De Futebol

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Liverpool did what they need to do a blowout4-1 win over Sunderland on Boxing Day. The Guardians Andy Hunter wrote: “It was routine in the end, perfect preparation for Manchester City’s visit on New Year’s Eve and another reminder to Chelsea and the watching Pep Guardiola that Liverpool will remain in their company for some time to come. But there was more to an ultimately comfortable victory over Stoke City than a further demonstration of the ruthless efficiency that Jürgen Klopp has created at Anfield. It took confidence under pressure and absolute faith in their methods for Liverpool to stage an emphatic recovery.

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When Daniel Sturridge rounded the goalkeeper Lee Grant and rolled in his first Premier League goal since April to complete victory he also took Liverpool to 100 league goals in 48 games under Klopp. Only Kenny Dalglish reached the century in as few games as Liverpool manager. The show of strength and the range of Liverpool’s attacking threat would not have been lost on Guardiola, whose presence in the main stand Klopp took as a mark of respect from a fellow contender.

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But it was unmistakable how the home team had toiled against Stoke’s direct approach and two-man attack until Adam Lallana equalised Jonathan Walters’ early goal and how, even when unsettled, Liverpool never lost their belief or ability to hurt their opponents. Stoke’s generosity was boundless, with individual errors contributing to all Liverpool goals, and Klopp had the options at his disposal to ensure there would be no first managerial win at Anfield for Mark Hughes or top-flight league win here for his team. Roberto Firmino, his place never in doubt according to Klopp despite being arrested for drink driving on Christmas Eve, and an own goal from Giannelli Imbula joined Lallana and Sturridge in completing the recovery.

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Hughes believed Stoke had the players and the gameplan to hurt Liverpool and so it proved when they took the lead from their first period of sustained possession and continued to trouble the home defence until Lallana levelled in the 35th minute. Peter Crouch, deployed as the obvious outlet against his former club, headed Mame Diouf’s cross goalwards and, though Ragnar Klavan hooked clear, Sadio Mané was slow to react to the second ball. Erik Pieters easily won their aerial challenge and delivered an inviting left-wing cross to the near post where Walters arrived ahead of Dejan Lovren. The Republic of Ireland international and boyhood Evertonian steered a glancing header beyond Simon Mignolet at his near post. Mignolet got a hand to the ball but was unable to redirect its path.

Joe Allen, who prospered in the first half on his return to Anfield, almost doubled the visitors’ lead when Jordan Henderson and Lovren failed to clear and he weaved his way into the area and shot low towards the far corner. Mignolet produced a vital save with his foot, the ball spun away from Crouch lurking in front of an open goal to Walters, and his follow‑up was blocked by Klavan. Stoke would have other opportunities on the counterattack but none as clear as that key moment. Liverpool heeded the warning and were ruthless once they awoke.

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Henderson and Lallana went close, Firmino closer still when he reacted quickest to a Ryan Shawcross clearance and beat Grant with a low drive that Crouch cleared on the line. The pressure was growing but Stoke had defended well until a lapse by Glen Johnson offered Klopp’s team a way back in. Divock Origi produced a fine piece of centre-forward play to shield possession under pressure then spray the ball out to Mané on the right. His cross was met with a heavy touch by Lallana but, instead of clearing for a corner, Johnson miscontrolled and invited the England international – being watched by the national manager Gareth Southgate – to slip a clinical finish inside Grant’s near post from a tight angle. The pattern for the rest of the game had been set.

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Firmino edged Liverpool ahead moments when he collected James Milner’s pass inside the area and found himself with time and space to pick his shot, despite Allen, Johnson and Shawcross being in proximity. The Brazil international produced a fine finish that kissed the inside of both posts before crossing the goal-line. Stoke complained to the referee Michael Oliver that play should have been halted with Mané lying injured in an offside position. He was neither interfering with play or responsible for the weak defending that continued unabated in the second half.

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Any hopes Stoke harboured of a point were destroyed when Imbula started and finished a flowing move. Unfortunately for the visiting midfielder it came at the wrong end of the pitch. His poor header, under no pressure, gave possession to Henderson who unlocked the Stoke rearguard with a fine pass inside Johnson to Origi. The Belgium international crossed low and hard and the recovering Imbula converted into his own net under pressure from Mané.

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Sturridge delivered Liverpool’s fourth 56 seconds after replacing Origi and thanks to a careless back-pass from Shawcross. The Stoke captain never looked up as he played Johnson’s square ball straight into the feet of Sturridge, who ended his uncharacteristic recent drought in the Premier League. The stage is set nicely for City’s visit on Saturday.

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/dec/27/liverpool-stoke-city-premier-league-match-report

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De Futebol

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Manchester United won their third match in a row a 4-1 win over Sunderland on Boxing Day.

The Guardians Jamie Jackson wrote: “This was a fine fourth consecutive Premier League victory for Manchester United and a muted return to Old Trafford for David Moyes. Given the 13-point gap to Chelsea, who beat Bournemouth, all José Mourinho’s team can do is keep winning, which on Monday they did admirably.

The United manager said: “I don’t care, honestly. I care about the way we play and I care about our results and to get the maximum points possible and what happens, happens. Last week, Man City against Arsenal, somebody has to lose points and more of those matches will come. We are playing well, we are more confident. The aim is to keep the run going. But it will be a difficult one on Saturday. Middlesbrough lost today against Burnley but they will come here to try.”

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United dominated the second half and though Moyes would have loved a victory against the club who sacked him two years ago he could have no complaints. He said: “We gave away a dreadful second goal and the third was offside. We hung in. We sort of stifled them, stuck at it and said if we could hold it at 1-0, they might get nervous in the last 10 minutes but we couldn’t do it.”

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United’s crowning moment came after 81 minutes when Didier N’Dong ceded possession and a composed Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored his 17th goal of the season and his 50th of 2016. This caused Mourinho to stand and offer a salute to fans behind his seat in a signal of particular contentment. Of the Swedish striker’s one-year extension clause in his contract, Mourinho said: “Not yet is it activated but it is activated in his brain and in my decisions and the owners and the board’s.”

Better was to come in the finishing stakes as an Ibrahimovic cross was met with a sublime back-flip volley from Henrikh Mkhitaryan that sent the home crowd into ecstasy. The Armenian was marginally offside but he hardly cared.

“It’s the best goal I ever scored. I’m very excited,” Mkhitaryan said. “I had a great feeling. I saw that it wasn’t offside and I started to celebrate. I got the ball behind me so the only thing I could do was to hit it with the back heel. I did and I succeeded.”

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Mourinho made two changes from the victorious XI at West Brom, with Wayne Rooney and Matteo Darmian making way for Juan Mata and Daley Blind. Rooney missed out because of a minor problem he reported during Christmas Day training. Of the captain being available for the Middlesbrough game on New Year’s Eve, Mourinho said: “I don’t think so. I hope so. He is always a player I would like. It is a strained muscle.”

Donald Love dropped to the bench for Sunderland and the United loanee Adnan Januzaj was ineligible, so Sebastian Larsson and Billy Jones were in the starting line-up.

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Moyes’s afternoon began with a hug from the home mascot, Fred the Red, before he stood in the technical area where he saw his former side put together a first move as Marcos Rojo found Ibrahimovic, but his pass to Jesse Lingard was too heavy. This suggested United were in the groove. More smooth passing ensued when Michael Carrick drove the ball to Lingard who laid it off and when possession returned to the former England midfielder his shot was deflected away.

Sunderland’s riposte consisted of a corner from the right that caused a moment’s disarray and a Jermain Defoe break that caused deeper consternation. This came after a Phil Jones header towards Jordan Pickford’s goal was cleared upfield. The striker brought the ball down and ran towards David de Gea, but although it came to nothing Mourinho was still upset enough at the manner of the move to yell at his players.

