Everton 2-3 Crystal Palace: Toffees’ top four hopes take huge hit

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Everton missed a glorious chance to go back into the top four, as the Toffees suffered a shock 3-2 home defeat to Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

The Eagles were the better team for most of the game, as Jason Puncheon scored in the first half then Scott Dann headed home minutes after the break to put Tony Pulis ‘ men 2-0 up. Everton launched a fight back when substitute Steven Naismith pulled one back, but then Cameron Jerome made it 3-1 to Palace with 15 minutes to go.

Kevin Mirallas made it 3-2 in the 86th minute, but the damage was done as Roberto Martinez’s side are now one point behind Arsenal in fourth place, with just four games to go in the race for the final UEFA Champions League spot.

As for Palace they are now 11th on 40 points, just three points behind Stoke City in 10th spot, after their fourth win in a row.

(MORE: Roberto Martinez: Everton “fearful” in defeat to Crystal Palace)

Everton started brightly and could have scored twice in the opening minutes as first Aiden McGeady’s corner was headed just over by Gareth Barry, then Romelu Lukaku and Gerard Deulofeu combined to see the latter whip the ball across the six-yard box but Mirallas couldn’t quite get on the end of it.

Palace set up their stall and were difficult to break down, plus the likes of Puncheon, Marouane Chamakh and Jerome proved lively going forward as the first half wore on. The Eagles certainly were overawed by facing the Premier League’s form team, as Pulis’ men took the game to the Toffees with Jerome proving a handful for Sylvain Distin and John Stones.

In the 23rd minute red-hot Puncheon scored the opener for Palace as the South London side took an early lead. Yannick Bolasie sped past Leighton Baines before cutting the ball back to Chamakh who teed up Puncheon to curl home a controlled finish. The goal was Puncheon’s fourth in his last three games, as the lifelong Crystal Palace turned on the magic once again.

source: AP
Two of the goalscorers collide as Everton and Palace played out an end-to-end game at Goodison.

Just before the half hour mark Bolasie was in the thick of things again, as this time he burst down the left and whipped in another dangerous cross that young Stones cleared superbly. Then the Congolese winger smashed an effort off the post and Jerome couldn’t finish the follow up as Everton were reeling. Mirallas did rifle an effort just over Julian Speroni’s crossbar but at half time Everton were trailing and the Toffees were being frustrated by a confident Palace.

(MORE: Latest Premier League standings)

After the break the same pattern continued as Joe Ledley stung the palms of  Everton ‘keeper Tim Howard who pushed Ledley’s near post shot out for a corner. From the resulting set piece Palace went 2-0 up as Dann headed home powerfully after getting a clean run on Stones. That goal was his first for the club, as the former Blackburn Rovers defender shocked the home crowd minutes into the second half.

In the 51st minute McGeady saw his powerful low drive flash just past the far post, as the home crowd tried to urge their side back into the game. In the 61st minute substitute Naismith, on a half time in place of  Deulofeu worked his magic once again, as Mirallas’ chipped cross to the back post found Baines who nodded the ball towards goal for Naismith to prod home.

Everton’s double substitution on the hour mark certainly had the desired impact, as both James McCarthy and Leon Osman got on the ball in midfield and wrestled the Toffees back into the game. With 20 minutes to go Osman saw his powerful volley tipped onto the crossbar by Speroni, as Palace were under intense pressure for the first time in the game.

Yet just when you thought Palace were going to crumble, Jerome finished well after Puncheon set him up to make it 3-1 and put the game beyond the home side. They had a glimmer of hope in the 86th minute as Mirallas latched onto a deflect through ball and finished well to make it 3-2, but Palace held on for a crucial win as they put a huge dent in Everton’s Champions League hopes.

LINEUPS

Everton: Howard; Coleman, Stones, Distin, Baines; Barry (Osman, 59′), Mirallas, Barkley, Deulofeu (Naismith, 45′), McGeady (McCarthy, 59′); Lukaku

Goal: Naismith (61′), Mirallas (86′)

Crystal Palace: Speroni, Mariappa (Parr, 68′), Delaney, Dann, Ward, Jedinak, Ledley, Bolasie, Puncheon, Chamakh (Murray, 80′), Jerome (O’Keefe, 76′)

Puncehon (23′), Dann (49′), Jerome (73′)

Albanian federation denounces “extremist acts” of their fans in Italy

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s soccer federation has strongly denounced the incident that halted the World Cup Group G qualifier with Italy for nearly nine minutes on Friday.

During the match, which was won by Italy, 2-0, a group calling itself Illyrian Elite threw flares onto the pitch.

“Such totally extremist actions from the grouping Illyrian Elite have nothing to do with the excellent Albanian fans” who were distinguished in the EURO 2016 finals in France for their friendship and camaraderie in their festivities, the statement added.

The federation said an coach Gianni De Biasi also was “upset by the flares,” adding that during five years he has been in charge “I’ve seen something that’s never happened before.”

USMNT: 4 players, including Brooks, Lletget, released; Arriola added

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Hours after his side’s 6-0 thrashing of Honduras to resuscitate dreams of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, Bruce Arena announced on Saturday five changes to the U.S. national team roster ahead of Tuesday’s qualifier against Panama.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | MLS ]

John Brooks (sinus infection), Sebastian Lletget (foot), Jordan Morris (knee) and Michael Orozco (knee) were all released back to their club teams, while Club Tijuana midfielder Paul Arriola was added to the squad.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Brooks dealt with the sinus infection throughout USMNT camp this past week, as Morris did his knee injury which he picked up last weekend. Lletget left Friday’s win over Honduras in the 18th minute and will undergo further tests to determine the severity of his injury; he was seen leaving the stadium on crutches and wearing a walking boot.

The USMNT’s roster for Tuesday’s qualifier in Panama City, Panama, now stands at 23 players, and reads as follows:

Goalkeepers: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Rapinoe won’t back down on social issues despite U.S. Soccer policy

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Megan Rapinoe recently earned her spot back in the U.S. Women’s National Team squad ahead of next month’s friendlies against Russia, but the veteran won’t remain silent when it comes to her stance on the social climate of America.

[ MORE: Looking back on USMNT’s big win over Honduras ]

The 31-year-old was scrutinized for joining NFL player Colin Kaepernick in 2016 when they knelt during their respective sporting events, along with dozens of other athletes across the United States.

While Rapinoe admits that the form of protest is up for discussion, she also states that social inequality issues in the U.S. go far beyond that.

“What has surprised me the most, especially post-election, is that people are still sort of arguing against it. It’s really obvious that we have very serious inequality in this country across many different spectrums,” Rapinoe told the Guardian. “Yes, we can talk about the form of protest, or the way it’s done, or this or that. But it’s still not really the conversation that I think we desperately need to have more of in this country.”

A few weeks back, U.S. Soccer announced that it now requires all players that represent the Stars and Stripes to stand when the national anthem is played, and Rapinoe has agreed to do such.

While her days of kneeling on the pitch are in the past, Rapinoe believes she wouldn’t do anything different because she was simply trying to spark discussion amongst the American people.

“I don’t think there’s any perfect way to protest. I think if there was something else being done, something else would have been said about it. I can’t look back and say that I would have done this different, this different or this different.

“I can sleep at night knowing that I genuinely tried to have a really important conversation, or at least tried to open it up. I think I came to it with an open mind, an open heart and tried to get as many people to talk about it as I could.”

Report: Chelsea planning Hazard, Courtois pay raises

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Eden Hazard has returned to his old self under Antonio Conte this season, and now Chelsea is hoping to lock down their star attacker.

[ MORE: Lukaku says decision has been made on Everton future ]

According to the Mirror, the Premier League leaders are planning on offering up a pay raise to Hazard, who has 11 league goals this season for the Blues.

Hazard signed a nearly $250,000 per week deal two seasons ago, but the Belgium international will likely rake in significantly more under the reported deal as Chelsea hopes to keep the 26-year-old away from Spanish giants Real Madrid and others.

The Mirror is also reporting that goalkeeper and Hazard’s Belgian teammate Thibaut Courtois is likely to be handed a raise is salary as well.

The shot-stopper is set be handed a deal roughly in the range of what Hazard is currently making after allowing just 21 goals in 28 PL matches this season.