Palace beat 10-man Villa amid late drama

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Crystal Palace beat 10-man Aston Villa 1-0 at Selhurst Park on Saturday, as the game finished in dramatic circumstances.

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Villa had Trezeguet sent off and Jordan Ayew sealed the win with a second half strike, but Villa thought they had equalized in the 96th minute but referee Kevin Friend had whistled seconds earlier for simulation by Jack Grealish, when the decision looked questionable. And that is putting it kindly.

Palace now have seven points on the board, while Villa have three.


3 things we learned

1. Referees have to let plays develop: Kevin Friend reacted too quickly to whistle Jack Grealish for simulation in the box, and VAR would have surely seen it as a clear and obvious error as Gary Cahill took down the Villa skipper in the box. Lansbury scoring has nothing to do with this. Friend should have let the play develop, then given a foul or a penalty kick had Lansbury not scored. Villa should feel very hard done by.

2. Palace still lack a proper finisher: Ayew and Zaha worked their socks off and Palace had five decent goalscoring chances in this game. They only took one and that is the real issue here, as they struggled to break down a dogged 10-man Villa. Roy Hodgson‘s side are solid as a rock, but they just lack a natural finisher.

3. Villa hamstrung by Trezeguet’s madness: Getting booked either side of half time, Trezeguet put his team up against it at Selhurst. The second challenge on Zaha was just plain silly and even though Villa didn’t play well at all, the Egyptian winger was instrumental in them not grabbing a point.

Man of the Match: Jordan Ayew – He scored the winner and worked so hard for the team. He is not a natural finisher at all, but he delivered a big three points for Palace who have now won back-to-back games.


Villa started off on the front foot and Douglas Luiz whipped a free kick over the bar.

Palace should have taken the lead after Jeffrey Schlupp found James McArthur in the box but he somehow sent his shot over form close range.

The Eagles went close again in the first half as Jordan Ayew slid in at the back post but couldn’t get on the end of a ball fizzed across the six yard box. Wilfried Zaha almost got on the end of another cross as Villa dropped deeper and deeper.

Luka Milivojevic‘s low free kick was then deflected and saved by Tom Heaton as Palace had the better chances in the first half.

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In the second half both teams sat back and looked to launch counter attacks, but Villa were reduced to 10 men as Trezeguet received his second yellow card for bringing down Zaha.

Palace were buoyed by their man advantage, and Milivojevic curled a shot from distance which Heaton pushed away superbly.

Ayew curled a shot over as Villa restricted Palace to efforts from distance, but the Ghanian forward scored the winner moments later.

Schlupp played in Ayew down the left and he cut inside, bundled his way through challenges and curled home to make it 1-0.

Villa thought they had snatched an equalizer in the 96th minute as Henri Lansbury slotted home, but referee Kevin Friend disallowed the goal as he had blown the whistle for an earlier foul by Grealish in the penalty box which looked like it should have gone the opposite way and been a penalty kick to Villa.

What a dramatic end to a fierce encounter.

Four-star Manchester United wins Europa League group

Manchester United Mata Greenwood
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Manchester United is in fine feather and showing it, smashing AZ Alkmaar in a stylish 4-0 win at Old Trafford in Europa League play on Thursday.

Juan Mata had a goal and set up two others, while Mason Greenwood scored twice after Ashley Young opened the scoring in a group-claiming victory.

[ MORE: Saka leads Arsenal comeback ]

United wins the group with 13 points, conceding just twice in six matches.

The Red Devils have won three-straight matches, as AZ joins Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur in the loss column. Up next is a Sunday visit from Everton in the Premier League before Wednesday’s League Cup quarterfinal visit from Colchester United.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer handed starts to James Garner, Brandon Williams, and Axel Tuanzebe, bringing youngsters Ethan Laird and Tahith Chong off the bench.

Greenwood, 18, now has six goals in 22 senior appearances, while Mata, 31, gets on the score sheet for the first time this season.

For his career, the award-winning Spaniard is doing okay, though: 125 goals and 149 assists in 542 senior appearances.

