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′)

While PSG has won the title, Areola’s playing for his future

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PARIS (AP) Although Paris Saint-Germain has easily won the French title, Alphonse Areola still has plenty to play for.

The next four games could be crucial in deciding whether PSG keeps the goalkeeper or tries to sign a big name in the transfer window, possibly Thibaut Courtois. The 25-year-old Areola is the same age as Courtois, but has nowhere near the international standing of the Chelsea keeper.

[ MORE: Turkey hands bid plans to UEFA for EURO 2024 ]

It is hard for Areola to stand out, however, in a team noted almost singularly for its attacking prowess. While PSG has already scored more than 100 league goals, and remains on course to reach 100 points this season, Areola has rarely been talked about.

The common perception is that PSG will thrash teams in the French league, so letting in a goal or two is irrelevant.

However, Areola has been one of PSG’s most consistent players this season, and last Sunday he made a personal record of eight saves in a 1-0 win at Bordeaux.

He was also one of the few PSG players to come through the loss to Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League with any credit. Without Areola’s shot-stopping, and particularly his bravery rushing off his line, the 5-2 aggregate loss would have been bigger.

With 104 goals, PSG’s attack is the best in the league by far and has netted 25 more than deposed champion Monaco.

But PSG’s defense is also the best and Areola has conceded only 21 goals in the 31 he has played. Although PSG has dominated most of those, losing only twice all season, he has still made on average four saves per game.

Having replaced Kevin Trapp as No. 1, Areola has missed only three league games all season. It represents a reversal for both.

When Trapp was signed by former coach Laurent Blanc in 2015-16, Areola went on loan to Spanish club Villarreal. He established himself as regular in Villarreal’s side and gained further experience in the Europa League. Spanish media were largely impressed by his consistency and his agility on the goal-line.

He returned to PSG and battled with Trapp for the starting position last season. But coach Unai Emery seemed unsure who he really preferred, with Trapp starting 24 games to Areola’s 14. PSG ended up losing the title to Monaco.

But the hierarchy is much clearer now and the error-prone Trapp, once hailed by Blanc for his passing out from goal, is the one expected to leave.

Areola has further incentive to do well with the World Cup coming up. He is challenging Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda to be France’s No. 2 behind Hugo Lloris in Russia. For now, Areola is a squad member but has yet to make an international appearance under coach Didier Deschamps.

But he has done well at every level for France, starting with the under-16s a decade ago. He got his first taste of international success when he helped France win the Under-20 World Cup in 2013.

While Paul Pogba was one of the stars of the tournament, Areola’s crowning moment came in the final itself. France drew 0-0 with Uruguay and he saved two shots in the penalty shootout. Prior to the shootout he had a word with France’s designated penalty takers, confidently telling them “do your job and I’ll do mine.”

With Emery almost certain to be replaced next season, it promises to be a frenetic offseason of buying and selling at the club.

But whoever replaces Emery should perhaps think twice before letting Areola leave. The Parisian-born Areola came through the youth ranks at PSG, as did center half Presnel Kimpembe and midfielder Adrien Rabiot.

Star-studded sides like PSG often import their best players and fans are happy to see them arrive, because it shows ambition. But they nevertheless identify more closely with homegrown talents such as Areola.

More AP Ligue 1 coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/Ligue1

Jerome Pugmire on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire

Infantino has ‘full confidence’ in Samoura amid ethics issue

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA President Gianni Infantino says he retains “full confidence” in secretary general Fatma Samoura after an attempt to embroil her in an ethics investigation.

[ MORE: Turkey hands in bid plans to UEFA for 2024 EUROs ]

Samoura has expressed irritation at “totally ridiculous and baseless” claims she broke FIFA rules by not declaring an alleged conflict of interest in the 2026 World Cup bidding contest.

FIFA has not specified the exact nature of the complaint or the progress of any ethics investigation after it was alleged she was a relative of former Senegal player El Hadji Diouf, who is an ambassador for Morocco’s bid.

Samoura insisted on Wednesday the former Liverpool forward “is not a member of my family and therefore everything is crystal clear.”

FIFA’s top administrator received a public show of support from Infantino.

“I can confirm my full confidence in Fatma Samoura to lead the FIFA administration,” Infantino said in a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday.

The former United Nations official was hired by Infantino in 2016 months after he was elected as Sepp Blatter’s successor.

Morocco is due to take on a joint bid from the United States, Canada and Mexico in the June 13 vote for the 2026 World Cup host.

Photo: Flamengo supporter tattoos club jersey on body

MAURÍCIO DOS ANJOS VIA VICE
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A supporter in Brazil has taken fandom to a whole new level with a piece of body art that shows his devotion to the club.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks ]

Maurício dos Anjos, a passionate Flamengo fan, has been a life-long supporter of the Rio de Janeiro-based club, and has the tattoo to prove it.

While it may look like body paint, Dos Anjos has a tattoo on the upper-half of his body depicting the Flamengo jersey, and it’s pretty awesome.

“People ask me if I don’t find it strange that I’m always wearing a Flamengo shirt. And I just don’t,” dos Anjos told VICE. “To me, it’s normal. But it doesn’t seem like anyone I talk to about it actually dislikes my tattoo.”

In total, Dos Anjos says the body work took over 90 hours and 30 sessions to complete the tattoo.

Has the perception of MLS really changed?

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When David Beckham arrived in Los Angeles back in 2007 his presence changed the complexion of Major League Soccer for all the right reasons, and the perception of the growing league changed.

[ MORE: Go behind the scenes at NYCFC’s new training facility ]

Over the years, MLS has strived to move into the upper-echelon of the global game, in an attempt to compete with the likes of the Premier League, Bundesliga and La Liga, but naysayers still indicate to this day that the United States’ top flight lacks the quality of the aforementioned.

Phrases like “retirement league” and “uninspired” have been used to describe MLS in the past, particularly when it comes to the league’s willingness to spend boatloads of cash on notable players well past their prime.

Examples such as Andrea Pirlo, Steven Gerrard and Rafael Marquez have at times dampened the perception of MLS due to the lack of quality on the pitch from those players, along with several others that had previously boasted extensive resumes.

Now, we’re at a time where MLS has picked up its scouting, with clubs focused more on younger, more skilled talents from South America and Europe.

That has led to major signings over the past several years, such as Ezequiel Barco, Miguel Almiron, Diego Rossi and Jesus Medina, to name a few.

Has that changed the overall complexion of MLS though?

On Thursday, Kevin De Bruyne‘s agent, Patrick de Koster, suggested in an interview that the Belgium international would likely “finish” his career in MLS.

“For now, he’s very happy at this club,” De Koster said. “We always look what the best solution for the player, both financially and football wise. Kevin’s future? I can see him finish at Los Angeles.”

This comes on the heels of a 36-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic joining the LA Galaxy in a move that has sent shockwaves across the league and the world because of the Swede’s great presence on a global scale.

It’s not to say that players like Ibrahimovic, or previous signings like David Villa and Didier Drogba cannot help the overall growth of MLS, because they certainly bring an awareness to the matches and draw attention to their respective clubs.

However, the long-term viability of MLS has been and will continue to be sustained on youth players succeeding in the league, as well as being able to draw promising young talents into the top flight of the U.S.