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Crystal Palace 1-4 Fulham: Fulham flies over Eagles in relegation battle

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It took two moments of first-half brilliance to put Fulham up on Crystal Palace, but the Cottagers cruised to victory in the second half. The match finished 4-1, with Palace’s defensive woes burying it before the hour mark.

New Fulham owner Shahid Khan made his way to Selhurst Park, but the club didn’t do much to make a positive first impression. Jamaican defender Adrian Mariappa scored in the seventh minute, jumping higher than center back Brede Hangeland to head home a deflected cross on top of the six-yard box.

Hangeland, who is eight inches taller than Mariappa, made way at halftime, perhaps partly because of his error on the opening goal. Coming into the game, Fulham was winless in 25 league games when conceding first.

But Pajtim Kasami wasn’t scared. He drew the Cottagers level in the 19th minute, taking an aerial ball off his chest and smashing home a volley from a poor angle. After the ball looped to him on the right edge of the penalty area, he did not break stride with his first touch and twisting, right-footed volley.

Not to be outdone, Steve Sidwell gave Fulham the lead just before halftime. In the 45th minute, Bryan Ruiz hit the wall on a free kick, and the ball bounced straight down. After a large bounce, Sidwell lined it up about 22 yards from goal and smashed it into the top left-hand corner of the goal.

Of the four total shots on target in the first half, three ended up in the back of the net, including both of Fulham’s efforts.

The visitors kept up the pressure early in the second half. Palace goalkeeper Julián Speroni mis-hit a clearance in the 49th minute, striking an onrushing Dimitar Berbatov. Darren Bent picked up the loose ball, but Speroni saved face by pushing his shot wide for a corner.

On the ensuing set piece, Berbatov did what Bent could not, scoring his team’s third of the game. Mariappa jumped with him, but the Bulgarian managed to get his header on target despite the Jamaican’s arms all over him.

The next Fulham corner came to the same result. This time, it was Philippe Senderos who bundled home his effort to seal the result. Speroni was on the spot, but the ball sneaked under him and over the line.

Palace’s hopes for a comeback were extinguished in the 66th minute, when Dwight Gayle had a goal called back for offside. A poor touch from Fulham left back Kieran Richardson set up the opportunity when Damien Delaney nipped in a touch on top of the penalty area.

However, Gayle ran into the area far too early and was offside by about six yards. Home fans and players shouted for a penalty, as they thought Richardson took down Delaney illegally, but referee Lee Mason only blew his whistle for offside.

Kasami almost sealed the game with another world-class finish, but Speroni extended to his left to parry away the Swiss midfielder’s strike with the outside of his left foot from outside the penalty area. On the other end, Maarten Stekelenburg punched away a long-range effort from Dean Moxey in the 88th minute.

In the end, Martin Jol won the battle between two under-fire managers, his team good enough for a three-goal margin against Ian Holloway’s side. Palace remains in 19th place (one win, no draws, seven losses), while Fulham is tied for 13th with Aston Villa (3-1-4).

Lineups

Crystal Palace (4-3-3): Julián Speroni — Dean Moxey, Damien Delaney, Adrian Mariappa, Joel Ward — Mile Jedinak, José Campaña (Jerome Thomas, 46), Stuart O’Keefe — Yannick Bolasie, Dwight Gayle (Kevin Phillips, 69), Jason Puncheon (Marouane Chamakh, 56)

Unused substitutes: Lewis Price — Danny Gabbidon, Kagisho Dikgacoi, Jimmy Kébé

Fulham (4-2-3-1): Maarten Stekelenburg — Kieran Richardson, Brede Hangeland (Fernando Amorebieta, 46), Philippe Senderos, Sascha Riether — Steve Sidwell, Scott Parker — Pajtim Kasami, Dimitar Berbatov (Hugo Rodallega, 90), Bryan Ruiz — Darren Bent (Damien Duff, 77)

Unused substitutes: David Stockdale — Elsad Zverotić, Giorgos Karagounis, Derek Boateng

Bayern’s Vidal says “ugly” Atletico not deserved UCL finalists

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27: Juanfran of Atletico Madrid and Arturo Vidal of Bayern Munich argue during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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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.

Europa League preview: Liverpool, Shakhtar look to overcome Spanish foes

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - APRIL 28:  Cedric Bakambu of Villarreal is watched by the Liverpool defence during the UEFA Europa League semi final first leg match between Villarreal CF and Liverpool at Estadio El Madrigal on April 28, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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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.

Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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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:

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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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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.