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Crystal Palace 1-1 Norwich City: Goals just before halftime see physical battle shared (video)

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A dull first half came to a cracking end as Bradley Johnson and James Puncheon secured a point for their sides.

Tony Pulis will feel Crystal Palace should have taken advantage of a late sending off for Leroy Fer, but it was not to be as Norwich will take the visiting point.

The game bogged down early, as the first 10 minutes saw both sides try to maintain possession.  The home side saw the first few chances, but nothing much came of it.

With the rain wreaking havoc on passing, not surprisingly precious little took place in the first half for fans to chew on.

The away fans in particular had to see their side pegged back by Palace.  But it only takes one chance to go ahead, and that they would do as the match neared halftime.

On a rare spell of possession, Gary Hooper found Bradley Johnson at the top of the box and the midfielder finished spectacularly as the ball hooked off the post and in, with keeper Julian Speroni believing the ball would go wide.

Crystal Palace would find their way back though, not to be undone before halftime.  With Martin Olsson clearing off the line, the ensuing corner saw Leroy Fer push Marouane Chamakh and referee Kevin Friend pointed to the spot.

James Puncheon blasted home the penalty, and the two sides were once again level heading into the break.

With the goals before halftime, the game sprung open in the second half with both goals peppered by shots early.  The home side had the better of the early action, as John Ruddy struggled to hold onto a number of shots.

As the second half wore on, it was obvious that Chris Hughton and Norwich were content to see out a point.

(MORE: Barclays Premier League standings)

However, his quest to do so was put in serious jeopardy when he lost a man on the 82nd minute.  Fer, having been booked earlier for his push in the penalty area, went studs up into Mile Jedinak and rightly received his second yellow from Kevin Friend.

It put Crystal Palace clearly on the front foot, but they could not capitalize, and the points were shared.  With Fulham winning, Palace drop back down into the drop zone, a point behind Cardiff.  Norwich remain in a precarious position at 20 points, just above Fulham in 14th.

GOALS:

Crystal Palace – Puncheon 44′ (pen)
Norwich City – Johnson 39′

RED CARDS:

Norwich City – Fer 82′

LINEUPS:

Crystal Palace – Speroni; Mariappa, Gabbidon, Delaney, Ward; Bolasie (Williams 80′), Jedinak, Dikgacoi (Parr 45′), Puncheon; Chamakh, Jerome (Gayle 62′).

Norwich City – Ruddy; Whittaker, Turner (Bennett 54′), Bassong, Olsson; Fer, Johnson; Snodgrass, Hoolahan (Elmander 69′), Redmond; Hooper (Martin 85′).

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.