Three things we learned from Man United’s win vs. Crystal Palace

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LONDON — Manchester United beat Crystal Palace 2-1 at Selhurst Park on Wednesday as their stars shone.

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A goal and an assist each for the brilliant Paul Pogba and the clinical Zlatan Ibrahimovic did the damage with United making it two wins on the spin to keep themselves in the top four battle.

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Here’s what we learned from a slow-burner in south London as Palace remain in relegation trouble.


STARS SHINE FOR UNITED

This is why you pay them the big bucks. Pogba and Ibrhahimovic were the difference in this game and Pogba was particularly sublime in midfield.

He set up Wayne Rooney with a wonderful dinked pass in the first half and then right on the stroke of half time he finished off a cheeky chest down from Zlatan (which appeared to come off his arm) to put United 1-0 up.

Pogba then provide the game-winning assist with two minutes to play as he slotted in Zlatan but the Swedish striker still had plenty to do as he dinked home across goal to make it 2-1.

Jose Mourinho hailed Ibra after the game, saying he never questioned his character and his quality.

With Zlatan now scoring 14 goals in 24 games since arriving in England, plus Pogba putting in a man of the match display, United are figuring this thing out. Sure, they’re still six points off the top four but you can’t argue with Mourinho when he says their performances have been a lot better for a long time.

Now, United is finally get the results their performances deserve. That has a lot to do with Zlatan and Pogba stepping up to show their star quality when it mattered most.


KEY DECISIONS INCORRECT

There were four pivotal moments in this game which referee Craig Pawson got wrong. Very wrong.

After the game Palace’s manager Alan Pardew felt hard done by and Mourinho didn’t want to say anything apart from applaud Pawson. Would he have been doing that had United not grabbed the late winner their dominance deserved? Probably not.

Anyway, for United’s first goal, right on half time, Zlatan looked to have handled and Pogba was offside as he finished. Pawson needed help from his assistants but the referee didn’t get any. He did get plenty of stick from the home fans in the first half as he let tough tackles go from United.

That brings us to the second incident: Marcos Rojo‘s lunging tackle.

Now, Mourinho may say he is “playing phenomenally and is a very clean player” but the evidence suggests otherwise. In United’s 1-1 draw with Everton 10 days ago Rojo was lucky to stay on the pitch after a lunging tackle. He did exactly the same in the first half against Palace as he lunged in with both sets of studs showing on Wilfried Zaha. He should’ve been sent off. Pawson missed it and gave him just a yellow.

Then came two more moments of controversy in the second half as first Joe Ledley blatently handled in the box but no penalty kick was given and then Rojo headed down for Juan Mata to slot home but the offside flag went up.

You can clearly argue all four decisions were wrong and in the end they canceled each other out. Still, not a vintage display from a young, promising referee.


PALACE PUNISHED FOR TIMIDNESS

We know Pardew’s Palace have been struggling for a while, but the way he set his team up spoke volumes of their limitations. They only wanted a draw. Nothing more.

With Mathieu Flamini handed his first start of the season, the Frenchman sat in during the first half and so did the rest of his teammates. Palace barely got out of their own half in the first half which frustrated the home fans and something had to change.

Ledley was brought on at the break which livened up the game and when James McArthur equalized it got interesting for a while. But, yet again, Palace retreated when they were level and United deservedly won.

Heading into the busy festive period Palace now have Chelsea and Arsenal in their next three games. With just 15 points on the board and confidence clearly at an all-time low under Pardew, the Eagles won’t be soaring anywhere other than towards the drop zone as 2016 comes to a close.

It has been a truly dreadful 2016 for the Eagles who have just six wins in the Premier League over the last 12 months. Fresh impetus is needed at Selhurst Park as Wednesday’s lack of belief proved. Is Pardew the man to get the best out of this talented, yet top-heavy, squad?

PHOTOS: Tottenham’s stunning new stadium

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Tottenham Hotspur’s new $1 billion stadium is taking shape and it is looking magnificent.

The plan is for Spurs’ new home at White Hart Lane to be ready for the 2018/19 season, with reports stating that Mauricio Pochettino‘s men will play their first couple of games away from home next season in order to squeeze in a few more weeks for construction.

Spurs’ new  home will seat 62,062 fans and will be the second-largest stadium in the Premier League behind Manchester United’s Old Trafford.

Take a look at the photos below in the spring sunshine in London, with the largest single-tier stand in Europe looking sublime as the roof panels are going on and the stadium is really starting to come to life.


Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso handed three-game ban

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After being named in the PFA’s Premier League Team of the Year on Wednesday, it has been a mixed few days for Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso as he has received a three-game ban with immediate effect after being found guilty of violent conduct.

Alsono, 27, stamped on Shane Long‘s calf in Chelsea’s 3-2 comeback win at Southampton last time out but referee Mike Dean missed the incident completely.

Since then Alonso has received a retrospective charge from the English FA and although the Spanish left back appealed the decision and the length of the ban, it was upheld and he will now miss Chelsea’s next three games.

Alonso will miss the clash at Burnley on Thursday, the FA Cup semifinal against Southampton on Sunday and the trip to Swansea City on Apr. 28.

Who will come in for Alonso?

Antonio Conte has already stated that Emerson Palmeri, a January arrival from AS Roma, will start at Burnley on Thursday and if the Brazilian full back impresses then it is highly likely he will stand in for Alonso in the big FA Cup semifinal on Sunday against Saints. Other options would be Davide Zappacosta playing as the left wing-back or even Cesar Azpilicueta out there.

