Leicester Tigers 45-15 Exeter Chiefs

Leicester Tigers consolidated their position in the Aviva Premiership play-off places with a dominant 45-15 victory over Exeter Chiefs at Welford Road.

First-half tries from Manu Tuilagi, Lugovii Mulipola and Niki Goneva set the defending champions on their way to a comprehensive victory over their West Country opponents.

Having recorded their season’s highest points tally in the opening period, winger Adam Thompstone and a double from replacement David Mele added further scores in the second half.

Exeter, fresh from their first major trophy in 143 years following their LV= Cup win over Northampton Saints last weekend, rarely posed a threat to the hosts but Jack Yeandle and Ian Whitten managed consolation tries for the visitors.

With five rounds remaining, the Tigers are now unbeaten in their last seven outings and would once again appear to be coming to the boil at the right time under Richard Cockerill.

The Chiefs went into the match on the back of three successive victories themselves, including that Anglo-Welsh cup success on home soil, but were second best throughout the afternoon as their quest for a top six finish was scuppered.

Jack Nowell, on his return from international duty, was withdrawn at the interval following an early collision, and their search for a fourth consecutive win was hardly helped by Dean Mumm’s first-half sin bin for a high tackle on Ben Youngs.

Manu Tuilagi, making his first Welford Road appearance since September, worked well in tandem with midfield partner Anthony Allen throughout and Youngs, making his 100th start for the Tigers, was instrumental in all that was good about the hosts’ impressive display.

With the focus now turned to a compelling climax to the domestic season following the thrilling Six Nations finale, the Tigers travel to the Saints next weekend fully confident of closing the one-point gap on third-placed Bath.

Leicester Tigers: Tait; Goneva, Tuilagi, Allen, Thompstone; Williams, Ben Youngs; Ayerza, Tom Youngs, Mulipola; Deacon, Slater (c); Gibson, Salvi, Crane

Replacements: Hawkins, Stankovich, Balmain, Kitchener, Waldrom, Mele, Flood, Hamilton

Exeter Chiefs: Arscott; Nowell, Whitten, Dollman, Vainikolo; Slade, Lewis; Moon, Yeandle, Tui; Mumm (capt), Welch: Ewers, White, Horstmann

Replacements: Cowan-Dickie, Rimmer, Brown, Armand, Johnson, Thomas, Steenson, Jess

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Chelsea 2-0 Galatasaray

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Gary Cahill puts a seal on a comfortable evening’s work for Chelsea at the Bridge

Chelsea booked their place in the Champions League quarter-finals as Samuel Eto’o and Gary Cahill strikes helped them comfortably overcome Galatasaray at Stamford Bridge.

There was no happy return for Didier Drogba, as the former Blues striker endured another frustrating night against his former team mates.

Chelsea, searching for a third European trophy in as many years, were in front after four minutes – eclipsing the speed at which Fernando Torres handed the Blues the lead in Istanbul a fortnight ago.

Eden Hazard released Oscar down the right and, when the Brazilian caressed the ball into the path of Eto’o, his powerful shot took a slight deflection on its way beneath goalkeeper Fernando Muslera.

It was the Cameroonian’s 30th Champions League goal, moving him into the all-time top 20 European Cup scorers, and settling nerves within the home side of becoming the third English team to exit the competition in the last-16.

Jose Mourinho’s side showed no signs of sentiment towards the returning Drogba, who was every bit as peripheral as in the first leg, with little more than an erratic bicycle-kick to show for his efforts.

The visitors, beaten at FC Copenhagen during the group stages, arrived in West London without European pedigree on their travels, and were nearly two behind when John Terry volleyed a yard over the bar from Frank Lampard’s set-piece.

The Turkish outfit were not so fortunate with three minutes of the half remaining, as Cahill blasted high into the net after Muslera had parried Terry’s initial header from Lampard’s corner.

Roberto Mancini’s side contributed little to a disappointing second half, and with Wesley Sneijder subdued, there would be no repeat of the three goals scored in 15 minutes by the Turkish champions against Mourinho’s Real Madrid last April.

Willian brought a sharp save from Muslera, and the keeper due to face England in Brazil had to be at his best to deny Hazard and Fernando Torres in the closing stages.

Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Ramires, Lampard, Oscar (Schurrle 82), Hazard, Willian (Kalas 90), Eto’o (Torres 85). Unused Subs: Schwarzer, Luiz, Mikel, Ba.

Galatasaray: Muslera, Alex, Chedjou, Kaya, Eboue  (Hajrovic 77), Felipe Melo, Inan, Sneijder, Kurtulus (Balta 67 ), Drogba, Burak Yilmaz (Bulut 54). Unused Subs: Ceylan, Burdisso, Gulselam, Sarioglu.

Tottenham 0-1 Arsenal

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Arsenal moved to within four points of the Premier League summit with a narrow 1-0 win over rivals Tottenham at White Hart Lane.

Tomas Rosicky’s thunderbolt after 72 seconds proved decisive, as Arsene Wenger’s side put to bed the disappointment of Tuesday’s Champions League exit to Bayern Munich with a dogged away performance.

Nacer Chadli was denied a certain equaliser when his goal-bound shot was blocked by Laurent Koscielny three minutes into the second period.

Spurs, who have seen their season unravel with three defeats in the space of nine days, are now seven points behind fourth-placed Man City having played three games more.

The Gunners have now clinched the league double to add to the FA Cup success over their North London neighbours, and they couldn’t have asked for a better start.

Czech Republic captain Rosicky, who scored his first goal of the season against Tottenham in that 2-0 Cup win, received a bouncing ball following an interchange with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain down the right before unleashing an unstoppable drive which flashed past Hugo Lloris.

It was the Arsenal’s fastest ever Premier League goal against the Lilywhites, and Oxlade-Chamberlain should have doubled their lead on the quarter-hour mark when he skipped past Nabil Bentaleb’s challenge only to miss-cue his finish with only Lloris to beat.

Tottenham responded well thereafter, with Emmanuel Adebayor, playing against his former club, coming close to restoring parity after 30 minutes. The Togolese striker ran in front of Per Mertesacker at the near post to meet Kyle Naughton’s low cross only to flick the ball inches wide.

Despite his side’s superior possession, Tim Sherwood must have known it wasn’t his day three minutes into the second half when Wojciech Szczesny failed to gather Naughton’s deep cross and when Chadli seized on the loose ball, the Belgian’s point-blank effort was kept out by Koscielny’s outstretched leg.

Adebayor, the highest scorer since this became a Premier League fixture with 10 goals, again came within a yard of levelling on 64 minutes when he climbed above the excellent Koscielny to head wide from eight yards.

The French centre-back was again in the thick of the action in the 75th minute as Tottenham were fortunate not to concede a penalty – Jan Vertonghen appearing to haul down the former Lorient man inside the box.

The margin of victory may have flattered the visitors, as Mertesacker swivelled to produce a sharp reflex save from Lloris with 12 minutes remaining.

Arsenal absorbed the inevitable final onslaught, and now head to Stamford Bridge next Saturday lunchtime knowing that another crucial away win would move them to within a point of Jose Mourinho’s side at the top.

Tottenham: Lloris, Naughton, Kaboul, Vertonghen, Rose, Chadli (Sigurdsson 69), Sandro (Paulinho 68), Eriksen (Soldado 82), Bentaleb, Townsend, Adebayor.

Unused Subs: Friedel, Kane, Walker, Lennon.

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Rosicky (Flamini 69), Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Vermaelen 84), Cazorla, Podolski (Monreal 77), Giroud.

Unused Subs: Fabianski, Sanogo, Jenkinson, Gnabry.

 

Arsenal Yth 3-1 Everton Yth

Ben GROUNDS at the Emirates Stadium

Arsenal Youth

Arsenal booked their place in the FA Youth Cup semi-finals by overcoming Everton 3-1 at the Emirates on Monday evening.

Chuba Akpom’s strike sandwiched by a Jack Jebb double ensured the Gunners’ scholars achieved the same outcome as their first-team counterparts over the Toffees at the weekend.

Joe Williams’ strike for the Blues three minutes into the second half proved to be a mere consolation as Everton exited the competition at the quarter-final stage for the second successive season.

Carl Laraman’s side never looked in doubt of failing to progress to the final four of the much-fêted competition once they had overcome an early period of sustained pressure from the visitors.

