Warning: include(/home/ubuntu/websites/mirrorsports.lk/public_html/wp-content/themes/revolution_magazine/breadcrumb.php): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/ubuntu/websites/mirrorsports.lk/public_html/wp-content/themes/revolution_magazine/tag.php on line 9
Warning: include(): Failed opening '/home/ubuntu/websites/mirrorsports.lk/public_html/wp-content/themes/revolution_magazine/breadcrumb.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/share/php:/usr/share/pear:') in /home/ubuntu/websites/mirrorsports.lk/public_html/wp-content/themes/revolution_magazine/tag.php on line 9
Arsene Wenger faces renewed calls to resign after Arsenal’s miserable season spiralled out of control with furious fans turning on his flops during their humiliating 3-0 defeat at Crystal Palace.
Wenger’s side hit a new low on a chastening evening in south London as struggling Palace condemned the shambolic Gunners to their heaviest Premier League defeat of the season.
Wenger’s side have lost four successive away league games for the first time in his 21-year reign as manager.
Goals from Andros Townsend, Yohan Cabaye and Luka Milivojevic gave Palace their first home win over Arsenal since 1979 and left Wenger in turmoil after his team’s fifth defeat in their last eight league games.
With many Arsenal supporters again demanding Wenger resign, the toxic atmosphere around the north Londoners boiled over as fans refused to give the ball back to Gunners right-back Hector Bellerin when it went into the away section in the second half.
Instead, they berated Bellerin and his team-mates with chants of “you’re not fit to wear the shirt”, with the Spaniard having to be consoled by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain when he was jeered again at the final whistle.
Wenger and his squad were targeted for more abuse when they made their way from the dressing room to the team bus. Arsenal’s shocking surrender leaves them in sixth place, lagging seven points behind fourth placed Manchester City.
With Wenger’s record of leading Arsenal into the Champions League for 19 consecutive years in severe danger, the beleaguered Frenchman acknowledged he has to find a way to avoid the mutinous mood wrecking what may yet prove to be his final season in charge.
“I want the fans to support the team, but I can understand they are extremely frustrated, like we all are,” Wenger said.
“We came with the desire to win the game, but in the decisive moments of the game Palace were sharper.
“To see us lose in that way is disappointing. It’s part of my job to build the confidence. We have a week to do it. it’s our job. we will try to do it.”
Faced with the prospect of missing out on the Champions League for the first time since 1997, Wenger has hardly helped his cause by refusing to confirm if he will sign an extension to the contract which runs out at the end of the season.
The uncertainty over his future has been a major distraction for a team lacking the fighting spirit required to cope with adversity.
Wenger conceded Arsenal’s chances of making the Champions League via a top-four finish look bleak, but he refused to be drawn on whether or not he will stay.
“I think it will be very difficult certainly,” he said. “I don’t want to speak about me tonight. I’m not in the mood.
“At the moment I pay more respect to the fact we had a disappointing result.”
Looking shell-shocked and far less defiant than he often is at such downbeat moments, Wenger must have been devastated by the way the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott went missing when he needed them most.
Arsenal legend Ian Wright claimed Wenger has lost the support of his players and even the Gunners boss admitted Palace had shown more passion.
“They were sharper and more decisive than us,” he said. “In the second half they came out strong and scored again.
“After that it was more difficult. “I don’t say the players gave up. For a long time we were unbeaten away but since we lost a few we don’t have the confidence. “You could sense it had an impact on us after the second goal.”
Palace moved six points clear of the bottom three and boss Sam Allardyce hailed a magical 10 days that also included a win at leaders Chelsea.
“One or two more results and we should be safe, but it’s a massive night for everybody, and a huge week for us all,” he said.
A potential FA Cup banana skin awaits Pep Guardiola as he takes his inconsistent Manchester City team to Crystal Palace in the fourth round on Saturday.
This month’s results tell the tale of City’s erratic form, with Guardiola’s men cruising to a 5-0 win at West Ham United in the FA Cup third round, only to then crash to a 4-0 Premier League defeat at Everton.
They appeared to have found form again last weekend, going 2-0 up at home to in-form Tottenham Hotspur, but conceded two second-half goals to draw 2-2.
“We must be mentally strong,” City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo told the club website this week. “We must keep working hard, keep believing in what we’re doing. It’s the only recipe.
“It’s not a good feeling looking at how things developed (against Tottenham).
“We had everything to win the game, but it’s the same old story: we had troubles creating chances and the other team, with less options, get the goals.”
City won 2-1 on their last trip to Selhurst Park in November, but it took an 83rd-minute goal by Yaya Toure for the visitors to prevail.
Sam Allardyce is yet to make his mark as manager of Palace, whose 2-1 third-round win over Bolton Wanderers is the only game they have won since he succeeded Alan Pardew as manager in late December.
But they were unfortunate to lose 1-0 at home to Everton last weekend, Seamus Coleman netting an 87th-minute winner despite Palace debutant Jeff Schlupp being down injured and a hint of offside.
With Everton having thrashed City on their previous outing, Allardyce took his team’s performance as a good omen.
“Everton beat Manchester City 4-0 last week and were lucky to beat us, so we have to take positives out of that,” said the former England manager.
The Palace-City encounter is one of only two all-Premier League ties to have been pulled out of the hat, with Arsenal’s trip to Southampton the other.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is facing a ban after being charged with misconduct by the Football Association for pushing the fourth official during his side’s last-gasp 2-1 win over Burnley last Sunday.
Defender Shkodran Mustafi feels the victory, secured by Alexis Sanchez’s 98th-minute penalty, showed Arsenal have more mental strength than people give them credit for.
“In other games it looks like Arsenal aren’t going to come back or it is going to be a draw, but then we score in the last second just because everyone believes in it,” Mustafi told the Arsenal website.
“It shows how much belief we have in ourselves and that we are going to go for it.”
Southampton will be buoyed by having reached the League Cup final in midweek by knocking out Liverpool in a 2-0 aggregate victory.
Liverpool, who needed a replay to see off fourth-tier Plymouth Argyle in the third round, welcome Wolverhampton Wanderers to Anfield on Saturday.
Chelsea, the Premier League’s runaway leaders, face a west London derby at home to Championship side Brentford and Tottenham entertain fourth-tier Wycombe Wanderers.
Following a 1-1 draw against Liverpool in their last home game, Manchester United will look to get back to winning ways at Old Trafford against shock 2013 FA Cup winners Wigan Athletic.
The two fifth-tier teams left in the competition both face home ties, with Lincoln City tackling Championship leaders Brighton and Hove Albion and Sutton United hosting Leeds United.
Olivier Giroud stole the show as the Arsenal striker’s outrageous “scorpion kick” stung Crystal Palace and inspired his side’s 2-0 win at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
Giroud produced an audacious mid-air shot from behind his back to open the scoring and illuminate a dank afternoon in north London with one of the goals of the season.
The France international’s breath-taking strike deserves to be ranked alongside any of the wonder goals conjured by Arsenal legends Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp.
Fittingly, it came in the 200th league match at the Emirates and provided the foundation for a win that was confirmed by Alex Iwobi’s second-half goal, keeping third-placed Arsenal nine points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea.
A second successive win following consecutive pre-Christmas defeats offers Arsenal renewed hope of a sustained title challenge in 2017.
But while the specifics of this otherwise routine victory will soon fade, the memory of Giroud’s gem will remain emblazoned in the minds of all who were privileged enough to witness it.
Palace won’t feel quite so warm and fuzzy about a defeat that leaves them without a win in two matches under new boss Sam Allardyce and just two points above the relegation zone.
Despite the absence of ill playmaker Mesut Ozil, Arsenal started brightly and went close to an early goal when Nacho Monreal’s cross eluded Giroud and ran to the back post, where Iwobi teed up Mohamed Elneny for a shot that deflected over.
Alexis Sanchez was next to threaten as the Arsenal forward cleverly worked himself into space on the edge of the penalty area before unleashing a fierce strike that curled just wide.
Sweeping forward with typically extravagant passing moves, Arsenal looked at their elegant best and never more so than when Giroud opened the scoring in the 17th minute.
When Arsenal took possession on the edge of their own penalty area, Palace’s overwhelmed players must have hoped for a moment’s respite.
But the Gunners launched a ruthless counter-attack as a flurry of one-touch passing moved the ball out to Sanchez on the left of the Palace box.
Sanchez’s cross was just behind the diving Giroud but the Frenchman’s reaction was exquisite as he flicked his left foot behind him to guide an instinctive shot over Palace keeper Wayne Hennessey and in off the crossbar.
Giroud’s seventh goal of what had previously been an underwhelming season for the 30-year-old was such a bolt from the blue that even the man himself, grinning from ear to ear, wore the incredulous look of someone who couldn’t believe what he’d just done.
Anything either team accomplished for the rest of the half seemed prosaic in comparison, although that didn’t stop Arsenal pressing for a second goal as Elneny drove a low shot just wide.
Sanchez should have doubled Arsenal’s lead seconds before the interval, but he rushed his close-range effort and Hennessey saved with his legs.
Palace had barely reached the Arsenal penalty area in the first half, but they almost snatched an equaliser immediately after the interval when Christian Benteke headed wide from Andros Townsend’s cross.
