Gareth Bale double lifts Tottenham over Newcastle

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Newcastle can bring in all the French stars they want, but they’re not going to find an answer to Gareth Bale in Ligue 1. In fairness, the Premier League doesn’t appear to have an antidote for the Tottenham winger, either, with the Welsh international’s two goals taking his season total to 13 as Spurs  downed Newcastle, 2-1.

Tottenham is now undefeated in league since Dec. 9, a span of 10 games. Newcastle’s loss ends a two-match winning streak highlighted by last week’s comeback victory over Chelsea.

Bale’s first was a nearly unstoppable free kick from just outside the penalty area, his dipping ball from even with Tim Krul’s left post getting up and over a late-reacting wall, leaving the Magpies’ goalkeeper no chance to prevent the opening goal. A Yoann Gouffan response equalized  in the 24th minute, but 12 minutes before time, Bale stole full points for the home side.

(MORE: Dempsey versatility on display for Spurs.)

Having switched from his customary left wing to the right, Bale cut in to claim a second ball off a long pass toward Emmanuel Adebayor. A moment of indecision between Newcastle center backs Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini allowed Bale to poke a bouncing ball behind the defense, the Spurs’ winger able to use his speed to race clear of right back Mathieu Debuchy. Going in on Krul to the left of goal, Bale slid a winner just inside the near post as the keeper came out to close the angle.

The goals were two moments of elite quality in an otherwise evenly played match. Even Newcastle’s goal was more fortune than something differentiating, Gouffran’s shot from 17 yards going off Michael Dawson’s back and in.

(MORE: Chelsea back in win column.)

Though only one goal separated the sides in the scoresheet, the real difference was Bale. Were it not for a strong-handed save from Krul in the 87th minute, Bale would have blasted home a hat trick from 19 yards. A bouncing ball gave Bale a chance at an open goal in the 94th minute, but falling to his weaker right foot, he put it over the bar. A 98th minute shot from 20 yards was palmed wide.

Last week, after another star’s two-goal game, we considered which player has been the league’s best this season. Marouane Fellaini still has the most compelling argument, but like Robin van Persie and Luis Suarez, Gareth Bale has a large place in the conversation. While the two forwards have scored more often than Bale, the Spurs attacker has done so from a wider, more withdrawn position.

(MORE: Arsenal holds on at Stadium of Light.)

He may not be the league’s most prolific attacker, but at his best, he is the league’s most dangerous. And as Bale matures, we’re starting seeing his best on a regular basis.

STREAM LIVE: Liverpool host Crystal Palace at Anfield

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Liverpool welcome Crystal Palace to Anfield on Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with Jurgen Klopp‘s men aiming to boost their top four hopes.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE

With Arsenal and Manchester City playing in the FA Cup semifinal this game represents a good opportunity for Liverpool to extend their lead in the race for a top four finish but they have lost each of their last two home games against Palace in the PL. The Eagles need another big win after relegation rivals Hull and Swansea both won on Saturday.

In team news Liverpool look to be starting Wijnaldum out wide, while Palace have to reshuffled their defense with Mamadou Sakho unable to play against his parent club.

LINEUPS

Liverpool: Mignolet, Clyne, Matip, Lovren, Milner, Lucas, Can, Wijnaldum, Coutinho, Firmino, Origi. Subs: Karius, Gomez, Grujic, Moreno, Brewster, Woodburn, Alexander-Arnold

Crystal Palace: Hennessey; Ward, Kelly, Tomkins, Schlupp; Cabaye, Milivojevic; Townsend, Puncheon, Zaha; Benteke. Subs: Speroni, Van Aanholt, Delaney, Flamini, McArthur, Sako, Campbell

Burnley 0-2 Man United: Top four hopes alive

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  • United unbeaten in 23 PL games
  • Red Devils one point off top four
  • Martial, Rooney on target in first half
  • Burnley five points off bottom three

An injury-hit Manchester United beat Burnley 2-0 at Turf Moor on Sunday to keep their hopes of a top four finish well and truly alive.

First half goals from the excellent Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney did the damage as Jose Mourinho’s men go into Thursday’s Manchester derby against City just one point and one place behind their crosstown rivals.

With the win United move on to 63 points, while Burnley remain on 36 and are just five points above the relegation zone after another inept display in attack.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

Early on United missed a massive chance as Anthony Martial’s surge into the box found Ander Herrera and he fed the ball to Rooney but he couldn’t trouble Tom Heaton from close range.

Marouane Fellaini then had a free header from a corner but nodded it down straight at Heaton who again saved from close range.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Rooney then sent a cross inches over the bar as United hit Burnley on the counter and that was to become a theme of the game. On the next counter Martial broke, played a one-two with Herrera and the Frenchman finished superbly to make it 1-0.

Before half time Ben Mee went close to getting on the end of Robbie Brady‘s free kick but then Rooney made it 2-0 as good build up play from Paul Pogba set in Martial and his shot deflected off Heaton and straight to Rooney who nudged the ball over the line.

Andre Gray then had a shot deflected wide as Burnley always looked dangerous from set pieces but United were clinical.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

In the second half United stayed solid and Pogba had a rasping drive pushed away by Heaton.

The home side failed to create any real clear cut chances with Michael Keane heading across goal but nobody was attacking the second ball.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Late on Marcus Rashford, on as a sub, raced clear and forced Heaton into a fine stop at his near post as United ran out comfortable winners but Pogba limping off in the 90th minute will leave Mourinho concerned about even more injuries to his squad.

Lazio’s Keita scores five-minute hat trick in rout

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Keita Balde Diao had himself a day on Sunday.

[ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule

Within five minutes he scored three times to put Lazio 5-0 up against Palermo in Serie A after Ciro Immobile had scored twice in two minutes to put them 2-0 up after just nine minutes at the Stadio Olimpico.

The Eagles scored with all five of their opening shots against Palermo to lead 5-0 after just 26 minutes.

Watch the video of Keita’s remarkable hat trick below as the Senegalese forward, like his team, is on fire.


Keita makes it 3-0 in 21st minute…

Keita makes it 4-0 in 24th minute…

Keita makes it 5-0 in 26th minute…

LIVE – Arsenal v. Man City in FA Cup semifinal

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Arsenal and Manchester City clash in an FA Cup semifinal on Sunday at Wembley which promises to be a case of all-out attack.

[ LIVE: Follow all the FA Cup scores here ]

Arsene Wenger and Pep Guardiola met earlier this month with their teams drawing 2-2 at the Emirates Stadium in an end-to-end encounter.

The winner of this semifinal will play Chelsea in the FA Cup final on May 27 at Wembley after Antonio Conte‘s side beat Tottenham 4-2 on Saturday.

In team news Arsenal stick with the 3-4-2-1 formation they used at Middlesbrough with Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil off Olivier Giroud.

City line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Sergio Aguero up top and Leroy Sane, David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne off him.

Click on the link above to follow live coverage of what promises to be an entertaining semifinal, while here at Pro Soccer Talk we will have plenty more reaction and analysis after the game too.