LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 12: Despair for Brad Guzan of Aston Villa as Jason Puncheon of Crystal Palace celebrates as he scores their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Aston Villa at Selhurst Park on April 12, 2014 in London, England.

Crystal Palace 1-0 Aston Villa: Puncheon lifts his side once more (video)

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The two sides met at Selhurst Park even on points, but Crystal Palace emerge almost certain of safety, while results at the bottom mean Aston Villa are fearing relegation once more.

As was to be expected from a Tony Pulis side meeting a side set up defensively, there was very little action to be had in much of the match. In fact, by the break, Brad Guzan had needed to make just one save, while Villa hadn’t tested Julian Speroni at all.

It looked like Villa might be able to get something out of the match when Kagisho Dikgacoi went off injured. Pulis brought on Marouane Chamakh, pushing Joe Ledley into midfield and putting Chamakh just behind Cameron Jerome. The result was a rather disjointed Palace side.

Villa nearly took advantage of Palace’s inability to settle shortly after. Ciaran Clark got a touch on a corner from Ashley Westwood, but Jerome was there to clear the ball off the line.

Palace were able to work their way back into the game before the half had finished. The hosts’ best attempt came in the 41st minute, when Yannick Bolasie got on the end of a cross from Jason Puncheon. His header was rather tame, however, and Guzan had no trouble keeping it out.

Palace was again ready to cause trouble in the second half. Guzan was forced to push away a decent effort from Bolasie, but the ball fell to Jerome. The forward’s shot only rattled the bar, however.

At the hour mark, the lively Bolasie nearly got one past Guzan. His shot from 25 yards had the goalkeeper beaten, but Guzan was saved from embarrassment when the ball went just wide of the far post.

There was no one rescuing Guzan in the 76th, however, when Jason Puncheon put Crystal Palace up again. Last week’s hero netted his sixth of the season when he got on the end of a low ball from Bolasie to sweep home.

With less than fifteen minutes left to play, Paul Lambert made a double switch, bringing on Andi Weimann for Karim El Ahmadi and Marc Albrighton for Ryan Bertrand.

The substitutions very nearly paid off. Speroni was forced into a fantastic save to keep out an effort from Weimann. In injury time, the Austrian set up a good chance for Ciaran Clark, while Joel Ward and Scott Dann combined to keep out an attempt by Ron Vlaar.


Crystal Palace: Speroni, Mariappa, Dann, Delaney, Ward, Dikgacoi (Chamakh 19), Jedinak, Bolasie (Parr 83), Puncheon, Ledley, Jerome (Murray 75)

Goals: Puncheon 76′

Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar, Baker, Clark, Bertrand (Albrighton 82), Westwood, Delph, El Ahmadi (Weimann 82), Agbonlahor, Holt

Subs: Bennett, Weimann, Albrighton, Sylla, Bowery, Tonev, Steer

MLS Cup Playoffs: LA Galaxy 3-1 Real Salt Lake (video)

Los Angeles Galaxy defender Jelle Van Damme (37) congratulates forward Alan Gordon (9) for scoring against the Real Salt Lake during the first half of a knockout round MLS playoff soccer match in Carson, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
AP Photo/Alex Gallardo
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The game in 100 words (or less): The LA Galaxy are through to the conference semifinals of the MLS Cup Playoffs, where they’ll take on the Colorado Rapids beginning Sunday, for the seventh time in eight years with a 3-1 knockout-round triumph over Real Salt Lake at the StubHub Center on Wednesday. Alan Gordon put the home side ahead inside the first quarter-hour before RSL drew level seven minutes later, but Emmanuel Boateng bagged a quickfire brace to complete a pair of brilliant individual exhibitions of dribbling inside the penalty area. With Steven Gerrard unavailable and Robbie Keane only fit to feature off the bench, Bruce Arena turned to Gordon, who gave way to Keane early in the second half after picking up an injury of his own, to play the fulcrum of the Galaxy attack, and it worked to near-perfection during the opening half-hour. Landon Donovan started the game and played 87 minutes, providing the kind of defensive work rate that’s been missing up and down the flanks of LA all season. Sebastian Lletget put in a near-flawless passing performance while playing deep in midfield. Don’t look now, but those are the Galaxy’s biggest question of 2016, all just about answered as the playoffs begin. I won’t say, “I told you so” if/when they win MLS Cup 2016, but…

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

Three Four moments that mattered

14′ — Gordon finishes from close range for 1-0 — Landon Donovan -> Giovani dos Santos -> Alan Gordon. Just like Bruce Arena drew it up in preseason midseason last month this week this morning.