That miss was Palace’s one and only chance to snatch a point and Iwobi delivered the knockout blow in the 56th minute.
Sanchez passed to the over-lapping Monreal and the left-back’s cross was deflected high into the air and, with the Palace defence statuesque, Iwobi had all the time he needed to loop his header over Hennessey.
Diego Costa earned Chelsea a 1-0 victory at Crystal Palace on Saturday as the Premier League leaders claimed a club record-equalling 11th consecutive league victory.
Costa headed home Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross in the 43rd minute at a foggy Selhurst Park to send Antonio Conte’s men nine points clear.
“The run is fantastic,” said Chelsea manager Conte. “Congratulations to my players, not me. I am pleased for them because they deserve this.”
Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice as Manchester United won 2-0 at West Bromwich Albion, while champions Leicester City weathered the dismissal of Jamie Vardy to come from 2-0 down and draw 2-2 at Stoke City.
Chelsea have matched their record of 11 consecutive wins from April to September 2009, achieving the feat within the same season for the first time.
The only blemishes were yellow cards for Costa and N’Golo Kante that mean both players will be suspended for next weekend’s home game against Bournemouth.
Narrowly beaten 2-1 by Manchester United in mid-week, Palace threatened to take the lead against Chelsea when Jason Puncheon scuffed wide from Martin Kelly’s cross.
The visitors went in front shortly before half-time after Eden Hazard sprayed a pass wide to Azpilicueta, whose floated cross allowed Costa to nod in his 13th goal of the campaign.
Marcos Alonso struck the bar with a late free-kick, but Costa’s goal proved sufficient.
Chelsea are nine points clear of second-place Liverpool, who visit Everton on Monday, and Arsenal, who travel to fourth-place Manchester City on Sunday.
“We can improve though,” Conte added. “It is important to understand we are only at the 17th game in the season. We must not look at the table.”
Jose Mourinho’s United drew level on points with fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur, who host Burnley on Sunday, after winning at West Brom to record three successive league wins for the first time since August.
Ibrahimovic opened the scoring in the fifth minute with a header from Jesse Lingard’s fine right-wing cross at the conclusion of a magnificent team move.
After Ben Foster had pushed a shot from Wayne Rooney onto the bar, Ibrahimovic added a second in the 56th minute.
The former Paris Saint-Germain striker darted between two defenders before scoring via a deflection off Craig Dawson, leaving him with nine goals from his last 10 appearances and 16 for the season.
“I keep saying that for me it is not his body, for me it is more up here,” Mourinho told BT Sport, pointing to his head.
“It is a pleasure to see him play, his happiness. It’s fantastic for a 35-year-old guy.”
He added: “That was very good. We played really well at Crystal Palace and today, even better.”
Leicester avoided a ninth defeat of the campaign thanks to an impressive fightback in a stormy game at Stoke, which left Claudio Ranieri’s men three points above the relegation zone in 15th place.
Vardy was shown a straight red card in the 28th minute for a two-footed challenge on Mame Biram Diouf, ruling the England striker out of Leicester’s entire festive programme.
Bojan Krkic put Stoke ahead with a 39th-minute penalty after Danny Simpson was adjudged to have handled his cross, with Joe Allen tapping in a second in first-half stoppage time.
But Leonardo Ulloa halved the deficit, smuggling a header over the line from fellow substitute Demarai Gray’s cross, before Christian Fuchs teed up Daniel Amartey to head in an 88th-minute leveller.
Discussing whether Vardy deserved to be sent off, Leicester manager Ranieri said: “One manager says yes, one says no. If you listen to me, I say ‘no’. If you listen to Mark Hughes, he says ‘yes’.
“I don’t know if he touched the player, but he touched the ball. I was angry (with the referee) because I saw my players fight and there were so many yellow cards, but it was a normal battle in the Premier League.
“It could be a turning point today, but we have to wait and see the next matches.”
Middlesbrough moved above Leicester to 14th place after beating Swansea City 3-0 courtesy of a first-half Alvaro Negredo brace and a Marten de Roon volley.
Swansea dropped to second-bottom, with Sunderland climbing off the foot of the table after Patrick van Aanholt’s 49th-minute goal secured a 1-0 home win over Watford.
Hull City are now bottom following a 1-0 defeat at West Ham United, who prevailed through Mark Noble’s 76th-minute penalty after the visitors had hit the post three times.
Arsene Wenger believes Arsenal are finally equipped to last the pace in the Premier League title race.
Wenger’s side have struggled to match the financial muscle and strength in depth of the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City in recent years.
But the Gunners appear in much better shape to slug it out with their title rivals this season after reeling off seven successive wins in all competitions.
Arsenal have enjoyed similar hot streaks before fading in the past, but boss Wenger, speaking ahead of Saturday’s home clash with Middlesbrough, sees a more steely side to his squad this time.
“Before the season everybody would say that it could be a very tight, interesting championship,” said Wenger, whose side are behind leaders City on goal difference.
“After the first two or three games people felt that City would run away with it, or Man United would after they won their first three games as well.
“But I believe we are all in the same pack and it’s down to being consistent and trying to focus game after game. From Man City to United to Chelsea, everybody has a chance.
“We are consistent at the moment and I feel there is more to come out from our team.”
City, still smarting from Wednesday’s 4-0 Champions League loss away to manager Pep Guardiola’s former club Barcelona, are not in action again until Sunday when they face Southampton at Eastlands.
Should Arsenal and Tottenham both slip up, City could still yield top spot to Liverpool if the Merseysiders, currently two points off the summit following their goalless draw with Manchester United, beat West Bromwich Albion at Anfield on Saturday.
Tottenham face a potentially tricky trip to south coast side Bournemouth, who’ve won plaudits for the quality of their football under young English manager Eddie Howe.
To make matters worse, City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, himself a former Barca player, was sent off for saving Luis Suarez’s effort when outside his area after gifting the ball to the Uruguayan striker as he tried to follow Guardiola’s call to play out from the back.
Guardiola won his first 10 games as City manager but the club have now gone four games without a victory, a 3-3 draw at Celtic followed by a 2-0 defeat at Tottenham before they squandered two penalties in a 1-1 draw against Everton last Saturday.
“Starting in Glasgow, own goals in White Hart Lane (against Tottenham), missing penalties, we give a lot for the opponents,” Guardiola said.
Southampton, by contrast, were unlucky to lose 1-0 to Inter Milan in the Europa League on Thursday after manager Claude Puel made several changes to the side that beat Burnley 3-1.
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho returns to former club Chelsea on Sunday, fresh from guiding the Red Devils to a 4-1 Europa League win over Fenerbahce — a match in which world record signing Paul Pogba scored twice and veteran striker Wayne Rooney started after three successive club games as a substitute.
Chelsea will look to carry on from their 3-0 win over faltering Premier League champions Leicester.
Despite their domestic problems, Leicester maintained their perfect record in the Champions League with a 1-0 win over Copenhagen on Tuesday and face Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Christian Benteke’s stoppage time header earnedCrystal Palace a stirring 3-2 comeback win at hapless Sunderland on Saturday.
The Black Cats appeared set for their first win of the Premier League season after a double from Jermain Defoe.
But goals inside the last half an hour from Joe Ledley and James McArthur put Palace back level before Benteke popped up to steal the show and earn Palace a third successive league success.
Alan Pardew’s side remained in eighth place on 10 points, with Sunderland now footing the table on one point from a possible 18.
Defoe was back for Sunderland after missing the midweek League Cup win over Queens Park Rangers with a calf strain.
Left-back Patrick van Aanholt, absent for last weekend’s league defeat to Tottenham due to the results of cardiology tests, also started.
Palace were without injured defender Scott Dann and winger Wilfried Zaha.
Sunderland boss David Moyes was forced to make an early unscripted change when Steven Pienaar suffered a hamstring injury, with the veteran South African replaced by Duncan Watmore.
The Black Cats began hesitantly, with their defence tested by Jason Puncheon and Andros Townsend.
But it was the hosts who had the first decent chance against the run of play when van Aanholt sent a low cross into the box only for Defoe’s flick to go wide.
On 39 minutes a clumsy 25 yard back pass by Palace midfielder Ledley to his keeper proved calamitous, with Defoe pouncing to poke the ball past Steve Mandanda.
As a scrappy first period drew to a close Townsend, who scored his first goal for Palace in last weekend’s 4-1 win over Stoke, sent a curling shot wide.
Ten minutes after the restart Palace went close to an equaliser, Damien Delaney clearing a Sunderland free-kick in an attack that ended with Jason Puncheon’s 15 yard shot testing keeper Jordan Pickford.
After a vibrant passage of play from the hosts Defoe bagged a second with a neatly executed 12 yard shot on the hour.
A minute later and Ledley made amends for his first half mistake, the Wales international’s low 20 yard effort taking a deflection off van Aanholt on its way past Pickford.
Pardew then replaced Martin Kelly with Zeki Fryers and the full back made an immediate and telling impact, sending in a cross from the left wing for McArthur to head in on 76 minutes.
That put an end to Moyes’ hopes of a first Premier League win since his then Manchester United won 4-0 at Newcastle in April 2014.
