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.

LINEUPS

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

Spanish police dismantle match-fixing scheme in 3rd, 4th tiers

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MADRID (AP) Spanish police have dismantled a match-fixing scheme involving players and clubs in the country’s lower divisions.

Authorities said more than 20 people have been detained as part of the police operation launched on Monday, including players, although no names were immediately disclosed.

The matches under suspicion were in the third and fourth divisions this season and last season.

The match-fixing scheme reportedly involved Chinese betting sites.

The Spanish league said the operation was based on information collected by its analysts about suspicious activities.

UCL preview: Chelsea host Barcelona; Bayern vs. Besiktas

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  • Chelsea vs. Barcelona, at Stamford Bridge
  • Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas, at Allianz Arena
  • Champions League round of 16 resumes on Tuesday

[ UCL: Spurs fight back to draw Juventus | Liverpool thrash Porto in leg 1 ]

Chelsea, mired in some of their worst form since the disastrous 2015-16 season, welcome a Barcelona side enjoying one of the best six-month runs of results in the famed club’s entire history. The Blues have won just four of their last 12 games across all competitions, while the Blaugrana have lost once in 38 games.

On the plus side, Chelsea enter Tuesday’s colossal clash as winners of their last two games — back-to-back wins for the first time in 2018 — having outscored the likes of West Bromwich Albion and Hull City by a combined 7-0. Star striker Alvaro Morata returned to action against Hull after five weeks out with a back injury, thus Antonio Conte has something of a selection dilemma on his hands with the Spaniard perhaps only partially fit, and Olivier Giroud racking up a goal and three assists in the last two games, his first starts for the club.

Barcelona, meanwhile, have conceded just two goals in their last nine games (all competitions) and even managed to overturn their lone defeat, to Espanyol, and advance to the Copa del Rey semifinals (and eventually final). Despite losing Neymar in the summer, Barca mostly cruised through their Champions League group, only dropping points in draws away to Juventus and Olympiacos. Lionel Messi has, strangely, never scored a goal in his eight career appearances against Chelsea, a record which has been spoken about at length in the build-up to Tuesday — similarly to the goal-less record which plagued him against Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, whom he finally bested back in September.

[ MORE: Man City win big away to Basel | Real Madrid 3-1 PSG ]

In the other round-of-16 first-leg matchup on Tuesday, five-time (soon-to-be six) defending Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich host surprise winners of Group G, Besiktas, ahead of the likes of Monaco, RB Leipzig and Porto.

Since taking over on an interim basis (through the end of the season), Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes has won 21 of 22 games of which he’s been in charge, including four of six games during the group stage en route to finish second behind Paris Saint-Germain, while also racing out to a 19-point lead back home in Germany.

Aguero involved in clash with Wigan fan after FA Cupset

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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Sergio Aguero was involved in a confrontation with a Wigan fan as ugly scenes marred the end of the third-division side’s shock FA Cup win over Manchester City on Monday.

[ MORE: Wigan shock Man City, the world and themselves ]

Fans spilled on to the pitch at DW Stadium as the host celebrated its 1-0 fifth-round win against the runaway English Premier League leader.

Supporters from both clubs were involved in disturbances, while television pictures appeared to show a home supporter and striker Aguero involved in a physical exchange.

Aguero appeared to hit the supporter after the fan said something to the player, and Aguero had to be held back by his City teammates.

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Advertising hoardings were also ripped out and thrown as a pitch invasion by Wigan fans got out of hand while the defeated City players were being escorted off the pitch.

Footage also appeared to show objects, including an advertising board, being thrown at police officers by fans in the City end.

Wigan shock themselves: “Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet”

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Wigan Athletic didn’t just shock Manchester City with their FA Cup fifth-round slaying of the runaway Premier League leaders; nor did they merely shock the rest of the footballing world; they also shocked themselves into disbelief, according to defender Dan Burn.

[ MORE: Goodbye, quadruple! Wigan bounce 10-man City from FA Cup ]

Speaking following Monday’s triumph over Pep Guardiola‘s quadruple-chasing side at the DW Stadium, Burn admitted he himself didn’t know what to make of the night that would undoubtedly highlight and change his own professional career — quotes from the BBC:

“Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet. It was a really tough game. The belief was always there. We’ve got Will Grigg, who does what he keeps doing.

“We pride ourselves on our clean sheets. We had a couple bad results before, so we wanted to prove ourselves, so a clean sheet against the best team in England is great.

“Once we scored, the fans really got behind us, just knew we needed to hang on. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life.”

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Manager Paul Cook was able to articulate his happiness and pride only slightly better — “It feels great” — but offered the highest of praises to his players, whom “had to ride [their] luck at times” during the game, and gave everything they had to the cause, because that’s the only way you beat a team like Man City:

“It feels great. It’s such a severe test. They’re such a strong side and move the ball so well. We had to ride our luck at times and the sending off is always a big incident.

“Our lads deserve credit for their work and some of the blocks they made were outstanding, and to beat Man City you have to do that.”