Hull City 0-3 Arsenal: Full-strength lineup sees Gunners cruise

Leave a comment

Arsenal kept their stranglehold on the final Champions League spot as they easily dispatched Hull City 3-0 in a preview of the FA Cup final.

Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil both returned to the starting lineup following long injury spells, and they were both at the forefront of the Gunners attack that looked rejuvenated with the return of its stars.

Ramsey opened the scoring for the Gunners and Lukas Podolski poached a double as Arsenal cruised to all three points.

The opening half-chances fell to Hull City, who were determined in the midfield and gave Nikica Jelavic an opportunity on 15 minutes but he could only earn a corner.

The home side were widely the better side in the opening half, holding just 38% of possession but still outshooting Arsenal during the opening 45 by three.

However, it was Arsenal who had all the finishing quality, as Ramsey and Podolski picked up the pair of first-half goals for the visitors.

Ramsey, in his first start since Boxing Day in late December, was brilliant in the midfield.  On the half hour mark, Ozil slammed on the brakes and cut back to Santi Cazorla, who slotted a streaking Ramsey through for an easy finish and a 1-0 lead.

source: Getty Images
Lukas Podolski wasn’t the focal point of Arsenal’s attack, but he picked up a brace to clean up the mess inside the box.

Jake Livermore came down the other end just minutes later and rattled the post of Wojciech Szczesny, but couldn’t find the finish. Ahmed Elmohamady then headed just over on the ensuing corner, and Hull’s best chance of the first half evaporated.

Arsenal would make them pay just before halftime, although the referee was in the spotlight as well. Nikica Jelavic broke towards the Arsenal box, and went down under pressure from Mikel Arteta, and with contact at a minimum referee Jon Moss let play continue.

With the ball and the push, Arsenal put on a clinical counter attack, with a ball into the box from Olivier Giroud found that Ramsey.  He likely looked to shoot himself on the volley, but his first touch was heavy. Luckily, it fell to Podolski who took the volley himself and finished powerfully for a 2-0 Gunner lead.

After the break, Arsenal wasted no time effectively putting the game away with a third.  With the ball headed for the end line, Cazorla expertly cut back across the box and found a waiting Ramsey, who fired at goal.  Harper made a kick save but it came right back to Podolski who again finished well for the three-goal lead.

Hull began to fade, even with strikers Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long on the pitch. They will not be available for the looming cup final between these two clubs, as they are both cup-tied to their former clubs. Neither of the pair made it the full 90 minutes anyways, with Long coming off at halftime and Jelavic replaced with 20 minutes to go.

Arsenal shut up shop, and picked up a vital three points down the stretch of the season. They temporarily go four atop Everton in the Premier League standings, with the Toffees set to play at 11:10ET against Manchester United.

The Gunners still control their own destiny in the fight for the fourth spot as they look for their 18th straight season in the Champions League. Hull City, meanwhile, are

LINEUPS:

Hull City – Harper; Rosenior, Elmohamady, Davies, Chester; Huddlestone, Livermore, Meyler, Boyd (Koren 84′); Jelavic (Quinn 70′), Long (Fryatt 45′).

Arsenal – Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Arteta, Ramsey, Cazorla, Ozil (Flamini 61′); Podolski (Sanogo 84′), Giroud (Oxlade-Chamberlain 74′).

Goals: Ramsey 31′; Podolski 45′, 54′

USMNT: 4 players, including Brooks, Lletget, released; Arriola added

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Hours after his side’s 6-0 thrashing of Honduras to resuscitate dreams of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, Bruce Arena announced on Saturday five changes to the U.S. national team roster ahead of Tuesday’s qualifier against Panama.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | MLS ]

John Brooks (sinus infection), Sebastian Lletget (foot), Jordan Morris (knee) and Michael Orozco (knee) were all released back to their club teams, while Club Tijuana midfielder Paul Arriola was added to the squad.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Brooks dealt with the sinus infection throughout USMNT camp this past week, as Morris did his knee injury which he picked up last weekend. Lletget left Friday’s win over Honduras in the 18th minute and will undergo further tests to determine the severity of his injury; he was seen leaving the stadium on crutches and wearing a walking boot.

The USMNT’s roster for Tuesday’s qualifier in Panama City, Panama, now stands at 23 players, and reads as follows:

Goalkeepers: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Rapinoe won’t back down on social issues despite U.S. Soccer policy

Harry How/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Megan Rapinoe recently earned her spot back in the U.S. Women’s National Team squad ahead of next month’s friendlies against Russia, but the veteran won’t remain silent when it comes to her stance on the social climate of America.

[ MORE: Looking back on USMNT’s big win over Honduras ]

The 31-year-old was scrutinized for joining NFL player Colin Kaepernick in 2016 when they knelt during their respective sporting events, along with dozens of other athletes across the United States.

While Rapinoe admits that the form of protest is up for discussion, she also states that social inequality issues in the U.S. go far beyond that.

“What has surprised me the most, especially post-election, is that people are still sort of arguing against it. It’s really obvious that we have very serious inequality in this country across many different spectrums,” Rapinoe told the Guardian. “Yes, we can talk about the form of protest, or the way it’s done, or this or that. But it’s still not really the conversation that I think we desperately need to have more of in this country.”

A few weeks back, U.S. Soccer announced that it now requires all players that represent the Stars and Stripes to stand when the national anthem is played, and Rapinoe has agreed to do such.

While her days of kneeling on the pitch are in the past, Rapinoe believes she wouldn’t do anything different because she was simply trying to spark discussion amongst the American people.

“I don’t think there’s any perfect way to protest. I think if there was something else being done, something else would have been said about it. I can’t look back and say that I would have done this different, this different or this different.

“I can sleep at night knowing that I genuinely tried to have a really important conversation, or at least tried to open it up. I think I came to it with an open mind, an open heart and tried to get as many people to talk about it as I could.”

Report: Chelsea planning Hazard, Courtois pay raises

Julian Finney/Getty Images
1 Comment

Eden Hazard has returned to his old self under Antonio Conte this season, and now Chelsea is hoping to lock down their star attacker.

[ MORE: Lukaku says decision has been made on Everton future ]

According to the Mirror, the Premier League leaders are planning on offering up a pay raise to Hazard, who has 11 league goals this season for the Blues.

Hazard signed a nearly $250,000 per week deal two seasons ago, but the Belgium international will likely rake in significantly more under the reported deal as Chelsea hopes to keep the 26-year-old away from Spanish giants Real Madrid and others.

The Mirror is also reporting that goalkeeper and Hazard’s Belgian teammate Thibaut Courtois is likely to be handed a raise is salary as well.

The shot-stopper is set be handed a deal roughly in the range of what Hazard is currently making after allowing just 21 goals in 28 PL matches this season.

Ballack acknowledges difficult decision ahead for John Terry

Clive Mason/Getty Images
Leave a comment

For the better part of 19 years John Terry has been a staple of Chelsea’s backline.

[ WATCH: Zaha nets first international goal for Ivory Coast ]

With his future at Stamford Bridge becoming more and more in doubt though, it appears it’s time for the 36-year-old to move on from his longtime club, and that’s a decision that another former Chelsea player doesn’t envy.

[ MORE: Everton’s Coleman breaks leg on Ireland duty ]

Ex-Blues midfielder Michael Ballack knows that Terry has options, whether it be in Major League Soccer, the Chinese Super League or even with another Premier League club, but the German says it’s difficult because of what the centerback has meant to Chelsea.

“He is a player with that history and charisma,” Ballack, who spent four years with Chelsea during his playing days, told Sky Sports. “He’s such a Chelsea boy and they love him there.

“I know what it means if your career comes to an end and you’re getting older. You don’t know whether you extend your contract, play for another club or go abroad to America.

“I’m sure he has some options but if you think long-term, you have to feel comfortable with the decision.

For the first time in years, Terry has failed to establish himself as a first-team regular largely due to Antonio Conte‘s three-back system. The 36-year-old has appeared in just five PL matches this campaign, while making 10 appearances overall for the Blues, who currently sit atop England’s top flight and are in position to go for the double with the FA Cup semifinals lurking.

Terry himself has acknowledged that his career is nearing its end, but knowing the competitive drive that has made the Englishman great throughout his almost 20-year career, it’s hard to imagine that he’ll just give up his playing days without a fight.