when Lukas Podolski went clean through but Joe Hart made a superb save with his legs to keep the scores level.

With the draw Arsenal remain in fourth on 64 points, while Man City stay third on 67 points but are now just two points behind leaders Chelsea with two games in hand.

(MORE: Man City, Arsenal up for the fight but where will Premier League title go?)

Early on Man City took the game to the Gunners, as Pablo Zabaleta and Jesus Navas linked up well down City’s right to torment Kieran Gibbs, as the former pulled a cross back instead of shooting and then Navas flashed a shot just wide soon after.

After City’s bright start, Arsenal started to get a grasp in the game. Tomas Rosicky raced into the box and went down after contact from Zabaleta but referee Mike Dean waved away vociferous appeals from the home fans inside the Emirates Stadium.

In the 18th minute City took a deserved lead, as a break that started just inside their own half saw Dzeko smash a shot against the post and the rebound fell to Silva who tapped home from close range. The home fans tried to pick their team up, and Flamini did have the ball in the back of the net in the 20th minute but his header was ruled out for offside.

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A spirited second half fight back saw Arsenal push City all the way at the Emirates.

In the 30th minute Samir Nasri wriggled free on the edge of the box, but his long-range effort was easily gathered by Szczesny as the game settled down with half time approaching. Plenty of meaty challenges flew in from both teams as the first half closed out, as Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and David Silva were all shown yellows for City, while Rosicky was cautioned for the Gunners.

(MORE: Latest Premier League standings)

After the break Arsenal started much brighter, and within 10 minutes of the restart they were level, despite Per Mertesacker almost putting into his own net to double City’s lead. Seconds later Podolski was found on the left flank and his cross was met by an onrushing Flamini who slotted home to make it 1-1 and lift the roof off the Emirates. That goal was the first time City had conceded in over five-and-a-half PL matches, as Arsenal took the game to the visitors with renewed panache.

The Gunners were in the ascendancy, as the home crowd urged them on and in the 60th minute it looked like they were about to go ahead. A clever through ball found Podolski in the box and the German did everything right with his low shot, but Hart saved tremendously with his legs as City struggled to hold off Arsenal’s rampant attack.

(MORE: Premier League Roundup: Chelsea slip up, Man United respond, relegation drama)

City then fought back, as the game opened up, with Fernandinho’s rasping long-range effort tipped over by Szczesny in the 65th minute. Then up the other end, Flamini burst into the box once again but his rising shot just cleared the crossbar in a game that ebbed and flowed magnificently. In the final 15 minutes, City pinned Arsenal into their own half and brave defending from the Gunners thwarted Toure, Nasri and Dzeko in the 76th minute as massive scramble was eventually cleared to safety.

Late on both teams tried to push for the winner, but in a game where City dominated the opening half and Arsenal had the better of the second, a draw was a fair result.

LINEUPS

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Arteta, Rosicky, Flamini, Cazorla, Podolski (Oxlade-Chamberlain 79′), Giroud (Sanogo, 83′)

Goal: Flamini (53′)

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy, Fernandinho, Toure, Navas (Milner, 64), Silva, Nasri (Javi Garcia, 81′), Dzeko (Negredo, 83′)

Goal: Silva (18′)

Matuidi having a medical at Juventus ahead of move from PSG

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TURIN, Italy (AP) Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Blaise Matuidi was having a medical at Juventus on Wednesday ahead of a potential move to the Serie A club.

Juventus said that Matuidi arrived at Turin airport in the afternoon and was undergoing tests.

Juventus will reportedly pay PSG 20 million euros ($23 million) plus bonuses for the 30-year-old Matuidi, who had a year left on his contract with the French club.

[ MORE: Wenger issues updates on Alexis, Ox, Wilshere ]

PSG, which is also trying to balance the books after buying Neymar for 222 million euros, could not afford to lose Matuidi on a free transfer.

Matuidi played nearly 300 games for PSG in all competitions after joining from Saint-Etienne in 2011.

After a difficult first season, he quickly became an integral part of the team for successive managers, Carlo Ancelotti and Laurent Blanc.

He flourished from a largely defensive midfielder to a robust, tireless runner with an eye for goal and an enormous work-rate.

Overcoming some technical deficiencies in his game, Matuidi gradually earned himself a place in the France lineup and became a key player at the 2014 World Cup and last year’s European Championship.

At the beginning of last season, after Blanc was fired and replaced by Unai Emery, he expressed a desire to leave PSG and already wanted to join Juventus. But the club blocked his move, considering him too important to leave, and he stayed for another season.

Altogether, Matuidi has scored 33 goals for PSG in 295 appearances, becoming a well-respected player among fans and teammates alike, often taking a public stance when others would not and when tensions arose within the club.

In all, Matuidi has won four league titles, three French Cups and four League Cups with PSG.

This story has been corrected to show that Neymar’s fee was 222 million euros, not 220 million euros.

Furious Cristiano Ronaldo responds to five-game ban

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Cristiano Ronaldo has hit out at the Spanish soccer federation after his five game ban for pushing a referee in the back was upheld.

