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EPL: Arsenal beat Fulham 3-0

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Arsenal made a flying start to the new Premier League season as Gabriel Magalhaes grabbed a debut goal and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a stunner in Saturday’s 3-0 win at Fulham.

Just 48 days after last season’s delayed conclusion, the Premier League is back and Arsenal hit the ground running with the kind of confident display that has become their hallmark since Mikel Arteta took charge.

Arsenal’s free-flowing attack was too incisive for promoted Fulham and Alexandre Lacazette gave the visitors an early lead at Craven Cottage.

Brazilian defender Gabriel scored Arsenal’s second after the break-in his first appearance since his close-season move from Lille.

Aubameyang added the final flourish with a typically eye-catching strike that emphasized why Arsenal are so desperate for Gabon forward to sign an extension to the contract which expires at the end of the season.

Arteta has said that fans concerned Aubameyang will leave can “relax” because he is “very optimistic” his captain will agree to a new deal soon.

With former Chelsea winger Willian providing a pair of assists on his debut, it was the ideal way for Arsenal to start a season that appears full of promise after last season’s FA Cup triumph.

Although their eighth-placed finish in the Premier League ranked as Arsenal’s lowest final position since 1995, Arteta had little to do with that after taking charge in December following the dismal reign of Unai Emery.

The former Manchester City assistant coach has been a much-needed breath of fresh air for Arsenal and pushing for a place in the top four should not be beyond his revitalized team this term.

While the continued absence of fans due to the coronavirus and shorter than usual break has taken a little anticipation away from the new campaign, Arsenal was keener than most to get back in action after beating Chelsea in the FA Cup final.

The Gunners had underlined their rapid improvement by defeating Premier League champions Liverpool on penalties in the Community Shield last month and Fulham was no match for them.

– Crumbling Fulham –

The only dark cloud for Arteta was a pre-match spat between Dani Ceballos and Eddie Nketiah.

The pair had to be separated by Arsenal team-mates after Nketiah reacted to an aggressive challenge from Ceballos while a group of players was exchanging passes in the warm-up.

Arteta must have been alarmed when Ainsley Maitland-Niles hit a weak back pass that caused confusion between Gabriel and recalled keeper Bernd Leno early on.

Aboubakar Kamara nipped in but Leno managed to save at his feet before the Fulham forward could get a shot away.

Arteta’s worries were eased when Lacazette netted in the ninth minute.

Granit Xkaha’s strike forced a miscued clearance from Tim Ream and Willian pounced with a close-range shot that Fulham keeper Marek Rodak could only push out to Lacazette, who slotted home from virtually on the goalline.

It made Lacazette the first player to score the opening goal of a Premier League campaign twice after the French striker also bagged the opener in 2017-18.

Willian was denied a debut goal when his low free-kick cannoned off the base of the post.

Gabriel was enjoying a composed debut and the 22-year-old showed he can be a goal threat as well when he doubled Arsenal’s lead in the 49th minute.

Willian swung over the corner and Gabriel showed his desire as he rose above Michael Hector for an attempted header that hit his shoulder as it flashed into the net.

Fulham’s defense was crumbling like the recently demolished Craven Cottage stand and Aubameyang finished them off in the 57th minute with a carbon copy of his Community Shield goal against Liverpool.

Just as at Wembley, Willian’s superb cross-field pass picked out Aubameyang and he was allowed to advance unchecked into the area before bending a fine finish into the far corner.

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Bale arrives at Tottenham to seal loan move

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Gareth Bale has arrived at Tottenham’s training ground after flying from Spain to complete his move back to the club from Real Madrid.

Bale completed a medical in Madrid on Thursday as he closes on a deal that will see him return to the club he left in a world-record £86m transfer seven years ago.

The Wales captain travelled to London Luton Airport accompanied on a private flight by Real Madrid team-mate Sergio Reguilon, who is set to join Spurs on a five-year deal for a fee that could rise to £32m after also completing a medical on Thursday.

Sky Sports News’ Paul Gilmour says Gareth Bale’s return to Tottenham from Real Madrid is just hours away from being completed

Lawyers in Spain and England have been drawing up contracts that will make Bale a Spurs player again on a season-long loan deal. Tottenham have agreed to pay about £20m in wages and loan fees.

Both Bale and Reguilon are likely to meet conditions that will enable them to avoid quarantining upon their arrival to London.

Along with having arrived from an elite sporting environment where coronavirus protocols have been adhered to, the players will both need to have returned negative test results within five days prior to entering the United Kingdom.

Although he played for Wales twice this month, he is not fully matched fit and it is expected that it will take a month for him to get back to his best.

Real Madrid have agreed to let him leave on loan in order to get his £500,000-a-week wages off their books and Tottenham has made all the running to sign him this week.

As well as being frozen out by Zinedine Zidane, Bale has had a difficult relationship with the Spanish media and Real fans, and he is looking forward to making a fresh start back at Spurs.

Manchester United considered making a move for him as a back-up option to Jadon Sancho, but they did not make an offer, even though they have tried to sign him on numerous occasions since he was at Southampton 13 years ago.

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Naomi Osaka withdraws from French Open

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Japan’s Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from the upcoming French Open with a hamstring injury.

The 22-year-old had her left hamstring taped when she battled back against Victoria Azarenka in the U.S. Open final in New York on Saturday to win her third Grand Slam title.

“Unfortunately, I won’t be able to play the French Open this year,” the world number three wrote on social media in a message she also posted in Japanese.

“My hamstring is still sore so I won’t have time to prepare for the clay – these two tournaments came too close to each other for me this time.

“I wish the organizers and players all the best.”

French Open will be held from Sept. 27 to Oct. 11 after being moved from its usual late May-June slot due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The hamstring issue had prompted Osaka to withdraw from the final of the Western & Southern Open in the run-up to the U.S. Open but it did not appear to hamper her at Flushing Meadows.

Osaka made headlines in New York as much for her performances on court as for her commitment to social justice causes.

For each of her U.S. Open matches, she wore a different mask that carried the name of a Black American, aiming to highlight racial injustice in the United States to a wider audience.

The withdrawal of Osaka, who has never advanced past the third round at Roland Garros, comes as another blow to the tournament after world number one Ash Barty of Australia said she would not be defending her title due to COVID-19 concerns.

On the men’s side, Roger Federer will not compete as he continues to recover from knee surgery.

Osaka’s absence would improve Serena Williams’s chances of winning a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title if the American chooses to play.

The 38-year-old has pulled out of the Italian Open with an Achilles issue.

The French Tennis Federation (FFT) said on Thursday it would allow 5,000 spectators per day following a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the country.

It had previously said the clay-court major would permit a maximum of 11,500 fans per day.

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Juve terminate Higuain contract, to lose €18.3m

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Serie A champions Juventus confirmed on Thursday they had terminated Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain’s contract by mutual consent.

The former Real Madrid and Napoli forward is reportedly set to join David Beckham’s Major League Soccer franchise Inter Miami.

“This operation generates a negative economic effect of approximately €18.3m on the 2019/20 financial year due to the residual value write-down of the registration rights of the player,” Juve said in a statement.

Juventus paid the €90m release clause to sign Higuain from Napoli in 2016, and he had unsuccessful loans at AC Milan and Chelsea before returning to Turin last season.

But the 32-year-old was immediately told by new Juve coach Andrea Pirlo he was no longer part of the nine-time Serie A champions’ plans.

“He was a great champion, a great player but the cycle is over,” said Pirlo on his arrival in Turin.

“We looked at each other in the eyes, we talked and we made this decision.

“I admire him a lot, but we have decided that the paths will separate.”

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