Norwich City 0-2 Arsenal: Norwich make relegation official (video)

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Both Norwich and Arsenal had reasons to make the goals flow. If either side treated the match as simple target practice, notching eighteen or more goals, it could’ve changed their season. Arsenal may have wound up in third place. And, more vitally, Norwich could’ve saved themselves.

The dream was never realistic, but still it was expected that there might be a bit more excitement from this match. Alas, anyone watching was bound to be disappointed.

There were just four shots on target in the first half. With just five minutes gone, Nathan Redmond did make a decent attempt at goal, cutting inside to get past the Arsenal defense. But Lukasz Fabianski was up to the challenge, pushing the swerving shot out of danger.

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Wilshere returned for Arsenal as the Gunners prepare for the FA Cup final.

John Ruddy, too, had work to do. At the other end, he performed a great reaction save to make sure that Lukas Podolski was unable to score. Later, he rescued a shot from Olivier Giroud that was destined for the top corner of the Norwich net.

In the second half, however, Arsenal were finally able to break down the Canaries’ defense. Giroud, heading down the left, chipped the ball over to where Ramsey was hanging out on the right. Ramsey caught the floated cross on the volley, hammering the ball into the top corner of the net.

If Norwich weren’t already broken, that goal sure seemed to do the trick. Sure enough, less than ten minutes later the visitors had doubled their lead – and Norwich were generous enough to allow the goal to go to Carl Jenkinson. The full back tapped in from close range to score his first goal for Arsenal.

With the Gunners up 2-0, Arsène Wenger decided to have mercy on the team’s supporters and bring off Ramsey, possibly preparing to wrap him in cotton wool until next week’s FA Cup final. In his place came Jack Wilshere, getting his first appearance since early March.

Elliott Bennett, on for Nathan Redmond with fifteen minutes left to go, tried to at least give his side a consolation in extra time. Fabianski refused to play nice, however, and of the 17 goals Norwich needed, they wound up scoring exactly zero.

And so Norwich finish the day in 18th, and will spend next season in the Championship. Arsenal, meanwhile, will go into Champions League qualifying, as they ultimately wind up in 4th.

LINEUPS

Norwich City: Ruddy; Martin, R Bennett, Turner, Olsson; Tettey (Loza 58); Snodgrass, Howson, Johnson, Redmond (E Bennett 76); Elmander (Hooper 58)

Arsenal: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Sagna, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Rosicky (Diaby 74), Ramsey, Ozil, Podolski, Giroud (Sanogo 74)

Goals: Ramsey 53′; Jenkinson 62

La Liga releases schedule: First El Clasico coming in December

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It’s Christmas in July for fans of La Liga Friday as the Spanish league published its schedule for the upcoming season.

Defending champions Real Madrid travel to Deportivo La Caruña on August 20, the opening match of the season while its rival Barcelona hosts Real Betis.

As it’s La Liga, the first date most fans searched for was the first El Clasico of the season, and the biennial battles between Real Madrid and Barcelona will take place on December 20 and May 6, with Real Madrid hosting the first match.

The first match comes just ahead of the Spanish winter break, while the second match comes at a busy period at the end of the season, where both teams will be hoping to still be competing in the UEFA Champions League.

Other interesting matches to keep an eye on in the first few weeks of the season include Real Madrid hosting Valencia in week two, the Barcelona derby between Barca and Espanyol in week three and Atletico Madrid taking on Sevilla in week six.

Here’s a look at this year’s La Liga schedule.

Conte: Costa “situation was very clear” in January

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At this point, there is no doubt Diego Costa‘s future lies away from London and Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte broke his silence on the Brazilian-born Spain international striker, saying he’s been ready to move on from Costa since January, when Costa and Conte had a disagreement following a big-money offer from Chinese club Tianjin Quanjian during the winter transfer window.

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“I don’t like to talk about players who are not here but the only thing I can tell you [is that] in January, the Costa situation was very clear, for the club for him and his agent,” Conte told reporters Friday. “For me the situation is closed.”

It’s an amazing turn of events after Costa scored 20 Premier League goals in Chelsea’s title-winning 2016-2017 season, including 14 goals through the end of December. But after falling out with Jose Mourinho a year earlier, the same issue happened again under Conte, with Costa proving much less effective down the stretch.

But Conte and Costa were able to put their differences aside on the field, photographed multiple times hugging after wins, as well as after winning the title.

Costa is reportedly now agitating for a move back to his former club Atletico Madrid, but the Spanish club’s transfer ban until the next window complicates matters. In a World Cup year, would Costa be willing to sit out half a season just to leave Chelsea?

If Costa’s time in the Premier League is up, he’ll go down as one of the league’s best pound-for-pound goalscorers. He scored 52 goals in 89 Premier League appearances, with seven more cup goals in his three-year spell at Chelsea.

And if he is gone, defenders across the Premier League will sure be happy to wave goodbye.

Sparta Prague signs France midfielder Rio Mavuba

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PRAGUE (AP) Sparta Prague says it has signed France midfielder Rio Mavuba to a three-year contract.

The 33-year-old Mavuba comes from French club Lille, which he joined in 2008. Before that, he played for Bordeaux and Spanish club Villarreal.

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Mavuba was on the France team at the 2014 World Cup.

He is the 10th player signed by Sparta after Italian coach Andrea Stramaccioni took charge in May.

Mexico 1-0 Honduras: Pizarro strikes early to put El Tri in Gold Cup semifinals

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Mexico had little trouble dispatching Honduras as El Tri won 1-0 in Glendale, AZ and eased into the Gold Cup semifinals.

Just four minutes into the game, Mexico took the lead as they got Honduras on its heels, with Rodolfo Pizarro sticking the ball in at the far post at the end of a scramble. Jesus Duenas carved a ball through the defense, and while Elias Hernandez whiffed on the tap-in, Pizarro was right behind him to finish the chance.

Mexico settled in after scoring, while Honduras tried to out-muscle El Tri, with the latter receiving a pair of yellow cards in the first 45 minutes. There were precious few other chances throughout the first half, with Honduras completely incapable of creating anything in the attacking half.

Mexico continued to dominate out of the halftime break, but they lost Monterrey midfielder Jesus Molina in the 65th minute with discomfort, replaced by Chaka Rodriguez. The best moment for Honduras as they chased the game late came in the 78th minute as Jose Corona made a spectacular save when substitute Alexander Lopez nearly scored directly from a corner. They came close again in stoppage time after a set-piece as Alfredo Mejia scuffed a shot agonizingly wide.

Honduras ended their Gold Cup without a single goal scored. They technically defeated French Guyana 3-0 in the group stage, but that came on the typical forfeit scoreline, whereas the actual game played ended in a 0-0 draw.

Meanwhile, Mexico will take on Jamaica in the semifinal in a rematch of last tournament’s final.