APTOPIX Britain Soccer FA Cup Final

Arsenal’s incredible comeback wins FA Cup final vs. Hull, first trophy since ’05

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LONDON — Arsenal won their first trophy since 2005 on Saturday as the Gunners lifted the FA Cup after a pulsating 3-2 win in the final against Hull City at Wembley.

This one will go down in history as an epic final saw Arsenal clinch their first pieces of silverware in nine years.

The Gunners trailed 2-0 after just eight minutes when Hull defenders David Chester and Curtis Davies put the Tigers’ fans in dreamland. However a stunning free kick from Santi Cazorla made it 2-1 in the 17th minute and Arsenal pressed for the equalizer for the rest of the game.

They finally drew level in the 71st minute as Laurent Koscielny hooked home from close range and Arsene Wenger’s men battered Hull with wave after wave of attack. Hull held on as the game went to extra time but just Arsenal went ahead for the first time in the match in the 109th minute through Aaron Ramsey who finished the game-winner with panache after Olivier Giroud’s sensational back heel.

MORE: Three things we learned from Arsenal’s FA Cup final win

Arsenal have now won the FA Cup a record 11th time, as they now join Manchester United with the only other English club to have 11 FA Cups to their name. That nine year wait for a trophy at the Emirates Stadium is finally over.

It all started so different for Hull City after an incredible start to the FA Cup final at Wembley. After just three minutes Hull were ahead as a drilled corner from the right found Tom Huddlestone on the edge of the box and his goalbound effort was tucked home by Chester to send the Hull fans wild.

Soon after the amber and black contingent were enjoying more scenes of jubilation as they went 2-0 up thanks to Davies tucking the ball home after Alex Bruce’s header bounced off the past and Hull’s captain popped up at the back to score.

Wenger stood hands on hips and looked at the ground with disgust. The Gunners’ defense had imploded as Hull go off to a flyer with their physical approach proving too hot to handle. Arsenal were 2-0 down after eight minutes. It could have been 3-0 to Hull after 12 minutes as Alex Bruce saw his header cleared off the line by Kieran Gibbs. Arsenal’s nightmare start at Wembley looked to have cost them their best chance of silverware in nine years as the Gunners, and pretty much everyone else, underestimated Hull City.

Then the Spanish magician Cazorla stepped up and curled in a wonderful free kick after 16 minutes to make it 2-1 and put Arsenal right back in the match. A flurry of early goals has this FA Cup turning into an instant classic.

source: AP
Hull raced into an early 2-0 lead but blew it.

Arsenal came close to making it 2-2 soon after as Lukas Podolski crossed from the left and an onrushing Mesut Ozil got clear of his marker but completely missed the ball. The Gunners were well in the ascendancy midway through the first half as another chance fell to Ozil on the edge of the box but the German international scuffed his shot into the ground and Davies cleared off the line. The game settled down, finally, as half time approached. Hull’s back-five sat deep and sprayed the ball around while Arsenal tried to get things going in midfield with Aaron Ramsey and Ozil hungry to get on the ball and create. Some hefty challenges from in across the pitch with Hull manager Steve Bruce patrolling the touchline nervously before the interval.

Hull held onto their lead at the interval, as the Tigers were 45 minutes from winning their first FA Cup in the clubs 110 year history. The opening exchanges in the second half saw Huddlestone drive a rasping left-footed effort over the bar as Hull looked dangerous on the  break and Arsenal controlled possession. The Gunners then had a huge penalty shout with 30 minutes left as a long ball into the box saw Olivier Giroud run clear but Huddlestone had one look after his left shoulder before hauling the Frenchman to the ground with his right arm. Referee Lee Probert didn’t point to the spot as Arsenal’s sea of fans behind the goal were incensed. Another two penalty incident then went against the Gunners soon after as Jake Livermore looked to have handled in the box and then Davies tripped Cazorla but Probert continued to wave away Arsenal’s protests.

Arsenal cranked up the heat as the second half wore and after 71 minutes it finally paid off. Bacary Sagna attacked a corner from the left and his header deflected into the path of Koscielny who hooked the ball home to make it 2-2 and set up an enthralling final 20 minutes.

The Gunners were rampant and Hull were hanging on for dear life. A driving run from substitute Yaya Sanogo saw the ball played back to Kieran Gibbs seven-yards out as the left back took his time… but blazed the ball over with a horrendous miss. In the 81st minute Alan McGregor made a terrific stop from Giroud as Arsenal’s striker slammed a left-footed volley towards the bottom corner. The London club kept pushing to win the match in regulation as just before stoppage time Giroud teed up Sanogo perfectly but the French youngster dragged his effort just wide.

