Swansea 2-1 Arsenal: Sigurdsson, Gomis complete Arsenal collapse

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Alexis Sanchez continued his goalscoring run of form, but Gylfi Sigurdsson grabbed the headlines with a thumping free kick as Swansea leveled with 15 minutes to go, and Bafetimbi Gomis earned all three points just a minute after coming off the bench.

The three points were deserved by the home side, who were dominant throughout the first half without earning anything from it. While Arsenal was dangerous on the counter, there was always a concern about its back line that featured Nacho Monreal deputizing next to Per Mertesacker

Swansea looked quite bright to start the match, showing both confidence and organization in defense while also owning possession and looking dangerous up front in the opening 20 minutes.

It appeared the hosts had a clear penalty shout just past the 20-minute mark but referee Phil Dowd said no despite Calum Chambers clattering into the back of Wilfried Bony while receiving a cross into the middle of the box. They continued to pummel the Arsenal box, but couldn’t find the final ball.

Finally Arsenal grew into the match a half-hour in, but Swansea then became dangerous on the counter. On 35 minutes Jefferson Montero dispossessed Chambers and Bony found Marvin Emnes trailing the play but his low shot was right at Wojciech Szczesny.

Arsenal should have gone ahead just before the halftime despite dealing with Swansea for most of the first 45. A number of Gunners could have had a shot from the edge of the box, but instead it was worked around to Danny Welbeck from point blank range in front of the post but Lukasz Fabianski was strong to deny the England international. Just moments later Swansea couldn’t clear, and Aaron Ramsey ripped a wobbling volley just inches wide of the post.

[RELATED: Watch full match replays]

As the rain picked up in the second half and it edged on monsoon status at the Liberty Stadium, the two teams began to get physical, but as it continued to pour, things opened up on the wet pitch. Arsenal broke in the 63rd minute, and Danny Welbeck’s cutback in the box found Alexis Sanchez wide open in the middle of the box. The in-form Chilean couldn’t miss, and he buried his eighth goal of the season to give Arsenal a 1-0 lead.

Swansea nearly hit back straight away as Jefferson Montero beat Calum Chambers down the left, and his cutback found Bony unmarked in the box, but he scuffed the first-time shot and it went harmlessly wide.

[RELATED: Latest Premier League standing]

A prospect of both teams making it out of the match with all 11 men continued to lessen, as Phil Dowd drew card after card. With substitute Modou Barrow’s great run on 74 minutes drawing a foul by Kieran Gibbs, eight cards had been shown to that point. The ensuing free kick was Swansea’s moment to equalize.

An absolute howitzer off the foot of Gylfi Sigurdsson splashed the top corner of Szczesny’s net, and Swansea were back on level terms as Garry Monk pumped his fist emphatically on the sidelines. It was just the beginning. Moments later Montero again beat Chambers down the left, and his searching cross found the head of Bafetimbi Gomis who had just come on a minute earlier, and Swansea were suddenly ahead after trailing just three minutes prior.

The rain didn’t let up and neither did Swansea, and Arsenal went down with little fight. Instead of the three points Arsenal appeared to be headed towards that would have sent them into the top four, it’s Swansea who go above the Gunners into fifth place, even with West Ham in fourth.

LINEUPS:

Swansea: Fabianski; Rangel, Bartley, Williams, Taylor; Ki, Carroll (Britton 87′), Sigurdsson, Emnes (Barrow 67′), Montero; Bony (Gomis 76′).

Goals: Sigurdsson 75′, Gomis 78′

Arsenal: Szczesny; Chambers, Mertesacker, Monreal, Gibbs; Flamini (Wilshere 79′), Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey (Walcott 79′), Alexis, Cazorla; Welbeck (Sanogo 90’+1).

Goals: Sanchez 63′

Atlanta heads into MLS playoffs looking to defend its Cup

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MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) It’s been a strange season for Atlanta United.

They’ve added more two more cups to their collection.

They’ve endured some rather baffling losses.

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After all that, the defending MLS Cup champions are heading into the postseason from essentially the same position as last season.

Atlanta, which was runner-up in the Eastern Conference, will host the New England Revolution on Saturday in the opening round of the playoffs, a rematch of their Oct. 6 game to close out the regular season.

“We’ve put ourselves in a pretty decent spot, as strange as the season has maybe been,” midfielder Julian Gressel said Wednesday after a training session. “We’ve already won two trophies, and now we have a chance for a third.”

In mid-August, United broke out the champagne after a 3-2 victory over Mexican powerhouse Club America to capture the Campeones Cup.

A couple of weeks later, they were celebrating again with a 2-1 victory over Minnesota United in the U.S. Open Cup final, guaranteeing a spot in next year’s CONCACAF Champions League.

“I felt like we were always there and pretty much at our best in those games,” Gressel said. “That’s why I’m pretty confident we’ll be at our best when it really matters.”

But there are reasons to be concerned. Atlanta struggled badly in some league games – especially on the road – and rarely looked like the dynamic team that won the MLS Cup in just its second year under former coach Tata Martino.

With Frank De Boer now at the helm, United got off to a sluggish start and spent much of the season juggling lineups and switching up tactics in a desperate bid to find some consistency. Atlanta never put together an unbeaten streak longer than five games – it had three such stretches a year ago – and finished with 58 points, 58 goals and a plus-15 goal differential. All were short of the 69 points, 70 goals and plus-26 differential from the 2018 season.

[ MORE: USMNT player ratings ]

Still, United’s second-place showing in the East behind New York City FC matches last year’s finish, guaranteeing the team at least one home game in the playoffs and another in the conference semifinals should it beat the Revolution.

That’s a crucial edge for a franchise that has essentially broken every MLS attendance record and again averaged more than 52,000 per game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, doubling up every team in the league except Seattle and Cincinnati. In 17 home games, Atlanta lost only twice.

While United closed out the season with a 3-1 victory over New England, the Revolution has been one of the league’s hottest teams over the second half of the season.

Atlanta will be further tested by the possible absence of its best defender, Miles Robinson, who is dealing with a strained left hamstring sustained during a workout with the U.S. national team last week.

If Robinson can’t go, United will have to change up their lineup once again and possibly adopt a more defensive approach to Saturday’s game.

“If I do push up, it’s more so getting back a little faster than I normally would, things like that,” said midfielder Darlington Nagbe, one of those who may be affected if Robinson can’t go. “Just feel the game out and see how it plays out.”

In the regular-season finale, Ezequiel Barco got the start over Pity Martinez, a lineup that de Boer might go with again in the playoffs.

Barco played only 15 league games this season because of injuries and a lengthy stint with Argentina at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, but he provided the sort of spark de Boer was looking for against New England. Martinez, who was the 2018 South American player of the year and Atlanta’s major acquisition during the last offseason, has struggled to find his nice in MLS with just five goals in 32 appearances.

“We have to see,” de Boer said. “The only thing that concerns me is to win the playoffs.”

MLS switched up the playoff format this season. Instead of the top two teams from both the East and the West receiving byes and two-legged rounds to determine the winner of conference semifinals and finals, only the first-place finisher gets the opening round off and every step of the playoffs is a single-game elimination.

There is no room for error.

“If you have an off day, you might be out,” Gressel said. “I feel like it’s a format that favors the underdog a bit more, or gives the underdog a bit more hope.”

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 His work can be found at https://apnews.com

Zlatan paces MLS jersey sellers, offers fresh quip on Minnesota challenge

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic: He’s like a more charming, less anarchist version of Tom Hardy’s Bane.

The LA Galaxy man was revealed to again have the top-selling jersey in Major League Soccer on Wednesday, days before the club begins its 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs run with a match in Minnesota.

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Snow is in the forecast, but Zlatan is not bothered by such weather.

“I’m from Sweden I was born in the snow. When it snows, I’m a viking. When it’s warm, I’m a lion. We adjust for every condition there is.”

Back to the jerseys, the MLS MVP finalists are 1-2-3 in sales. Ibrahimovic is first, followed by Atlanta’s Josef Martinez, and LAFC’s Carlos Vela.

The top sellers amongst Americans are Seattle’s Jordan Morris (7) and Cristian Roldan (12). Chris Wondolowski of San Jose is 13th, while other domestic names on the Top 25 include Sebastian Lletget, Brad Guzan (!?!), Dom Dwyer, Jozy Altidore, and Graham Zusi.

Midweek El Clasico possible in December following political unrest

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Political unrest in Catalonia has both La Liga and the Spanish government looking to move the first El Clasico of the season.

Barcelona and Real Madrid are scheduled to meet at the Camp Nou on Oct. 26, but the jailing of nine Catalan separatists has caused uproar in-and-around Barca.

In fact, Barca as a club has denounced the imprisonment, so it plays more than a peripheral role in the controversy.

[ JPW: What now for Berhalter, USMNT? ] 

Players heading to and returning from international break have faced in challenges in getting to the club.

Instead, Marca says that we may see a midweek match played in Madrid on Wednesday, Dec. 18, with the reverse fixture in March moved from Madrid to Barcelona.

Dec. 18 would give both teams three matches in eight days before La Liga’s winter break. Barca would play Real Sociedad, Real Madrid, and Alaves, while Real would play Valencia and Real Betis in addition to the Clasico. Both difficult runs, but fairly even.

Reports claim Allegri linked with Manchester United, Spurs

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The international break can be a slow time for news, but what to make of multiple reports claiming that Max Allegri is in discussion with a pair of struggling traditional Premier League powers?

Tuttosport claims that Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur have interest in hiring the Italian manager, adding that United has had “intensified” contact with him.

[ MORE: Monster deal for Mbappe? ]

Noise out of Old Trafford continues to back Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, while there is no real buzz that Mauricio Pochettino is on the verge of leaving Spurs.

The 52-year-old Allegri has won Serie A once with AC Milan and five times with Juventus, claiming a Serie C title with Sassuolo in 2007-08.

Is there anything to it? He’d be a great hire for either side. In United’s case, he’d be a marked upgrade on their current boss.