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Arsenal Defeat Chelsea To Win FA Cup

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang inspired Arsenal to a record 14th FA Cup win as the Gunners captain struck twice to beat Chelsea 2-1 in the final at an empty Wembley on Saturday.

Christian Pulisic had given Chelsea the dream start, but the Blues unravelled after Aubameyang was brought down by Cesar Azpilicueta inside the area and converted the resulting penalty.

A brilliant finish from Aubameyang 23 minutes from time earned Mikel Arteta silverware in his first season as Arsenal boss before Chelsea were controversially reduced to 10 men when Mateo Kovacic was shown an extremely soft second yellow card.

Arteta said ahead of the final he hoped a taste of success would encourage Aubameyang, who only has a year left on his contract at the Emirates, to commit to a new long-term deal.

The Gabon international’s double took his tally for the season to 29 and ensured the Gunners will not miss out on European football next season for the first time since 1995/96 as they qualify for the Europa League.

An FA Cup final unlike any other with nearly 90,000 empty seats saw the traditional singing of “Abide With Me” performed on the Wembley roof.

Chelsea had already achieved their primary goal from Frank Lampard’s first season in charge by securing a place in next season’s Champions League last weekend and early on they seemed set to cap a top-four finish with Lampard’s first trophy as a manager.

Emiliano Martinez flew to his left to turn Mason Mount’s shot behind, but Arsenal did not heed that warning as Chelsea’s front three combined perfectly for the opener on five minutes.

Mount’s low cross was flicked on by former Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud and Pulisic continued his scoring streak since football’s return in June by showing quick feet before prodding the ball home.

Arteta has gained plenty of plaudits for his tactical nous during his first eight months in a managerial role and the Spaniard managed to reorganise the Gunners during the first-half drinks break to change the momentum of the game.

Aubameyang leads comeback

A minute after play resumed, Nicolas Pepe thought he had curled home a brilliant equaliser from the edge of the box, only to be denied by Ainsley Maitland-Niles being flagged for offside in the build-up.

While Chelsea have already significantly strengthened their forward line for next season with the signings of Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech, Arsenal are hoping just to hold onto their key man in Aubameyang.

Just like in the semi-final win over Manchester City, he proved to be the match winner as he raced onto Kieran Tierney’s hopeful ball over the top and outpaced Azpilicueta before being brought down by the Chelsea captain just inside the area.

Azpilicueta escaped the double punishment of a red card, but VAR confirmed the spot-kick and Aubameyang coolly slotted home.

Chelsea were further hit by two big injury blows either side of half-time as Azpilicueta and Pulisic pulled up with hamstring injuries that will almost certainly rule them out of the Champions League last 16, second leg against Bayern Munich next weekend.

Despite Chelsea’s major spending spree in reinforcing their attack, it is at the back where they have been found wanting all season and they were caught out too easily for the winner.

Hector Bellerin burst through the weak challenge of Jorginho before the ball was played into the path of Aubameyang, who skipped past Kurt Zouma and nonchalantly lifted the finish over Willy Caballero.

Worse was to come for Lampard’s men when Kovacic was inexplicably sent off for the slightest touch on Granit Xhaka, but Anthony Taylor’s decision could not be reviewed by VAR as it was a second bookable offence.

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Inter Milan Must Sweat To Show We Are Contenders, Says Conte

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Inter Milan head coach, Antonio Conte, warned against complacency and urged his players to show they are credible Serie A title contenders ahead of Sunday’s home clash with relegation battlers Crotone.

Conte’s team, who finished as runners-up last season, cut the gap to league leaders AC Milan to just one point before the 10-day winter break, thanks to a run of seven straight league wins.

That form has put Inter firmly in the mix to end their 11-year wait for a league title, with defending champions Juventus languishing nine points behind them in sixth.

“We must confirm our place among the contenders,” Conte told a news conference.

“We don’t have to send any message, just be credible. We have the duty to fight until the end. When you’re at Inter, this is an obligation.