Moyes’ afternoon went from bad to worse as he watched Javier Manquillo give away a free-kick by the corner, with late substitute Lee Chung-Yong floating the ball over for Benteke to head past Pickford in the fourth minute of time added on.
Jesse Lingard’s extra-time thunderbolt earned Manchester United a record-equalling 12th FA Cup as Louis van Gaal’s side came from behind to defeat Crystal Palace 2-1 in Saturday’s final at Wembley.
In a rematch of the 1990 final, which United won after a replay, underdogs Palace took the lead in the 78th minute when Jason Puncheon slammed home, only for Juan Mata to equalise less than three minutes later.
With the tie heading towards penalties, substitute Lingard drilled a stunning volley past a motionlessWayne Hennessey in the 110th minute to end United’s 12-year wait to lift the FA Cup and give their supporters something to cheer about at the end of a tumultuous season.
“It is fantastic to win this title for the club, for the fans and also for me, because I now have won the cup in four countries, and not many managers have done that,” Van Gaal said.
“With 10 players, and we have played Tuesday evening also (beating Bournemouth 3-1), but we have deserved it, I think. It was a super goal, eh?”
Lingard told BT Sport: “I saw it come across and it landed nicely for me. All I had to do was hit it sweet, and luckily I did that. As a sub you always have to be ready. Thankfully I was.”
But while Van Gaal celebrated his first trophy in English football, and United’s first major honour since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, it may not be enough to keep him in a job following the club’s failure to qualify for the Champions League.
Instead United, who lost Marcus Rashford and Marcos Rojo to injury and Chris Smalling to an extra-time red card, will go into the Europa League, along with West Ham United, after United’s Wembley win freed up an additional qualifying berth.
Palace manager Alan Pardew, meanwhile, met with FA Cup heartbreak for the third time, having been on the losing side against United with the south London club in 1990 and overseen West Ham’s defeat on penalties by Liverpool in 2006.
“The players have given me everything,” Pardew said.
United enjoyed the best of the first half, but Pardew was infuriated when referee Mark Clattenburg brought play back for a free-kick despite Connor Wickham jumping to his feet and racing into the box after being dragged to the turf by Smalling, who was booked.
United’s control was even more pronounced after half-time as Van Gaal’s men succeeded in pinning Palace back and they hit the woodwork twice in the space of eight minutes through Marouane Fellaini’s drilled shot and Anthony Martial’s header.
Injuries then deprived United of Rojo and Rashford, with Matteo Darmian and Ashley Young coming on, while Puncheon replaced Yohan Cabaye.
Pardew celebrated with a touchline dance, but within three minutes Palace’s lead had vanished.
Rolling back the years, Rooney did superbly to reach the byline on the right before digging out a cross that was chested down at the back post by Fellaini for Mata to strike a volley that rattled between Ward’s feet and crept over the line.
United lost Smalling when the England centre-back received a second yellow card for haulingYannick Bolasie back by his ankle as he lay on the turf.
The teams exchanged chances in the second extra period — De Gea thwarting substitute Dwight Gayle with his feet, Carrick heading wide — before United academy graduate Lingard, a 90th-minute replacement for Mata, claimed a piece of FA Cup history.
Antonio Valencia’s drilled cross was cleared by Damien Delaney, but the ball popped up for Lingard, who sent a volley whistling into the top-left corner before tearing off his shirt and racing towards the United end in gleeful celebration.
Manchester United will attempt to salvage something from their tumultuous season — and potentially keep manager Louis van Gaal in a job — in Saturday’s FA Cup final against Crystal Palace.
After failing to qualify for the Champions League for the second time in three years, the Wembley showpiece represents United’s last chance to make good on a campaign of stagnant football and simmering fan dissent.
Van Gaal was booed as he addressed supporters following Tuesday’s 3-1 home win over Bournemouth and although victory against Palace would give United their first significant piece of silverware since Alex Ferguson left in 2013, reports suggest that his days at Old Trafford are numbered regardless.
Despite his difficulties, Van Gaal has his eyes on winning and is not particularly concerned about it being pleasing on the eye.
“Of course the starting point is to perform well, to win beautiful…to score beautiful goals,” said Van Gaal.
“But a 1-0 win, for me, is also enough because winning is the most important thing in a final. When you lose you have nothing.”
The Dutchman also hinted that for Saturday’s final to be a spectacle, Palace need to play their part.
“You always need two attacking sides, then you always get a fantastic match,” he explained.
“I think they shall defend very small spaces and then counter because they have a lot of speed in attack.”
While United have not won the FA Cup since 2004, when they beat Millwall 3-0 in Cardiff, victory on Saturday would see them equal Arsenal’s tally of 12 successes in the competition — a record they once held outright.
