Ainsley Maitland-Niles

Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images

Chelsea win Europa League after Arsenal capitulate (video)

Leave a comment

Chelsea are champions of the Europa League after thumping Arsenal, who hit the self-destruct button ahead of an ultimately decisive 20-minute period to begin the second half, thus kissing goodbye their last remaining chance of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

[ MORE: Sepp Blatter wants to sue Gianni Infantino ]

The final score in Baku, Azerbaijan: 4-1.

Things didn’t start out all bad for Arsenal, though. The Gunners had a claim for a penalty kick denied in the 18th minute, when Alexandre Lacazette was played in behind the Chelsea backline. Arrizabalaga came rushing out and arrived just after Lacazette scooted the ball out of reach. The contact between goalkeeper and forward was minimal, if any at all, but that didn’t stop Lacazette from going to ground in dramatic fashion. With video review in play for the final, no second viewing was recommended.

Granit Xhaka was next to go agonizingly close for Arsenal, but the 20-yard screamer he struck in the 28th minute grazed the top of the crossbar and would have likely been covered and pushed over by Arrizabalaga had it been on target.

Emerson unleashed a well-hit strike right in the chest of Petr Cech, playing in the final game of his glorious career, in the 33rd minute, followed six minutes later by a decent chance for Olivier Giroud, which proved to be Chelsea’s best of the first half. The former Arsenal man forced Cech to make a full-stretch save with his left hand, though he never appeared to be scrambling to cover his far post.

[ TRANSFER RUMORS: Sadio Mane plays down Real Madrid links ]

Chelsea needed just five second-half minutes to break the deadlock, though, as Giroud got his head on the end of Emerson’s cross at the near post and and redirected the ball, with power, past Cech and snuck it just inside the woodwork. The 32-year-old Frenchman opted for a largely subdued celebration against his club of five and a half seasons.

Pedro made it 2-0 exactly 10 minutes later, when Eden Hazard sprang to life for the first time in the game. The Belgian, perhaps playing his final game for the club, broke down the left side of Arsenal’s penalty area before cutting the ball back to Pedro near the penalty spot. The Spaniard swept the ball just inside the far post.

The meltdown was complete on 64 minutes, when Ainsley Maitland-Niles barged through the back of Giroud just inside the box. Hazard stepped to the penalty spot, sent Cech one direction and rolled the ball over the line the other way.

Alex Iwobi pulled the goal back for Arsenal — far and away the greatest moment of quality in the game (WATCH HERE) — just four minutes later, the Nigerian’s right-footed volley proved powerless in changing the course of the game, because Hazard struck again three minutes later.

PL Sunday preview: Chelsea, Arsenal, Man Utd limping to finish

Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sunday’s three Premier League fixtures will see a trio of top-four hopefuls take the field for the penultimate game of their respective seasons.

The PL’s four Champions League places could be officially awarded by the end of day, or we could wind up with four teams — including third-place Tottenham Hotspur — separated by just two points. Seeing how none of the three have even a single win from any their last three games, the latter might actually be the safer bet.

[ MORE: Liverpool survive Newcastle scare to take PL title race to final day ]

Huddersfield v. Man United — 9 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Manchester United have the longest odds of getting into Europe’s elite competition next season, as the Red Devils (65 points) currently sit sixth and trail fourth-place Chelsea by a full three points.

If Man United can’t beat an already-relegated Huddersfield Town side at John Smith’s Stadium on Sunday — it would be the Terriers’ ninth straight PL defeat — their hopes of finishing fourth won’t be mathematically dead, only realistically so. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer isn’t throwing in the towel just yet.

“I don’t think we can give up until it’s theoretically over, but of course it’s a big mountain to climb,” he said this week. “The end of the season throws up a few marginal decisions, strange results, so anything can happen. We still want to finish the season on a high, and let’s see where that takes us now. Let’s see how many points we can get.”

INJURIES: Huddersfield —  OUT: Aaron Mooy (hip) | Man United  — OUT: Romelu Lukaku (hamstring), Eric Bailly (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Jesse Lingard (knee), Marcus Rashford (shoulder), Phil Jones (knee)


Chelsea v. Watford — 9 a.m. ET, on CNBC and NBCSports.com

Of the three sides in action on Sunday, only Chelsea control their own destiny. The math is simple: any combination of Chelsea points won and Arsenal points dropped to reach five will see the Blues qualify for Champions League.

Maurizio Sarri has made finishing in the top-four a clear priority by resting superstar Eden Hazard (for 60 minutes) in Chelsea’s Europa League semifinal first leg against Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday. The wild card in the race for fourth remains Europe’s “other” competition, as Chelsea and Arsenal are favorites to reach the final later this month in Azerbaijan. The most likely scenario, in that event, is that one of the two will have already clinched a Champions League place and the other’s last pathway to European riches would be to win the Europa League.

INJURIES: Chelsea —  OUT: Callum Hudson-Odoi (achilles), Antonio Rudiger (knee) | Watford  — OUT: Etienne Capoue (knock), Tom Cleverley (fitness)


Arsenal v. Brighton & Hove Albion — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Arsenal (66) is the only side without a single point from the aforementioned last three games, meaning they would have put themselves comfortably in the driver’s seat with even a win and a pair of draws. As things stand, they trail Chelsea by two points.