Kevin Sheedy’s side, who had beaten the Gunners on Merseyside at the end of January, enjoyed greater possession in the opening stages, and were unlucky not to be ahead as they threatened Josh Vickers’ goal on numerous occasions early on.

First, captain Gethin Jones made inroads down the right; the Welshman’s cross was met by the header of Callum Dyson, but Vickers made a smart save down to his right.

Then Ryan Ledson released Jones again down the right flank, and Courtney Duffus drew Vickers into tipping the ball over from the resulting cross.

Further efforts by Ledson and Oliver Shannon required some last-ditch defending from the Gunners’ back line, as the visitors showed signs of the style of play that has become synonymous with the first-team under Roberto Martinez.

Arsenal gradually worked their way into the game and on 25 minutes had their first notable move, as Gedion Zelalem combined with full-back Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill to force Toffees’ centre-half Curtis Langton into a desperate piece of defending at his near post.

It was a warning sign the Blues failed to heed, as moments later, the Gunners were ahead.

Zelalem, who had begun to have an increasing influence on the game, threaded a through-ball to Jack Jebb, and when the midfielder was brought down by keeper Russell Griffiths, he duly picked himself up to provide Arsenal with the lead from the penalty spot.

Everton looked rattled and were it not for good goal-keeping by Griffiths, Zelalem would have doubled the home side’s advantage three minutes later. It was only to be a short reprieve for the Toffees, however, as five minutes short of the interval, captain Chuba Akpom made it 2-0.

Another trademark slide-rule pass from an Arsenal shirt released the burly striker, and having shrugged off the challenge of James Graham, he unleashed an unstoppable left-footed drive high, beyond the reach of Griffiths and into the roof of the net.

The crossbar came to Everton’s rescue in first-half stoppage time when Ainsley Maitland-Niles had Griffiths beaten all ends up by his right-footed shot from 25 yards.

Everton were in need of a swift response and no sooner had the second half commenced that the visitors had halved the deficit. Substitute Michael Donohue’s centre was headed back across goal by Tyrone Duffus for the unmarked Joe Williams to prod the ball home from 6 yards.

The Merseysiders, who had defeated Brighton, Birmingham City and Sheffield United in order to progress to the quarter-finals, failed to capitalise further on their positive start to the second 45 minutes, and it was Arsenal who regained the initiative thereafter.

Clever interplay on the hour-mark between Glenn Kamara and Jebb invited the latter to have a shot on goal, and when Griffiths parried the initial effort, Akpom looked set for his second of the evening. With the goal at his mercy, the crossbar came to Everton’s rescue once more.

The hosts would not rue that missed opportunity for long, as with 64 minutes gone, Jebb provided a moment of true class that was worthy of deciding any cup tie.

From 25 yards, he dispatched a curling right-footed free-kick over the Everton wall and away from the stationary Griffiths to regain Arsenal’s two-goal cushion.

This time, there would be no way back for the Toffees, who had knocked their opponents out of last year’s competition at the fifth round stage. Instead, it was Arsenal who looked the more likelier of adding a fourth as Akpom continued to cause no end of problems to the Everton defence.

It was his fearful run that nearly led to Graham putting through his own net, but a combination of Griffiths and post kept the ball out.

The best chance for the visitors in the remaining minutes fell to Tyrone Duffus, after substitute Harry Charsley and Jones had linked up on the right, but the striker lost composure and blazed over from six yards.

Whilst there is the small matter of an Academy League match at Norwich this weekend, many of these young Gunners will now be rested with next week’s trip to Barcelona for the UEFA Youth League fixture in mind – safe in the knowledge they are one step closer to emulating the success of the 2009 Youth Cup-winning side.

Arsenal: Vickers, Moore, Ormonde-Ottewill, Kamara, Siemann, Pleguezuelo, Maitland-Niles, Zelalem, Akpom (c), Jebb, Iwobi Unused: Huddart, Wright, Dobson, Willock, Lipman

Everton: Griffiths, Jones (c), Thorniley, Graham, Langton, Shannon (Charsley 64), Dyson (Donohue 43), Williams (Brewster 76), C. Duffus, Ledson, T. Duffus Unused: Hewelt, Connolly

Att: 2,725

England 29-18 Wales

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Luther Burrell goes over for England’s second try

England avenged last year’s Millennium Stadium mauling by deservedly defeating Wales 29-18 at Twickenham – ensuring their Six Nations title hopes are still alive.

