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′)

Benitez happy to stay at Newcastle if he “has the tools to compete”

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Rafa Benitez is approaching something vaguely resembling sainthood in the northeast of England — with the Newcastle United-supporting portion, at least — but his future remains in doubt as the end of the current Premier League season draws nearer and the next one approaches.

[ MORE: Salah beats De Bruyne to win PFA Player of the year award ]

Benitez and Newcastle owner Mike Ashley have endured an unhappy working relationship for much of Benitez’s 25 months at the club. The Spaniard was true to his word, though, when he stuck around another season after being relegated from the PL in 2016, then again after winning promotion on the Magpies’ first attempt, but he’ll be faced with the same dilemma again this summer, even after guiding Newcastle to a mid-table finish (they currently sit 10th with five games left to play).

[ MORE: Man United reach FA Cup final | Chelsea join them ]

If he’s not given assurances that he’ll be handed the necessary funds to properly strengthen his squad during the upcoming summer transfer window, the 58-year-old could very well walk away and leave Ashley to play the part of all-too-familiar villain. Or, as Benitez put it this weekend, Ashley could fork over “the tools to be capable of competing” and make everyone, from the manager to the fans, happy — quotes form the Guardian:

“If they [Ashley’s representatives] want to talk to my people [about a new contract,] they can talk. The main thing is to be sure we share the same ambition.

“I want to win games and I want to win trophies and I want to have the tools to be capable of competing. At the same time, I like to improve players, coach players, follow a business plan, a realistic business plan in modern football. I have no problem with that because I did it in the past.

“We have to be sure to have all the tools to compete and achieve what we want to achieve because Newcastle is a massive football club and we want it to reach its potential.”

Of course, the perfect scenario for everyone involved would have been for any one of the numerous takeover bids to have gone through during the last two years, but as was most recently evidenced earlier this year, Ashley and the Toon can’t seem to quit each other just yet.

MLS: Timbers end NYCFC’s unbeaten start; Seattle get 1st win

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Sunday was a very good day for a pair of green-clad Cascadia rivals, the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders, as the former put to end the unbeaten start of the best team in MLS, while the latter picked up their first win of 2018…

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS roundupOther MLS Things — The Archive ]

Portland Timbers 3-0 New York City FC

Through their first seven games, NYCFC were almost inarguably the best team in MLS (aside: how much better is their opening-day walkover of Sporting KC looking these days?), but Patrick Vieira’s side might as well have not even shown up to Providence Park on Sunday. Chalk it up to “it’s only one game,” or “these things happen in MLS,” or “NYC to Portland is a long trip for Russian clubs,” or any other credible rationale you prefer, but they were nothing more than 11 passengers for the whole of 90 minutes.

A quick look at the defending on all three of Portland’s goals…

Vieira was right at halftime, when he said his side was lacking intensity and aggression, and that it’d be nigh impossible to get back into the game in the second half if they continued to play that way. Spoiler: it was, because they did.

Just as I’ll not be rushing to judgment over NYCFC’s no-show performance, I’m not yet buying into the idea that Portland have figured things out defensively on the back of one clean sheet (their first of the season).

Seattle Sounders 3-1 Minnesota United

Speaking of firsts, Seattle are the proud owners of points — as in, more than one point — after putting three past Minnesota but almost fatally failing to kill the game off after going 2-0 up. I’m not sure what any defender in black is doing on this sequence…

Alas, Gustav Svensson, Will Bruin and Jordy Delem were far more clinical with their chances than the Loons…

Still, though, Seattle were completely helpless when it came time to grab control of the game while in a commanding position. Osvaldo Alonso is nowhere near the player he once was, which is a massive problem against teams that set up to counter-attack, as Minnesota did on Sunday. It doesn’t help that Roman Torres and Chad Marshall are the plodding center backs behind him.

The obvious answer to the midfield problem is to play Cristian Roldan deeper, alongside Alonso as they did en route to winning MLS Cup in 2016, but injuries to a number of key attackers have forced him into a de facto no. 10 role for the time being. These things will work themselves out with a bit of time, I suppose.

Full MLS scoreboard

Sporting Kansas City 6-0 Vancouver Whitecaps (Friday) — FULL RECAP
Montreal Impact 3-5 Los Angeles FC — FULL RECAP
Houston Dynamo 5-1 Toronto FC
New York Red Bulls 1-2 Chicago Fire
Columbus Crew SC 2-2 New England Revolution
Orlando City SC 3-2 San Jose Earthquakes
FC Dallas 2-0 Philadelphia Union
Real Salt Lake 3-0 Colorado Rapids
LA Galaxy 0-2 Atlanta United

Salah beats De Bruyne to win PFA Player of the Year award

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LONDON (AP) Mohamed Salah has been voted Player of the Year by his fellow professionals in English football in recognition of an incredible scoring return to the Premier League with Liverpool.

[ MORE: Man United reach FA Cup final | Chelsea join them ]

The Egypt forward collected the Professional Footballers’ Association award at a ceremony in London on Sunday, two days before Liverpool’s Champions League semifinal first leg against Roma.

It is a reunion with the Italian club he left in the offseason for 42 million euros (then $47 million). The hefty fee appeared to be a gamble for Liverpool but now represents a real bargain.

The former Chelsea player has scored 41 goals in 46 appearances in all competitions for Liverpool – enabling him to beat Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne in second place to the PFA award.

Tottenham striker Harry Kane was third.

[ MORE: Man City thrash Swansea in pursuit of points record ]

“It’s a big honor,” Salah said. “I’ve worked hard and I’m very happy to win it.”

Salah is preparing to lead Egypt into its first World Cup in 28 years and he is the first player from the North African nation to win English football’s top individual prize.

“Hopefully I’m not the last one,” he said. “I’m very proud to win and I’ve worked very hard.”

Salah’s impact has been more remarkable given his underwhelming 2014-15 season at Chelsea before being offloaded by then-manager Jose Mourinho. He went on loan to Fiorentina in early 2015 and Roma in 2016, and then on a permanent basis to Roma in August 2016.

Scoring 15 goals and setting up 11 more for Roma convinced Liverpool to bring Salah back to a second spell in England.

[ MORE: Liverpool draw West Brom in final tune-up before UCL semis ]

His goal at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday was his 31st in the league this season, tying the scoring record in a 38-game campaign held by Cristiano Ronaldo, Alan Shearer and Luis Suarez.

Suarez was the last Liverpool player to be crowned player of the year by the PFA in 2014 before moving to Barcelona.

It’s a sign of his remarkable impact that Salah secured the award with third-place Liverpool and that none of Manchester City’s newly crowned champions won the accolade.

But City winger Leroy Sane was voted PFA Young Player of the Year.

The PFA women’s player award went to Chelsea forward Fran Kirby, while Lauren Hemp of Bristol City secured the young player prize.

CONCACAF cancels women’s U-17 tournament due to violence

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MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) CONCACAF has canceled the rest of its 2018 Women’s Under-17 Championship following violence in Managua, Nicaragua, where the tournament began Thursday.

The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football made the announcement Sunday. The tournament was to have determined the region’s qualifiers for the Under-17 World Cup in Uruguay, which starts Nov. 13.

More than two dozen people have been killed since Wednesday according to the independent Nicaraguan Human Rights Center, though the government had acknowledged only nine dead. Dozens of shops in Managua were looted during protests and disturbances sparked by government social security reforms.

The U.S. opened Friday with a 4-0 win over Costa Rica and had been scheduled to play Bermuda on Sunday and Canada on Tuesday.