Arsenal 1-0 West Bromwich Albion: early Giroud goal proves decisive (Video)

Leave a comment

West Brom, currently four points into safety, will have to wait and see whether Norwich manage to get a result at Chelsea later in the day. If so, their loss to Arsenal won’t matter one bit, as the Albion will be safe. The Gunners, meanwhile, would like the opposite result, as if Chelsea lose they’ll be two points back of third place.

It was the Baggies that needed the win, but Arsenal weren’t prepared to be generous. Before five minutes had passed, Lukas Podolski had given the visitors a bit of a scare, but his effort went wide of Ben Foster’s post.

The Gunners’ shaky defense was exposed early on, when Saido Berahino easily slipped behind the back line. His low shot hit the heel of Laurent Koscielny, however, and Wojciech Szczęsny was able to make an easy save.

That must’ve served as a wake-up call for Arsenal, because they took the lead before the 15th minute. A shot from Santi Cazorla was deflected out for a corner, taking by Cazorla himself. Olivier Giroud shook off his man, heading past Foster to give the hosts the lead. 

West Brom steadily worked their way back into the half, while Arsenal gently drifted off to sleep. Graham Dorrans woke them up with a sharp strike from 25 yards, which must’ve stung Szczesny’s palms as he pushed it away. It fell to Berahino, but the forward could only balloon his shot well over the bar.

The rest of the half trailed off into nothingness, so it came as a relief when the Albion started pressing harder after the restart. Yet, despite their need to find safety, West Brom couldn’t find a decent effort.

With 20 minutes left, the Baggies were able to make a little noise. Morgan Amalfitano broke through the Arsenal defense, going one on one with Szczesny. The goalkeeper somehow managed to keep it out, with the aid of Per Mertesacker. Craig Dawson got his head on the end of the resulting corner, but it went high. 

Arsenal looked like they were set to double their lead, with Podolski close in on goal. He couldn’t quite connect, but somehow the shot drifted into the post…and drifted right back out again.

The visitors continued to make their presence felt, but could only come close – their best effort a narrowly high header, again by Dawson, in the 86th minute.

LINEUPS

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal (Vermaelen 80), Flamini, Arteta (Kallstrom 63), Cazorla (Rosicky), Ozil, Podolski, Giroud

Goals: Giroud 14′

West Bromwich Albion: Foster, Dawson, Lugano, Olsson, Brunt, Amalfitano (Anichebe 80), Mulumbu (Vydra 85), Morrison, Dorrans, Sessegnon, Berahino

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

[ MORE: Chicharito talks heating up with LA FC ]

On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.

Conte praises Hazard’s style, wouldn’t want him to be “more selfish”

Julian Finney/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Antonio Conte made two bold decisions on Saturday afternoon as his Chelsea side prepared to take on Tottenham in their FA Cup semifinal.

[ MORE: Oriol Romeu shines with Saints as he prepares for Chelsea return ]

The Italian manager has been known for his innovation and risk-taking in the past, but many were critical of the 47-year-old when his team sheet came out ahead of the match.

Conte left key attacking duo Eden Hazard and Diego Costa on the bench, allowing out-of-favor striker Michy Batshuayi and Pedro to get the starting nod.

Although Hazard nor Costa saw the field for the opening hour, the former made his presence known when he was summoned by Conte in the second half.

Often times Hazard has been known as a facilitator, someone that can pick apart defenses with his tremendous foot skills and clever passing. But the Belgian international has also shown his capabilities of scoring on a regular basis as well, which has prompted great interest from other giant clubs around Europe.

When Conte was asked about Hazard and if his attacker should be more selfish, the Italian gave an emphatic “NO” as his response.

“No, no, no, absolutely not,” Conte said. “I don’t think that a player like Messi is a selfish player. The first target for every great champion is to play for the team and to put your talent into the team. If you do this, the team [increases] your talent.

“The best players in the world don’t exist without a team. For me, it’s sad to listen to this, that a player must ‘be more selfish’ to reach the top level. That’s very sad. It’s not my idea of football and I will never understand this. Never, never. In my team, I don’t want selfish players.

“I prefer to lose a game than to have a selfish player. For me, I don’t want this and I can’t accept this. I don’t want my club to buy me a selfish player one day. Never. No.”

Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League

Stu Forster/Getty Images
1 Comment

Two sides have now booked their trips to England’s top flight after Newcastle United rattled off its 27th win of the season.

[ MORE: Oriol Romeu — The perfectly poised destroyer ]

The Magpies earned a decisive 4-1 victory over Preston North End on Monday afternoon at St. James’ Park as the second-place side ensured its finish inside the top two in the English Championship.

Newcastle joins already-promoted club Brighton & Hove Albion, who currently sit atop the Championship on 92 points.

Ayoze Perez paced the hosts with goals on both sides of halftime, while Christian Atsu and Matt Ritchie also converted for Newcastle.

U.S. Men’s National Team defender DeAndre Yedlin was on the bench for the Magpies but didn’t feature in Monday’s match.

The third and final team to be promoted from the Championship will be decided by the league’s annual promotion playoff, which is held at the end of the season and contested by four sides that finish third through sixth position.

As it stands, Reading, Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield Town and Fulham occupy the four playoff positions.

Marseille making Olivier Giroud top transfer target this summer

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Marseille did well to bring in one star this season but could the French side have another trick up its sleeve this summer?

Sky Sports is reporting that the Ligue 1 club is preparing to sign Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud over the summer and the sixth-place side is “willing to pay up to £20m (roughly $25 million).

Marseille made a splash this season when the club re-signed Dimitri Payet, who was playing with Premier League side West Ham at the time.

The team does boast several quality attacking options such as Payet and Bafetimbi Gomis, but Giroud could serve as an ideal target man in the Marseille attack.

Prior to joining the Gunners in 2012, Giroud starred for Montpellier and with a potential link-up in the attack with a creator like Payet, it could present a dangerous attacking threat to the rest of Ligue 1.

Giroud, 30, has scored 95 goals in all competitions since arriving in London with Arsenal.