Gandalf, Green Power Rangers, and Guy Patterson: Premier League Saturday Review

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Arsenal 3-1 Norwich City

Steve talked about the controversial penalty, a late decision that turned today’s match in Arsenal’s favor. Until that point (85th minute), Michael Turner’s first half goal had held up, with the Champions League-chasing Gunners left pursuing three points they couldn’t afford to lose.

But thanks to goals by Mikel Arteta (from the spot), Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski, Arsenal got the result everybody expected – three points that temporarily vault Arsene Wenger’s team into third place:

Pos. Club GP Pts. Pts/G
3 Arsenal 32 59 1.84
4 Chelsea 31 58 1.87
5 Tottenham Hotspur 32 58 1.81
6 Everton 32 55 1.72

Chelsea and Tottenham don’t play in league this weekend, their derby rescheduled with the Blues still alive in the FA Cup.

Still, it’s a three-team race for two spots. Everton’s lingering, but they need two teams to trip over the next month. That’s not going to happen.

Everton 2-0 Queens Park Rangers

Queens Park Rangers are eight points from safety with five to play. This conversation’s no longer interesting. Time for another four-year plan.

As for Everton, it was a good result but no more than you’d expect from a team of their stature – a level that unfortunately is not going to include Champions League soccer. They’ll have to comfort themselves with finishing just outside the top four (again) while being the top-ranked team on Mersey (again).

Welcome to a Toffee-supporters’ purgatory. You can’t ask for more because you know your club’s hamstrung, but you can’t help but pine for those oh so elusive breaks that could finally bring glory to these otherwise strong but fruitless campaigns:

Why can’t an Arsenal, Chelsea, or Spurs collapse coincide with one of our best seasons so we can get back into Champions League? If for no other reason than variety’s sake, so we don’t have to go through this same routine every year, can we just finish fourth one more time? It’s all so monotonous.

source: ReutersReading 0-0 Liverpool

Meet Alex McCarthy. He’s young, he’s English — his favorite Power Ranger’s the green one — and he’s very happy to meet you. You’re not Philippe Coutinho, right? Good, because he’s not happy to meet Coutinho.

(I’m going to conveniently ignore he’s merely punching the ball.)

Based on reaction out of the Maejski Stadium, McCarthy may be your Player of the Week. The 23-year-old keeper (who has been on eight different loans in the last six years) made 11 saves in his first appearance since November. Liverpool put 28 shots toward goal, held 60 percent of the ball, and saw Luis Suárez hit the woodwork. Yet they left Reading with their 11th draw of the season, goalless for the second straight weekend.

As Brendan Rodgers put it in the most understated tone possible, “The game will be summed up by the great goalkeeping performance of young Alex McCarthy.” As other fans articulated it in their retweets:

source:

Aston Villa 1-1 Fulham

Hey, remember last week when Villa seemed to turn a corner at Stoke? They got points and goals, and it looked like everything was coming together. Tom Hanks was ready to make an 11-part HBO mini-series: Villans.

(Personally, I wouldn’t mind a “That Thing You Do” reboot. Or just a sequel. Guy Patterson trying to revitalize his career in music after realizing the family business is making him into his father? Faye recoiling as Guy’s new ambition reminds him of Jimmy’s overbearing ways? Tom – I’m writing the script on spec.)

Aston Villa may very well be turning the corner, but here’s the thing: When you’re only three points from the drop, draws at home are a great way to let other teams gain control of their own destiny, especially when the two you are trying to hold off (Sunderland and Wigan) now have matches in hand.

Fulham is a good team, but they’re also in that Premier League netherworld of having nothing to play for. They were on the road, and Villa seemed to be building momentum.

But that’s in the past. Time to regroup.

Southampton 1-1 West Ham United

Saints’ three-match winning streak was snapped, but hopefully they’re not above seeing this as progress. It wasn’t not so long ago that they were in the drop, playing at a level that would leave few surprised if they didn’t get a point at home from West Ham. Now both teams are on 38 points. Sitting 11th and 12th, the clubs have practically guaranteed themselves a second season in the Premier League.

Gaston Ramirez opened today’s scoring near the hour mark before Andy Carroll, with this third goal in two games, pulled West Ham even. Now up to five goals on the season, there’s still time for the Liverpool loanee to salvage a decent return on an injury-plagued campaign.