Extra time was needed to decide where the FA Cup would be heading and just four minutes into the extra period Giroud rattled the crossbar with a powerful header that had beaten McGregor. Arsenal continued to push forward and Hull had no answer to the Gunners’ relentless pressure. Ramsey and Cazorla had multiple efforts from distance which didn’t threaten Hull’s goal as the Tigers saw out the first half of extra time. Arsenal introduced Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky’s off the bench for the final 15 minutes as the Gunners went for it.

In the 109th minute the Gunners finally went ahead as Sanogo made a nuisance of himself in the box and Giroud’s backheel found Ramsey to finish and win Arsenal their first trophy in nine years. Late on Hull striker Sone Aluko rounded Fabianski but sent his shot wide from a tight angle as Arsenal held on to clinch the FA Cup.

LINEUPS

Arsenal: Fabianski; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey, Cazorla (Rosicky, 105′), Ozil (Wilshere, 105′), Podolski (Sanogo, 61′), Giroud

Goals: Cazorla (17′), Koscielny (71′), Ramsey (109′)

Hull City: McGregor; Rosenior (Boyd, 102′), Bruce (McShane, 64′), Chester, Davies, Elmohamdy, Livermore, Huddlestone, Meyler, Quinn (Aluko, 75′), Fryatt

Goals: Chester (4′), Davies (8′)

AT THE HALF: Man City 1-2 Monaco; Atleti lead in UCL round of 16

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21:  Radamel Falcao Garcia of AS Monaco celebrates as he scores their first and equalising goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Manchester City FC and AS Monaco at Etihad Stadium on February 21, 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
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We’re only halfway through the first leg of Manchester City versus Monaco, and Bayer Leverkusen versus Atletico Madrid, in the UEFA Champions League round of 16, but the goals are coming fast and furious from England to Germany.

[ MORE: Rooney left out of Man United’s Europa League squad (again) ]

Man City found themselves 1-0 up at the Etihad Stadium, when Leroy Sane turned on video-game mode to set up Raheem Sterling for the opening goal in the 28th minute. But, as City have so typically done in the Champions League, they began self-destructing four minutes later. Radamel Falcao‘s diving header brought Monaco level in the 32nd minute, and Kylian Mbappe’s finish over the head of Willy Caballero put the visitors 2-1 up eight minutes later.

[ MORE: FA Cup QF draw — Chelsea vs. Man United; Arsenal vs. Lincoln City ]

As for Tuesday’s other round-of-16 tie, Saul Niguez simultaneously opened the scoring and snatched the soul of every Bayer defender who dared to contest him. Antoine Griezmann added a second for Atleti, who hold their 2-0 lead at halftime, seven minutes later.

LIVE: UCL last 16 – Man City v Monaco; Bayer v Atletico Madrid

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 06:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City celebrates after scoring his sides fourth goal during The Emirates FA Cup Third Round match between West Ham United and Manchester City at London Stadium on January 6, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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Two more UEFA Champions League Round of 16 clashes get underway on Tuesday.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Manchester City host AS Monaco at the Etihad Stadium with Pep Guardiola knowing his shaky defense must stay strong against the leading scorers in France’s top-flight. Monaco have already come to England and beaten Tottenham Hotspur in the UCL group stage and under talented manager Leanardo Jardim the likes of Radamel Falcao looks fired up and ready to go.

That said, City have been much better in recent weeks and have shown their best form this season in the UCL. Remember, Pep has never failed to reach the semifinals of this competition as a manager. Quite the record.

Elsewhere Bayer Leverkusen welcome Atletico Madrid to the BayArena with Mexico’s Javier Hernandez back among the goals and aiming to give the Bundesliga outfit a lead to take with them to Madrid.

The runners up late season, Atleti are currently fourth in La Liga but Diego Simeone’s side have looked stellar in Europe this season once again as they finished above Bayern Munich to win their group. Expect a tense, tough game in Germany.

Click on the link above to follow live commentary on both games, while we will have reaction and analysis on all of the UCL knockout games here at Pro Soccer Talk.


