Aston Villa may have just secured their Premier League survival, and it’s only appropriate that Gabriel Agbonlahor was the man to do it. With two goals at Carrow Road, the Villa captain lifted his side to 2-1 win over Norwich City, vaulting his team to 40 points and, perhaps more importantly, temporary hold of 13th place in the Premier League.
That could change in a few minutes, should Southampton get a result at White Hart Lane. And Sunderland could also vault Villa after Monday’s meeting with Stoke, yet the point remains the same. All of a sudden, there are a slew of clubs more likely to go down than Villa. Paul Lambert’s team, just needing to best one of them, looks set to survive another relegation battle.
After a scoreless first half, Agbonlahor opened the scoring when he fired a right-footed shot inside Mark Bunn’s post from 22 yards out. Grant Holt equalized from the spot in the 74th minute, but shortly after Wigan went in front at The Hawthorns, the Villa captain make the Latics an afterthought, again going to Bunn’s right, this time scoring the match-winner from the right of Norwich’s area.
Forty points is the unproven magic number for avoiding relegation, but that’s irrelevant folklore. What Villa fans should really be looking at is the growing list of teams between them and the drop. All of Southampton, Norwich City, Newcastle, Sunderland, and Wigan sit between Villa and a Championship-bound place. All five of those teams would have to out-point Villa over these final two weeks to relegate the Lions.
That’s why Agbonlahor’s goals are so huge. As teams like Norwich and Newcastle trip their way to the 38th pole, Villa’s passed them. And it’s highly unlikely all these stumbling sides can reverse course in time to send Villa down.
Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.
Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]
However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.
Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.
They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.
The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.
Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.
[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]
Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.
The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.
[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]
Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.
Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0
Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.
[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]
Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw
Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.
In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.
All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:
[ Subscribe to the podcast OR to update your iTunes subscriptions ]
[ Click here for the RSS feed ]
LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.
Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.
[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]
Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.
Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.
Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.