As well as giving Van Gaal a first trophy in English football, it would also enable Wayne Rooney, the captain, and Michael Carrick to claim the only top-level medals that have eluded them during their spells at the club.
Van Gaal already has reason to thank the tournament, for it has provided several melodious moments this season amid the steady background hum of speculation about his future.
Early victories over lower-league sides Sheffield United, Derby County and Shrewsbury Town came during a dismal run of three wins in 13 league games, when criticism of the Dutchman was at its fiercest.
The quarter-final against West Ham United brought both the relief of Anthony Martial’s 83rd-minute equaliser in the first game at Old Trafford and the morale boost of an assured 2-1 victory in the replay.
If Van Gaal is looking for positive omens, it will not have escaped his attention that the last under-fire United manager to go into an FA Cup final against Palace with his neck on the line was Ferguson.
Prior to the 1990 final, Ferguson had gone three and a half years without a trophy, but following a gripping 3-3 draw, a solitary goal by left-back Lee Martin earned United a 1-0 victory in the replay.
One of the players who traipsed from the pitch in Palace’s unfamiliar black and yellow change strip was 28-year-old midfielder Alan Pardew, who is now the south London club’s manager.
Pardew etched his name in Palace folklore by netting an extra-time winner against Liverpool in the semi-finals and 26 years later, he is seeking to steer the club to their first major trophy.
Following a strong start to the season, Palace won just two of their final 21 league games, which saw them finish 15th in the Premier League.
But they have shown superb form in the cup, notably eliminating Southampton, Stoke City, Tottenham Hotspur and Watford, and now find themselves on the brink of a historic achievement.
“I feel the weight of the history of not winning something,” Pardew said Friday as the club seek a first major trophy in their 111-year history.
“We take one final which we lost into the game, so this group of players have an opportunity to put something permanent there — a first major trophy for Crystal Palace.
“One or two of these players will never play in a final again and this is an opportunity to get a winner’s medal, which is so hard.”
Aside from Wales midfielder Joe Ledley, who fractured his fibula in the 2-1 league win over Stoke two weeks ago, Pardew has a fully fit squad at his disposal.
Marcos Rojo, Matteo Darmian and Morgan Schneiderlin have returned to training for United after brief spells on the sidelines, while Marouane Fellaini is available again after a three-match suspension.
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal goes into the FA Cup final against Crystal Palace on Saturday facing echoes of the 1990 showpiece between the two sides that proved so pivotal in the career of Alex Ferguson.
Ferguson’s United were struggling in the 1989-90 season and the clamour was growing for the manager’s dismissal, but the FA Cup win in a replay over Palace gave the Scotsman a reprieve.
He went on to build a dynasty that won 13 Premier League titles and two Champions League trophies, alongside a host of domestic cups.
Van Gaal, who took charge in May 2014 and guided United to fourth in his first season, is under similar pressure after his side finished fifth in the Premier League and dropped out of the Champions League in the group stages.
The Dutchman has been accused of moving United away from United’s traditional brand of attacking football to a more laboured style, which yielded the second fewest goals of the league’s top 10 teams this term.
The 64-year-old was booed by some fans during his end-of-season speech after Tuesday’s final 3-1 win over Bournemouth at Old Trafford.
Speculation is rife over his future, but the former Ajax Amsterdam, Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager is adamant he will remain, irrespective of what happens at Wembley.
“Yes, because I have signed a three-year contract,” he told reporters.
Van Gaal understands the fans’ disappointment, but says they should be realistic as United chase their first FA Cup title since 2004 and their first major trophy since the 2013 Premier League.
“The expectation is very high. Too high. We are a team in transition,” Van Gaal said. “I have tried to explain that.
“We didn’t reach our aim. We have to qualify for the Champions League. We have still the FA Cup final to go. Everyone has to make up his mind at how we have done this season at that time.”
Crystal Palace, who finished the Premier League five points above the relegation zone, are in the final for the first time since losing the 1990 replay 1-0 following a 3-3 draw in the first match.
“I remember Sir Alex’s career hinged on that game and maybe LVG’s career will hinge on this,” said Palace boss Alan Pardew, who played for Palace in the final 26 years ago.
An inspired Matteo Darmian scored his first goal for Manchester United and set up another as Louis van Gaal’s side kept alive their hopes of a top-four finish with a 2-0 home win over Crystal Palace on Wednesday.
Darmian unleashed a screaming volley with his weaker left foot early in the second half, after Palace defender Damien Delaney turned the Italy fullback’s sharp low cross into his own net in the fourth minute.
The result left United in fifth place, a point behind Arsenal who have a game in hand, and two adrift of Manchester City, as the battle for Champions League spots appears set to go down to the wire.
“I was very happy for Matteo, two times he was involved in the goals,” Van Gaal told Manchester United television (MUTV).
“I was very happy with the performance and I think it was a four or five to zero game. We should have finished it much earlier and scored much more goals.”
Playing in an adventurous formation with Wayne Rooney deployed in a deeper role behind the front four, United were denied a bigger win by a string of superb saves from visiting goalkeeper Julian Speroni.
The 36-year-old Argentine kept out a barrage of stinging shots from Anthony Martial, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard after Delaney’s own goal.
He was powerless to stop Darmian’s thunderbolt, however, after the Italian chested down a poor clearance by Palace on the edge of the area and let fly, with the ball cannoning in off the post.
The result put Van Gaal in a positive mood for Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Everton at Wembley.
“I came to England to win titles and now we are very close, but first we have to beat Everton and that is not easy,” he said.
Everton escaped with a point from a lacklustre goalless draw with Crystal Palace after midfielder James McCarthy was sent off at Selhurst Park on Wednesday.
McCarthy was dismissed for a second yellow card in the 52nd minute of a possible FA Cup final rehearsal following a clumsy collision with Yannick Bolasie after being booked for a heavy challenge on Yohan Cabaye.
Everton, who will meet Manchester United in the FA Cup semi-finals, came closest to scoring when Ross Barkley’s shot bounced off the top of the bar but could not stop their winless league run stretching to five matches.
Palace, who meet Watford in the Cup semis, had more possession after McCarthy went off, but were happy to settle for a point in their third match unbeaten after ending a 13-match winless streak against Norwich City on Saturday.
Indomitable Leicester City stayed bang on course for the Premier League title as Riyad Mahrez scored the only goal at Crystal Palace on Saturday to open up an eight-point lead with seven games left.
Third-placed Arsenal, 11 points behind with a game in hand, made a timely return to form with a 2-0 win at Everton and Tottenham Hotspur can reduce the gap to five on Sunday.
But any hopes that the two London rivals and fourth-placed Manchester City harbour of Leicester imploding are fading fast.
Leicester’s 3,000 fans were chanting “We’re gonna win the league” long after their side’s 1-0 win at Selhurst Park and while manager Claudio Ranieri refuses stubbornly to acknowledge his side are favourites, few would bet against the Foxes completing the job now.
“I think now we are close to achieving the Champions League,” was as far as Ranieri was prepared to venture when addressing reporters afterwards.
“That is a great achievement, but it is step by step,” the Italian, whose side need 18 points to be guaranteed the most unlikely of titles, added.
“It sounds good, our fans are singing a very good song about that, but we need to stay calm.”
Leicester’s 13th league victory this season by a single-goal margin came courtesy of the outstanding Algerian Mahrez.
With 34 minutes on the clock, England call-up Danny Drinkwater fed Jamie Vardy and his precise cross was an open invitation for Mahrez which he accepted with glee.
Palace did hit the bar late on through Damien Delaney but Leicester hung on for a fourth win in five league games.
“You can see they play with confidence, they have momentum, a great balance to the team. They will be difficult to catch,” Palace boss Alan Pardew said. “They would be worthy champions.”
West Ham United’s hope of barging into the top four suffered a late setback at Chelsea where they were denied victory by Cesc Fabregas’s dubious late penalty.
Substitute Andy Carroll had put West Ham 2-1 ahead and had it stayed that way, they would have moved above Manchester City into a Champions League berth.
But Fabregas, who also scored Chelsea’s first equaliser with a free kick, left them frustrated and angry after converting from the spot after Ruben Loftus-Cheek tumbled in the area despite being clipped outside it.
“We should have two points more. We are gutted. Proud, but gutted,” West Ham manager Slaven Bilic told reporters, describing referee Robert Madley’s decision to award the penalty “unacceptable”.
The Hammers stayed in fifth place with 50 points, one behind Manchester City who play sixth-placed Manchester United (47) in Sunday’s derby.
Chelsea remained unbeaten in the league under interim manager Guus Hiddink, but an 11th draw of the season for last season’s champions left them 10th.
Some Arsenal fans displayed banners at Goodison Park urging manager Arsene Wenger to step down, but his side produced a vibrant display to at least end a depressing week on a high.
First-half goals by Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi secured a first win in four league games and lifted some of the gloom after exits from the FA Cup and Champions League.
“Mathematically, we have a chance,” Wenger told a news conference. “We are not flavour of the week, but if we don’t believe, no-one will do it for us.”
