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Stade Rennes beats Arsenal in first leg (video)

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  • Iwobi scores within three minutes
  • Sokratis sent off after second yellow
  • Bourigeaud scores terrific equalizer
  • Monreal own goal puts Rennes in front

Benjamin Bourigeaud and Ismaila Sarr scored and Arsenal conceded an own goal in a soft 3-1 loss to Stade Rennes at Rhazoan Park in the first leg of the Europa League’s Round of 16 on Thursday.

Alex Iwobi scored what could be a critical away goal should Arsenal regroup for Thursday’s second leg at the Emirates Stadium.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

It started so well, with Iwobi’s mishit cross skipping off the post and into the goal following a 1-2 with Nacho Monreal in the 4th minute.

Sokratis Papastathopoulos then saw yellow for a foul on the edge of the area, a precursor to his sending off under 10 minutes later.

Hatem Ben Arfa sent Ismaila Sarr toward Sokratis, and the Greek defender took down the young Senegalese striker for his second yellow.

That’s when Rennes struck, with Bourigeaud collecting a free kick rebound off the wall and sending a beauty past Petr Cech.

Beauty may be an understatement.

Monreal turned a Mehdi Zeffane cross into his own goal to give Rennes its first lead of the afternoon.

James Lea Siliki completed the scoring with a cross that Sarr turned beyond Cech with a strong header.

Europa League: Chelsea starts toughest stretch of season

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Maurizio Sarri’s seat at Chelsea has never been hotter, and according to multiple reports this week, his fate at Stamford Bridge rests on how Chelsea does in the UEFA Europa League.

After two days of the UEFA Champions League taking center stage, the Europa League returns with the round of 32, as Chelsea faces Malmo and Arsenal takes on BATE. Both Chelsea and Arsenal start on the road, with the return leg in one week’s time back at home in London.

[ MORE: Europa League scores ]

Chelsea is coming off a stunning 6-0 defeat to Manchester City. In Sarri’s pre-match press conference on Wednesday, he revealed there was a players-only meeting for hours as the players worked to solve the issues in the locker room that has led Chelsea to drop out of the top four in the Premier League. In addition, Sarri stated, unsurprisingly, that it was not easy to get on the field after such a thrashing last weekend.

‘It’s not easy to play tomorrow after a 6-0 but we have to play and we have to play well if we want to win,” Sarri said. “We know that it will be not very easy because we have to play against a very good team, they are compact, solid and usually have a very good defensive phase. We want to win and want to react immediately.”

Meanwhile Arsenal’s trip to Belarus was underscored by the fact that Unai Emery didn’t bring either Aaron Ramsey or Mesut Ozil, as the German international continues to fail to get into the gameday squad. Petr Cech is expected to start over Bernd Leno while Pierre-Emerick Aubemeyang and Granit Xhaka are back in the side after missing the club’s last match.

Interestingly, Arsenal will face over two legs one of their best midfield signings in the past 20 years, Alexander Hleb is 37-years old. 

Solskjaer praises ‘proper’ Man United victory over Arsenal

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has won each and every one of his first eight games in charge of Manchester United, but even more impressively is his ability to do so while returning the optics of the Manchester United glory days. After years of watching Jose Mourinho squads defend constantly and imperfectly, Red Devil fans are falling in love with watching Solskjaer’s team play – and, of course, win.

After the 3-1 FA Cup win over Arsenal, Solskjaer did himself even more favors, harkening back to the times of Sir Alex Ferguson, and making clear his intent to return the tactics to those times.

[ RECAP: Manchester United tops Arsenal 3-1 in FA Cup ]

“Today we looked more like a proper team,” Solskjaer said as part of his post-match comments. “We looked more structured. We had worked hard at defending and at counter-attacking.”

“That was classic Manchester United counter-attacking. There are so many examples of that against Arsenal – [Wayne] Rooney, [Cristiano] Ronaldo, [Ji-Sung] Park and we showed them those videos.”

Just the image of Solskjaer showing the current squad videos of old Manchester United glory days is sure to get the fans excited, as many felt the identity of the club was robbed during the Mourinho days. The Norwegian even name dropped himself, harkening back to a goal he scored for the club against Arsenal back in his playing days.

“If you go through the history and the games against Arsenal, even I scored in ’97 after defending a corner kick, and everyone knows about the classic Champions League goal with Park, Rooney and Ronaldo.” The goal Solskjaer is referring to took place in February of their 96/97 title-winning season, with the Norwegian scoring the winning goal in a 2-1 victory over the Gunners.

On Friday, Alexis Sanchez scored the opener against his former club on a fantastic pass from Romelu Lukaku right through the heart of the Arsenal defense, but it was United’s second and third goals that truly made Solskjaer happy. The second came just past the half-hour mark – much like Solskjaer’s against the Gunners referenced earlier – as Lukaku sprung free down the right when Laurent Koscielny failed to apply an offside trap properly. That began a sequence that finished with Jesse Lingard finishing with ease from the penalty spot on a three-on-two break. United’s third came just eight minutes from full-time as Paul Pogba snatched the ball in midfield and sprinted down the middle, and while his shot was saved by Petr Cech, Anthony Martial was there to gobble up the rebound and finish off the game.