Tuesday’s UCL Round of 16, first legs

Manchester City vs. AS Monaco – 2:45 p.m. ET
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Atletico Madrid – 2:45 p.m. ET

Bayern defends Ancelotti for middle-finger gesture to fans

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MUNICH (AP) Bayern Munich has defended coach Carlo Ancelotti for raising his middle finger to Hertha Berlin fans after supposedly being spit at following a dramatic 1-1 draw in the Bundesliga.

[ MORE: Shaw in betting investigation ]

Bayern says “basically we find the human reaction of Carlo Ancelotti with the gesture to be emotionally understandable after the nasty spitting attack.”

Robert Lewandowski’s injury-time equalizer for Bayern on Saturday prompted altercations between Bayern and Hertha players in a heated atmosphere at the Olympic Stadium.

[ LIVE: Stream every PL game live

The German soccer federation ended its investigation into the matter after Ancelotti agreed to pay 5,000 euros ($5,300) to its foundation for social work.

In 2014, Norbert Duewel, then-coach of second-division club Union Berlin, was fined 3,500 euros for raising his middle finger in a 4-1 loss at home against 1860 Munich.

Sacha Kljestan ready to take reigns as Red Bulls captain

HARRISON, NJ - MARCH 6:  Sacha Kljestan #16 of New York Red Bulls dribbles past Steven Beitashour #33 of Toronto FC  during their match at Red Bull Arena on March 6, 2016 in Harrison, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
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When news began to spread of a trade regarding one of Major League Soccer’s most recognizable faces, Sacha Kljestan was with his New York Red Bulls teammate at the U.S. Men’s National Team’s January camp.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

The clarity over Dax McCarty’s move to Eastern Conference foe Chicago Fire is very much uncertain — even a month after the fact — but the veteran midfielder’s absence left an opening for the Red Bulls captaincy.

[ MORE: PST talks with Atlanta president Darren Eales ahead of 2017 ]

And that was an opportunity that Kljestan was honored to be named.

“I was just proud. My first feeling was that I’m thankful for Jesse [Marsch] having that trust in me and my teammates having that trust in me as well, which is very important,” Kljestan said. “But I just feel very proud to represent Jesse and the coaching staff and represent every member of the club that works with the New York Red Bulls. Most importantly I want to represent the fans in a way that they are proud of.”

Fortunately for the Red Bulls, what they have had over the past two seasons in Kljestan is a player that not only provides flash and brilliance on the pitch but also stability off the field and in the locker room.

Since making his return to MLS in 2015, Kljestan has notched an astounding 34 assists — the most of any player during that span — to go along with his 14 goals.

Red Bulls manager Jesse Marsch has been impressed with Kljestan’s work ethic since bringing in the Designated Player, and he says little thought needed to be put into naming the U.S. international his squad’s next captain.

“It almost wasn’t even a choice at all,” Marsch said in regards to naming Kljestan his primary captain. “He had served as basically a vice-captain for two years and it was an natural fit. There were discussions with the staff but I think it was pretty clear that this is a guy that is a top leader. That being said, we’ve said all along that the captain isn’t a one man job.

“It’s about a community of people and certainly the two guys that will support Sacha the most will be Luis [Robles] and Brad [Wright-Phillips]. I think the three of them will take on big leadership roles and there’s room for young guys to blossom into bigger leadership positions as well.”

The Red Bulls have undoubtedly proven their success in the regular season since rebranding to the aforementioned name in 2006 when the Global giant, Red Bull, acquired the franchise.

The last 11 seasons have provided the club with plenty to cheer about, including two Supporters’ Shield crowns and only missing out on the postseason once, but the Red Bulls have struggled to get past one major hurdle.

Winning an MLS Cup is challenging.

It’s only something that 11 teams have accomplished in the league’s history. Of those 11 teams, only five of them have won two or more titles since MLS’ inception in 1996.

Marsch’s approach since day one has been very clear to both his team and the opponents that the Red Bulls face. The goal has been to play an attacking-minded press, similar to that of Barcelona in the club’s hay day.

While that pressing style likely won’t change, the team is prepared to add another dimension to its attack by switching to a two-forward setup starting in 2017.

“With our little tweak in formation that we’re doing now, we’re trying to be less susceptible to opening ourselves up and creating too much space between our lines,” Kljestan said. “We’re working on ways now to become more connected and become harder to break down and really make teams earn their chances against us. We might go through some growing pains with the formation but I think it’ll make us stronger in the long run.”

The Red Bulls begin their 2017 journey on Wednesday when they face the Vancouver Whitecaps in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. The two sides will meet a second time on March 2 in Vancouver.