Fulham 1-0 Norwich City: Great escape is on for the Cottagers (video)

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Fulham secured a crucial 1-0 victory over Norwich City at Craven Cottage on Saturday thanks to a lone goal from Hugo Rodallega.

For the second-straight game the Colombian was the match winner, as he hit home just before half time to put Fulham two points behind Norwich in the race against the drop.

Norwich pushed hard the entire game and in fairness a draw would’ve probably been a fair result. Robert Snodgrass hit the bar and some wonderful last-ditch defending from Fulham, coupled with superb stops from ‘keeper David Stockdale,

Fulham sealed their first back-to-back wins since October as Felix Magath’s side are in 18th spot on 30 points, just two points and one place behind Norwich who have four extremely hard game left to save themselves from dropping into the bottom three.

(MORE: Latest Premier League standings)

Early on Norwich City pressed Fulham high up the pitch and Nathan Redmond was lively out on the wing as the Canaries started sharply. Rodallega had two decent chances for the home side but the forward dragged an effort just wide of John Ruddy’s goal as the Cottagers settled into the match.

David Stockdale then made two terrific stops to keep the scores level, as Ricky van Wolfswinkel was first denied, then Leroy Fer saw his header spectacularly saved from the resulting corner. Norwich continued to push and in the 34th minute Robert Snodgrass saw his free kick smash against the bar, with Fulham hanging on as half time approached.

Fulham then hit Norwich with a sucker punch five minutes before the break as Rodallega headed home Lewis Holtby’s free kick as the Canaries’ slack marking was punished ruthlessly by the Colombian striker. After the break Rodallega hit the post with Olsson clearing on the line as Kieran Richardson’s corner caused havoc amongst the Canaries defense.

Norwich went for it in the second half as the Canaries poured forward at every attempt. Snodgrass was thwarted by a lunging last-ditch tackle from Hangeland and several corners were whipped in that Norwich’s center back Turner couldn’t quite get on the end of. Norwich pressed, hassled and harried Fulham for the entire second half but the Cottagers managed to hold on for a marvelous victory that gives them hope of survival.

LINEUPS

Fulham: Stockdale; Heitinga, Hangeland, Amorebieta, Richardson; Kasami (Dejagah, 57′, Riether, Diarra (Kvist, 85′), Sidwell, Holtby (Parker, 69′); Rodallega

Goal: Rodallega (40′)

Norwich City: Ruddy; Whittaker, Martin, Turner, Olsson; Redmond, Johnson, Fer (Hoolahan, 68′), Howson (Murphy, 79′), Snodgrass; van Wolfswinkel (Hooper, 60′)

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.