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Petr Cech blunder shatters Arsenal’s title optimism

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Petr Cech suffered a nightmare Premier League debut for Arsenal as the goalkeeper’s costly blunder condemned the Gunners to a shock 2-0 defeat against West Ham on Sunday.

Cech’s £10 million ($15.5 million, 14.1 million euros) arrival from champions Chelsea was hailed in some quarters as the move that would tip the balance of power in the title race firmly in Arsenal‘s favour.

But the 33-year-old Czech was badly at fault when Senegal midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate headed West Ham into the lead late in the first half at the Emirates stadium.

Cech wasn’t helped by an alarmingly careless display from his new team-mates, who crumbled again when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s mistake allowed Argentine forward Mauro Zarate to seal the most stunning result of the Premier League’s opening weekend.

All the optimism surrounding Arsenal in the aftermath of last season’s FA Cup final rout of Aston Villa and last weekend’s Community Shield victory over Chelsea was washed away in a catastrophic start to Arsene Wenger’s 20th season in charge.

The Gunners boss must have been horrified with the way his team, tipped to finally end the club’s 12-year wait to win the title, were bullied by West Ham, who ended a run of 10 successive defeats against Arsenal with their first win over their London rivals since April 2007.

It was a dream start for new West Ham manager Slaven Bilic, who replaced Sam Allardyce in the close-season, and the perfect response to criticism of his decision to field a weakened team in their Europa League defeat against Astra Giurgiu on Thursday.

While Bilic celebrated with his club’s supporters at full-time, Wenger wore a frown as he trudged down the tunnel, possibly to reconsider his decision to distance himself from a bid for Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema.

With French forward Olivier Giroud failing to repay Wenger’s faith after being handed a start ahead of Theo Walcott, Arsenal were mostly impotent in front of goal.

Oxlade-Chamberlain popped up in space to lash a dipping volley just wide in the early stages.

The Arsenal winger then made an incisive burst down the right flank that took him past three defenders before a lofted cross picked out Santi Cazorla, who guided his volley onto the roof of the net.

 

– Fragile –

 

Aaron Ramsey came close to breaking the deadlock when the Arsenalmidfielder’s drive hit Aaron Cresswell and deflected onto the crossbar.

But Wenger’s men weren’t quite as dominant as the possession statistics suggested and West Ham debutant Dimitri Payet cleverly worked space for a long-range effort that deflected just over.

That was a warning to Arsenal‘s notoriously fragile defence that they couldn’t afford to relax, but they were breached two minutes before half-time in the careless manner that suggested Cech’s arrival is yet to spread the increased assurance he was expected to provide.

When Payet whipped a dangerous inswinging free-kick into the penalty area, Cech made the wrong choice, rushing off his line to attempt a leaping punch that got nowhere near the ball and Kouyate, left free by Laurent Koscielny’s sloppy marking, gleefully punished the mistake by heading into the unguarded net.

Desperately needing an immediate response after the interval, Arsenal tried to raise their tempo and Giroud sent a shot crashing into the side-netting.

But Giroud wasted another chance, this time failing to find the power to beat Hammers goalkeeper Adrian, and in the 57th minute more lackadaisical defending allowed West Ham to double their lead.

This time Oxlade-Chamberlain was the guilty party, surrendering possession to Zarate, who turned under no pressure and hit a low strike that wasn’t especially powerful but still beat Cech.

Wenger sent on Walcott and Alexis Sanchez and Arsenal laid seige to Adrian’s goal late on.

But West Ham, superbly marshalled by 16-year-old midfielder Reece Oxford, held firm thanks to Adrian, who turned away efforts from Cazorla and Mesut Ozil to leave the hosts stunned.

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EPL: Do us favour when Aston Villa face Man City – Liverpool’s Henderson begs Steven Gerrard

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Liverpool captain, Jordan Henderson has jokingly admitted he might give the club’s legend, Steven Gerrard, a call to do his side a favour against Manchester City.

Liverpool head into the final day of the Premier League season on May 22, trailing Man City by just a point in the title race.

It means Liverpool, who must win against Wolves on Sunday, need Manchester City to either draw or lose against Gerrard’s Aston Villa in order to bring the Premier League title to Anfield.

And Henderson certainly hopes so, as he spoke after his side’s impressive 2-1 comeback victory over Southampton on Tuesday night.

Speaking with reporters during his post-match press conference, the England midfielder said: “I think the cup final at the weekend gave us a bit of a boost. Some of the lads have had knocks and bruises, but we have used the whole squad to get fresh legs on the pitch. Hopefully, the lads rest up for Sunday.”

“It is hard to focus on the game when you can hear what is going on, but we need to focus on our own game.”

Henderson then jokingly said, “I might give Stevie a call this week. Hopefully, he can do us a favour!”

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Details of Jose Peseiro’s contract as new Super Eagles head coach revealed

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The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), on Sunday, confirmed Jose Peseiro as the new head coach of the national team.

However, according to OwnGoalNigeria, Peseiro has been handed only a one-year contract to take charge of the Super Eagles.

The 12-month deal is subject to renewal based on performance-related clauses.

It is understood the NFF has given Peseiro a short-term contract, because of their legal battle on payments with former Nigeria coach, Gernot Rohr.

FIFA has already ordered the federation to pay Rohr the sum of $380,000 as compensation for breach of contract.

Peseiro’s first matches in charge will be the friendlies against Ecuador and Mexico in the US.

The games will be followed by the qualifiers for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations.

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EPL: We’ll give our lives to be champions of England — Guardiola warns Aston Villa

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Manchester City manager, Pep Guardiola has warned Aston Villa that his team will give their lives to become England champions this weekend.

Guardiola gave the warning after Man City played a 2-2 draw against West Ham United on Sunday.

Guardiola’s men are currently four points clear of Liverpool, who can narrow the gap to one point when they face Southampton on Tuesday.

Man City will host Aston Villa and Liverpool will host Wolves on the final day of the campaign this weekend.

“Our stadium will be sold out, we will give them our lives and they will give theirs, all together,” Guardiola said at his post-match press conference after Man City’s draw with West Ham.

“To do it is an incredible privilege, after many years.

“To have our chance with our people, to win one game to be champions. I’m looking forward to it.”

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