Frequent contributor Jon Marthaler has written about virtually every sport in the Twin Cities, and fills in on Saturdays for the RandBall blog on StarTribune.com. He'll cover the professional soccer scene in the Twin Cities, whether at the Metrodome or at the National Sports Center.
Email Jon to talk about soccer.
ENGLAND | Goals from Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey, one in each half, were enough to give Arsenal a 2-0 home win over Liverpool and send the Gunners five points clear at the top of the Premier League table. The win was Arsenal's eighth in ten matches, but their first over a team in the top half of the standings. Liverpool remain even with Chelsea in second place, though one goal behind on goal difference.
Arsenal now faces parts two and three of a devilishly difficult week. They travel to Germany on Wednesday to play Borussia Dortmund, last year's European runners-up, in the Champions League, then hit the road to Manchester next Sunday to take on United.
They could come through with flying colors; their midfield, highlighted by Cazorla and Ramsey and Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshire, is connecting in all departments at the moment. Or, the Gunners could get smashed twice and leave everyone ignoring them as potential title contenders.
Chelsea had a chance to briefly go ahead of Arsenal in the day's early game, but lost 2-0 at Newcastle despite controlling 61% of the possession and hitting the bar twice. Our Premier League expert Dana Wessel keeps saying that Chelsea, his favorite team, will be a league title contender, but right now they're confusing; they were flying after beating Manchester City last week, but then they go up north and lose.
And hey, give some credit to Newcastle, who got the win. We also need to mention Newcastle director of football Joe Kinnear, who this week attempted to sign a player that is already contracted to Newcastle. Casting a wide net, he is.
Elsewhere, Manchester United won back-to-back league games for the first time under David Moyes, beating a struggling Fulham 3-1 on the road, while Manchester City put in some work on its goal differential, beating Norwich City 7-0.
And Stoke City drew 1-1 with Southampton, a game highlighted by a bizarre 100-yard goal from Stoke keeper Asmir Begovic. (If you can't watch the video: The opening kickoff is played back to Begovic, whose long kick gets caught in the wind, bounces wildly on the edge of the Southampton area, over the keeper's head and in.) Begovic is also now Stoke's joint-leading goalscorer.
MLS PLAYOFFS | The conference semifinals, contested over two legs, began Saturday. In the East, New England beat Sporting Kansas City 2-1, with goals from Andy Dorman and Kelyn Rowe partially canceled out by a goal from KC's French defender Aurellien Collin. Kansas City has been good at home, though, so even down a goal going into the second leg, they still might be the favorites.
In the late game, Portland's Ryan Johnson scored in the opening quarter-hour, Darlington Nagbe added a second after halftime, and despite a late Osvaldo Alonso goal to give Seattle some hope, the Timbers took took control of their semifinal with a 2-1 away win. Portland hadn't won in Seattle for years - they hadn't even taken the lead since a game in 2007 - which makes the win by the Western Conference champs that much more impressive.
EUROPE | Real Madrid went up 3-0 on Rayo Vallecano, with two of the goals coming from Cristiano Ronaldo, before a pair of Jonathan Viera penalties in a three-minute span for Rayo forced Real to hold on for nearly 40 minutes for a 3-2 win.
In Germany, last-place - get ready for this name - TSV Eintracht Braunschweig stunned third-place Bayer Leverkeusen 1-0, giving Braunschweig just their second win of the season in eleven matches. In more normal news, Bayern Munich won 2-1 at TSG Hoffenheim and climbed back ahead of Dortumund in the Bundesliga table.
Over in Italy, Napoli won 2-1 over Catania and remained in second place, attempting to keep pace with undefeated Roma at the top of the Serie A table.
INVERNESS CALEY THISTLE | ICT got back in the win column on Saturday, beating Kilmarnock 2-1 in front of nearly 3,000 Caley Thistle die-hards. Aaron Doran and Graeme Shinnie - Graeme Shinnie! - scored for the home side, with Darren Barr scoring a hopeless reply for the visitors.
Celtic, the presumed league champions, could only manage a 1-1 draw with Dundee United at home, and suddenly, Caley is just five points back at the top of the Scottish table.
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