West Brom 3-1 Arsenal: More misery for Wenger

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  • Dawson scores two headers
  • 4 defeats in last 5 PL games for Arsenal
  • WBA equal 2015-16 points tally
  • Cech forced off with injury

West Bromwich Albion beat Arsenal 3-1 at the Hawthorns on Saturday as the Baggies piled more pressure on Arsene Wenger.

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Craig Dawson headed home the opener but Arsenal equalized soon after through talisman Alexis Sanchez and it remained that way until the second half. Then Hal Robson-Kanu came on and scored a controversial goal to make it 2-1 and Dawson headed home another set piece late on to put the result beyond doubt.

With the win West Brom have 43 points, the same number they had for the whole of last season. With their seventh defeat of the PL season Arsenal lose ground in the top four battle and remain on 50 points.

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A lively start at the Hawthorns saw two quick-fire goals.

First, it was the hosts who went ahead as Nacer Chadli‘s corner from the left was flicked home by Dawson as he was completely unmarked after losing Aaron Ramsey to head home. 1-0 to the Baggies as Wenger looked on with a face like thunder.

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Moments later Wenger was punching the air with delight as Granit Xhaka clipped a delightful ball to the back post where an unmarked Sanchez chested down, cut inside and finished calmly to make it 1-1.

Just three minutes between the goals as West Brom continued to threaten from set pieces and the Gunners had the majority of possession but couldn’t break down a stubborn Baggies backline.

Aaron Ramsey tested Ben Foster who produced a fine save and at the other end Darren Fletcher was denied by Petr Cech superbly but Arsenal’s goalkeeper hobbled off injured just before half time.

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Rondon headed just wide earlier in the second half and he was hauled off moments later as Robson-Kanu came on. That substitution turned out to bee a masterstroke from Pulis as Ospina flapped at a ball over the top from Chadli and Robson-Kanu poked home to make it 2-1.

Despite protests over James McClean being in an offside position, both initially and then as the ball rolled towards the goal, the Republic of Ireland international didn’t touch the ball and wasn’t interfering with play.

Wenger was furious with that decision and Arsenal came agonizingly close to making it 2-2 as Danny Welbeck‘s header smashed off the crossbar.

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The Gunners were left more and more exposed at the back and Robson-Kanu raced clear. Ospina again hesitated and Chadli rounded the goalkeeper but his shot was cleared off the line.

With 15 minutes to go the Baggies made it 3-1 as a Chris Brunt corner was headed home by Dawson.

Wenger and his team will now have two weeks to think about this result over the international break. Maybe that will make his decision about his future easier.

“I’m not a bad guy” – Convicted murderer, new club defend signing

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A week ago, we brought you the story of goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes finding a new club despite a conviction for ordering the torture and murder of his mistress, whose body was then fed to dogs. The two were having a disagreement on child support.

Fernandes, 32, was set free from jail on a technicality and has since been signed by Boa Esporte in Brazil. He said he couldn’t “throw in the towel” on his career because he believed in himself.

Fans were outraged with the team, major sponsors pulled their funding, and an activist group even hacked Boa Esporte’s web page.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

And the club is digging in its heels.

Boa Esporte’s president, Rone Moraes da Costa, reacted to protests by saying he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to resurrect his career.

As for Fernandes, he clearly is having trouble explaining why he’s getting another chance. From The Guardian:

“What happened, happened. I made a mistake, a serious one, but mistakes happens in life – I’m not a bad guy. People tried to bury my dream because of one mistake, but I asked God for forgiveness, so I’m carrying on with my career, dude. I’m starting over.”

One mistake. Wow. There are few clubs in the world which fit the bill of being the majority of fans’ least favorite team, but Boa Esporte could get there. Surely there must be more to the story?

Nothing new about the challenges facing USMNT

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This next week may define a generation of USMNT players, but only if it goes poorly.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it isn’t. The United States started 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, earned its coach a firing, and now stares down its status in the confederation.

