Arsenal 2-0 Hull: Handballs galore in controversial win

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  • Sanchez’s handball, PK seals win
  • Arsenal up to third in PL table
  • Hull go close through Niasse

Arsenal labored to a 2-0 victory against Hull City on Saturday at the Emirates Stadium as Arsene Wenger‘s men got back to winning ways following two-straight defeats.

The only goal of the game came in controversial fashion as Alexis Sanchez knocked the ball over the line with his hand from close range.

Hull huffed and puffed against a nervous looking Arsenal side but the Gunners held on and then grabbed a penalty kick in stoppage time which Sanchez scored after Sam Clucas was sent off for handling on the line.

Watching on from the stands, Wenger saw his side seal their first PL victory in three games to stay in the top four hunt and restore some confidence. With the win Arsenal momentarily move up to third in the PL table and have 50 points, while Hull remain in 18th place and in the final relegation spot with 20 points.

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Arsenal dictated play early on as Sanchez was set free but hit his shot straight at Eldin Jakupovic. At the other end Hull spurned a glorious chance early on as Lazar Markovic raced free down the right and crossed for Oumar Niasse but the on-loan striker from Everton got his run wrong at the pivotal moment.

Hull continued to look dangerous on the break and a wonderful cross from Kamil Grosicki on the left found Niasse but his header was tipped over by Petr Cech.

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Arsenal finally started to wake up as Hector Bellerin drove a shot just wide of the near post on the right side of the box, then Sanchez pulled an effort just wide of the far post.

Theo Walcott had a shot blocked by Clucas before half time as Arsenal pinned Hull back and eventually broke through in the 34th minute. Kieran Gibbs‘ shot was blocked on the line by Andrew Robertson and Sanchez bundled the ball home after Jakpuovic tried to clear.

On closer inspection the ball appeared to accidentally strike Sanchez on the hand and go in, but the goal stood and Arsenal went in 1-0 up at the break.

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In the second half things got lovely as Francis Coquelin was clattered into and then Walcott got fired up when he thought he was fouled, earning himself a yellow card. Hull had a decent chance as Markovic found Niasse but Cech saved his effort.

Markovic was also taken out by Gibbs who was booked but Hull felt that referee Mark Clattenburg could have sent Gibbs off as he was the last man. The Tigers had a point.

Alex Iwobi curled an effort just over the bar as Arsenal started to find gaps on the break but there was nervous tension around the Emirates as the Gunners entered the final stages with just a one goal advantage.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score

Niasse headed into the side-netting late on as Hull pushed for an equalizer, with substitute Adama Diomande heading over from a corner.

With the final major action of the match Sanchez raced clear and Jakupovic came off his line to try and close the Chilean down. The Arsenal forward sent in a perfect cross for Lucas Perez to head into an empty net but his header was blocked by Clucas’ arm on the line and he was sent off and the Gunners had a penalty kick.

Sanchez dispatched the spot kick for his and Arsenal’s second in a timely yet somewhat unconvincing win.

Wenger confirms Ospina will start pair while Ozil, Ramsey miss out

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Arsene Wenger confirmed in his pre-match press conference that goalkeeper Petr Cech will get an extended rest with a pair of Cup games on the horizon for Arsenal.

In his place, David Ospina will start both Thursday’s Europa League Round of 32 match against Ostersund and Sunday’s EFL Cup Final against Manchester City. Ospina is no stranger to this type of rotation, with the Colombian owning just 30 starts over the last three seasons in national and international Cup competitions compared to just seven Premier League appearances.

In addition, Wenger also confirmed that Mesut Ozil will miss out for Thursday’s match due to illness, but is expected back for Sunday’s EFL Cup final. Arsenal has a 3-0 lead over Swedish club Ostersund after the first leg, with the second leg to be played at the Emirates.

Wenger said Aaron Ramsey is back in training, and while he will not be risked in the Europa League match in his return from a groin injury that saw him miss the North London derby loss, he could be in contention to play against Manchester City. [Ramsey] is not in the squad tomorrow, he had a good training session. We will see how his evolution goes between now and Sunday. I don’t rule him out.”

Ramsey scored a hat-trick in the 5-1 win over Everton in early February, but has played just 181 minutes since picking up a hamstring injury in mid-December.

Finally, Wenger said that Danny Welbeck and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will both receive starting spots against Ostersund, as will some unnamed youth products. Welbeck has been out of Premier League action since mid-January, stuck behind Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but he received four minutes off the bench in the North London derby and will get another opportunity in the Europa League to prove his worth.

Conte admits job security speculation will always exist at Chelsea

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Antonio Conte admits that he will always face speculation about his tenure as manager while he is employed at Chelsea, but dismissed it as “no problem for me.”

There is a general acceptance that Conte will part ways with Chelsea at the end of the season given the tough times the club has seen this campaign. The Blues are hanging on to a Champions League place by a thread, and struggled through a January that included just two wins across all competitions in six matches.

“I’ve said it very clearly: I’ve got a contract until 2019 and I intend to respect this, but you know anything can happen in football,” Conte told Italian publication Mediaset. “It takes two to be happy and continue a marriage. Our work is unique because we’ve always got our suitcase in our hands.”

Conte did issue somewhat of a warning to Chelsea, however, that if he were to be fired, it could come back to haunt the club, as he would have no shortage of offers. “My intention is to respect my contract, but if something were to happen, it would open up different scenarios.” Big clubs such as Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid could have job openings this summer if their lofty goals aren’t met, and those places would be attractive destinations for Conte, who won the Premier League title with Chelsea just last year.

“It’s a bit the history of Chelsea and inevitable when, in the past, in 14 years, 10 coaches have been changed,” he said. “Clearly when there is this habit, let’s say, the press play on it and as soon as there is a result or two which don’t go your way, they try to put the pressure on.

“But it’s no problem for me. I hope that this pressure doesn’t harm the players, not me, because I go looking for pressure.”

CCL: Toronto wins; Wild Herediano comeback

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On a single-digit Tuesday that severely limited the attendance at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, where the Colorado Rapids and Toronto FC dueled in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.

Jonathan Osorio’s second half goal put the Reds in front and Sebastian Giovinco had a goal and an assist and the visitors take a 2-0 decision back to Ontario.

The best chance of a preseason quality first half saw Dominique Badji flub the best chance of the stage into the feet of Alex Bono.

Toronto took the lead, nabbing the away goal through Osorio’s header of a Sebastian Giovinco cross. And the Atomic Ant got on the board with a goal of his own off an Auro assist with 17 minutes to play.

[ MORE: Georgia teen heading to Schalke ]

Tuesday’s other first leg saw Herediano and Tigres play to a 2-2 draw in Costa Rica, with the Liga MX visitors taking a pair of away goals but shocked by a pair of stoppage time concessions.

Francisco Meza scored in the 15th minute and Lucas Zelarayan seemingly put it to bed with 15 minutes to play.

But Yendrick Ruiz converted a 90th minute penalty kick before ex-DC United forward Jairo Arrieta did this ahead of the Feb. 22 second leg in Mexico.

Another American heads to Schalke: Zyen Jones

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Schalkamerica?

Bundesliga mainstays Schalke have added yet another American, this one 17-year-old Zyen Jones of Atlanta United. Jones is a forward with the U.S. U-17 national team.

Like Josh Sargent, who signed his deal with Werder Bremen on Tuesday, he’ll head overseas and sign a pro contract on Aug. 25, his 18th birthday.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Barca recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

Jones will join several potential USMNT teammates in Gelsenkirchen, including injured senior team midfielder Weston McKennie and youngster Nick Taitague (19). Forward Haji Wright is on loan at Sandhausen.