Ljungberg hails ‘amazing’ teen Saka after game-changing performance

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Arsenal phenom Bukayo Saka‘s big day spurred the Gunners to a top seed in the Europa League knockout rounds.

Arsenal went behind on two deflected goals in the second half’s first 25 minutes, but Saka answered with a goal and an assist in three minutes to take a point from Belgium in a 2-2 draw at Standard Liege.

[ RECAP, VIDEO: Standard Liege 2-2 Arsenal ]

Saka was at the heart of it of all good things Arsenal, the 18-year-old handed plenty of responsibility. despite his tender age.

“He was amazing,” said interim manager Freddie Ljungberg. “He was a bit upset with me before the game that he had to play wing-back and full-back. He’s a tremendous talent.”

Saka had four key passes to go with his goal and assist, winning six of eight duels while producing two tackles and an interception.

Ljungberg said Arsenal hasn’t sent its young players on loan enough, though that hardly applies to Saka given he was 17 until September.

The injured Gunners used Konstantinos Mavropanos, Emile Smith-Rowe, Joe Willock, and Reiss Nelson in the Starting XI, and brought Gabriel Martinelli off the bench.

“I feel sorry for our young players,” he said. “A lot of them haven’t been on loan, they’ve not had that exposure to men’s football. Some of them made mistakes but they’ll learn from those mistakes and won’t do them again.”

Smith-Rowe was loaned to RB Leipzig last season and Nelson starred on loan at Hoffenheim. Mavropanos played first team football for Greek Super League side PAS Giannina in his late teens.

Arsenal joins Premier League sides Wolves and Manchester United in the knockout rounds, having lost the Europa League final to rivals Chelsea at the end of last season.

The Gunners beat West Ham on Monday and host Manchester City at 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday.

Arsenal uses thrilling comeback to win Europa League group

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Nothing Arsenal-related is allowed to be easy, it seems.

The Gunners used a goal and an assist from Bukayo Saka to come back from a two-goal deficit and draw Standard Liege 2-2 in Belgium on Thursday, winning its Europa League group when Vitoria came back to beat Eintracht Frankfurt on a wild afternoon of soccer.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Arsenal trailed on second half goals from Samuel Bastien and Selim Amallah, but rallied behind Bukayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette to score a second-straight win for interim boss Freddie Ljungberg.

Saka sent in a laser cross in the 78th minute and Lacazette did quite well to power it under the bar.

He’s loving this competition, having made a serious entrance earlier in the tournament versus Eintracht Frankfurt. The 18-year-old now has two goals and five assists across all competitions this season.

The Gunners needed just three more minutes to tie the score on a day they outshot the hosts 15-11.

Saka showed his nose for goal to tie the score five minutes later with a dribble to the top of the 18 and a sly finish to the keeper’s left.

This was all happening around the same time Vitoria scored twice in three minutes to take a 3-2 lead on Eintracht Frankfurt.

Standard Liege goes from the knockout rounds to nothing in a blink, while Eintracht goes from winning the group to second.

The field for the Europa League is looking fierce, with Inter Milan, Benfica, Ajax, Club Brugge, Olympiacos, Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayer Leverkusen, and Red Bull Salzburg joining the competition via transfer from the UEFA Champions League.

Arsenal joins Premier League sides Wolves and Manchester United in the knockout rounds, having lost the Europa League final to rivals Chelsea at the end of last season.

The Gunners beat West Ham on Monday and host Manchester City at 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday.

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks

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Matchweek 17 is here in the Premier League as the games continue to come thick and fast during the festive season.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Listen carefully, because this is very specific.

While you can download the NBC Sports Predictor app (below) and play the Premier League Pick ‘Em game yourself to predict the scores and win the prizes.

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With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the long shots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Chelsea 3-0 Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Liverpool 3-1 Watford – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM] 

Crystal Palace 3-1 Brighton – (Monday, 2:45 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Leicester 3-0 Norwich – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]


DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Southampton 1-1 West Ham – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]

Sheffield United 2-1 Aston Villa – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Man United 2-1 Everton – (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM


“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Arsenal 3-3 Man City – (Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Wolves 1-2 Tottenham – (Sunday 9 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Burnley 1-2 Newcastle United – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM