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Ayew the hero for Palace against Watford

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Crystal Palace beat Watford 1-0 at Selhurst Park on Saturday in a tight, feisty clash between two teams who know each other very well.

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Jordan Ayew was once again the hero for Crystal Palace as he rifled home a fine goal in the first half and Roy Hodgson‘s side held on for the all three points thanks to a third-straight shutout and 1-0 win. Nigel Pearson‘s Watford huffed and puffed but remain in the relegation scrap after they failed to build on their incredible win against Liverpool last weekend.

With the win Palace move into 10th place and have 40 points, as they are just five points off the top four. Watford remain in 17th place and only out of the relegation zone on goal difference.


3 things we learned

1. Ayew having a sneaky good season: Eight goals in the Premier League is his best-ever return and Ayew has been so important to Palace, especially with Wilfried Zaha not hitting top form week in, week out this season. Ayew isn’t the most natural finisher in the world but he works hard and is taking a lot of the chances Palace create for him. He has now scored one goal on eight occasions this season and on each occasion he has scored Palace are unbeaten with six wins and two draws.

2. Watford’s inconsistency infuriating: They have now beat Liverpool, Wolves and Man United since Nigel Pearson arrived but are still in the thick of the relegation battle. Nigel Pearson’s Watford just can’t string together a run of wins against teams just above them.

3. Hodgson underrated: The 72-year-old Palace coach has led them to 11th and 12th place finishes in the last two seasons and they are now 10th. Does he get the credit he deserves? Probably not. Hodgson signed a one-year contract extension this week and after not being given funds to strengthen in January and after Aaron Wan-Bissaka was sold in the summer, you have to applaud the job he has done. What you see is what you get with Hodgson. His teams are organized and grind out wins. Palace may not be the best team to watch but they are getting it done.

Man of the Match: Christian Benteke – So often a scapegoat, the center forward held the ball up, almost scored with an acrobatic effort and brought out the best in Ayew and Zaha around him. Benteke gets plenty of stick but he is finally playing regularly and even if the goals aren’t flowing he provides a focal point to Palace’s attack.


Abdoulaye Doucoure almost squeezed home a shot at the near post early on and from a corner soon after Watford caused all kinds of problems but Crystal Palace cleared.

Will Hughes then dragged a shot wide as Watford came flying out of the traps and were obviously buoyed by their win against Liverpool.

Palace then took the lead with a superb goal as Ayew smashed home from the edge of the box after a lovely flowing move down the left which saw Zaha play in Benteke who found James McArthur to assist Ayew.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The game was very feisty with plenty of flash points, most involving Wilfried Zaha, as Watford and Etienne Capoue in particular targeted the Palace winger.

Zaha responded by going on a mazy run and forced Ben Foster into a fine stop down low as Watford’s goalkeeper stood tall.

Troy Deeney forced Vicente Guaita into a fine stop after his powerful effort from outside the box, then Christian Benteke sent one of his trademark acrobatic efforts inches wide.

Palace rides Van Aanholt free kick past messy Newcastle

Crystal Palace v. Newcastle United recap and video highlights
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Patrick Van Aanholt starred against his former derby rivals as Crystal Palace beat Newcastle United 1-0 on Saturday at Selhurst Park.

Palace snaps a three-match losing run with the win, moving 13th with 33 points.

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Newcastle stays on 31 points in 14th.

Valentino Lazaro took a straight red card for a take down of Wilfried Zaha deep in stoppage time and will miss the next three games.


Three things we learned

1. Van Aanholt shines bright:  The Eagles’ fullback hasn’t been at his best too often this season, but he was marvelous on Saturday even apart from the free kick goal. Playing against his former Northeast rivals, Van Aanholt passes at 85 percent, completed five of eight crosses and two of four long balls. He was credited with six key passes and the creation of two big chances (via Sofascore).

2. Same two stars for Newcastle, the rest passengers: Martin Dubravka made eight saves to keep Newcastle in the match, and the attack only went so far as electric winger Allan Saint-Maximin. Newcastle has badly needed a difference-maker in the midfield, and it’s no surprise the midfield is a mess without a real January energizer. Sean Longstaff has been a shell of the man linked with a $35 million move to Manchester United this summer.

3. Scrappy affair: Referee Peter Bankes handed out plenty of yellow cards — five for Newcastle, two for Brighton — and there wasn’t much consistency as to what merited a mere whistle and what registered as a caution. Palace had 15 fouls to Newcastle’s nine despite the discrepancy in cards.

Man of the Match: Van Aanholt, who got the better of his only rival for the honors with his free kick goal.


Dubravka was as busy early as Palace was wasteful. Jordan Ayew and Christian Benteke failed to strike with force from 18 yards before the keeper palmed away a strong Scott Dann header off a corner.

Palace keeper Vicente Guaita was then troubled by a Joelinton rip from distance, and Newcastle had a corner and a chance to breathe.

Benteke missed a sitter on a perfectly struck free kick, Newcastle bailed out in the 21st minute.

