Arsenal edge past lively West Ham

Leave a comment
  • Arnautovic gave West Ham lead
  • Monreal, Diop own goal, Welbeck seal win
  • First Arsenal win for Unai Emery
  • Three-straight defeats for West Ham

Arsenal beat a spirited West Ham side 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, with Unai Emery getting his first win, and points, as a Premier League manager.

The Hammers took the lead through Marko Arnautovic and were dangerous throughout on the break, but Arsenal equalized through Nacho Monreal and then a Issa Diop goal put them ahead. Danny Welbeck scored late on to seal the win as Arsenal have three points from their opening three games.

Manuel Pellegrini and West Ham have now lost all three of his opening games as Hammers boss, but don’t let the scoreline deceive you in this game.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The Gunners thought they had taken the lead early on as Aaron Rasmey headed home after Henrikh Mkhitaryan‘s effort was parried by Lukasz Fabianski, but the Welshman was in an offside position.

At the other end Arnautovic smashed a shot into the side-netting as West Ham broke free via Robert Snodgrass‘ ball. Arnautovic almost got on the end of another ball soon after as the visitors launched plenty of dangers counters.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Arnautovic made no mistake soon after as he linked up well with Felipe Anderson and stroked home the opener to send the away fans wild at the Emirates Stadium. 1-0 to the Hammers.

West Ham’s lead was short-lived with Hector Bellerin racing down the right and his cross to the back post found Monreal who slammed home to make it 1-1. Before the break the Hammers continued to look dangerous on the break with Anderson going close, while at the other end Aubameyang fired over.

The Hammers should have regained the lead just before half time as Snodgrass raced onto a through ball but Petr Cech saved well down low.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

After the break Arnautovic went close again but West Ham’s main man injured himself in the process of having a shot and had to leave the pitch.

Arsenal struggled to get going in the second half but they took the lead as Lacazette’s cross hit Diop and deflected in to make it 2-1. Unfortunate for the Hammers.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The Gunners almost grabbed another soon after but Diop blocked Aubameyang’s shot this time and then Fabianski saved well. Ramsey was then denied by Fabianski but at the other end Anderson set up Lucas Perez but his shot across goal just missed the onrushing Andriy Yarmolenko.

Anderson then drilled a shot across goal which was inches away from connecting with his teammate as Arsenal then sealed the win.

Bellerin crossed for substitute Welbeck who turned under no pressure and slotted home to make it 3-1.

Fulham returns to the Premier League

Twitter/@BBCSport
Leave a comment

The Premier League beckons once more for the Cottagers.

Fulham earned its way back into England’s first division on Saturday with a 1-0 win over Aston Villa in the final of the Championship promotion playoff.

[ MORE: PST ranks all 23 MLS managers ]

The victory ensures Fulham’s place in the PL for the first time since the 2013/14 campaign.

The Cottagers took the lead on 23 minutes when Tom Cairney slotted past goalkeeper Sam Johnstone.

Cairney was set up wonderfully by Ryan Sessegnon, who delivered an inch-perfect through ball into the path of his teammate for the 1-0 lead.

Slaviša Jokanović’s side was reduced to 10 men in the 70th minute, after defender Denis Odoi picked up his second yellow card.

Stefan Johansen nearly doubled the Fulham lead with 23 minutes remaining in the match, after Sessegnon set up the Norwegian on the edge of the penalty area.

The Villans came out with more ferocity after halftime, and Jack Grealish was at the center of Villa’s attack.

The 22-year-old made a brilliant individual run into the Fulham penalty area on the hour mark, but his final shot was straight at goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli.

However, just minutes later Grealish was lucky to not be sent off when he came in late from behind on a challenge with Cairney.

Grealish and Co. nearly found an equalizer in the 50th minute when Grealish’s free header was sent over the Fulham goal.

Villa had its best chance of the opening stanza with five minutes to go from a set piece, but Grealish’s close-range shot was blasted well off target.

Robert Snodgrass‘ clever set piece chip did well to pick out Grealish, although the final product was severely lacking.

Fulham’s run back to the English top flight comes after a tremendous second half of the Championship season in 2017/18, which included a spell of 23 games unbeaten to close out the regular season.

Championship Playoff Final preview: Fulham vs. Aston Villa

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Imagine playing in a single game where your performance over 90 minutes means the difference between over $300 million for your club or at least another year in the lower leagues.

That’s what is estimated to be on the line as Fulham and Aston Villa meet at Wembley on Saturday in the Championship playoff final at 12 p.m. ET hoping to earn the final spot in next year’s Premier League campaign.

Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce will be searching for an unprecedented fifth Championship promotion after previously guiding Birmingham City and Hull City to the top flight on multiple occasions. He is 2-0 in the playoff final, having won it previously once with each former club, taking Birmingham City to the Premier League in 2002 after defeating Norwich City in a penalty shootout, and earning the victory with Hull City in 2016 via a 1-0 victory over Sheffield Wednesday. Players Sam Johnstone and Robert Snodgrass have both won playoff finals before as well.

Fulham, meanwhile, has experience of its own on the touchline, as boss Slavisa Jokanovic has taken Watford to the top flight previously, finishing second in the Championship in 2015, but he has never experienced a playoff final before.

The Whites appear to be in the better form, having nearly ended the season in historic form with 24 straight unbeaten, but lost on the final day of the campaign, missing out on automatic promotion by just two points. They play a possession-based style under Jokanovic, and while it’s taken a while for the team to grasp the tactics, they look as deadly as ever. However, the last few games have exposed the team yet again, with the loss to lowly Birmingham on the final day before a 1-0 loss to Derby County in the first leg of their playoff semifinal, a scoreline which they turned around in the second leg at home.

The Fulham midfield duo of Kevin McDonald and Stefan Johansen has a claim to be the best pairing in the Championship over the past two seasons, and they anchor Jokanovic’s setup behind playmaker Tom Cairney. The club brought embattled Newcastle striker Aleksandr Mitrovic to London in January, and he’s brought a cutting edge to an attack that was just missing a target man up front. Young winger Ryan Sessegnon, who just turned 18 years old on Friday, has been the club’s most heralded player, and could move to a top Premier League side this summer, especially if the Whites fall at Wembley this weekend. Finally, USMNT defender Tim Ream has led the defensive improvement of a club that conceded 83 goals three seasons ago to halve that this campaign.

They’ll take that attacking prowess up against one of the league’s most pragmatic opponents, as Villa finished the regular season with the third-fewest goals allowed and shut out Middlesbrough across both legs in the semifinals. They feature former Chelsea defender John Terry anchoring the back line, and he partners with experienced 29-year-old James Chester who has played under Bruce before at Hull. Terry himself has won five separate trophies at Wembley Stadium, experience he will surely share with the squad.

Villa’s most dangerous player this season has been Albert Adomah whose blistering pace down the right has been something for opponents to deal with. However, he’s hit a cold streak, without a goal since scoring in a 4-1 win over champions Wolves back on March 10th.

Villa is looking to go back to the Premier League after relegation two years ago, while Fulham has spent four years in the second tier after being sent down back in 2014.

Fonte leaves West Ham after one year (for Dalian Yifang)

Photo by Kieran Galvin/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Surely it was supposed to go a bit better than this: West Ham has moved center back Jose Fonte to the Chinese Super League.

Fonte, 34, is the latest member of Dalian Yifang, the Irons announced Friday. Reports say it’s a move for about $7 million.

[ MORE: Europa League draw ]

It ends an unexceptional 12 months for the center back, who made just 24 appearances for West Ham after engineering a move away from Southampton.

Fonte was publicly criticized by West Ham’s co-owner David Sullivan earlier this season as Sullivan said his children “begged him” not to sign Fonte and Robert Snodgrass last January. Ouch.

Injured for much of this season, Fonte was one of the Saints’ heroes as the club moved from the disappointment of League One to the Europa League.

Those heroics inspired this longform piece from Joe Prince-Wright.

UEFA: England win in Lithuania, Lewy leads Poland to WC berth

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It wasn’t pretty, but England got the job done.

The Three Lions picked up a 1-0 win over Lithuania in the cold, rainy evening in Vilnus, Lithuania, with Harry Kane‘s first half penalty kick serving as the difference between the two sides.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

England controlled the match with 72 percent possession, had 10 corners and took 12 shots, but just four were on target.

With the win, England confirms their place atop Group F.

Here’s a look at some other action around UEFA World Cup qualifying:

(more…)