Crystal Palace 0-2 Arsenal: 10-man Gunners compound Palace misery (video)

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Arsenal pulled five points clear at the top of the table and ruined caretaker manager Keith Millen’s debut in the process, beating Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. The loss keeps Palace on three points and, should Sunderland beat Newcastle on Sunday, in danger of landing on the bottom of the table.

For the first ten minutes, it didn’t look like this match would amount to much. The visitors had over 80 percent possession, while Palace’s main goal seemed to be getting as many men behind the ball as possible. But Millen’s game plan worked: Palace escaped the first ten minutes without conceding, and in fact made it through to the halftime whistle without letting Arsenal score. By the end of the first half, Palace had disrupted Arsenal’s possession-based plan to the point that the hosts were able to try their luck at goal.

Sure, those attempts at goal didn’t do much to actually threaten Wojciech Szczesny: Kagisho Dikgacoi put his header wide, Barry Bannan’s shot went the same way, Adlène Guédioura had a go from far out. But Palace were in this, and they looked set to come away with at least a point.

Then came the second half. After just two minutes, the hosts had conceded a penalty. Serge Gnabry, on after just eight minutes when Mathieu Flamini came off with a groin injury, came rushing into the area. The midfielder looked set to launch a cross, but  Guédioura panicked, bringing him down. It was Mikel Arteta that stepped up to convert the resulting penalty, sending his shot into the roof of the goal to drop down behind Julian Speroni.

But the hero fell from grace less than twenty minutes later when he felled Marouane Chamakh. Chris Foy adjuged the challenge to be a denial of a goal-scoring opportunity, despite the distance from goal, and Arteta was shown a straight red. With Arsenal down to ten, Crystal Palace seemed to believe they had a chance once more. In fact the hosts forced two fantastic saves from Szczesny, one right after another. The first was a shot from Joel Ward, with the goalkeeper tipping out for a corner. The resulting set piece sent Szczesny flying to keep out a strike from Mile Jedinak, who was certainly Palace’s best player on the day.

Yet it was 10-man Arsenal that had the final word, off a last-minute counter attack. Aaron Ramsey, racing up the left side, had little standing in his way, but couldn’t get into a good position. He held up play until support arrived, and then dinked the ball over the head of the Palace defense for Olivier Giroud to flick on for his eighth goal of the season.

Crystal Palace: Speroni, Ward, Delaney, Gabbidon, Moxey, Jedinak, Dikgacoi, Bannan (Gayle 77), Thomas (Bolasie 58), Guedioura (Kebe 72), Chamakh.

Subs not used: Price, Mariappa, O’Keefe, Puncheon

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Flamini (Gnabry 8, Wilshere 69), Ramsey, Ozil, Cazorla (Monreal 72), Giroud

Subs not used: Fabianski, Vermaelen, Rosicky, Bendtner

Goals: Arteta 47′, Giroud 88′

Red Card: Arteta 65′

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images
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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”

Boa Esporte goalkeeper back to prison as murder appeal denied

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The risk clearly wasn’t worth it for Boa Esporte.

The Brazilian club signed Bruno Fernandes de Souza in March, not long after the convicted murderer and goalkeeper was released from prison on appeal.

Fernandes, 32, had been jailed for ordering the murder of a lover, who was fed to dogs by the killer. Boa Esporte lost several big sponsors for signing him, but vocally defended the move.

The owner, Rone Moraes da Costa, said he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to revive his career. Fernandes admitted his mistakes but said he wasn’t “a bad guy”.

According to the Associated Press:

“Brazil’s Supreme Court decided on Tuesday to deny an appeal to Boa Esporte goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes de Souza, who was released in March while appealing a 22-year sentence in the 2010 killing of Eliza Samudio.”

So it’s back to jail for Fernandes, and we’ll be waiting with baited breath to hear from Boa Esporte’s owner.

Conte: Chelsea “ready to fight to the end”

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Following Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Spurs and Tuesday’s blowout of Southampton — the 4-2 score line didn’t tell the story of the second half — Antonio Conte is fired up for Chelsea to complete its Premier League title run.

The manager admits that his side was under pressure after Spurs narrowed the table gap to four points last week, but the wins have eased the Blues’ burden.

Chelsea had lost two of four PL matches before the weekend.

From Football.London:

“I think we passed a big, big psychological step after the defeat to United. We lost three points and had to prepare a semi-final against Tottenham and then another tough game in the league. In that moment we had a really important test and our answer was very good.

“We must think that this race is open, we have reached the final of the FA Cup. The situation in the league is totally open. We are ready to fight to the end. We must be proud for the job we are doing and to fight to the end.”

Spurs can bring the gap back to four with a win at Crystal Palace on Tuesday, but have a tougher run-in with five matches to play. As long as the gap is within six points, anything is possible, but the Blues have certainly answered the bell over the past four days.

Chelsea: Big win “feels like a massive step” to title

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“It feels like a massive step to be honest,” said game-changing goal scorer Gary Cahill of Chelsea’s 4-2 win over Southampton at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

Chelsea’s Premier League lead stands at seven points after the win, which saw a dominant second half from the hosts.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Perhaps it was cued up by Cahill’s first half stoppage time header, which boosted the Blues to a 2-1 lead just before the whistle.

Cahill darted in front of Diego Costa‘s scissor kick attempt to power a header past Fraser Forster.

“(Costa) tried to claim it afterward as well,” Cahill said. “When the ball’s just lofted over, it’s dying to be attacked. We went into halftime with our tails up and it was a big boost for us.”

Cesc Fabregas said Southampton surprised the Blues tactically, leading to an entertaining first half that could’ve seen either side ahead before half.

“We needed a little bit of time to adapt to what they did because we prepared for something else,” he said.

Fabregas said the win was big with second-place Spurs watching at home. Tottenham plays at Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

“We needed a good response after the Man United game. We have to keep going with five games to go, to keep it up and make the last push. It would be a big shame if now we relaxed. We just have to push now more than ever,” he said.

“It’s a statement for (Spurs), for us, for everyone, but most of all for us.”
Eden Hazard agreed.
“We scored four beautiful goals,” said the Belgian, who scored the game’s first goal. “It’s good to play before and put pressure on them.”