The Gunners haven’t lost four straight top-flight fixtures since 1995. Fortunately for Unai Emery‘s men, Brighton have taken all of two points from their last seven league games. By playing in the day’s final game, Arsenal will be fully aware of how high three points will take them.

INJURIES: Arsenal —  OUT: Aaron Ramsey (hamstring), Hector Bellerin (knee), Danny Welbeck (ankle), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (suspension) | Brighton  — OUT: Davy Propper (hamstring)

Leicester hammer 10-man Arsenal (video)

Leave a comment
  • Tielemans, Vardy score
  • Maitland-Niles sent off
  • Leicester up to 8th

Leicester City beat 10-man Arsenal 3-0 at the King Power Stadium on Sunday, with Youri Tielemans scoring the opener after the Foxes dominated the game and Jamie Vardy added two more goals late on.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles was sent off in the first half to complicate the game for Unai Emery’s side, and Leicester deservedly won with Bernd Leno the only reason the defeat wasn’t a heavier one for the Gunners.

With the win Leicester move up to eighth and their battle to qualify for Europe rolls on, while Arsenal missed the chance to make up ground in the top four battle with their third-straight defeat.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

The first big chance of the game arrived for Arsenal as Alex Iwobi’s cross found Alexandre Lacazette but he couldn’t finish.

Leicester dominated the early stages but didn’t convert their chances as Bernd Leno denied Wilfried Ndidi’s header, then Vardy went close.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

However, the game then swung in Leicester’s favor as Maitland-Niles was shown a second yellow card (his first was for a push on Ben Chilwell) for a foul on James Maddison and Arsenal were down to 10 men before half time.

Leno denied Vardy before the break as the German goalkeeper kept Arsenal in the game with the Gunners a slight threat on the break.

In the second half Leicester continued to dominate and eventually broke through.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Tielemans scored a superb header from Maddison’s cross to finally open the scoring as Leicester kicked on late in the game.

Vardy struck twice in the closing stages — his first goal saw his initial shot hit the bar but he finished the rebound — to put the result beyond doubt, as Arsenal’s terrible form away from home continues.

Europa League Roundup: Arsenal shutout Napoli; Eintracht, Valencia advance

Leave a comment

What road problems?

For the second consecutive match, Arsenal picked up a 1-0 win on the road, this time against even tougher competition. Arsenal beat Napoli, 1-0, and 3-0 on aggregate to advance to the Europa League semifinals. Alexandre Lacazette scored a terrific free kick from 30-yards out, taking advantage of Alex Meter shifting the wrong way.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

In the second half, with Napoli needing four goals and pushing, Arsenal relied heavily on its centerback trio of Sokratis, Laurent Koscielny, and Nacho Monreal, with Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Saed Kolasinac helping in defense.

It’s a reversal of Arsenal’s recent fortunes, where before Monday, they hadn’t won on the road since February, including in the Europa League to Rennes. However, the 2-0 scoreline from the first leg really gave Arsenal the push and momentum it needed to get past a struggling Napoli side under Carlo Ancelotti.

Elsewhere, Valencia took care of languishing Villarreal in style with a 2-0 victory, winning 5-1 on aggregate, but the real drama took place in Germany.

With Eintracht Frankfurt trailing before kickoff by a pair of goals, the Eagles – well, both Benfica and Eintracht are the Eagles – managed to secure a 2-0 result to advance in the Europa League. Sebastian Rode’s second-half finish off an Ante Rebec pass has kept Eintracht’s season alive in Europe, where Luka Jovic can continue to market himself to the world’s biggest clubs.

Europa League: Arsenal takes control of tie with win over Napoli (video)

Leave a comment

Arsenal took one major step towards qualification for the UEFA Europa League semifinals with one of its best performances of the season on Thursday evening.

Unai Emery’s tactical gamble paid off as Arsenal took an early lead and never let off, defeating Serie A power Napoli, 2-0 at Emirates Stadium. Midfield duo Aaron Ramsey and Lucas Torreira produced the goals, with Ramsey scoring early and Torreira having a shot re-directed in.

Emery chose to start the trio of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette together up top, going for gold against a Napoli side know for its defending and quick counter attacks. It could have left Arsenal vulnerable defensively but the attention paid to the front-three opened up space for Arsenal’s players making late runs into the box.

That was how Ramsey scored in the 13th minute. Ozil found Lacazette in space down the wing. On attacking the box, Lacazette passed to Ainsley Maitland-Niles in the box, who spun around and found an open Ramsey. Ramsey collected the pass and chipped past Alex Meret to put Arsenal ahead.

Torreira, the little bulldog in central midfield, then forced a turnover in the 25th minute, chased it down and bore down on goal. Torreira then switched the ball to his weaker left foot and fired a strike on goal. To Kalidou Koulibaly’s dismay, the ball deflected off his leg and in for another goal to Arsenal.

Napoli came out in the second half with more energy and intensity, but they couldn’t find the way past Arsenal’s suddenly resolute defense, led by Laurent Koscielny and Sokratis. Ramsey nearly had another chance to score, with a cracking strike tipped over the bar by Meret.

At the end, Arsenal held on to secure a massive clean sheet ahead of next Thursday’s return leg in Napoli.