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.

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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.

New York Red Bulls introduce space at RBA for autistic families

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HARRISON, N.J. (AP) The Red Bulls have announced plans for a permanent sensory-friendly space at their stadium for families impacted by autism.

Formerly executive offices, the space overlooking midfield is a calm area that is free from the crowds and the noise of Red Bull Arena during matches. Families can use it for free.

The team announced the new space on Saturday before the Red Bulls were set to host the Chicago Fire. It was Autism Awareness Night at the stadium.

“Families deserve to feel welcome and comfortable each time they step foot into Red Bull Arena, not just one night a year,” Red Bulls GM Marc de Grandpre said in a statement released by the club. “We hope all sports teams and entertainment venues are inspired to take similar action to provide comfort for families with loved ones on the autism spectrum.”

League Two game restarted in empty stadium after fans storm field

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LONDON (AP) An English soccer game restarted in an empty stadium after a pitch invasion led to the crowd being told the fixture had been abandoned.

There were five minutes remaining in Leyton Orient’s fourth-tier game against Colchester on Saturday when a sit-down protest was staged on the pitch by Orient fans against Italian owner Francesco Becchetti.

It forced the referee to take the players off the field. The protests lasted for more than an hour before the crowd was told the game had been abandoned and the stadium eventually cleared. The teams came out and finished the game.

Leyton Orient lost 3-1 a week after its relegation from the English Football League was confirmed after 112 years.

“A decision was taken with the police to announce that the game had been abandoned as it was felt this would help clear the pitch, which proved correct,” the EFL said in a statement. “However, it was deemed appropriate that the game needed to be played to a conclusion in order to maintain the integrity of the competition.”

La Liga: Barcelona, Real Madrid hold serve in tight title race

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A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Super-duper Sunday preview — North London derby, plus 6 of top 7 ]

Espanyol 0-3 Barcelona

Barcelona are doing all they can do — win — in their bid to usurp Real Madrid in the race for the title. While they entered the weekend — and still are — ahead of their El Clasico rivals based on head-to-head results this season, Los Blancos still have a game in hand which will surely decide whether Madrid claim their 33rd top-division title, or a 25th for Barca.

On Saturday, Luis Enrique’s side had more than just the title at stake — also at stake: the Derbi Barceloni, against fellow Catalan side Espanyol.

For 45 minutes, the home side held firm and refused to break, but once Luis Suarez put the Blaugrana ahead in the 50th minute, that was all she wrote. Ivan Rakitic doubled the advantage in the 76th minute, and Suarez completed the scoring 11 minutes later.

Real Madrid 2-1 Valencia

By the time the derby kicked off, Madrid had already applied the pressure and gone three points clear with a 2-1 victory that was a whole lot closer than the final score indicates.

Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring just before the half-hour mark, and Zinedine Zidane’s side was well on its way to victory. Ronaldo followed up his opening goal with a missed penalty kick 10 minutes into the second half, and Daniel Parejo pulled the visitors level with a sensational free kick just eight minutes before the end of regular time. Points looked sure to be dropped, and the door opened wider for Barca, but Marcelo was prepared to play the part of hero on the day, and the Brazilian left back bagged one of the season’s more improbable goals, a right-footed strike from the top of the box, in the 86th minute.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Las Palmas 0-5 Atletico Madrid
Real Sociedad 2-1 Granada

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Osasuna vs. Deportivo La Coruña — 6 a.m. ET
Real Betis vs. Alaves — 10:15 a.m. ET
Eibar vs. Leganes — 12:30 p.m. ET
Celta Vigo vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:45 p.m. ET

Monday’s La Liga schedule

Malaga vs. Sevilla — 3 p.m. ET

Championship Focus: It’s all about the playoff places now

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With Brighton & Hove Albion and Newcastle United having already clinched the Championship’s two automatic promotion places, all eyes turn to the four teams behind them still jockeying for playoff positioning…

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3rd — Reading — 82 points, +2 GD
4th — Sheffield Wednesday — 81 points, +16 GD
5th — Huddersfield Town — 81 points, +1 GD
6th — Fulham — 77 points, +27 GD

First of all, the Championship remains the least sensible league in the world. Disagree? Just try to explain the above wildly varying points totals and the corresponding goal differentials. Go ahead, I’ll wait

As for the weekend’s results, Reading and Wednesday did themselves major favors in the race for third with victories over Wigan Athletic (1-0) and Ipswich Town (1-0), respectively, while Huddersfield, who entered the weekend in that top playoff place, played 67 minutes with a man advantage against Birmingham City, and lost 2-0. All three of Reading, Wednesday and Huddersfield have clinched their place in the promotion playoffs, which begin two weeks from Saturday, on May 13.

[ MORE: PL Sunday preview — North London derby, plus 6 of the top 7 play ]

Given Leeds United’s 3-3 draw with Norwich City, a win would have clinched the fourth and final playoff place for Fulham, but the Cottagers dropped a pair of points themselves in a 1-1 draw with Brentford at Craven Cottage. Still, Fulham are all but into the playoffs with a three-point lead on Leeds, and a goal differential that’s 13 goals better.