Crystal Palace 1-0 West Ham United: Eagles protect first half goal, take first win under Pulis (video)

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Marouane Chamakh’s goal near the end of the first half gave Crystal Palace their third win of the season, the Eagles’ 1-0 victory over West Ham United at Selhurst Park vaulting the club out of the cellar Premier League cellar, giving the team their first victory of the Tony Pulis era.

After the second game of their new manager’s reign, Palace temporarily climbs above Sunderland and into 19th place, with the Black Cats hosting Chelsea tomorrow. West Ham, coming off a 3-0 weekend win over Fulham, stay 15th, having won once in their last seven league games.

The Hammers nearly drew first blood on Tuesday, with a Carlton Cole ball sent through the six-yard box from the left of goal in the 36th minute skipping over Stewart Downing’s foot in front of a vacated right post. With a shot from Kevin Nolan having drawing a save from Julian Speroni five minutes earlier, the visitors to be breaking through the match’s early feeling out period  and building toward an opening goal.

It was Crystal Palace, however, who’d distinguish themselves before halftime, with Chamakh’s second goal of the season giving the home side a lead at the break. Against a club when he spent an ill-fated loan spell with last year, the target man converted on a 42nd minute corner, Barry Bannan’s floated cross after a ball playing short allowing the former Arsenal striker to carve out room between himself and Nolan. Heading down and into the left of goal, Chamakh sent his team into intermission with a 1-0 lead.

Early in the second, Crystal Palace nearly doubled their lead, with chances from James Puncheon and Cameron Jerome testing Jussi Jaaskelainen’s ability to keep his team within one. At full stretch to his right post, the Finnish goalkeeper denied Puncheon from 14 yards in the 51st minute, pushing the ball out for a corner. Moments later, Mile Jedinak headed Cameron Jerome past an out-of-position James Collins and in on goal. Bursting off his line, Jaaskelainen blocked the former Stoke striker’s chance to double his new team’s lead, keeping the visitors within reach.

Five minutes later, with the field starting to tilt toward West Ham’s goal, Sam Allardyce changed things up, bringing on Modibo Maiga and Joe Cole for Carlton Cole and Noble. Soon injury forced Tony Pulis into his first change, bringing on Jimmy Kébé for James Puncheon in the 66th minute. As the game entered it final 20 minutes, Crystal Palace begun holding out, conceding the bulk of the match’s possession to the Hammers.

As the second half wore down, the fresh legs of Stuart O’Keefe and Jonathan Williams gave Palace a way out of their own end, with Kébé nearly finding an insurance goal after turning on a shot toward an open goal from 17 yards out. But rushed by a small, desperate swarm of Hammers defenders, the Eagles’ attacker shot over the cross-bar, giving fans at Selhurst Park a few more moments’ doubt.

Ninety seconds later, Lee Mason’s window calmed their concerns. With their second win in three games, Palace has climbed out of last place, Tony Pulis giving his new club’s supporters reason to their team can move on from the season’s tough start.

Goals

Crystal Palace: Marouane Chamakh 42

Lineups

Crystal Palace: Julian Speroni; Joel Ward, Danny Gabbidon, Damien Delaney, Dean Moxey; James Puncheon (Jimmy Kébé 66), Mile Jedinak, Kagiso Dikgocoi, Barry Bannan (Stuart O’Keefe 82); Marouane Chamakh (Jonathan Williams 85), Cameron Jerome

Unused Substitutes: Lewis Price, Adrian Mariappa, Dwight Gayle, Kevin Phillips

West Ham United: Jussi Jaaskelainen; Joey O’Brien, James Collins, James Tomkins, Razvan Rat (George McCartney 78);Mark Noble, Kevin Nolan (Joe Cole 58), Ravel Morrison, Stewart Downing, Mohamed Diame; Carlton Cole (Modibo Maiga 58).

UnusedSubstitutes: Adrian, Matthew Jarvis, Guy Demel, Jack Collison

New York Red Bulls introduce space at RBA for autistic families

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HARRISON, N.J. (AP) The Red Bulls have announced plans for a permanent sensory-friendly space at their stadium for families impacted by autism.

Formerly executive offices, the space overlooking midfield is a calm area that is free from the crowds and the noise of Red Bull Arena during matches. Families can use it for free.

The team announced the new space on Saturday before the Red Bulls were set to host the Chicago Fire. It was Autism Awareness Night at the stadium.

“Families deserve to feel welcome and comfortable each time they step foot into Red Bull Arena, not just one night a year,” Red Bulls GM Marc de Grandpre said in a statement released by the club. “We hope all sports teams and entertainment venues are inspired to take similar action to provide comfort for families with loved ones on the autism spectrum.”

League Two game restarted in empty stadium after fans storm field

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LONDON (AP) An English soccer game restarted in an empty stadium after a pitch invasion led to the crowd being told the fixture had been abandoned.

There were five minutes remaining in Leyton Orient’s fourth-tier game against Colchester on Saturday when a sit-down protest was staged on the pitch by Orient fans against Italian owner Francesco Becchetti.

It forced the referee to take the players off the field. The protests lasted for more than an hour before the crowd was told the game had been abandoned and the stadium eventually cleared. The teams came out and finished the game.

Leyton Orient lost 3-1 a week after its relegation from the English Football League was confirmed after 112 years.

“A decision was taken with the police to announce that the game had been abandoned as it was felt this would help clear the pitch, which proved correct,” the EFL said in a statement. “However, it was deemed appropriate that the game needed to be played to a conclusion in order to maintain the integrity of the competition.”

La Liga: Barcelona, Real Madrid hold serve in tight title race

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A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Super-duper Sunday preview — North London derby, plus 6 of top 7 ]

Espanyol 0-3 Barcelona

Barcelona are doing all they can do — win — in their bid to usurp Real Madrid in the race for the title. While they entered the weekend — and still are — ahead of their El Clasico rivals based on head-to-head results this season, Los Blancos still have a game in hand which will surely decide whether Madrid claim their 33rd top-division title, or a 25th for Barca.

On Saturday, Luis Enrique’s side had more than just the title at stake — also at stake: the Derbi Barceloni, against fellow Catalan side Espanyol.

For 45 minutes, the home side held firm and refused to break, but once Luis Suarez put the Blaugrana ahead in the 50th minute, that was all she wrote. Ivan Rakitic doubled the advantage in the 76th minute, and Suarez completed the scoring 11 minutes later.

Real Madrid 2-1 Valencia

By the time the derby kicked off, Madrid had already applied the pressure and gone three points clear with a 2-1 victory that was a whole lot closer than the final score indicates.

Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring just before the half-hour mark, and Zinedine Zidane’s side was well on its way to victory. Ronaldo followed up his opening goal with a missed penalty kick 10 minutes into the second half, and Daniel Parejo pulled the visitors level with a sensational free kick just eight minutes before the end of regular time. Points looked sure to be dropped, and the door opened wider for Barca, but Marcelo was prepared to play the part of hero on the day, and the Brazilian left back bagged one of the season’s more improbable goals, a right-footed strike from the top of the box, in the 86th minute.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Las Palmas 0-5 Atletico Madrid
Real Sociedad 2-1 Granada

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Osasuna vs. Deportivo La Coruña — 6 a.m. ET
Real Betis vs. Alaves — 10:15 a.m. ET
Eibar vs. Leganes — 12:30 p.m. ET
Celta Vigo vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:45 p.m. ET

Monday’s La Liga schedule

Malaga vs. Sevilla — 3 p.m. ET

Championship Focus: It’s all about the playoff places now

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With Brighton & Hove Albion and Newcastle United having already clinched the Championship’s two automatic promotion places, all eyes turn to the four teams behind them still jockeying for playoff positioning…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s coverage of the Championship ]

3rd — Reading — 82 points, +2 GD
4th — Sheffield Wednesday — 81 points, +16 GD
5th — Huddersfield Town — 81 points, +1 GD
6th — Fulham — 77 points, +27 GD

First of all, the Championship remains the least sensible league in the world. Disagree? Just try to explain the above wildly varying points totals and the corresponding goal differentials. Go ahead, I’ll wait

As for the weekend’s results, Reading and Wednesday did themselves major favors in the race for third with victories over Wigan Athletic (1-0) and Ipswich Town (1-0), respectively, while Huddersfield, who entered the weekend in that top playoff place, played 67 minutes with a man advantage against Birmingham City, and lost 2-0. All three of Reading, Wednesday and Huddersfield have clinched their place in the promotion playoffs, which begin two weeks from Saturday, on May 13.

[ MORE: PL Sunday preview — North London derby, plus 6 of the top 7 play ]

Given Leeds United’s 3-3 draw with Norwich City, a win would have clinched the fourth and final playoff place for Fulham, but the Cottagers dropped a pair of points themselves in a 1-1 draw with Brentford at Craven Cottage. Still, Fulham are all but into the playoffs with a three-point lead on Leeds, and a goal differential that’s 13 goals better.