Three things we learned from Sunderland’s win at Crystal Palace

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LONDON — Sunderland beat Crystal Palace 1-0 at Selhurst Park on Monday with Sam Allardyce‘s side grinding out just a second win of the season and a first away victory of the campaign.

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Here’s what we learned from the Black Cats’ smash and grab win, with Jermain Defoe making the most of a defensive mix up to grab all three points.

PALACE TOO PATIENT

For much of the first half Sunderland looked comfortable as they sat back as a five-man defense when Palace had the ball and cut out any space for the Eagles out wide. There were no gaps in-behind for Palace’s pacey wingers to run into as Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie cut inside but were met by a covering Sunderland player. After 15 minutes, during a stoppage in play when John O'Shea went down, Pardew called over Yohan Cabaye, his general in midfield, and tried to hammer home a point about how to get in-behind the Black Cats. As soon as Palace’s full backs got the ball, that was the trigger for Sunderland’s wing backs — Billy Jones and Patrick Van Aanholt — to drop back and make a five-man defense as Sebastian Coates, O’Shea and Younes Kaboul held steady in central defense marking only Connor Wickham. In the 34th minute Palace had their first good chance of the first half as Bolaise’s overhead kick nearly dropped in and Zaha’s header was off target from a tight angle. The Eagles were starting to turn the screw but the tempo was too slow from the home side and Sunderland were able to retreat into a five-man defensive shell at ease.

Alan Pardew, Crystal Palace FC

At half time Pardew simply had to change things and Bakary Sako came on in place of Jason Puncheon as the Eagles went to a 4-4-2 formation. From distance Sako curled a dipping effort just wide of the far post 15 minutes after coming on and he did make a difference, but the winger was forced off with an injury and Patrick Bamford lacked the movement to out-smart Sunderland’s defense. Palace had no real plan B and their set piece delivery was awful on the night. Sunderland “did a job” on them and Pardew will be deeply disappointed his team once again failed to break down a team at home who only cared about defending and trying to snatch something on the break. The notion that the Eagles are better away from home is true. Their players are better suited to playing on the break. This season Palace have lost at home narrowly to Arsenal, Man City and West Ham, plus had a 0-0 draw against Manchester United. They have broken down stubborn teams in West Brom and Aston Villa late on at Selhurst but on Monday they ran out of ideas and ingenuinty, missing the chance to move into the top six in the process. It’s not all doom and gloom for Pardew as his side have enjoyed a best-ever start to a PL season thus far. However, they must find a new way to win games as teams figure out that if you cut off the supply line to Zaha and Bolasie you have a chance of winning.


BIG SAM HAS A PLAN

There will be no awards won for style or panache, but Sunderland’s resolute defensive display helped them grab the win. As aforementioned, the Black Cats deployed a 3-5-2 and with the wings backs tucked in they completely nullified Palace’s threat out wide. It is something Allardyce has often done throughout his managerial career and watching Sunderland on Monday was like watching one of his Bolton teams from 15 years ago. Organized. Resolute. Rigid. There wasn’t much fluidity in this display but after three defeats from his opening four games in charge, Allardyce clearly needed to obtain a strong defensive base to build from and then threaten to nick a goal from set pieces. They nearly did just that at the start of the second half when Cabaye cleared Coates’ header off the line. Allardyce has been around the block a fair few times as the stat below shows.

With 30 minutes to go Big Sam deviated from the plan as he brought on Duncan Watmore and Jeremain Lens and switched to a 4-3-3 formation. He fancied getting at Palace’s defense with the pace of Watmore and Lens much needed. It worked with Sunderland looking dangerous on the break and Lens had a glorious chance 15 minutes from time as Watmore burst into the box but Lens’ side-footed his effort straight at Wayne Hennessey. Not to worry. 10 minutes from time the game-winning moment arrived as Jones dispossessed Bolasie and slotted the ball forward to Defoe. He pounced on a terrible misunderstanding between Scott Dann and Hennessy to slot the ball into an empty net and put Sunderland ahead. Big Sam’s plan worked perfectly on Monday as his side are now only one point behind bitter rivals Newcastle and getting out of the relegation zone. There’s light at the end of the tunnel for the Stadium of Light faithful.


DEFOE’S INSTINCTS INTACT

“And it’s Jermain Defoe as he proves that he is still a premium scorer of goals in the Premier League!”

That was the proclamation from a radio commentator deep in the Main Stand as Defoe rounded Hennessy and rolled the ball into an empty net to hand Sunderland a vital three points. With four goals in nine games so far this season and seven in his last nine starts, Defoe, 33, remains Sunderland’s main hope of staying up. He was in the right place at the right time and harried a usually cool Dann into making a mistake as he and Hennessy hesitated to let in one of the best marksmen in PL history. Defoe didn’t miss an opportunity like that and the Londoner has now scored at least once in 17 Premier League seasons since he made his debut for West Ham back in the 2000-01 season. He will have to continue to roll back the years if Sunderland stay up this season but with his predatory instincts, they have a chance.