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Next Victor Anichebe charged at Blind who bundled the forward over. Martin Atkinson, the referee, booked the left‑back. From the free-kick Patrick van Aanholt’s effort dipped to De Gea’s right and the goalkeeper tipped away.

This was now a riveting first half. Antonio Valencia heaved the ball skywards at Mata, who ran into the area. As it dropped Lamine Koné barged him aside for what appeared a fair shout for a penalty but Atkinson waved the appeals away which upset Mourinho.

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Blind was the surprise opening scorer. A slick sequence of passing that involved Rojo and Ibrahimovic ended with the Dutchman drilling home a first goal of the season.

United set the tone for the second half when Valencia drove along the right and found Ibrahimovic but he misdirected his effort. Minutes later Lingard threaded a pass to Ander Herrera and Sunderland scrambled the ball out for a corner.

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United pressed and pressed for a second. Mata put Ibrahimovic through but the Swede blasted over, causing Mourinho to hang his head. After 62 minutes United’s manager introduced Mkhitaryan for Lingard with nearly an instant reward. Mata floated the ball over from the right and the forward dropped a shoulder and sent a right-footed attempt narrowly wide. Next in a series of United chances, Mkhitaryan slipped in Ibrahimovic but he only managed to hit Pickford’s legs.

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As the contest entered its final stages Mourinho had made a second substitution – Anthony Martial for Mata. It was a surprise Moyes had made none until the 83rd minute. There might have been

some consolation for him when Fabio Borini struck right at the end, but it would have been negligible.

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/dec/26/manchester-united-sunderland-premier-league-match-report

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De Futebol

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Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud nailed the late goal to send the guys to a huge win over West Brom at our house Emirates on Boxing Day.

The Guardians Ed Aarons wrote; ”It was left to the matchwinner, Olivier Giroud, to say what everyone was thinking. “At home you have to win and even more so after two disappointing results,” said the France forward. “It is a big relief.”

Of all those of an Arsenal persuasion, however, there was no one more relieved than the manager. As the clock ticked towards full-time and the first supporters began to drift away, one dreaded to think how Arsène Wenger would recover from a third game without a victory after the disappointment of successive defeats at Everton and Manchester City.

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As he acknowledged, West Brom are not the opponents anyone would pick in such circumstances, given their reputation for dogged resilience, and it looked as though an inspired performance from their goalkeeper, Ben Foster, would be how this game was remembered until Giroud’s late header following an inch-perfect cross from Mesut Özil.

“With 10 minutes to go I thought we could play a draw or maybe, if we were not intelligent, even lose the game,” Wenger said.

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“We kept going and in the end, whenwe couldn’t make a difference on the ground, we made it in the air, with maybe the only player in our team who can do that.”

Given the season he has endured, there was a certain irony that it was Giroud who found the breakthrough. Alexis Sánchez has enjoyed such success playing through the middle that this was the Frenchman’s first Premier League start of the season, in the absence of the injured Theo Walcott, and for the majority of the afternoon it was easy to see why as he struggled to make an impact.

He had skied his only opportunity in the first half, then picked up a yellow card and another foul on Claudio Yacob less than three seconds after the restart may have hinted that this was not going to be Giroud’s day.

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Yet his perseverance was rewarded in fine style as he won the physical battle with Gareth McAuley to meet Özil’s cross with a looping header that left Foster with no chance.

“He put his hand across him early and outmuscled him,” said the West Brom manager, Tony Pulis, almost in admiration. “I think if Gareth takes a step forward, then he stops Giroud pinninghim. Once he pinned him he is so strong and overpowers him. I’ve got no complaints.”

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West Brom have faltered recently, suffering defeats at Chelsea and Manchester United, but they remain a difficult team to break down.

Had Yacob shown more composure when the ball fell to him after Petr Cech’s fumble following a corner midway through the second half, then they could easily have snatched three points against an Arsenal side who looked there for the taking at times. But that escape seemed to spark the hosts into action, with Özil finally waking from his slumber to provide the one moment of real quality that ultimately proved decisive.

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As ever, it was not for the want of trying from Sánchez, who could consider himself unlucky to be denied twice by Foster and between times by a post in a matter of minutes after the break.

As it was, Giroud’s goal threatened to open the floodgates and the substitute Aaron Ramsey could easily have added some gloss to the scoreline late on. But any more than a 1-0 victory would have flattered the home team.

“The confidence is swinging and depending highly on the result,” said Wenger. “We have lost two on the trot so of course the confidence has been hit. But it’s a good test for the team. There is no season without disappointment, so it was interesting to see how they responded to disappointment.”

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With matches between now and the end of January against Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, Swansea City, Burnley and Watford, there should be optimism that Arsenal’s title challenge may not be over just yet and this was exactly the kind of result that could spark another run of victories.

But Wenger will know his hopes of overhauling a Chelsea side who have won all 12 of their matches since the 3-0 defeat here at the end of September are now out of their hands.

“Maybe, yes,” he replied when asked whether this team is more resilient than it has been in recent years. “It’s normal to say yes but we have to show that for the whole season to maintain that resilience.

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“We are quite a big distance behind Chelsea and we will need a special resilience to come back.

“But I hope that the other teams will have their moments of weakness as well. We can only take advantage if we continue like that.”

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/dec/26/arsenal-west-bromwich-albion-premier-league-match-report

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De Futebol

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Tottenham stayed a step ahead of Man U and kept in touch with the leaderboard with a resounding 4-1 thrashing of Southampton.

Spurs have 36 points to stay in fifth place. Tottenham trails first place Chelsea by ten points. The Blues are in the catbird seat with 46 points. Liverpool is second with 40 points. Man Shitty is third with 39 and Arsenal is fourth with 37 big ones. Man U is sixth with 33 points.

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EPL Match summary: Dele Alli scored twice as Tottenham Hotspur ended their winless run away from home with a come-from-behind victory at Southampton.

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Saints had the perfect start when Virgil van Dijk headed in from James Ward-Prowse’s free-kick after only 69 seconds.

But Spurs equalised on 19 minutes with Alli’s header from a deflected cross before Harry Kane headed home his eighth goal of the campaign from a Christian Eriksen corner early in the second half.

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Nathan Redmond was dismissed for a foul on Alli in the area but Kane’s resulting penalty was fired over the bar when the turf gave way under his standing foot.

The penalty miss made no difference to the result, however, as substitute Son Heung-Min finished into the far corner with five minutes to go before Alli swept the ball home under Fraser Forster to seal Tottenham Hotspur’s first victory in six Premier League away matches.”

https://www.premierleague.com/match/14217

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De Futebol

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Liverpool took care of business with a 4-1 thrashing of Stoke City. The Reds are in second place with 40 points. Liverpool trails first palce Chelsea by six points. The Blues have 46 points.

Man Shitty is third with 39 points. Arsenal is fourth with 37 points. Spurs are fifth with 33 points. Man U is sixth with 33 big ones. Spurs battle Southampton later today.

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EPL match report: Liverpool moved back into second place in the Premier League after an emphatic victory over Stoke City at Anfield.

The Potters took the lead after 12 minutes when Jonathan Walters headed in Erik Pieters’ left-wing cross and Joe Allen was then denied by Simon Mignolet.

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But Liverpool took control after Adam Lallana levelled from a tight angle on 34 minutes and Robert Firmino, who had twice threatened, struck a minute before half-time, sending an angled drive in off both posts.

Giannelli Imbula turned Divock Origi’s cross into his own net on 59 minutes and substitute Daniel Sturrridge scored moments after coming on, pouncing on Ryan Shawcross’s blind back pass to score the 100th league goal of Jurgen Klopp’s tenure.”

https://www.premierleague.com/match/14215

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De Futebol

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Arsenal nailed a late goal to pull out a hard fought 1-0 win over West Brom.

The match winner came in the 86th minute when Olivier Giroud found the back of the net.

EPL Match summary: “Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud headed in a crucial late winner to end a run of two successive defeats to finally break down a resolute West Bromwich Albion display.

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The Gunners dominated the first half with 80 per cent of possession but only conjured up a handful of promising openings.

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Ben Foster pulled off a brace of remarkable saves to deny Arsenal as Alexis Sanchez also struck the post on the turn from close range. Claudio Yacob looped his shot over the bar from six yards before Giroud latched onto Mesut Ozil’s cross to head Arsenal to maximum points at the Emirates Stadium.”

https://www.premierleague.com/match/14210

The win keeps the guys in touch with the leaderboard Chelsea. The Blues won their twelfth straight match a 3-0 win over Bournemouth.

The Blues have 46 points.

Man Shitty defeated bottom feeder Hull City 3-0.

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Shitty is second with 39 points for now until Liverpool and Stoke City wage war later today.

The Reds are third with 37 points.

My Gunners have 37 points good enough for fourth place.

Manchester U won their third straight match a 3-1 over Sunderland. The Red Devils are in sixth place.

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EPL Match summary: Zlatan Ibrahimovic continued his goalscoring run as Manchester United claimed a fourth straight Premier League win at the expense of Sunderland.

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Daley Blind broke the deadlock with his first Premier League goal of the season after some fine build up play involving Marcos Rojo and Ibrahimovic.

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Manchester United took control of the second half and doubled their lead when Ibrahimovic coolly finished past Jordan Pickford, taking his tally to eight goals in seven Premier League appearances.

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The Swedish striker then turned provider for Henrikh Mkhitaryan who added a third before Fabio Borini pulled a goal back in stoppage time for Sunderland who remain in the bottom three.”

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https://www.premierleague.com/match/14216

The Red Devils have 33 points.

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De Futebol

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Danny Welbeck is ready to make his return to Arsenal reports the Guardians Amy Lawrence. “It was at the Etihad Stadium in May that Danny Welbeck’s devastated expression, as he lay on the pitch while the Arsenal physiotherapist examined his knee, told of another major problem. He was not long recovered from an injury that kept him out of action for 10 months. The blow of new serious damage was obvious.

Seven months down the line of the latest spell in rehabilitation, Welbeck gave himself the best Christmas present with a return to full training on Friday morning.

“Of course it’s fantastic, because for him it’s like starting a new career, because he has been out for such a long time,” Arsène Wenger said. “But I’m a bit cautious with the little setbacks you have when you have been out for a long time. You have to be patient. Welbeck will need some time.”

However desperate Welbeck is to get back in the first team, that is a sensible view as he has spent a total of 17 of the past 20 months sidelined. It is revealing that Welbeck joined Arsenal the same summer as Alexis Sánchez, and the Chilean has played roughly three times as much football since then.

Wenger normally allows for somewhere between three to four weeks for a long-term absentee to regain full match fitness. Welbeck is ahead of schedule in his recovery from cartilage damage, and all being well will come into contention in early January.

With Sánchez’s reinvention at centre‑forward, Welbeck might find himself in contention on the left-hand side of Arsenal’s attack, which has seen various options tried this season. Welbeck would be an interesting choice to bring pace and muscle to that department.

During his most recent fit spell, last spring, he made a real impact in terms of goal threat and all-round attacking presence, so he will be a useful weapon to add to a team who looked jaded in the past two defeats.

During his most recent fit spell, last spring, he made a real impact in terms of goal threat and all-round attacking presence, so he will be a useful weapon to add to a team who looked jaded in the past two defeats.

With 2017 approaching, Wenger stressed that any negativity around recent results will not affect his thinking about a new contract, with his deal up in May. “I always said I will judge where I stand in spring and make my decisions then. And the club is free as well. It’s not because I am here a long time that I have any rights. We are both on the same boat.”

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/dec/23/danny-welbeck-arsenal-return-wenger-weapon