Honduras is coming on Friday, far from a pushover. Then it’s off to Panama for another tricky tie. In a vacuum, coming up short in one of the two isn’t the end of the world, but the Yanks will be expected to take a minimum four points. Even that would be a disappointment to many.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

The crutches are gone, aside from any being used by injured players back in Germany (Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson chief amongst them). Fifteen of Honduras’ players play domestically, and Panama isn’t much better in overall quality.

Frankly, and it’s been written before, the United States should outclass both of these foes. If Bruce Arena’s bunch doesn’t, well, it spells woe for the country’s soccer development as a whole.

For now, supporters and players have been able to cling to the thought that Jurgen Klinsmann was responsible for the Yanks’ struggles. In some ways, he most certainly was to blame for setbacks like the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico and the pathetic performance against Costa Rica that earned him a firing.

Several of the United States’ current elder statesmen have built legacies that can survive big hits. Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey may go down in history as the two biggest stars in program history (There will be an argument for both as No. 1 along with Landon Donovan and Claudio Reyna). DaMarcus Beasley is an all-timer, too.

Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, and Jozy Altidore are on track for that, too, and there’s an argument to be made the trio is already there, especially for Cameron, who’s a mainstay in the Premier League. Each has found success in Europe after getting their starts in Major League Soccer, and have etched their names into the national record books.

There’s still very little reason to believe the USMNT will miss the 2018 World Cup even with the 0-2 start. The class is just too much to consider the Yanks will finish below Panama, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago over the course of 10 matches (The fourth place side gets a shot at an Asian side like Saudi Arabia, UAE, or Uzbekistan in a two-legged affair).

But turning it around has to start now. The Yanks have to handle their business in these qualifiers, and make at least the Gold Cup final to build momentum toward Russia. Anything short of that is abject failure.

Again, this absolutely should happen, starting Friday. Even given the poor start, losses or even a pair of draws this week would be legitimately shocking, and set the program back ages. Howard set it up well Tuesday when he pointed out that the U.S. has gotten to points like this before, and they always belly up to the bar and outlast all comers.

A lot of fans have this nagging voice in their heads, asking nefariously, “What if they don’t?”

Podolski after golazo finale: “This is like a great movie”

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Lukas Podolski has won a EURO, a World Cup, and the Bundesliga with two different sides.

Only Lothar Matthaus and Miroslav Klose have been capped more than Germany’s Polish born Podolski, and he received a hero’s send-off from the home crowd at Germany’s 1-0 win over England on Wednesday.

And of course he sent himself off in style with a gorgeous goal.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

Podolski said there were more than 30,000 people from Cologne at the match, where he won one of his two Bundesliga titles.

“That’s when you know where you home is, and that you’ve done a lot of good, also off the pitch,” Podolski said. “That makes me very proud.”

It was a perfect night to say goodbye, and the goal made it almost surreal (Thomas Muller called it “cheesy”).

From Goal.com:

“This is like a great movie,” he told ARD. “We win 1-0 and I score the goal.

“I know I have a left foot that was probably gifted to me by God, or someone up there, and I can always rely on it. I am proud of these last 13 years.”

Feel good hit of the Spring.

Report: Guardiola close to adding $43m Benfica goalkeeper

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Year Two of the Pep Guardiola era at Manchester City could feature another big goalkeeper purchase.

Claudio Bravo hasn’t panned out in sky blue, and Joe Hart doesn’t look likely to be coming back. Wily Caballero is getting the lion’s share of the minutes right now, playing every minute aside from a trio of FA Cup matches since February.

[ MORE: Podolski scores screamer in German finale ]

$43 million is the fee noted by Abola when it comes to the latest target for Guardiola, a neck-tattooed Brazilian by the name of Ederson.

The Benfica backstop, 23, has 20 clean sheets in 32 appearances this season. He signed a new six-year deal in late January, but money may talk here.