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′)

Liverpool releases statement after Sevilla stadium supporter outcry

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Liverpool has proffered a strong and cautionary statement regarding its supporters’ treatment at Sevilla on Tuesday.

Claims of police punching a woman in the back and throwing her “political” flag at her, a Liverbird with the word “Defiance” on it, are just the tip of the iceberg.

[ REPORT: Palace to get new digs ]

Fans claim that many were either delayed or denied in entry to the stadium, with “police in riot gear not letting you get to your seat” in some cases.

The Reds have released a statement, from LiverpoolFC.com:

Following detailed and troubling accounts given by Liverpool supporters attending the match against Sevilla last night, the club is seeking to establish the facts regarding their treatment at the hands of the host stewards and local police force.
The safety and security of our supporters is our paramount concern and we intend to gather all the relevant information before responding further.

Supporter treatment away from home is deservedly a hot button issue, and especially at Liverpool given the horrible Hillsborough disaster that killed 96 and wounded almost 800 more in 1989.

As for the match, the Reds squandered a 3-0 lead at Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium, drawing 3-3.

Sounders in firm control after Leg 1

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The game in 100 words (or less): The Seattle Sounders took full control of the Western Conference finals with a resounding 2-0 win over ten-man Houston. The Sounders already had hit first in the 11th minute through Gustav Svensson but the red card to Jalil Anibaba changed the game. Houston had some chances later but fatigue meant the focus and control was off. Former Dynamo striker Will Bruin’s goal may have put the tie to bed.

Three moments that mattered

11′ — Gustav Svensson Goal — The Sounders wanted to set the tone early and they picked up an early goal off a corner kick, as Svensson redirected a header past Dynamo goalkeeper Joe Willis. The goal changed the complexion of the game to that point, until our next big moment.

28′ — Jalil Anibaba red card — Joevin Jones was a menace to deal with tonight and after getting past Anibaba, the latter pulled Jones down and as it appeared to be denial of a goal-scoring opportunity, Anibaba was given his marching orders. Suddenly, Houston, down a goal and down a man, had a lot more to do to stay in the tie. Nicolas Lodeiro missed the subsequent penalty kick but Will Bruin picked Lodeiro up later.

42′ — Will Bruin goal — The former Dynamo man scored a massive goal against his former club on a great cross from Jones on the left wing. While the tie isn’t over, the Sounders are in firm control and look set to repeat as Western Conference playoffs champions.

Man of the Match: Joevin Jones

Three things: Sounders cruise after (and before) early red

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The Seattle Sounders all but booked a return appearance in the 2017 MLS Cup final on Tuesday, doing so by beating the Houston Dynamo 2-0 in the first (away) leg of the Western Conference finals on Tuesday. The game wasn’t as close at the final score might appear to indicate.

[ RECAP: Sounders take 2-0 lead over Dynamo ]

We learned the following three things over the course of the 90 minutes…


The red card hurt Houston

No way, you’re kidding, right? Clearly a 28th-minute red card (shown to Jalil Anibaba for the denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity) is going to have a massive impact on the outcome of a game. But, it really crippled Houston, given the way they play — having a numerical advantage in the center of midfield is so important to Wilmer Cabrera’s side, in the name of frantically winning the ball back after conceding half or even two-thirds of the field.

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When you have to haul off one of three central midfielders, in hopes of still being about to force-create chances on the rare occasion you recover the ball and move it forward, three things are bound to happen: 1) legs are going to get very heavy, very quickly; 2) the clock appears to be counting up in double-speed; 3) you begin to concede two-thirds and three-quarters of the field instead — every move Seattle worked during the second half came after a waltz in the final third before finally meeting resistance.

At right, you can see every Sounders pass originating in Houston’s half of the field — remember, Seattle are the away team here. Playoff games rarely, if ever, come much easier than that.


Addition by subtraction… again?

This one isn’t so much a lesson from Tuesday’s game, as much as it’s a trend played out over the course of an entire season: much like they wound up being in 2016 following Clint Dempsey‘s heart condition robbing him of the final four months of the season, the Sounders are once again, dare I say it, better without another indomitable figure: Osvaldo Alonso.

Here’s the numbers to back it up: without Alsono in the starting lineup this year, Seattle went 6W-2D-2L. In those 10 regular-season games, they scored 20 goals (2.0 per game, versus 1.3 with him in the lineup) and conceded 12 (1.1 per game, same when he played).

The central midfield pairing of Cristian Roldan (7) and Gustav Svensson (4) has proven a formidable foe for anyone and everyone during the second half of the season. On Tuesday — granted, against 10 men for more than an hour — they could do no wrong. (Passes attempted on the right; defensive actions on the left — green triangles are tackles won, orange are recoveries, blue are interceptions, purple are clearances, red are tackles lost.)

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Alonso has been an unbelievable servant for nine MLS seasons, he’s an MLS Cup champions, a four-time U.S. Open Cup winner, a Supporters’ Shield winner and one of the best defensive midfielders in MLS history. He’s also 32 years old with a growing history of lower-body injuries that seem to never fully heal, and he’s now clearly third in the pecking order behind Roldan and Svensson. It’s clearly an oversimplification to say that soccer is a young, mobile man’s game these days, but it’s certainly true of MLS, and the results are in near total agreement.


May I have some hope, please?

Here’s a not-so-fun fact if you’re a Dynamo fan: your team won one — singular — game on the road in 17 tries this season. Not a dark enough outlook? OK, have this: that lone away win came against D.C. United, who finished 21st out of 22 teams if you put MLS into a single table.

Maybe Seattle weren’t so good at home this year… I’m really just searching for anything at this point, you’re thinking. OK, it’s possible, I suppose. They lost once at home all season, to Toronto FC, the best regular-season team in MLS history, by the final score of 1-0, in the month of May.

We’ll see you in Toronto or Columbus for MLS Cup, Seattle Sounders.

Toronto FC holds Columbus on the road

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The game in 100 words (or less): Without two of its stars, Toronto FC set out to play compact and hold on for a draw on the road, and that’s exactly what they did. Michael Bradley recorded 17 recoveries and a trio of interceptions as TFC broke up play and covered the passing lanes, frustrating the Columbus Crew all night. The best chance fell to Harrison Afful late, but TFC goalkeeper Alex Bono made a crucial save to keep it at 0-0.

Three moments that mattered

0′ — The starting lineup — In a game with chances few and far between, the tactical set-up by Greg Vanney – in which his side without Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore came out in a 4-1-4-1 formation – proved to be the difference in the game, frustrating the Crew all night.

52′ — Pedro Santos penalty kick no-call — Justin Meram plays a neat pass through the TFC backline that Santos runs on to, and he appears to be taken down in the box by Bono. Referee Robert Sbiga doesn’t blow the whistle and lets play continue, where Ola Kamara takes a shot that’s deflected away. Santos appeals for video review, and receives a yellow card for his efforts.

85′ — Big Save Bono — Gregg Berhalter’s 77th minute substitution to bring on Kekutah Manneh helped to push Afful higher up the field, which led to this late-game chance. Bono, who hadn’t had a whole lot to do, came up with a massive stop to keep the tie level.

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Man of the Match: Alex Bono, Toronto FC