Ronaldo, 32, pushed the ref after he was shown a second yellow card in Real Madrid’s 3-1 win in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup at Barcelona on Sunday.

It capped an eventful El Clasico for Ronaldo who arrived in the second half as a sub, then scored a stunner to put Real 2-1 up.

He received his first yellow for taking off his shirt and holding it up to the Nou Camp crowd to mock Lionel Messi for doing the same in a goal celebration in April at the Santiago Bernabeu. Ronaldo then received a second yellow for going down in the box under a challenge.

In an Instagram post the Real Madrid forward had the following to say about the decision which sees him banned for the second leg ag the Bernabeu on Wednesday as well as Real’s next four games.

“It seems to me exaggerated and ridiculous, this is called persecution.”

 

 

LIVE – Champions League playoff: Napoli, Celtic, Sevilla in action

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Five more UEFA Champions League playoff first leg games take place on Wednesday after Liverpool, CSKA Moscow, APOEL and Qarabag all recorded wins on Tuesday to take them one step closer to the UCL group stage.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ] 

Brendan Rodgers‘ Celtic host Kazakhstan’s Astana at Celtic Park hoping for a big first leg lead with the Scottish champs aiming to make the UCL group stage for the second-straight season under former Liverpool boss Rodgers.

A tasty clash at the Stadio San Paolo sees Napolo host Nice in what is the best tie in the UCL playoff round. Can Lorenzo Insigne down Mario Balotelli and Co.?

Elsewhere Turkish side Istanbul Basaksehir have the likes of Gael Clichy, Gokhan Inler and Emmanuel Adebayor as they try to upset Sevilla, while Greek giants Olympiacos host Croatia’s Rijeka, Israeli champs Hapoel Be’er Sheva do battle with Slovenian champs Maribor.

Below is the full schedule for Wednesday’s games, which kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET, while you can click on the link above to follow live commentary on all five matches.


Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League playoff first legs

Napoli vs. Nice
Cetlic vs. Astana
Olympiacos vs. Rijeka
Istanbul Basaksehir vs. Sevilla
Hapoel Be’er Sheva vs. Maribor

SERIE A 2017-18: 5 key players signed in the off season

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ROME (AP) Here’s a look at five offseason signings to watch in the upcoming Serie A season:

LEONARDO BONUCCI

Considered Italy’s top defender – which is saying a lot for a nation that prides itself on its great defenders – Bonucci’s transfer from Juventus to AC Milan could alter the balance of power in Serie A.

While Bonucci clashed often with Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri last season, his decision to leave the six-time defending champion was still surprising.

The 30-year-old Bonucci brings leadership qualities and will allow Milan coach Vincenzo Montella to employ a three-man defense that promotes the center back’s excellent passing skills.

Bonucci’s transfer fee topped 40 million euros ($45 million), and he signed a five-year contract worth up to 10 million euros ($11 million) per season – making him the highest-paid player in Italy.

Milan won the last of its 18 Serie A titles in 2011 – just before Juventus’ current reign started.

FEDERICO BERNARDESCHI

One of Italy’s top young players, the 23-year-old winger will provide a new attacking dimension for Juventus following a move from Fiorentina.

Also capable as a playmaker, there was pressure for Bernardeschi to take the No. 10 shirt that Michel Platini, Roberto Baggio and Alessandro Del Piero wore at Juventus. Bernardeschi cautiously chose No. 33 instead, saying he needs to show that he “deserves” No. 10 in the future.

Juventus paid a transfer fee of 40 million euros ($45 million) for Bernardeschi and signed him to a five-year contract worth 4 million euros ($4.6 million) per season.

BORJA VALERO

Another Fiorentina export, this Spanish passing wizard could provide Inter Milan with the touch of class that it lacked during a tumultuous campaign last season that included four managerial changes.

At 32, Valero has long been overlooked by Spain’s national team but he was a fan favorite at Fiorentina.

The bald-headed midfielder’s vision on the pitch can be compared to Andrea Pirlo’s skills, although he’s not as precise on free kicks as the former Italy international.

ANDRE SILVA

Cristiano Ronaldo’s wingman with Portugal, the 21-year-old Silva has been compared to a young Fernando Torres, the former Spain striker currently playing for Atletico Madrid.

At AC Milan, the tall forward should be a constant danger on set pieces inside the area.

Silva has already scored eight goals in just 13 matches for his national team.

He also scored 21 times in 44 matches for FC Porto last season, before joining Milan in a transfer that cost 38 million euros ($42.5 million).

MATTIA DE SCIGLIO

Mattia De Sciglio’s transfer from AC Milan was not greeted with too much enthusiasm by Juventus fans.

The fullback was brought in as a replacement for Dani Alves, who departed for Paris Saint-Germain, and supporters believe it’s a downgrade.

But De Sciglio is reliable at either right or left back and is still developing at 24 years old – even though he made his Serie A debut at 18.

It will be interesting to see if De Sciglio can prove the doubters wrong, and if he can fit into Massimiliano Allegri’s preferred three-man defense.

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/asdampf