Joelinton and Benteke seemed intent on competing for least clinical striker, with the former then bungling a chance to cross for a streaking Miguel Almiron.

It took ex-Sunderland man Van Aanholt to put Newcastle to the sword with a delightful 45th-minute free kick.

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Ayew should’ve had it 2-0 in the 48th minute when Van Aanholt’s cross found him near the back post, which he struck.

Gary Cahill then headed a Van Aanholt free kick off the side netting from close range.

Dominated for 68 minutes, the Magpies saw two bits of danger through Danny Rose and Fabian Schar in the 69th. The latter led to a pair of corners.

Dubravka again got the better of Ayew after Zaha and Cheikhou Kouyate set up a brilliant chance. Wasteful.

Everton beat lackluster Crystal Palace

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Everton beat Crystal Palace 3-1 at Goodison Park on Saturday as Carlo Ancelotti continues to work his magic on the Toffees.

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Bernard and Richarlison twice gave Everton the lead with classy goals after Christian Benteke had briefly drawn a poor Palace side level thanks in part to a big mistake from Jordan Pickford.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin continued his great form to make it 3-1 late on and he could have added another too. With the win Everton move on to 36 points and up to seventh in the table, while Palace are six points off the drop zone but have played a game more than most of their rivals.


3 things we learned

1. Everton in European battle: All of a sudden Everton are one point off fifth place. Carlo Ancelotti has won five of his first eight Premier League games in charge of the Toffees and they have lost just once under the veteran Italian coach so far, and that was 2-1 at Man City. At the start of this season under Marco Silva they were supposed to be in a push for European qualification. Finally they are and if the Toffees can clean up sloppy defensive errors they can sustain this push for Europa League qualification. They have a tough run of games coming up but they have momentum.

2. Palace, Zaha low on confidence: There is always one team which sinks towards the relegation scrap and it looks like being Crystal Palace. Wilfried Zaha has gone off the boil and that has coincided with Palace not winning any of their last seven games, winning just one of their last 11 in the PL and they’ve now lost three straight. The Eagles have gone from top six hopefuls to relegation candidates in a matter of a month. Scoring goals has been a problem all season long as Zaha has three goals all season and Jordan Ayew is their top scorer with six. Palace now have a slightly more favorable run of games but their next four against Newcastle, Brighton, Watford and Bournemouth now seem like must win.

3. Richarlison’s quality clear: Many people raised several eyebrows when Barcelona reportedly put in a $105 million bid for Richarlison late in the January transfer window. But should we be that surprised? The Brazilian striker is just 22 years old and he already has 27 PL goals in 97 appearances in the competition and Palace couldn’t handle his direct running and threat in the air and in the box. Alongside Calvert-Lewin he has someone to feed in attack and the duo have a great understanding.

Man of the Match: Richarlison – Scored a superb goal, his header lead to another and ran Palace’s defense ragged.


Lucas Digne‘s free kick was pushed away by Vicente Guaita early on as Everton took the game to Palace.

At the other end Palace hit the post from a tight angle as Patrick Van Aanholt‘s low effort took a deflection onto the woodwork.

Everton deservedly took the lead less than halfway through the first half as Theo Walcott whipped in a delicious cross from the right and Bernard was on hand to volley home at the Gwladys Street End.

That was Walcott’s final act of the game as he was forced off through injury and Djibril Sidibe replaced him after a short delay as he took his time in the tunnel area.

Bernard almost set up Dominic Calvert-Lewin who couldn’t get on the end of the ball as the attempted a diving header.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Palace started the second half well as Yerry Mina failed to clear and Zaha failed to make the most of a good opportunity at the back post.

Zaha then played in Benteke after Palace won a few second balls and the Belgian striker sent a tame effort on target which somehow squeezed through Jordan Pickford and in. It was Benteke’s first Premier League goal in 34 games and it sprung Palace into life.

Moments later a corner caused havoc at the near post as the ball hit Benteke and then hit the post as Everton were all over the place defensively.

Everton then regained the lead as a long ball forward was flicked on by Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison raced onto it and finished calmly into the bottom corner.

In the closing stages the game turned into an end-to-end encounter as Benteke was then denied brilliantly by Pickford who spread himself to save his header from close range.

Gylfi Sigurdsson was then denied just as brilliantly by Vicente Guaita as he danced through the Palace defense but the Spanish goalkeeper saved his dinked effort.

Everton dominated late on and Richarlison’s header from a corner hit the bar and Calvert-Lewin was on hand to wrap up the win with his sixth goal in eight games under Ancelotti.

