Giroud helps Arsenal bolster top four bid

Arsenal cemented their position in the Premier League’s top four as Olivier Giroud’s blistering strike inspired a 3-0 rout of West Ham on Saturday.

Arsene Wenger’s third-placed side are aiming to qualify for the Champions League via a top-four finish for the 18th year in a row and they are well on course after a fifth successive league victory.

It was also the ideal preparation for next week’s Champions League last 16 trip to Monaco, who hold a 3-1 lead from the first leg.

Giroud broke the deadlock seconds before the break as the France striker cut in from the right edge of the penalty area to lash an unstoppable left-footed shot into the far corner.

Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey got Arsenal’s second, and his first since December, in the 81st minute when he played a one-two with Giroud and finished with aplomb.

Mathieu Flamini came off the bench to seal the points with an 84th minute goal that lifted the Gunners four points ahead of fourth-placed Manchester United and six clear of fifth-placed Liverpool.

Aston Villa’s revival under new manager Tim Sherwood gathered pace as they boosted their bid to avoid relegation with a crucial 4-0 win at fellow strugglers Sunderland.

Villa had scored only four away league goals all season, but they have been transformed since former Tottenham boss Sherwood took charge and have now won their last two league games to climb above Sunderland, who drop to fourth bottom after their sixth consecutive game without a win.

The visitors took the lead when Belgian striker Christian Benteke fired home in the 16th minute for his fifth goal of the season.

Just two minutes later, Gabriel Agbonlahor ran clear to slot home after Sunderland defender John O’Shea made a hash of dealing with Ciaran Clark’s pass.

Agbonlahor netted again eight minutes before half-time, prompting a group of angry Sunderland fans to surround the home bench to berate boss Gus Poyet.

Stewards and police moved in to protect Poyet and the majority of the crowd were streaming towards the exit by the 44th minute as Benteke netted.

The chaos enveloping Sunderland was summed up when they played several minutes at the start of the second half down to 10 men after Seb Larsson emerged late from the dressing room.

– Relegation mire –

Crystal Palace pushed QPR deeper into the relegation mire with a 3-1 victory over their London rivals at Selhurst Park.

Alan Pardew’s side swept into a three-goal lead by half-time thanks to strikes from Wilfried Zaha, James McArthur and Joel Ward.

Matt Phillips produced one of the goals of the season in the closing stages, but the winger’s brilliant drive, from at least 40 yards out, came too late to spark a QPR fightback.

QPR’s fourth successive Premier League loss extended their miserable run to nine defeats in their last 10 games, leaving the west Londoners third bottom and four points from safety.

Leicester wasted a chance to improve their survival hopes as 10-man Hull held on for a 0-0 draw at the King Power Stadium.

Hull had to play the final 18 minutes with 10 men after midfielder Tom Huddlestone was sent off for a second booking following his foul on Jamie Vardy.

But Nigel Pearson’s bottom of the table team couldn’t find a winner and they remain seven points from safety.

West Brom ground out a 1-0 win against Stoke at the Hawthorns.

The only goal arrived in the 19th minute when Craig Gardner’s cross was met by Brown Ideye, who beat Stoke defender Phil Bardsley to head in his seventh goal of the season.

Later on Saturday, second-placed Manchester City will aim to close the gap on leaders Chelsea when they travel to Burnley.

Chelsea, currently five points clear, are in action at home to Southampton on Sunday.

Also on Sunday, Manchester United host Tottenham and Everton face Newcastle, while Liverpool travel to Swansea on Monday.

Photo Credits : AFP

West Ham’s Cole fined over Twitter blast

West Ham striker Carlton Cole was fined £20,000 by the English Football Association on Thursday after his foul-mouthed Twitter blast at a Tottenham supporter.

Cole was charged by the FA following an exchange with a Tottenham fan after West Ham’s 2-2 draw at White Hart Lane.

The 31-year-old responded to a message from Spurs supporter Stuart Hardy that said: “Hi @CarltonCole1 when your own team-mates don’t kick the ball out when you’re lying injured for 2 mins, you think it’s time to call it a day?”.

Cole, who had to come off with a hamstring injury against Spurs, replied: “F off you c***” and although he later deleted the tweet, the FA still handed out the fine and warned him about his future conduct.

“Following an Independent Regulatory Commission hearing today, Carlton Cole has been fined £20,000 after he admitted breaching FA Rules in relation to social media,” an FA statement read.

“The West Ham United player, who was also severely warned as to his future conduct, admitted posting a comment on his Twitter account which was abusive and/or insulting and/or improper and/or brought the game into disrepute, in breach of FA Rule E3.”

Photo Credits : AFP

West Ham 2 Manchester City 1

Despite being shown a yellow card for a bad foul in the 6th minute Morgan Amalfitano put West Ham United in the lead at the 20th minute as he put in a right footed shot from very close range to the bottom left corner assisted by Enner Valencia.

Diafra Sakho scored his 7th goal in his 7th game since signing at West Ham in the 74th minute through a header right from the center of the box keeping West Ham in the lead.

David Silva may have scored the best goal of the season as he tried to equalize for Manchester City at the 76th minute. City now suffer their first premier league away defeat of the season and are now at number 3, 5 points behind lead Chelsea.

Senegalese Striker Dreams Of Emulating Chelsea Legend

Diafra Sakho wants to be West Ham United’s version of Didier Drogba and believes the English premier league is in desperate need of more players like the Chelsea striker.

Sakho who dons kit number 15, is on a great streak with five goals in his last five games since his Sh 645,9m move from Metz in the summer.

“It’s because of him that I wanted to have the No 15 at West Ham” Sakho said, referencing to Drogba’s old shirt number at Chelsea. “I like how he plays and the way he plays. I think the game in England needs people like Didier Drogba and I take him as my example.”

Source: The Star Newspaper