How much would it cost for West Ham to keep him? We all know that’s in the cards, right? He’s a unique player who comes with obvious benefits, but since moving to Liverpool in January 2011, Carroll only scored 11 league goals. Do you still have to pay a premium for his big Anglo-ness?

How much of their £30 million investment will Liverpool seek to recoup?

STREAM LIVE: Burnley host injury-hit Man United

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Burnley host Manchester United on Sunday (Watch live, 9:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at fortress Turf Moor with the Clarets in search of yet another huge scalp.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE

Sean Dyche‘s men have already beat the likes of Everton and Liverpool at home this season and one more victory should all but secure their Premier League status and first-ever consecutive seasons in the PL.

As for United, Jose Mourinho’s squad is depleted and after the news that Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo both suffered “significant knee ligaments injuries” in the Europa League quarterfinal clash against Anderlecht the Red Devils’ resources have been stretched even further.

In team news Burnley stick with a solid 4-4-2 formation as Ashley Barnes and Andre Gray play up top, with former United duo Tom Heaton and Michael Keane also starting.

United make eight changes and line up with what looks like a three-man central defense given that Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Rojo are all missing, while Wayne Rooney starts up top and captains United.

LINEUPS

Burnley: Heaton; Lowton, Keane, Mee, Ward; Boyd, Barton, Hendrick, Brady; Gray, Barnes. Subs: Flanagan, Westwood, Defour, Tarkowski, Gudmundsson, Agyei, Pope

Manchester United: De Gea; Darmian, Bailly, Blind; Young, Herrera, Pogba, Fellaini, Lingard; Martial, Rooney. Subs: Romero, Fosu-Mensah, Tuanzebe, Shaw, Carrick, Mkhitaryan, Rashford

Barcelona leaves Neymar out of ‘El Clasico’ v Real Madrid

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MADRID (AP) Barcelona has decided to leave Neymar out of the decisive “clasico” against Real Madrid because of the legal uncertainty over an appeal to overturn his suspension.

The club had taken all legal measures to try to clear the player for Sunday’s match at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, but ended up not including him in the squad because there had been no ruling on its latest appeal by Sunday morning.

Barcelona’s first appeal was rejected by the Spanish football federation last week, but the club was also trying to reverse the suspension through a local sports tribunal.

The club released a statement on Sunday criticizing the tribunal for not making a decision on the case in time for the match.

The tribunal said Saturday that while it had not yet had the opportunity to consider the appeal, that did not mean the striker was cleared to play.

Neymar was handed a two-game suspension for sarcastically applauding an assistant referee after being sent off in a 2-0 loss at Malaga on April 8.

The two-match ban was in addition to the one-game suspension he was automatically required to serve for the red card. The Brazilian had already sat out one match.

Two-time champion Barcelona also won’t have the injured Rafinha and Aleix Vidal, who have long-term injuries.

Madrid, seeking its first title since 2012, is expected to welcome the return of Gareth Bale, who had been sidelined because of a muscle injury.

Madrid enters Sunday’s game with a three-point lead over Barcelona. Madrid also has a game in hand.

MLS roundup: FCD win battle of unbeatens; POR rebound vs. VAN

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With seven MLS Saturday afternoons/evenings officially in the books, only 27 more to go…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage

FC Dallas 1-0 Sporting Kansas City

The only two remaining unbeaten teams faced off in Frisco on Saturday, and only one came out still unblemished. FCD dominated in the two most important facets of the game — chances created, and goals.

Maynor Figueroa scored the game’s only goal, a 77th-minute header to put home Michael Barrios’ floated cross toward the back post. If not for the (increasingly typical) heroics of Sporting KC goalkeeper Tim Melia (five saves), FCD would have already been 3-0 or 4-0 in front by that point. Sporting’s only shot on target didn’t arrive until the 47th minute, and it was far from a clear-cut chance, as Jimmy Medranda fired from the corner of the 18-yard box and hardly tested Jesse Gonzalez with the effort.

The win sees FCD move to six games unbeaten to start the season (three wins, three draws), while Sporting suffer their first defeat in seven games.


Portland Timbers 2-1 Vancouver Whitecaps

Darlington Nagbe and Darren Mattocks bagged goals for Portland, who wasted little time in bouncing back from last weekend’s home defeat to Sporting. Nagbe’s goal, a stunner from outside the penalty area (WATCH HERE) opened the scoring in the 18th minute, and Mattocks made it 2-0 five minutes before halftime.

