The Saints march on against much-changed Gunners

David Cooper 24/09/2014
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Paying the penalty: The excellent Dusan Tadic strokes home from the spot to give Southampton the lead at the Emirates.

An exquisite Nathaniel Clyne strike saw Arsenal’s League Cup campaign end at the third-round juncture for the first time in 12 years as Southampton secured a maiden win at the Emirates Stadium.

Many, including Arsene Wenger, had expected Saints to implode after a summer in which they lost manager Mauricio Pochettino and a host of key players.

However, Ronald Koeman’s side continue to confound the doubters and won a fifth successive match in all competitions at a sold-out Emirates, where 5,000 visiting fans roared Southampton on to a 2-1 win against the Gunners.

Wenger made 10 changes for this match, including giving injuryplagued midfielder Abou Diaby his first start in 18 months.

The only survivor from the league win at Aston Villa was Calum Chambers, facing the club he left in the summer as part of a back four with just 54 Arsenal appearances between them – the majority by Francis Coquelin, playing out-of-position at left-back.

Wenger called Saints “miracle workers” in the build-up to the third-round tie, which looked likely to be beyond them when Alexis Sanchez fired home a wonderful 25-yard free-kick with just 14 minutes on the clock.

The visitors did not wilt, though, and Sadio Mane, belatedly making his debut after work permit problems, quickly earned a penalty off Tomas Rosicky, which fellow summer signing Dusan Tadic coolly slotted home.

Graziano Pelle clipped the woodwork as Southampton continued to boss Arsenal’s inexperienced defence, which could only watch on helplessly as Clyne thundered home a wonderful goal from 30 yards.

Debutant David Ospina could not get a hand to the fierce drive, although did well to keep his side in the game with a fine save to thwart Steven Davis and then Tadic.

Saints – second in the Premier League – had to defend resolutely as the match came to a close but held out for a first win against Arsenal since 2002, continuing Wenger’s wait to get his hands on the one domestic trophy to have eluded him in his 18 years at the club.

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Ronaldo nets four more in Elche thrashing

Andy West 24/09/2014
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Perfect poise: Cristiano Ronaldo took his league tally to nine in just four games

Real Madrid survived an early scare to record their third consecutive high-scoring victory with a drub­bing of Elche which saw Cristiano Ronaldo claim his second hat-trick in the space of four days.

After the visitors had the temer­ity to take an early lead through Edu Albacar’s penalty, Gareth Bale levelled and then Ronaldo took over, registering the 24th treble of his Madrid career to secure an ultimately easy victory and finish­ing off proceedings by adding his fourth in stoppage time.

Keylor Navas was making his Madrid debut following his sum­mer switch from Levante and the Costa Rican was called into action early on to keep out a free kick from Albacar.

But there was nothing Navas could do a few minutes later, when Albacar thrashed home from the penalty spot after Ronaldo was pe­nalised, perhaps a little harshly, for catching Pedro Mosquera as he attempted to make a clearance.

Amazingly, within two minutes the hosts could have conceded another penalty when Garry Rod­rigues sped away from Marcelo and was tripped by the Brazilian as he surged into the penalty area. But referee Carlos Clos Gomez conten­tiously ruled the offence took place just outside the area, and Albacar whipped the subsequent free-kick narrowly wide of Navas’ right-hand post.

The chances of an upset for the visitors didn’t last for long as Madrid levelled after 20 minutes. The ever-improving James found space down the right and delivered an inswinging cross to Bale, whose relatively tame downward header should have been saved by Elche keeper Manu Herrera but was allowed to bounce into the back of the net.

The hosts took over completely from that moment on and went ahead when Marcelo earned a par­ticular dubious penalty, going over with minimal impact inside the penalty area, Clos Gomez again sided with the full-back and point­ed to the spot, allowing Ronaldo to convert his sixth league goal of the season.

And the seventh followed soon after when the influential Isco released Marcelo and his arrowed cross was met by a brilliant header from Ronaldo, giving Herrera no chance as it flew into the left corner.

More goals could have followed before the break, with Herrera partially atoning himself for Madrid’s error with his equaliser as he showed great reflexes to keep out a strike from Toni Kroos after a nice lay-off from James.

Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos also forced saves from the visiting keep­er, and Elche were relieved to hear the half-time whistle.

With both teams appearing to be fully aware the result was already decided, the majority of the second half was a slow-paced affair.

Coro had a chance to pull one back on a rare attack for Elche and Ronaldo toe-poked an effort over the crossbar, but there was little to excite the Bernabeu in contrast to the free-flowing opening period.

The chief matter of interest was whether Ronaldo would be able to complete his hat-trick, and he came very close with a firm low shot from a narrow angle which Herrera man­aged to push aside with his foot.

The Portuguese star did com­plete his treble with 10 minutes remaining with his second penalty of the night, which he won himself after running onto a pass from Bale, going down under Mario Pasalic’s clumsy challenge.

Kroos missed out on the opportunity to open his account by bouncing a show onto the crossbar, Javier Hernandez horribly skied a shot from 15 yards and Bale had a close-range header saved at the near post, before Ronaldo ran onto a pass from Bale to complete the scoring with an easy low finish. 

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Liverpool granted planning permission to extend Anfield

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Time to grow: Anfield will be extending by 8,500 seats to a total capacity of 54,000.

Liverpool have been granted permission to redevelop their Anfield home by the city's municipal authorities, the Premier League club announced on Tuesday.

Members of Liverpool City Council's planning committee voted in favour of the scheme after visiting the stadium, which currently seats 45,276 and has been Liverpool's home since 1892.

Liverpool will now be able to proceed with the first phase of the project — the addition of 8,500 seats to Anfield's main stand, taking the ground's overall capacity to around 54,000.

"Today's approval by the Planning Committee is another step on our journey which we embarked on nearly two years ago," Liverpool's chief executive officer Ian Ayre told the club's website.

"We received very positive support for our proposals during a public consultation exercise earlier this year and whilst we are delighted about the progress made today, there are still some steps that we need to navigate through in order to give us the certainty that we need to proceed with our expansion plans."

Construction work on the main stand is expected to begin early next year and be completed in time for the 2016-17 season. Matches will continue to be played at Anfield while the work is carried out.

The planning committee also approved outline proposals to expand the Anfield Road stand by adding 4,800 new seats. In its current state, Anfield is dwarfed by the stadiums of some of Liverpool's main rivals, such as Manchester United's Old Trafford (75,731 capacity) and Arsenal's Emirates Stadium (60,338).

As a result, whereas United generated £127 million ($208 million, 161 million euros) in matchday revenue during the 2013-13 season, Liverpool's equivalent income was £52 million, according to financial analysts Deloitte's latest Annual Review of Football Finance. 

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