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Soccer Wrap! Gunners thrash Wolves as Xhaka bows out with double

May 29, 2023 00:34 IST
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IMAGE: Granit Xhaka with his family after Arsenal’s 5-0 win over Wolves. Photograph: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Premier League runners-up Arsenal romped to a 5-0 home win against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday, with Granit Xhaka bagging home two goals in what is expected to be his last game after an incident-packed seven years at the club. 

Arsenal topped the standings for almost the entire season but had stumbled badly in the final eight games to allow a ruthless Manchester City to roar past them to a third consecutive title.

They finished the season with a flourish though. Trickery from forward Gabriel Jesus on the right saw his cross headed in by Xhaka after 11 minutes for an early lead in the Switzerland midfielder's 297th, and possibly last, game for the Gunners.

A fairytale finish was guaranteed three minutes later when the 30-year-old, who was close to leaving the club in 2019 after ill-tempered exchanges with supporters, tapped in following some clever interchange play from Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard.


He spurned a golden chance for a hat-trick before Saka made it 3-0 after less than half an hour played with a curled effort. Jesus headed in the fourth after halftime while Jakub Kiwior made it 5-0 with 12 minutes left to play.

Arsenal ended the season on 84 points from 38 games, five behind champions Manchester City. It was their highest points tally since the 'Invincibles' won the title with 90 in 2004.

The Gunners will be back in the Champions League next season for the first time since the 2016-17 season.

IMAGE: Granit Xhaka hammered two in what is expected to be his last game at Arsenal. Photograph: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Ahead of Sunday's game, Arsenal captain Odegaard said in his programme notes that it was going to take a while for the team to get over the disappointment of how the campaign ended.

Mikel Arteta's side faltered in the final weeks of the season, losing to their main rivals Manchester City and teams near the bottom of the table as they threw away what had been a sizeable league lead at the start of April.

"I still can't explain how or why our form changed," Odegaard said. But "we have got a very young team still, the direction is good and it's up to us to learn from this season and improve again next year."

Arsenal were rampant on Sunday, with a host of chances narrowly missed in the second half after midfielder Thomas Partey had an effort ruled out for an earlier push on goalkeeper Jose Sa. The visitors barely managed a shot on target.

Xhaka, meanwhile, was substituted with 15 minutes remaining to a rousing reception. The fiery midfielder rebuilt his rapport with the fans following the 2019 controversies, which saw him stripped of the club captaincy by then manager Unai Emery.

IMAGE: Abdoulaye Doucoure’s winner kept Everton in the top-flight. Photograph: Naomi Baker/Getty Images

Nervy Everton extend 69-year top-flight stay 

Everton avoided relegation on a gripping final day of the season as midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure's stunning strike earned them a 1-0 victory over Bournemouth on Sunday to extend their unbroken 69-year stay in the English top flight.

Sean Dyche's side came into Sunday's contest with their fate in their own hands, knowing victory at Goodison Park would be enough to keep them in the Premier League, but the nervy hosts struggled to break down their opponents in a tense first half.

With supporters getting desperate, and results not going their way elsewhere, Doucoure stepped up with what proved to be the crucial winner in the 57th minute to lift the roof off the famous old stadium.

There were plenty of worrying moments for the home faithful late on, but Everton held on to finish the season in 17th place, two points above Leicester City in 18th.

"We are so happy," Doucoure told the BBC. "It's hard to describe our feeling. We fought all season to compete and save the club. This afternoon we gave everything. It was not our best game but we gave everything and got the result.

"We work and play for Everton football club. We have to be much better than that. We need to realise the mistakes we made this season. Everyone showed passion at the end but next season we need to come back stronger and put Everton high up."

Everton were no strangers to the nail-biting drama of ensuring survival on the final day of the league season having done so twice during the 1990s.

Bournemouth, with their Premier League status already secured, seemed like ideal opponents, but the south-coast side travelled to Merseyside looking for a fourth successive win at Goodison Park.

The Everton fans knew they had a part to play, with the atmosphere red hot as the match got underway, and a fierce rendition of the club anthem, Spirit of the Blues, got the stadium pumped for the crucial encounter.

But as has been Everton's problem for much of the season, a goal did not look like coming in a first half of few chances, with Bournemouth goalkeeper Mark Travers' save to deny Idrissa Gueye the closest the hosts came to scoring.

Without injured striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Everton looked very much like a side who had only once scored more than one goal at home in all competitions all season.

Doucoure's strike, however, was worth the wait for the Goodison faithful, with supporters brought to tears in the stands as the ball hit the net.

Holding on for over half an hour, Everton relied on some last-ditch defending and a fine late save from England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford to drag them over the line.

Despite warnings not to do so, supporters took to the pitch to celebrate another survival success as Everton lived to fight another day as a Premier League team.

"I was very proud of what I saw today," Bournemouth boss Gary O'Neil said.

"I am looking forward to working with these players again next season and seeing what we can achieve. Everyone in the country had us finishing bottom this season, so it is a huge achievement for the players."

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