Apr 212016
Three of the six own goals for Crystal Palace since returning to the Premier League in 2013 have been scored by Damien Delaney

Manchester United moved one point behind fourth-placed Arsenal with four Premier League games remaining after a comfortable win over Crystal Palace.

Damien Delaney set United on their way when he inadvertently turned Matteo Darmian’s cross into his own net.

Julian Speroni kept Palace in the game with a series of fine saves before Darmian doubled the lead by lashing home from 20 yards.

Arsenal, who have a game in hand, entertain West Brom on Thursday.

Darmian’s first goal for United sealed a highly satisfactory win for Louis van Gaal’s side on a night thousands of United fans decided to stay away.

Relive the action from Old Trafford

Reaction from Old Trafford and Wednesday’s other Premier League games

Stay away fans make their point

The attendance, which may have included season-ticket holders not present, was given as 75,277, but there looked to be far fewer inside the ground. Despite United’s victory, the atmosphere was flat.

With their title challenge over and some fans disillusioned with manager Van Gaal, thousands of supporters chose to give this match a miss.

Empty seats at Manchester United’s game with Crystal Palace

Asked afterwards about the empty seats, Van Gaal said he didn’t see “a lot” before adding “you have seen it because you want to see it.”

Can United secure a Champions League spot?

This was a game United simply had to win and they easily managed to get the job done thanks, partly, to an inferior Palace side who have yet to secure top-flight safety.

United were everything Palace were not – bright, creative, energetic and hungry.

One win will not paper over the cracks of a disappointing league campaign, yet Van Gaal’s side have given themselves a fighting chance of sealing a top-four finish and Champions League football.

United still face big tests against leaders Leicester City (home) and West Ham (away), while they must also travel to a Norwich side fighting to stay in the Premier League before ending the league season at home to Bournemouth.

Youth, pace and promise

But for keeper Julian Speroni, Palace would have been on the receiving end of an ugly defeat as Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard once again showed United have a promising future.

Martial, who gave Martin Kelly and Adrian Mariappa a torrid evening, was denied by two excellent saves after Delaney had stabbed United into the lead while trying to make a clearance.

Emmanuel Adebayor’s touch map (right) shows he made contact with the ball five times inside United’s penalty area. In comparison Anthony Martial, who was a constant menace, touched the ball nine times inside Palace’s area

United’s previous four league wins had been 1-0 but the hosts always looked likely to add to their lead against limp opponents.

Darmian neatly chested the ball down before dispatching a sweet finish in front of the Stretford End and only more heroics from Speroni kept out the lively pair of Rashford and Lingard.

Problems mount for Pardew

Palace started 2016 fifth in the table yet three matches from the end of their league campaign they are nine points above the relegation zone and all the teams below them have games in hand.

Manager Alan Pardew made seven changes from the side that earned a creditable 1-1 draw at Arsenal in their previous game, but they face Watford in Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final against the backdrop of one win in 18 league games.

Argentine Speroni kept his side in the game while Wilfried Zaha at least offered glimpses of an attacking threat.

Others did little to enhance their chances of earning a starting place at the weekend as United dominated from start to finish.

Emmanuel Adebayor never looked like scoring, defender Pape Souare was fortunate to escape a red card for a wild lunge on Juan Mata and Mariappa struggled on his first start for six months.

Man of the Match – Julian Speroni (Crystal Palace)

Crystal Palace have Julian Speroni to thank for avoiding a repeat of the 4-0 defeat they suffered on their last trip to Manchester against City on 16 January. The 36-year-old produced a string of outstanding saves as Palace’s defence was carved open at regular intervals.

What they said

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal: “I have told my players that it was a good game and the only remark is that we didn’t score too much goals because it was a match of a 5-0.

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Man Utd have to score more goals – Van Gaal

“We needed three points and that is what I said to my players. Darmian was surprising me on Monday in the training session. We did a sort of finishing session and he was the top scorer in that time.”

Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew: “I am disappointed to concede a goal like we did in the first six minutes. It was avoidable and took a bit of ambition out of us.

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Man Utd too good for Palace – Pardew

“It was difficult after the Arsenal performance to get the same energy here tonight. We tried to freshen it up.

“I could see a bit of blurred focus from our players. I can understand that. A lot of our players may never get a better chance to get to an FA Cup final.”

The stats you need to know

  • Manchester United have never lost to Crystal Palace in the Premier League (W11 D3).
  • United have benefitted from more own goals in Premier League history than any other side (66).
  • Crystal Palace have failed to score in 11 of their 14 Premier League games against Manchester United and six of seven at Old Trafford.
  • United have won their last nine home league matches against Crystal Palace.
  • Palace are winless in their last nine Premier League away matches (D5 L4) since their last win on the road back on 19 December at Stoke City.

What’s next?

Wembley beckons for both United and Palace.

United will be confident of seeing off a deflated Everton in the first semi-final on Saturday (17:15 BST) while Palace have an extra day to prepare before facing Watford (16:00 BST) for a place in the 21 May final.

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West Ham United 3-1 Watford

 Posted by at 5:03 AM
Apr 212016
Andy Carroll has scored nine goals this season for West Ham

West Ham beat Watford in a dramatic encounter at Upton Park to maintain their push for a place in Europe.

Andy Carroll poked home his sixth goal in six matches, and Mark Noble added two penalties to put the hosts 3-0 up.

The first spot-kick was awarded after Jose Holebas felled Diafra Sakho, and Almen Abdi brought down Michail Antonio for the second after the break.

Sebastian Prodl hooked one back for Watford and they also earned a late penalty, but Troy Deeney saw it saved.

And in the final minute of injury time, Hornets winger Nordin Amrabat was sent off for picking up his second yellow card.

The Hammers remain sixth in the Premier League, still three points behind fifth-placed Manchester United after their 2-0 win over Crystal Palace.

Liverpool also beat Everton 4-0 on Wednesday and are two points behind West Ham in seventh.

Watford remain 12th and will now focus on Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final at Wembley against Palace.

So many penalties

Both sides have had their fill of penalty action this week.

Carroll scored one for the Hammers before they conceded a late spot-kick and equaliser against Leicester on Sunday.

And Watford earned a 1-0 victory over West Brom on Saturday – their first win in seven league games – largely thanks to Heurelho Gomes’ two penalty saves.

However, Gomes was not able to save his side for a third and fourth time in 135 minutes of play.

Noble slotted both penalties home with ease, after Carroll had given the Hammers the lead by poking in from close range after a pinpoint ball from Dimitri Payet.

Watford got in on the action late on, when Angelo Ogbonna was adjudged to have brought down goalscorer Prodl in the area, but Deeney – on as a second-half substitute – was denied by Adrian.

Fortress Upton Park

West Ham came up against a much-changed Watford side, as manager Quique Sanchez Flores kept seven first-team players rested for Sunday’s trip to Wembley.

And the Hammers dispensed of the Hornets with ease to earn a new club record.

Slaven Bilic’s side have now gone 15 games without losing at home in the Premier League – their last defeat at Upton Park coming against Bournemouth on 22 August.

The record came in the third-from-final game at Upton Park ahead of the Hammers’ move to the Olympic Stadium.

Man of the match – Dimitri Payet

He didn’t get on the scoresheet, but Dimitri Payet was effective in attack for West Ham. The Frenchman set up Andy Carroll’s opener, made a game-high eight crosses and also took four shots himself.

The stats you need to know

  • Andy Carroll has scored in three consecutive Premier League games for the first time in his career.
  • Dimitri Payet has had a hand in 18 league goals this season for West Ham, eight more than any other player – nine goals, nine assists.
  • West Ham have scored from the penalty spot in back-to-back Premier League games for the first time since December 2009.
  • Mark Noble has scored 17 of his 20 penalties in the Premier League (85%).
  • Only Norwich (nine) have given away more penalties than Watford and West Ham this season in the Premier League (both eight).

What the managers said

West Ham manager Slaven Bilic: “We can say they had half of their mind on the weekend and they rested players, but their line-up still had internationals.

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West Ham 3-1 Watford: We should’ve scored more – Bilic

“We are victims of our success as the bar is always rising. We are coping with that well. This game was a big one because I told the players ‘the season is good or very good anyway but after this game are we going to look up and try to catch those teams’. Still we have to look down as Liverpool are in good form.”

Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores: “The application was very good from us. We conceded really early and then it was very tough to play against a tough team like West Ham as they had confidence.

“In the second half, we reacted really well but not good enough to reduce three goals.

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Watford all fit for FA Cup semi-final – Flores

“We have used a lot of players recently and the plan was to try to conserve and be fit for the weekend. Practically all of the players will be fit for the weekend.”

What next?

West Ham travel to West Brom on Saturday, 30 April, while Watford make the short journey to Wembley for the FA Cup semi-final against Crystal Palace on Sunday.

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Apr 212016
Barca striker Suarez has now scored 49 goals in all competitions this season

Barcelona humiliated Deportivo La Coruna to end a three-match losing run.

Luis Suarez scored four for the Spanish leaders, with the Uruguay striker bundling in the opener, then tucking in Lionel Messi’s pass.

Barca scored six in the second half – Ivan Rakitic fired in , before Suarez slid in for his hat-trick and then tapped in Neymar’s selfless pass.

Messi rolled in, then Marc Bartra’s solo goal and Neymar simple finish from close range sealed the rout.

Follow all the action in tonight’s La Liga games

More to follow.

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Apr 202016
Alan Shearer was nominated for RTS Pundit of the Year in 2015

Match of the Day pundit and former England captain Alan Shearer has extended his BBC contract to 2020.

Shearer joined the BBC shortly after his retirement in 2006 and has covered five major international tournaments.

He said: “I’m loving my broadcasting work with the BBC and I’m excited to continue my role working across its wide range of football coverage.”

Philip Bernie, Head of TV Sport for the BBC, described Shearer as “one of the very best pundits in the business”.

Shearer will be part of the BBC’s team for Euro 2016 this summer, including fronting a BBC One documentary reflecting on 20 years since Euro 96, when he was top scorer with five goals.

Have you added the new Top Story alerts in the BBC Sport app? Simply head to the menu in the app – and don’t forget you can also add score alerts your football team and more.

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