Crystal Palace 0-2 Manchester City: Pellegrini’s men grab upper hand for title (video)

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With Liverpool’s crushing loss to Chelsea at Anfield, a door opened for Manchester City, and they took it in convincing action.

Three points for City at Selhurst Park with a comprehensive 2-0 win over in-form Crystal Palace sees Manuel Pellegrini and company move to within three points of Liverpool with a game in hand.

Word of the Anfield result reached Manchester City just before coming out of the tunnel, and it clearly gave them a boost as Edin Dzeko put them up in just the fourth minute, and they never looked back.

The early goal actually wasn’t the first clear chance for Manchester City. Just minutes into the game, James Milner found an overlapping Pablo Zabaleta, but the wing-back’s cross into the box didn’t find any black shirts in a good area.

But just two minutes later, Dzeko found his header, off a cross from Yaya Toure, and Manchester City were well and truly into the lead.  It was Dzeko’s 22nd goal of the season, and the City attack looked like they wouldn’t at all miss the injured David Silva and Jesus Navas.

City looked for more, but they would get fewer and fewer chances as Tony Pulis instilled a very physical presence into the midfield.  Damien Delaney earned himself a booking for a hard foul, and more Palace players caught the ire of referee Howard Webb.

Palace used that play to get themselves back into the game, and while there weren’t any clear chances on goal, they built themselves up some confidence and possession.

Manchester City came very close to a second with 10 minutes to go before halftime, but Zabaleta’s pass into the box for a wide-open Yaya Toure was too slow, and the opportunity closed before it ever reached the Ivorian.

Frustration began to brew for the visitors, and Zabaleta himself earned a yellow card for a frustration foul on

source: AP
Pablo Zabaleta did yeoman’s work down the right flank and had a hand in multiple chances for Manchester City.

With the aforementioned Navas and Silva out, City received a potentially big blow before the break, as Samir Nasri went down under a heavy challenge and limped his way off the pitch, but managed to come back on.

With Nasri back on the pitch, City would double their lead before halftime, this time on the break. Nasri played a one-two with a streaking Yaya Toure down the right flank.

With the sprinting giant usually known for his entrenching midfield passes and exquisite distance shots, his massive strides moving his body quickly down the touchline was quite a sight to see. Toure was dispossed in the box by Delaney, but the ball came back to him, and the midfielder slotted through for City’s second.

The second half featured more of a midfield battle with few chances, but Crystal Palace had precious few chances in the final third, and struggled to get past a physical City midfield while their passing was less than accurate.

James Puncheon, who had been brilliant through Palace’s five-match winning streak, was stuck on the right touchline with little freedom, and his passing was a poor 19/26 (73%), 8/14 in the final third.

The visitors looked and searched for a third, nearly finding it with 15 minutes to play but Alekander Kolarov’s low cross went untouched in the box, evading a pair of Manchester City attackers.

For Manchester City, they now have the same maximum possible points as Liverpool, with an eight-goal advantage on differential.  The Citizens control their own destiny, although they still have to face Everton, Aston Villa, and West Ham.

The home side sees their five-match winning streak come to an end, but they are still firmly entrenched in their Premier League future, in 11th position and holding.

LINEUPS:

Crystal Palace – Speroni; Mariappa, Dann, Delaney, Ward; Jedinak, Ledley, Bolasie (Ince 74′), Puncheon; Chamakh (Gayle 69′), Jerome (Murray 69′).

Manchester City – Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Kolarov; Milner, Garcia, Toure (Fernandinho 66′), Nasri; Dzeko (Negredo 88′), Aguero (Jovetic 78′).

Goals: Dzeko 4′, Toure 43′

Barcelona plan Cruyff tribute at club’s training center

Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) One year after his death, Barcelona says it will name the future stadium at its training center after Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

The new stadium at Barcelona’s training center just outside the Catalan city will be called “Johan Cruyff Stadium” in honor of the club’s former player and coach.

Barcelona says in a statement that “the most emblematic building in the facility where future Barca players are coached is to be named after somebody who played such a central role in fostering youth talent at the club.”

Barcelona also says it will commission a “commemorative sculpture” of Cruyff, who died of lung cancer on March 24 last year at age 68. The statue will be placed at Barcelona’s main Camp Nou stadium.

Cruyff is largely credited with launching Barcelona’s era of trophy success, both as a player and a coach.

As a player, Cruyff joined Barcelona midseason in 1973 and led the middle-of-the-table team to its first national title in a decade.

He later returned as a coach and guided Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish leagues from 1991-94 and the club’s first European Cup in 1992.

“I think the tributes are very warming,” said Cruyff’s son, Jordi Cruyff. “It sort of changes the sadness that we might feel as family to lose a father, a husband and a grandfather. It changes to a certain kind of pride to understand that he left something behind.”

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

AP Photo/Bryan Woolston
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The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

AP Photo/Armando Franca
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A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

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

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia