Arsenal begin life after Alexis Sanchez with comeback win over Chelsea to reach EFL Cup final

Mark Bryans 25/01/2018
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Arsenal began life after Alexis Sanchez with a comeback victory over London rivals Chelsea to reach their first League Cup final in seven years.

Following a goalless first leg at Stamford Bridge, this installment of the semi-final was more akin to the lively Premier League meeting here just 21 days ago and it was Granit Xhaka’s second half strike which set up a Wembley meeting with Manchester City on February 25.

Eden Hazard put the Blues into an early lead only for Arsenal to level through an Antonio Rudiger own goal before Xhaka settled the tie on the hour mark to seal a 2-1 win.

The Gunners were without Henrikh Mkhitaryan, their new signing watching from the stands as he is cup-tied having played in the competition for Manchester United before completing his swap deal with Sanchez on Monday night.

Arsene Wenger’s side won the FA Cup last season by beating Manchester City in the semi-finals and Premier League champions Chelsea in the final and they will have to do it the hard way to lift this trophy for the first time during the Frenchman’s 21-year reign.

Arsenal have not lost to Chelsea in their last six meetings and recovered well from a slow start to extend that run and book a date at Wembley next month.

Pedro tucked away an early chance for Antonio Conte’s side only to be correctly flagged for offside – but the Spaniard was soon involved again, picking the ball up in plenty of space to pick a pass through for Hazard to open the scoring.

Willy Caballero showed great awareness to keep Arsenal out from their first meaningful attack, first blocking at the feet of Jack Wilshere before diving to push the ball clear with Alexandre Lacazette lurking.

Arsenal were soon on level terms, Mesut Ozil whipping in a free-kick which was met by an unmarked Nacho Monreal, whose header ricocheted off both Marcos Alonso and Rudiger before beating Caballero.

Willian dragged a shot well wide as Chelsea looked to reestablish their early lead before both sides settled into the contest.

Ross Barkley was introduced for his Blues debut as Willian hobbled off and, as Arsenal grew in confidence throughout the half, Ozil was unlucky to see a strike deflected behind on the stroke of half-time.

Wenger altered his formation at the interval, dropping Mohamed Elneny back into a three-man defence in an attempt to quieten Hazard.

The Belgium international appeared to have broken through despite those changes, only for Xhaka to launch a superb last-ditch challenge to prevent Hazard getting a shot away.

Having been instrumental at one end, Xhaka would have an impact at the other and he benefited from another fortuitous deflection off Rudiger.

Lacazette did well to keep the ball away from Andreas Christensen and, as he looked for support, his pass hit Rudiger and flashed across goal where Xhaka steered it home to put the hosts in front.

Alex Iwobi saw a great chance well saved by Caballero as Arsenal looked to put the tie beyond doubt but, after another defensive tactical tweak from Wenger, they saw at the game with relative ease.

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AIFF to conduct scouting trials in Dubai for India junior national teams

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India’s football federation, the All India Football Federation (AIFF), will conduct trials for Indian boys in the UAE born between 2001 and 2003 on Friday.

The aim is to find players for India’s junior teams, including the U-16 team which will compete in this year’s AFC U-16 Championship in Malaysia. India’s U-16 team is currently in UAE for practice matches as part of their preparation for the tournament, which will be held in September and October of this year.

India held similar trials in 2016, when 240 players attended the trials, five of whom were called up to a national team camp.

Abhishek Yadav, AIFF Director of National teams, said, “the last time we invited five players to join the camp apart from a few others who showed a spark for the future. Beyond the talent itself, the attitude of several parents was something that gave me confidence that an Indian player residing in the UAE could break into an Indian squad”.

The AIFF is looking to build on the momentum of last year’s FIFA U-17 World Cup, held in India in October. Both FIFA and the AIFF were pleased with the success of that tournament, and now India is looking to cash in on that success to boost football in a cricket-crazy country.

India’s trials in Dubai and other selection camps that could be held this year are part of planning ahead for the 2021 FIFA U-20 World Cup and the 2024 Paris Olympics, with a view to finding young players who could help India qualify for both tournaments.

Registration form can be downloaded from http://bit.do/AIFFscouting

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The ten worst football badges as Leeds United unveil new club crest

Leeds United's new crest.

Leeds United have added themselves to football's hall of shame with their new club crest.

Football is no stranger to awful, poorly-designed, lazy, or simply crazy club badges, of course - one browse through some of the crests in Germany will show you how "minimalist" becomes "we really could have done better". There's actually no way to know Hamburg SV's logo is indeed Hamburg SV's logo, for example.

But the lack of imagination in some of Germany's crests can perhaps be explained by some of the clubs that supposedly do put some thought into their design. Leeds, for example, claim they've spent half a year coming up with their new crest, and consulted more people than they can fit into the Don Revie Stand at Elland Road. You'd think they would have come up with something better after that.

Check out the gallery for a look at 10 of the worst crests in football. Which is the worst football club badge you know?

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