“It’s a balanced championship. You need to sweat to win every match and there are no easy games.

“In the end important values like hard work and organisation will stand out, things that make you excel and win.”

Inter are favourites to come out on top against Crotone, who are in 19th place having won just twice since being promoted from Serie B.

However, one of those victories came in Crotone’s last match before the break and Conte insisted he will not be underestimating the threat of the visitors.

“We’re expecting a demanding match, as I think they all are in Serie A,” he said.

“We’re facing a team that has been galvanised by finishing last year with a win against Parma.

“This match will require a lot of focus. Starting again after the holidays is always a great unknown, but we know the importance of continuing our positive streak.”

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Pirlo Warns Juventus Players Never To Repeat Fiorentina Display

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Juventus coach, Andrea Pirlo, has warned his players not to repeat the poor performance they produced during their shock 3-0 defeat against struggling Fiorentina in their last match before Serie A headed into its Christmas break.

The Italian champions, who face Udinese on Sunday, slumped to their first league defeat of the season against Fiorentina.

The result left Pirlo’s side 10 points adrift of league leaders AC Milan, albeit with a game in hand, putting their nine-year stranglehold of the Italian title at risk.

“We talked about the game against Fiorentina, we got it completely wrong,” the 41-year-old, who is in his first season as a manager, said.

“It was a good meeting and we discussed our future objectives. It was productive.

“I don’t want to see any more matches like the one with Fiorentina.

“We’ve otherwise made some progress and improved in many aspects, but I’m convinced it can be even better.”

Udinese also headed into the winter break following a 2-0 defeat to Benevento but Luca Gotti’s side were unbeaten in six league matches before then.

Hence Pirlo is not taking the challenge lightly.

“I’m expecting a difficult match, Udinese are on a good run of form and are a very well organised and physical team with players who are very good on the counter attack,” he said.

“The team is eager to redeem itself after the last defeat. We’ve got almost all our players back, so we’re setting out to restart the league season strongly.”

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Kane, Son Doing ‘Special Things’ – Mourinho

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Harry Kane and Son Heung-min are doing “special things” for Tottenham Hotspur this season, manager Jose Mourinho said.

This was following the dynamic duo both scoring in a 3-0 win over Leeds United that lifted Spurs to third in the Premier League on Saturday.

Kane gave his side the lead from the penalty spot — his 10th league goal of the season — then combined with Son who doubled Tottenham’s tally just before halftime.

It was Son’s 100th goal for Tottenham and the 13th time this season that the pair had combined for a league goal, equalling the whole season record set by Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton for Blackburn Rovers in 1994-95.

“I think in the Premier League there are many good players everywhere even in clubs where you don’t believe they can have great players,” Mourinho said.

“But I have to say that Sonny and Harry are doing special things this season.

“They are very good players as you know for many years.

“I want more goals, especially from other players but today the second goal is great, is also great because it was something we spoke about against a team that defends the way Leeds does.”

While the scoreline rather flattered Tottenham against a Leeds side who enjoyed 64% possession, it snapped a four-game winless sequence in the Premier League and sent Mourinho’s side back into the top four of the table.

They are in third spot with 29 points from 16 games, four behind joint-leaders Liverpool and Manchester United.

“Of course the result is important.

”We didn’t play the last match and the run of results in the least few weeks was not good so we needed these three points so we go up a little bit in the table,” Mourinho said.

Tottenham’s game in midweek was postponed after Fulham players tested positive for COVID-19.

This is a decision that Mourinho still find puzzling on the day that three of his own players were condemned for breaking the rules to attend a party.

“I go back to the initial rules of if you have 14 players available you have to play,” Mourinho said.

“I don’t see another reason for not doing it. I think every club does the best for their players to keep them all safe but then there are moments in private lives which you cannot control.

“Not everyone can be blamed so we have to carry on. If somebody has some positives, we have to play.”

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