Solskjaer knows that while Mourinho preached defending, his philosophy emphasized utilizing those defensive victories into offensive results. “[It was] a fantastic pass from Rom [for the opener], but the number two and three goals were classic Manchester United counter attacks,” Solskjaer said. “Started by defending properly.”

Manchester United is a club dripping in history, and fans expect the past to have an influence on the present. That can’t always be the case, but with a former player in charge, Solskjaer is proving that there’s nothing wrong with living in the past.

Arsenal 1-3 Man United: Lukaku shines as Sanchez haunts old club

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Alexis Sanchez opened the scoring against his former club, Romelu Lukaku reprised the right-wing role he found success at for his country at the World Cup this summer, and Manchester United eased by Arsenal in the FA Cup 4th round by a 3-1 scoreline.

Arsenal’s injury woes deepened as Sokratis came down from an aerial challenge awkwardly on his ankle inside the opening 20 minutes, and while he tried to stay on after lengthy treatment, he was eventually forced off, replaced by Shkodran Mustafi.

After the forced change, Manchester United seemed to hold much of the meaningful possession, and the visitors took advantage of an Arsenal mistake at the back. Lukaku received the ball at the top of the box, and no fewer than four Arsenal defenders stepped to challenge him on the ball. That left acres of space behind the stepping defenders, which Sanchez filled with a perfectly timed run, allowing Lukaku to feed him with a through-ball

Just moments later, Manchester United struck with the second barrel, as Jesse Lingard doubled the lead. On the break, Laurent Koscielny attempted to catch Lukaku offside down the right flank, but his trap was late and it sprung the Belgian down the wing. Triggering a three-on-two break, Lukaku cut across to Lingard standing all alone at the penalty spot, and the England international finished cooly for a 2-0 lead.

Arsenal found a way back just before halftime as Aaron Ramsey barged into the United box and tapped across the face of goal. The ball was out of reach of Alexandre Lacazette, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was on hand at the far post to poke it in past Sergio Romero. Just seconds after the break, Arsenal nearly equalized but Aaron Ramsey’s header was acrobatically tipped over the bar by a great Romero save.

Past the hour mark, as Arsenal pushed hard for an equalizer, the Gunners lost yet another defender as Koscielny went down and required lengthy treatment before coming off. Ole Gunner Solskjaer made tactical changes of his own for the stretch run, taking off Lukaku and Sanchez in favor of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial.

Manchester United weathered the storm and put the game away in the 82nd minute on the break. Paul Pogba picked Arsenal’s pocket in the middle third and broke at pace the other direction. Despite a pair of options open on either flank, Pogba shot on Petr Cech‘s net, with the Czech parrying the effort. He pushed it right into the path of Martial, and the substitute bagged the decisive goal.

The match nearly boiled over in the final minutes as Sead Kolasinac and Marcus Rashford went head-to-head, but neither did enough to earn a sending-off, with both given yellows. After a lengthy stoppage time, the win for Manchester United gave Solskjaer his eighth win in succession across all competitions to start his Red Devils tenure. For Arsenal, after winning the FA Cup two years ago, they’ve not been eliminated early in each of the last two seasons, falling last year in the 3rd round to Nottingham Forest, with this year’s defeat coming in the 4th round.

Petr Cech to retire at end of season

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Legendary goalkeeper Petr Cech has announced he will retire at the end of the 2018-19 season.

The current Arsenal stopper, 36, is one of the most successful goalkeepers in Premier League history as he has won trophies at Arsenal and Chelsea during his 15-year career in England’s top-flight.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Cech has the most clean sheets in PL history, holds the record for the must shutouts in a single season (24 in 2004-05) and made 494 appearances for Chelsea in all competitions.

He also won four Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, a UEFA Champions League trophy, a Europa League title and two Community Shields during his 11-year stay at Chelsea. Cech has also won an FA Cup and Community Shield during his four seasons at Arsenal.

Cech is the only goalkeeper in Premier League history to win the PL’s Golden Glove with two different clubs, while he was also the quickest to reach 100 clean sheets (180 games). He is also the most capped player for the Czech Republic national team with 124 outings, a huge chunk of them as captain.

He announced Tuesday that he will call time on his career at the end of the current campaign and posted the following statement.

His status as a legend of the game is secured, even if he has lost his place as a regular starter for Arsenal this season following Bernd Leno‘s arrival in the summer.

Cech arrived at Chelsea in 2004 from French side Rennes and was an immediate star for Jose Mourinho’s all-conquering Chelsea.

He has also had some tough times to get through in England, as he fractured his skull in a game against Reading in 2006 and has worn a protective helmet ever since.

Cech also lost his place at Chelsea to Thibaut Courtois in 2014 and then moved to Arsenal in the summer of 2015, even though it became clear he would have rather seen his playing days out at Stamford Bridge.

In his spare time he plays the drums, while he can also speak Czech, English, Spanish, French and German.

It is safe to say Cech is one of the greatest goalkeepers the world has ever seen and we will see him stay in the game in some capacity for many years to come.