Carlos Vela scored a celestial goal. We are blessed to have seen it

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Carlos Vela is making all other spectacular individual MLS seasons look run of the mill.

I mean, look at the gumption on this guy.

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The Cancun-born playmaker left the San Jose Earthquakes back line on the beach with a soft shoe routine to give LAFC its third goal in a 4-0 win on Thursday

Vela, 30, now has 25 goals and 11 assists in 25 league matches for LAFC this season. He added two goals and an assist in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play.

But this one, yeah, this one takes the cake.

First, there’s Vela’s non-chalant dummy before picking up the pass.

Then, there’s Florian Jungwirth’s body language during and after his being cooked with a nutmeg. That’s an entire mood.

Next, Vela dribbles around the keeper and allows a slide tackler so glide past him before finishing with aplomb, the magic touch his going near post as if to say, “Can I beat this guy a second time, or do I have to use the easier route?”

Diego Rossi also had a goal and an assist, while Mark-Anthony Kaye continued his strong season with an assist to ex-Fiorentina prospect Joshua Perez. It’s a first MLS goal for the California-born Perez, now 21.

WATCH: Rooney sees red for forearm shiver, Kamara scores golazo

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Midweek MLS provided plenty to talk about on Wednesday, with two red cards and a golazo in one match alone.

The two main talking points from the New York Red Bulls’ 2-1 win over DC United weren’t really part of what led the victors to three points.

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How? Well, one of the world’s marquee names earned a red card via VAR and a returning star scores an absolute stunner, that’s how.

Here’s Ola Kamara’s debut marker for the Black-and-Red, adding to a record which included 49 goals in 97 matches between Columbus and the LA Galaxy before moving to the Chinese Super League for a wildly disappointing time with Shenzhen FC.

All of that is forgotten.

As for the Rooney incident, the Red Bulls already led 1-0 when DC’s star striker went forearm shiver on Cristian Casseres Jr.

It’s the second red of the season for Rooney, who is set for Derby County in January.

Amro Tarek was later sent off for the Red Bulls, who moved ahead of DC in the standings. Kaku and Daniel Royer had RBNY’s goals.

Newcastle takeover could be back on if in holiday relegation battle

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How much do Newcastle United supporters dislike their owner Mike Ashley right now?

Enough that this report is likely to condemn many to hoping their favorite club in the world is in the Bottom 3 come Christmas.

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The Chronicle’s Mark Douglas speculates that Ashley will lower his asking price for the club if it is in a relegation fight come December — something that looks certain after the Steve Bruce-led Magpies got bossed around by promoted Norwich City.

Nothing But Newcastle transcribed Douglas’ chatter from his podcast, in which he says,

“It wouldn’t surprise me if we hear more in December because there are still people sniffing around that football club and if the team are in the bottom three, there’ll be people thinking they can get a bargain out of Mike Ashley again. … He will probably more open to listening to lower offers in January and December which is what happened last December. He was basically saying ‘take it off my hands, you now have to take the risk’'”

This is notable for two reasons. First: the social experiment of wondering how many fans could see themselves rooting for their team to take a major and perilous back step just to see the back of a man they perceive is at the root of their failures (and that perception is widespread in this case).

But second, we can see if this rumor comes true because it’s difficult to imagine Newcastle as comfortably mid table by Christmas.

Fan protests and anger are nothing new, but here’s an effort to show how wobbly Ashley’s reputation is on Tyneside: Fans have taken to selling a black and white striped shirt with player name and number but no sponsor just so they can have a Newcastle jersey that doesn’t put money into Ashley’s pockets. And this is after he broke the club’s transfer record twice in one year.

If we’ve learned anything from the past few seasons, though, it’s that boycotts and anger will spur Ashley into insisting that he’s willing to sell and just conveniently enough it will be before the January transfer window. He “won’t be able to buy any players” with the takeover in play, and talks will hit a wall come late January, when they’ll loan a couple young players from Top Six sides.

Yes he spent significant money on Joelinton, Allen Saint-Maximin, and others this summer, but one decent window doesn’t make a culture. Count us amongst the skeptical, for now.

Messi back in training, could be fit for Betis

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Lionel Messi was back in full training again on Wednesday and may be fit to face Real Betis in the Spanish league on Sunday.

Messi had been training separately from the squad since injuring his right calf in the preseason.

He missed the team’s 1-0 loss to Athletic Bilbao in the league opener on Friday.

Barcelona has not said how long it expects Messi to be sidelined.

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Coach Ernesto Valverde is also dealing with injuries to forwards Luiz Suarez and Ousmane Dembele.

Dembele is certain to miss Sunday’s match at the Camp Nou because of a left thigh injury that should keep him out for about five weeks.

Suarez also isn’t likely to play this weekend because of a muscle injury sustained before halftime of Friday’s game in Bilbao.

Two-time defending champion Barcelona hadn’t loss a league opener in 10 seasons.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports