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).


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

MLS Cup Playoffs: NY Red Bulls 1-0 (1-2 agg.) Columbus Crew SC

Tony Tchani, Michael Parkhurst

The game in 100 words (or less): Columbus Crew SC are headed to their second MLS Cup in club history (champions – 2008) after defeating the New York Red Bulls, 2-0 on aggregate, in the Western Conference finals (0-0 draw in an extremely chippy second leg on Sunday). Justin Meram and Kei Kamara scored the two-leg tie’s only goals — eight seconds and 85 minutes into the first leg, respectively — and Crew SC confidently managed the second leg by defending with numbers and wisely picking their spots to break out on the counter. RBNY held nearly 60 percent of possession in the second leg, but could muster just six shots on target over the 90 minutes. Crew SC will host the Portland Timbers in MLS Cup 2015 next Sunday (4 p.m. ET) at MAPFRE Stadium.

[ MORE: Previewing the MLS weekend ]

Three moments that mattered

38′ — Robles at full stretch to deny Kamara — What’s better: the first touch, second touch, turn and shot by Kei Kamara; or, the sprawled-out save by Luis Robles to swat away a ball clearly headed for the bottom corner? Quality on quality.

90+3′ — Abang heads home to make it nervy late — Anatole Abange rose above the crowd and headed home a recycled ball inside the penalty area after a Sal Zizzo cross was headed high into the air late into stoppage time.

90+5′ — Madness in the penalty area, RBNY hit the post — It was absolute scenes inside the Crew SC penalty area. Ball after ball pumped into the box, headed high into the air and briefly cleared. The final chance of the game fell to Bradley Wright-Phillips, who headed the ball toward the far post with Steve Clark rushing out quickly, only to see his slow dribbler bounce off the front side of the post and back into the field of play.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Abang (90+3′)

MLS Cup Playoffs: FC Dallas 2-2 (3-5 agg.) Portland Timbers

Fanendo Adi, Portland Timbers FC
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The game in 100 words (or less): The Portland Timbers are headed to their first MLS Cup in club history after defeating FC Dallas, 5-3 on aggregate, in the Western Conference finals (2-2 draw in the second leg). Fanendo Adi scored in Sunday’s second leg, giving Caleb Porter’s side a 4-1 aggregate lead before Ryan Hollingshead and Blas Perez scored inside the last 25 minutes to give Oscar Pareja’s bunch a late lifeline, but Lucas Melano’s spectacular tap-in sealed the Timbers’ trip to MLS Cup. The third seed heading into the playoffs, Portland bounced Sporting Kansas City in an epic penalty shootout in the knockout round and outlasted the Vancouver Whitecaps in the conference semifinals before knocking off the West’s top seed over two legs to advance to MLS Cup 2015. No matter who advances from the East finals later on Sunday, Portland will play away in MLS Cup, to either the New York Red Bulls or Columbus Crew SC.

[ MORE: Previewing the MLS weekend ]

Three Four moments that mattered

54′ — Adi fires past Gonzalez to make if 4-1 — Oscar Pareja elected to go with Walker Zimmerman at center back on Sunday, dropping regular starter Zach Loyd to the bench. On the game’s opening goal, it was Zimmerman who wound up on the ground as Adi received the ball, turned and fired a massive away goal past Jesse Gonzalez.

68′ — Diaz’s magical ball curled home by Hollingshead — Mauro Diaz is a wonderful magician capable of playing the kill through ball from anywhere on the field — this we’ve known for quite some time. His chipped through ball to set up Hollingshead’s goal was extraordinarily brilliant, even for him.

73′ — Perez heads home the free kick to pull within one — Would you be surprised to hear that it was Diaz who set up FCD’s second goal? His free kick was Perez-finding missile and found the head of the Panamanian striker at the top of the six-yard box, where 34-year-old headed home with ease.

90+5′ — Melano rounds Gonzalez, seals MLS Cup berth — Poor Jesse Gonzalez. Absolutely schooled and posterized by Lucas Melano. What a way to sew up a place in the championship final.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Mauro Diaz

Goalscorers: Adi (54′), Hollingshead (68′), Perez (73′), Melano (90+5′)

La Liga & Serie A: Real Madrid bounce back; Juventus on the charge

Gareth Bale, Real Madrid CF
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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights:

Eibar 0-2 Real Madrid

Real Madrid bounced back from back-to-back La Liga defeats with a 2-0 victory away to Eibar on Sunday. Gareth Bale (below video) and Cristiano Ronaldo (penalty kick) provided the goals to keep Rafa Benitez‘s bunch (27 points) third in the league, two points behind Atletico Madrid and six behind leaders Barcelona.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Getafe 2-0 Villarreal
Rayo Vallecano 0-3 Athletic Bilbao
Sevilla 1-0 Valencia

[ MORE: Saturday’s La Liga roundup ]

Roma 0-2 Atalanta

Losing at home to sides currently in a relegation battle — rarely a good idea, especially if you fancy yourselves title challengers, but that didn’t stop Roma from doing just that on Sunday. Alejandro Gomez and German Denis scored the goals to knock off a 10-man Roma side (Maicon – 81st minute) and keep Rudi Garcia’s bunch (27 points) from gaining ground on any of the three teams currently ahead of them — Inter Milan, Napoli and Fiorentina — all of whom play on Monday.

AC Milan 4-1 Sampdoria

M’Baye Niang scored twice, while Giacomo Bonaventura and Luiz Adriano (below video) added single tallies for AC Milan (23 points) to keep pace with the top-five pack in Serie A. After 14 rounds of games, the Rossoneri sit sixth, a point outside fifth (UEFA Europa League) and five points out of third (UEFA Champions League).

Palermo 0-3 Juventus

Don’t look now, but here come Juventus. Sunday’s 3-0 triumph over Palermo makes it four straight wins in the league for Massimiliano Allegri’s side — a run that pushes them all the way up to fifth in the league (24 points), just six points off the pace of leaders Inter, who play on Monday. Mario Mandzukic (below video), Stefano Sturaro and Simone Zaza scored the goals for the world’s most frightening fifth-place team.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Torino 2-0 Bologna
Chievo 2-3 Udinese
Frosinone 3-2 Hellas Verona
Genoa 1-2 Carpi
Empoli 1-0 Lazio

Monday’s Serie A schedule

Sassuolo vs. Fiorentina (1 p.m. ET)
Napoli vs. Inter Milan (3 p.m. ET)

Arsenal’s injury crisis — add Sanchez, Cazorla, Koscielny to the list

Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal FC
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From title challengers to just hoping to hold on to a top-four place while Arsene Wenger is forced to play reserves and academy players because half of his star players are currently out injured — the annual story of Arsenal.

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Oct. 27, when Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain both went down with injuries in the same game, marked the unofficial start of Arsenal’s 2015-16 injury crisis, but things didn’t really get going full bore until the last seven days, when five more players — four of them full-time starters — picked up injuries that will keep them out of action for anywhere between three weeks and three months.

Added to the list last weekend: Francis Coquelin (knee – three months minimum), Mikel Arteta (calf – three weeks)

Added to the list on Sunday: Alexis Sanchez (hamstring – MORE DETAILS), Santi Cazorla (knee), Laurent Koscielny (hip)

Following Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Norwich City, Wenger said Koscielny “could not walk” due to the hip spasm that forced him out of the game after just 11 minutes. He also divulged that Cazorla, who could not be subbed off because Wenger had already used all three subs late on, played the second half “on one leg.” Sanchez came into Sunday injured after picking up a hamstring injury in Arsenal’s UEFA Champions League victory over Dinamo Zagreb on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Sunday’s PL roundup — Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs all draw ]

Arsenal fans were up in arms during the summer transfer window — let’s be honest, the following is true of every transfer window the last five years — crying out, “We must buy, we must buy.” Have a look at Arsenal’s complete injury list at the moment, and try to say, “They didn’t need to buy in the summer.”

In chronological order: Danny Welbeck (knee – early 2016 return), Tomas Rosicky (knee – Christmas time return), Jack Wilshere (leg – Christmas time return), Theo Walcott (calf – December return), Mikel Arteta (calf – three weeks), Francis Coquelin (knee – three months minimum), Laurent Koscielny (hip – to be assessed), Alexis Sanchez (hamstring – to be assessed), Santi Cazorla (knee – to be assessed)