PL Preview: Everton v. Crystal Palace

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  • Everton has 3 straight clean sheets v. Crystal Palace
  • Everton owns 19 points in 10 games under Carlo Ancelotti
  • These teams drew 0-0 in the opening game of the season

Everton has one more clear opportunity to continue its great form before slamming headfirst into a brutal stretch of games as the Toffees host Crystal Palace at Goodison Park on Saturday, with kickoff slated for 7:30 a.m. ET live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

After this weekend, Everton breaks for two weeks before an upcoming fixture list that features consecutive matches against Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Leicester City, and Tottenham with Norwich City the only lower-tier side sandwiched into that group.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

The Toffees have won four of their last seven Premier League games, suffering just one loss over that span and finding themselves just four points back of fifth-placed Tottenham. One reason for the solid run of form is the relatively clean bill of health, which is only blemished by the long-term injuries to Andre Gomes – who will be returning soon – and Jean-Philippe Gbamin.

Crystal Palace has just one win in its last 10 league games, and while draws were sustaining the Eagles for a while, they have lost two in a row to Southampton and Sheffield United and desperately need a result to hang their hat on. They remain without striker Cenk Tosun who is out with a hamstring problem, while Mamadou Sakho and Jeffrey Schlupp remain long-term absentees.

Injuries/suspensions

Everton: OUT – Fabian Delph (suspended), Andre Gomes (ankle), Jean-Philippe Gbamin (thigh). QUESTIONABLE – [none].

Crystal Palace: OUT – Mamadou Sakho (hamstring), Jeffrey Schlupp (groing), Cenk Tosun (hamstring). QUESTIONABLE – [none].


Probable lineups

Everton: Pickford; Digne, Holgate, Mina, Sidibe; Sigurdsson, Schneiderlin, Walcott, Iwobi; Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin.

Crystal Palace: Guaita; Ward, Cahill, Tomkins, van Aanholt; Milivojevic, McArthur, McCarthy; Zaha, Ayew, Townsend.


What they’re saying

Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti on Crystal Palace: “I expect a difficult game. Palace have their own quality and a manager with lots of experience. With the support of our stadium I think we can have three points. Now we have to be focused. It is an opportunity to climb the table [against Palace]. We have to close this period and prepare for the end of this season. The games are really difficult.”

Palace boss Roy Hodgson on his future at the club: “The fact is the chairman and I had very positive discussions during the week. I have no reason to doubt the intentions of the club are any different now to how they were: to ask me to stay. I’ll be having further discussions in the coming days and we’ll see where that leads.”


Prediction

It’s undoubtable that Everton is miles better under Carlo Ancelotti. Just look at the results…after earning just 14 points in 15 games under Marco Silva, the Toffees now have 19 points in 10 games under Ancelotti and just one loss in that stretch. That point haul is second only to Liverpool in the last 10 games as teams around them continue to stumble. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Everton climbs into a European place by the end of the season – in fact it’s somewhat likely. Still, Crystal Palace is a draw machine and after two tough-luck losses, they’ll be sure to defend hard. Both teams would be happy with a point here, and that is probably where they’ll end up via a 1-1 scoreline.

Report: Chelsea want to sell Kepa

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Multiple reports claim that Kepa Arrizabalaga’s time at Chelsea could soon be up as Frank Lampard wants to offload the Spanish goalkeeper in the summer.

Kepa, 25, arrived at Chelsea in the summer of 2018 as a replacement for Thibaut Courtois who left for Real Madrid as the Blues paid Athletic Bilbao $90 million which was the release clause in his contract and it made him the most expensive goalkeeper in the world.

Lampard has criticized Kepa openly for shaky displays this season and he dropped him for the 2-2 draw at Leicester City on Saturday as Willy Caballero started.

The Daily Express claim that Lampard wants to sign Burnley and England goalkeeper Nick Pope or Crystal Palace’s Vicente Guaita to replace Kepa but other reports state the Chelsea hierarchy aren’t keen on selling Kepa this summer.

Does Kepa deserve to be dropped and then be sold?

He certainly has been hesitant for most of his first two seasons at Chelsea, struggles to command his box and Chelsea’s defensive struggles this season have been blamed on their central defenders but Kepa hasn’t received that much criticism.

Now, you hear this a lot about goalkeepers: “He’s a good shot-stopper.” Kepa is but that is his overwhelming strength and after he undermined Maurizio Sarri in the League Cup final penalty shootout last season, there’s a sense he doesn’t quite fit in at Chelsea and isn’t a fans favorite at all.

Often there are groans around Stamford Bridge when the ball is played back to Kepa during a game and he is calm with the ball at his feet but often gets defenders in front of him in trouble with short passes. Kepa is okay. He’s not a goalkeeper worth $85 million and we all knew that from the start as that was his release clause and Chelsea were forced to pay it as Courtois left.

Lampard is still upset about not being able to sign a player in January even though their transfer ban was reduced and he made two statements at Leicester on Saturday. First, he replaced Kepa with veteran goalkeeper Caballero who was at fault for Leicester’s second goal. Second, he didn’t bring on a striker to replace Tammy Abraham late in the game to highlight the fact he didn’t get the striker he wanted.

Chelsea’s main area for upgrades are in goal, at center back and up front. Their spine needs strengthening and quality over quantity is needed as Lampard has plenty of players of very similar ability.