As for Saints, they feel hard done by after Dean didn’t spot Alonso’s foul even though he was standing yards away from the incident and looking straight at it. At the time of the incident they led 1-0 going into half time and their manager Mark Hughes believes it would have made a big difference as Alonso’s cross set up Olivier Giroud to make it 2-1 and the Spaniard made a big difference from left back in the incredible 3-2 comeback victory. Still, at least Saints won’t have to play against Alonso on Sunday with revenge in the air…

PHOTOS: Liverpool unveil new 2018/19 kit

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Liverpool have gone for a “pepper red” kit for the 2017/18 season.

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On Thursday the Anfield club released their new jersey for next season with New Balance once again their kit suppliers.

The key features of this new kit is a small collar, with a fresh white and red look throughout.

Check out the images and video below.


VAR decisions at World Cup to be explained on giant screens

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FLORENCE, Italy (AP) Fans attending World Cup matches in Russia won’t be left wondering about the reasons behind decisions of the video assistant referee.

After the VAR’s decision is made, replays will be shown on giant screens inside the stadiums accompanied by a written explanation.

It’s all part of the VAR information system that FIFA unveiled Wednesday .

[ MORE: Man Utd makes historic hire ]

FIFA will place someone in the VOR (video operations room) who will listen in to the VAR’s decisions and communicate them to both TV commentators and stadium personnel operating the giant screens.

“So we will have graphics on the giant screens, we will have replays after the decision on the giant screens, and we will also inform the fans about the outcome of a VAR incident and review,” said Sebastian Runge, group leader of football innovation at FIFA.

With the VAR making its tournament debut during the June 14-July 15 World Cup, FIFA is holding its final training camp this month for the 99 match officials – 36 referees and 63 assistants – who have been selected to go to Russia.

Thirteen VARs have been pre-selected and are being trained at Italy’s Coverciano complex, and FIFA referees chief Pierluigi Collina said more VARs and VAR assistants will be chosen from the 99 match officials.

Three of the 13 VARs come from Italy’s Serie A and two from Germany’s Bundesliga – elite competitions that already use video assistants.

The VAR can support the referee in four game-changing situations: goals and offenses leading up to a goal, penalty decisions and offenses leading up to a penalty, direct red card incidents and cases of mistaken identity.

Still, VARs in both Italy and Germany have received vehement criticism for long delays and bungled decisions this season.

On Monday, Mainz was awarded a penalty during halftime against a rival Freiburg side that had already left the pitch for the break – prompting the unusual scene of a team returning from the changing room to defend a penalty.

“Yesterday we had already discussed this incident here and gave match officials and VARs clear indication about what should be done if something similar in FIFA competition – specifically the World Cup – happens,” Collina said without providing further detail.

Collina added that the VAR should not be overused, adding that ideally it would intervene at all in a match.

“The goal of VAR is to avoid major mistakes,” Collina said. “The objective is not to have clear and obvious mistakes committed on the field of play. This is the target, the goal is not to re-referee the match using technology.

“There will continue to be incidents when a final answer will not be given and there will be different opinions,” Collina added.

Among other items involving the VAR:

MOSCOW CONTROL CENTER

FIFA will follow the Bundesliga model of a central control center for the VAR rather than using trucks outside stadiums.

“We will have all of the referees based in Moscow so there won’t be any stress in terms of travel,” Collina said.

For each match, Collina will select one VAR and three assistant VARs.

Training operation rooms presented to media included six monitors for the VARs and two more for technical assistants enabling the VARs to see requested replays.

There could be up to four technical assistants in the room for World Cup matches.

OFFSIDE CAMERAS

FIFA will install two extra cameras at matches to monitor offside decisions.

The cameras will be in addition to the 33 cameras used for broadcasters and they will be installed under stadium roofs.

Broadcasters will not have direct access to the cameras but if they are used by the VAR then broadcasters can show the video.

Runge added that three dimensional technology – considered the ultimate strategy for determining offside – is not ready for real-time access yet.

SWEAT AND STRESS

VARs will not officiate more than one match per day.

“It’s not like watching a match on the sofa sipping coffee,” Collina said.

Collina, who officiated Brazil’s 2-0 win over Germany in the 2002 World Cup final, explained why the VARs will wear track suits similar to referees’ on-pitch attire.

“The reason is at the end they sweat as much as someone on the field, because the tension is very high,” Collina said. “They can’t do two matches per day – it’s too stressful.”

COMMS AND HACKING

The Moscow control center will be connected to match officials via a fiber optic network.

If the network fails, the backup plan includes an old-fashioned land telephone line and a telephone stationed near the fourth referee for emergency use.

“Worst-case scenario includes a backup plan on site. That’s when the IBC is down – no power, no fiber network,” Runge said. “Then we have a plan in place where the fourth official would become the VAR and the fourth official would be replaced by the reserve referee.

“We have a cabin in the broadcast compound from where we send all of the feeds to the IBC anyway. That cabin can be turned into a smaller, light version of the VOR.”

Hacking has also been considered.

“We are aware that there might be something but our IT department put measurements in place that will protect us from that,” Runge said.

POST-MATCH BRIEFINGS

In extraordinary circumstances, FIFA will hold post-match briefings to explain decisions in greater detail.

“If something should happen that we think should properly and accurately be explained – and it doesn’t matter if it’s related to VAR or something different – if it is a matter to explain the background of a decision, as an exception certainly we will do it,” Collina said.

“But it won’t be a post-match press conference for every match, explaining every single decision taken during every single match.”

More AP soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Soccer

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/asdampf