Fredy Montero scored his third goal in two games to bring Vancouver back to 2-1 just before the hour mark, but that’s as close as the visitors would get.

Diego Valeri was carried off the field in the 80th minute, which is the worst scare that Timbers fans could have possibly imagined, though the Argentine superstar told reporters after the game that he was feeling much better.


Real Salt Lake 1-3 Atlanta United

The honeymoon period is over for Mike Petke who, after back-to-back wins to open his tenure as RSL head coach, suffered his first defeat since taking over for Jeff Cassar five games into the season.

A series of comedic errors doomed RSL just about from the start, as Hector Villalba (9th minute) and Yamil Asad (46th), two of Atlanta’s South American starlets, put the visitors 2-0 ahead a minute into the first half — the latter was set up by Miguel Almiron, another of the young, South American attackers at Gerardo Martino’s disposal. Albert Rusnak pulled RSL back to 2-1 in the 69th minute, but it would remain that way until second-half stoppage time, when Brandon Vazquez beat Nick Rimando for a 3-1 clincher.


New York Red Bulls 2-0 Columbus Crew SC

Columbus’s defeat away to New York went from bad, to worse, to worst, in 39 minutes’ time on Saturday. Midfield revelation Artur went off with a nasty arm injury in the 6th minute, Alex Muyl put the home side 1-0 up in the 11th minute Daniel Royer made it 2-0 from the penalty spot in the 38th minute, and defensive revelation (and rookie) Alex Crognale went off injured immediately thereafter.


Houston Dynamo 2-0 San Jose Earthquakes

Wilmer Cabrera’s side will live and die by the form of his young attacking quartet this season. On Saturday, Erick Torres and Alberth Elis delivered the goals (read: goals) as Houston picked up a rather comfortable him win over San Jose.

Torres opened the scoring in the 9th minute, and though Elis didn’t double the advantage for another 63 minutes, the result was rarely, if ever, in doubt. San Jose managed just two shots on target (Houston had just three, for what it’s worth), as Adolfo Machado, Tyler Deric and Co. kept their first clean sheet of the season.


New England Revolution 2-2 D.C. United

In a battle of bottom-half Eastern Conference sides, New England and D.C. drew 2-2 after Lee Nguyen and a Sean Franklin own goal stalemated tallies from Jared Jeffrey and Sebastien Le Toux.

Ligue 1: Cavani, Di Maria score as PSG win to leapfrog Monaco

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PARIS (AP) Striker Edinson Cavani scored his 44th goal of the season and created the second goal as Paris Saint-Germain beat Montpellier 2-0 to go top of the French league on Saturday.

Cavani thumped home a cross from midfielder Blaise Matuidi in the first half, with winger Angel Di Maria involved in the buildup. It took Cavani’s career-best tally to 31 league goals and he thought he had another later in the half, but his powerful header was ruled out for offside.

Three minutes after the break, Cavani back-heeled to Di Maria, who curled in from just outside the penalty area for his fifth goal in five games.

Defending champion PSG is three points ahead of Monaco, which has led for most of the season.

Monaco has played two games less and can return to the top on goal difference by winning at Lyon on Sunday.

Both sides are doing well in Europe.

Monaco reached the Champions League semifinals and Lyon got through to the last four of the Europa League this week.

PSG has won eight straight games in all competitions to keep the pressure on Monaco. They meet each other on Wednesday in the French Cup semifinals. PSG then faces a tough away trip at third-place Nice next weekend as the hard-fought title race heats up.

“Monaco’s had a great season and you have to congratulate them,” PSG left back Maxwell said. “But we’re still in it.”

Bordeaux beat last-place Bastia 2-0 at home to move up to fourth spot, with striker Malcom getting the first goal.

But Lyon needs only a draw at home to Monaco to regain fourth spot.

After struggling for most of the season, Lorient is suddenly playing like a team near the top.

The Brittany-based side moved out of the relegation zone and up to 16th place after thrashing Metz 5-1 at home for a fourth win in five games. Midfielder Jimmy Cabot scored two and striker Benjamin Moukandjo grabbed his 13th goal of the season.

Elsewhere, striker Yacine Bammou scored both as Nantes beat struggling Caen 2-0.

Two goals from center forward Lois Diony helped Dijon beat Angers 3-2 at home; while Nicolas De Preville scored a brace as Lille beat Guingamp 3-0.

In Sunday’s other matches, Nice is away to Toulouse and Saint-Etienne hosts Rennes.