21′ — Plata converts from the spot after Morales’ dive — Javier Morales was angling for a penalty from the moment he entered the penalty area. All Emmanuel Boateng had to do was look at him, and Morales was going down.

26′ — Boateng weaves through to make it 2-1 — Left. Right. Left. Right. Left. Boateng took advantage of some poor defending, and the Galaxy were back in the lead.

34′ — Boateng cuts inside, blows past his man, makes it 3-1 — There’s playing in top gear, and there’s having an extra gear that you rarely have to use because no one else on the field has it. Boateng falls into the latter category.

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Men of the match: Emmanuel Boateng

Goalscorers: Gordon (14′), Plata (21′), Boateng (26′, 34′)

MLS Cup Playoffs: Toronto FC 3-1 Philadelphia Union (video)

Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC
Chris Young/The Associated Press via AP
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The game in 100 words (or less): 10 years later, Toronto FC are MLS Cup Playoffs victors. For eight seasons, the playoffs eluded them altogether. Last year, they were one-and-done in embarrassing fashion at the hands of their local rivals. In 2016, it was  their year — a proclamation we’d heard plenty times before — and so far, they’ve lived up to the hype. Wednesday’s 3-1 home victory over the Philadelphia Union in the knockout round gets the monkey off the Reds’ back, but more importantly, afforded Sebastian Giovinco, who bagged a goal and an assist on the night (his second straight game with such a line), 90 more minutes of game time after missing more than a month through injuries as the regular season wound down. After 270 minutes of action, the Atomic Ant looks sharp as ever, and destined to terrorize New York City FC, whom TFC will face in the conference semifinals, beginning Sunday.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

Three Four moments that mattered

15′ — Atlidore feeds Giovinco for 1-0 — The first playoff goal in TFC’s 10-year history. Poor goalkeeping, ball-watching defending, terrible touches, an overhead cross, and a strike off the crossbar. There’s a lot going on here. Watch it all right here.

49′ — Osorio slams home from the corner for 2-0 — The Union have been bad at defending set pieces all season, so is it at all surprising a set-piece gaffe effectively ended their season? No, it’s not.

73′ — Bedoya puts the loose ball home for 2-1 — Speaking of failing to effectively clear a corner kick, the Union were gifted a lifeline 15 minutes before full-time.

85′ — Altidore puts it out of reach, seals it for TFC — Ken Tribbet did not have the best night a center back has ever seen. His final blunder resulted in Jozy Altidore reclaiming TFC’s two-goal lead, and ending the Union’s 2016 season.

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Men of the match: Sebastian Giovinco

Goalscorers: Giovinco (15′), Osorio (49′), Bedoya (73′), Altidore (85′)

Men In Blazers podcast: Mourinho’s Chelsea return; Bradley’s 1st point

Men In Blazers
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Rog and Davo break down Jose Mourinho’s return to Chelsea with Manchester United, another stumble for Manchester City and Bob Bradley’s first Premier League point.

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VIDEO: Altidore, Giovinco combine for TFC’s first-ever playoff goal

Sebastian Giovinco
Chris Young/The Associated Press via AP
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It’s been 10 years in the making, and Toronto FC finally have their first-ever goal in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

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After failing to qualify for the playoffs in each of their first eight seasons, 2015 saw the Reds venture into the postseason for the first time ever, only to be thumped in the knockout round, 3-0, by their 401 derby rival Montreal Impact, of all sides.

This is the year, though, or so we’ve said and been told all season long. While it remains to be seen how deep of a run TFC can muster in 2016, they’ll always have the Jozy Altidore‘s terrible first touch; Altidore’s wayward second and third touches; Altidore’s overhead cross; and Sebastian Giovinco’s strike, all of which you can watch in all its hilarity glory below.

[ MORE: Power rankings — Playoffs edition | MLS Cup predictions ]