Will Jason Puncheon make as big a statement against Villa as he did at Cardiff?

Cardiff City 0-3 Crystal Palace: Puncheon at the double (video)

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Crystal Palace aren’t safe yet, but now that they’re sitting seven points above the drop zone with a game in hand, Tony Pulis must be about to sleep a little easier. Cardiff’s defeat, however, puts the Bluebirds second from bottom, six points from safety.

It came as little surprise when Palace took the lead after half an hour. Palace had barely anything to do in the first thirty minutes, with Julian Speroni hardly needing to wake up to save a header from Frazier Campbell.

It was Jason Puncheon who fired the visitors ahead, exchanging passes with Joe Ledley as they moved upfield. Puncheon managed to find himself a bit of space inside Cardiff’s penalty area, driving his shot past David Marshall into the bottom corner of the net.

With Cardiff staring relegation in the face yet again, you’d think they’d be eager to go on the attack. Instead, the closest they came was a penalty appeal after Mats Daehli was taking out by Palace defender Kagisho Dikgacoi. The referee was close by, however, and waved away the claims.

So again, Palace’s second goal failed to surprise. Again the Cardiff defense fell to pieces, with the Bluebirds leaving substitute Marouane Chamakh wide open. He got his head on the end of a free kick and, although Speroni was able to push it away, the ball fell invitingly for Ledley. The former Cardiff man had no trouble tapping in to double Crystal Palace’s lead.

As if Cardiff weren’t already feeling low enough, Puncheon had to go and score a second. Again, Chamakh was vital, letting the ball from Adrian Mariappa slip through his legs for Puncheon to run onto. He let rip from 25 yards, the shot settling into the top corner of the net.

Cardiff City: Marshall; Theophile-Catherine, Caulker, Turner, Taylor; Medel, Mutch, Daehli (Bellamy 72), Zaha (Noone 62); Campbell, Jones (Cowie 78)

Crystal Palace: Speroni, Mariappa, Dann, Delaney, Ward, Dikgacoi, Jedinak, Ledley (Parr 79), Puncheon, Bolasie (Chamakh 64), Jerome (Murray 83)

Goals: Puncheon 31′; 88′; Ledley 71′

MLS Snapshot: Orlando City SC 2-1 Montreal Impact

Cyle Larin, Orlando City SC

The game in 100 words (or less): For weeks, it was a widely held belief that the Montreal Impact would snatch up the sixth and final playoff place in the Eastern Conference with little or no resistance from their opposition. As they went six games unbeaten (four wins), all looked to be setting up perfect for the club that fired Frank Klopas midseason, but there was another team in the race for sixth that kept winning themselves: Orlando City SC. On Saturday night, Montreal and Orlando City faced off at the Citrus, with the expansion Lions claiming their fourth-straight victory with a 2-1 triumph. Montreal now holds a one-point lead on Orlando in the race for sixth, and have two games in hand, but it’s no longer a foregone conclusion L’Impact will qualify for the playoffs no resistance whatsoever.

[ MORE: | Week 30 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

33′ — Bush’s mistake gifts Larin the opening goal — Larin did what your taught to do as a striker — “put it on frame, test the goalkeeper” — but in no universe does a shot so feeble have any business finding the back of the net. Evan Bush has been great this year. Hopefully (for Montreal’s sake), this howler doesn’t turn into the yips with the playoffs looming.

43′ — Hall’s “mistake” gifts Oduro an equalizer — Dominic Oduro equalized in the 43rd minute, when he took the ball out of the hands of Tally Hall and smashed it into the back of the net, but the goal should have been disallowed due to Hall having full control of the ball.

80′ — Hines hits the winner for Orlando — Seb Hines put the ball back into the mixer and just so happened to find the back of the net in the 80th minute. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

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Man of the match: Seb Hines

Goalscorers: Larin (33′), Oduro (43′), Hines (80′)

MLS Snapshot: NY Red Bulls 2-1 Columbus Crew SC

Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls
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The game in 100 words (or less): Two weeks in a row Columbus Crew SC have had a chance to go top of the Eastern Conference with a victory, and two weeks in a row Crew SC have failed to take a single point from massively important fixtures. Their latest defeat, a 2-1 humbling at the hands of the East-leading New York Red Bulls, started so well for Gregg Berhalter’s side, but was undone by a pair of costly, comedic defensive errors that allowed Lloyd Sam and Bradley Wright-Phillips (15th of the season) to erase an early deficit (Justin Meram) and win all three points. The result not only keeps the Red Bulls top of the East, but gives them a three- and four-point cushion with three and two games in hand on their nearest competitors., D.C. United and New England Revoltion respectively. For Crew SC, they’re four points back of the Red Bulls in fourth place, one point ahead of fifth-place Toronto FC, who have a game in hand.

[ MORE: | Week 30 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

9′ — Meram pokes it past Robles for an early lead — Meram “earned” his goal all the way back in midfield, when the Iraqi international’s mazy run took a routine turnover inside Crew SC’s defensive half and turned it into a dangerous counter-attacking opportunity. Harrison Afful overlapped and provided the cross for Meram to send home.

12′ — Sam capitalizes on multiple mistakes to equalize — Crew SC pass the ball out of the back. They don’t boot it forward to clear. It’s just what they do. Sometimes, that’ll bite you. When your goalkeeper and right back both have blunders clearing the ball 10 seconds apart, you probably deserve to concede an ugly, scrappy goal.

21′ — Wright-Phillips capitalizes on more defensive gaffes — See the above description for Red Bulls goal no. 1.

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Man of the match: Damien Perrinelle

Goalscorers: Meram (9′), Sam (12′), Wright-Phillips (21′)