First-half tries from Danny Care and Luther Burrell ensured the Red Rose sealed the Triple Crown for the first time since 2003.

Wales saw their dreams of a third successive championship extinguished in the springtime sunshine as Leigh Halfpenny’s 18 points with the boot proved in vain.

In what was a dress rehearsal for the World Cup group match at HQ next year, Care’s try under the posts following a quick tap penalty gave the hosts the perfect start with five minutes played.

After Halfpenny and Farrell had exchanged penalties on three occasions to make it 16-9, it was England who again were celebrating a try in the 34th minute.

An overthrow by Wales at the line-out was recycled and when the ball was fed to Billy Twelvetrees, his grubber kick was grounded by Burrell in the corner.

Two further penalties from Halfpenny made it 20-15 at half-time, when in truth England were considerably more than five points superior to their Welsh counterparts.

After an opening half that had seen 35 points tabled for only the second time in history between the two sides, the second was more like the cagey affair many had expected.

Two penalties from Farrell – the second of which came following the sin bin of Gethin Jenkins for the angle at which he approached the scrum – enabled England to dominate possession.

Halfpenny’s sixth penalty was duly cancelled out by Farrell taking the score to 29-18, in what was a master-class of kicking by the pair.

The margin of victory could have been larger had Burrell not been denied his fourth try from four appearances by a last-ditch tackle by Halfpenny.

England will hope France do them a favour against Ireland in Paris, as they head to Rome to face Italy full of confidence following this resounding win.

Manchester City 3-1 Sunderland

Toure's moment of brilliance turned the game in City's favour

Toure’s moment of brilliance spurred City

Two goals in as many minutes helped Manchester City beat Sunderland 3-1 in a compelling Capital One Cup final at Wembley.

Fabio Borini gave Sunderland the early advantage with a well-taken 10th-minute strike, but glorious finishes from Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri just shy of the hour mark turned the game on its head, and with it brought the League Cup back to the blue half of Manchester for the first time since 1976.

The Citizens wrapped up the victory in the last minute, as Jesús Navas capitalised on the stretched Sunderland defence to stroke in a third.

Despite a strong start from Manuel Pellegrini’s side, it was the underdogs who drew first blood against the run of play with barely 10 minutes on the clock.

Adam Johnson, perhaps aggrieved at not being named in Roy Hodgson’s 30-man squad for England’s forthcoming friendly against Denmark, spotted the run of Borini. The Italian shrugged off the challenge of Kompany, and showed great composure in curling the ball with his left foot low beyond Costel Pantilimon.

It was a well-measured assist from the former City winger, but the Belgian centre-half will not have been happy that he failed to deal with the chipped through-ball, outmuscled as he was by striker on loan from Liverpool.

City continued to show signs of complacency at the back, as Martín Demichelis switched off from a throw-in. Were it not for a scrambled clearance from Fernandinho, Johnson looked set to capitalise.

Sunderland were not so dormant defensively, as Phil Bardsley, who scored the winner at the Stadium of Light when these two sides faced each other in the league in November, made an important last-ditched tackle to deny Nasri a point-blank effort.

City were in need of inspiration, and it duly arrived ten minutes into the second half.

Toure, having toiled for 55 minutes in one of his quietest games of the season, cajoled his teammates into life with one of the greatest strikes to grace the new Wembley turf.

The Ivorian picked the ball from Pablo Zabaleta in the inside right position and unleashed a looping effort from fully 35 yards that sailed over the bewildered Mannone and dipped into the top right corner.

City had now hit their stride. Sunderland needed to dig deep. But there would be no reprieve, as within a minute, the Sky Blues were ahead.

Wes Brown failed to deal with a long hopeful ball, and when Silva fed the advanced Alexsandar Kolarov, his cross was deflected into the path of Samir Nasri. The France international’s right-foot drive beyond the static Mannone turned the game on its head.

Sunderland streamed forward in desperate search of an equaliser, but it was City who sealed the victory in the final minute.

Navas, who had entered the fray in place of Agüero shortly after the second goal, converted Toure’s through pass at the near post.

The Citizens will hope to use Pellegrini’s first trophy in England as the springboard for a more concerted push towards being crowned champions of a compelling Premier League season.