Norwich City’s survival hopes received a boost as they won 1-0 at West Bromwich Albion to move three points above the relegation zone while Swansea City also edged closer to safety with a 1-0 win over bottom club Aston Villa who are all but gone after a 21st league defeat.
Stoke City retained their hopes of European football as a 2-1 victory at Watford lifted them to seventh.
Ten-man Manchester United suffered a blow to their Premier League top-four hopes with a 1-0 defeat at West Bromwich Albion as 10-man Liverpool kept up the pressure with a last-gasp 2-1 win at Crystal Palace on Sunday.
United lost Spain international Juan Mata to two yellow cards inside two minutes midway through the first half and went behind to a sharp goal from Venezuelan striker Salomon Rondon on 67 minutes.
Louis van Gaal’s side were unable to fight back and slumped to their first league defeat at The Hawthorns since 1984 to end their recent run of four straight wins in all competitions.
“When you have to play 75 minutes with 10 players, I don’t think we were so uncomfortable,” United manager Van Gaal told BBC Sport.
“The loss is a big blow because it was not necessary. When you see the first half it was not necessary, I think.”
United remain sixth, three points adrift of Manchester City in fourth place, with Liverpool breathing down their neck in seventh after fighting back from 1-0 down with 10 men to consign Palace to a 12th league game without a win.
The home side went ahead through Joe Ledley’s low drive just after the break and Liverpool found themselves further on the back foot when they lost James Milner to a second yellow card on 62 minutes.
Yet Juergen Klopp’s men kept pressing and their perseverance paid off when Palace goalkeeper Alex McCarthy lost his footing and scuffed a clearance straight to Roberto Firmino, who fired it past him for the equaliser on 72 minutes.
Deep into stoppage time late substitute Christian Benteke surged into the left side of the Palace penalty area and went down after a slight contact with defender Damien Delaney, who was sliding on his knees.
Referee Andre Marriner awarded the spot kick after consulting his linesman and Belgium’s Benteke opted for a stuttering run-up before burying the penalty with virtually the last kick of the match.
“I feel sorry for Palace but I have just seen the replay in the dressing room and it was a clear penalty,” Klopp told BBC Sport.
“If there was no contact, Benteke would have been in a great position to shoot. He made the move and forced the situation.
“This is the third league win in a row. I can’t believe how it feels — really good, a big moment for us.”
Former Aston Villa striker Benteke was adamant he had been floored, saying: “I believe he touched me, otherwise I don’t go down.”
But Palace manager Alan Pardew threw his jacket into the dugout in disgust at the penalty decision and said afterwards his side were “robbed”.
“You’ve got to be 100 percent sure,” he told Sky Sports. “In super slow motion the knee touches the foot and he goes over like he’s been shot.
“The linesman assumes that little touch is a penalty. If you think that touch affects the fall and the way he lands, then you really need to be consulted.”
Palace, who are without a league win in 2016, are 15th in the table, nine points above the relegation zone.
Pardew told BBC Sport: “I feel like we’ve been robbed a little bit but again maybe we shot ourselves in the foot a bit.”
Fabio Borini scored a crucial stoppage-time equaliser to ensure Sunderland earned a draw which pulled them out of the Premier League relegation zone on Tuesday.
The Italian’s strike from the tightest of angles sent the Stadium of Light into raptures after Sunderland old boy Connor Wickham had threatened to consign his former side to another potentially calamitous defeat with a second-half double.
Sunderland went ahead with a fortunate Dame N’Doye strike which looped off Scott Dann’s boot in the 36th minute before the predatory Wickham took over after the break, striking twice in the space of six minutes.
The double from the man who left Sunderland for Crystal Palace in the close-season looked to have ensured the London club’s first win in 11 outings before Borini struck in the first minute of injury time to earn the point which lifts the Black Cats into 17th place.
Chelsea exploited Manchester City’s decision to field a weakened team by romping to a 5-1 win in the FA Cup fifth round on Sunday as they joined London rivals West Ham United and Crystal Palace in the quarter-finals.
Second-half goals by Willian, Gary Cahill, Eden Hazard and Bertrand Traore, after the teams went into the break level at 1-1, underlined Chelsea’s dominance over a side keeping their powder dry for Wednesday’s Champions League tie at Dinamo Kiev.
City, who play Liverpool in the League Cup final at Wembley next Sunday, have now lost three matches in a row.
Chelsea face a stiffer task in the next round away to Everton who they beat in the 2009 FA Cup final.
Crystal Palace’s reward for a 1-0 win at Premier League title-chasers Tottenham Hotspur was a plumb away tie with second-tier Reading who shocked top flight visitors West Bromwich Albion 3-1 on Saturday.
West Ham United will next visit Manchester United or third-tier Shrewsbury Town after crushing Championship side Blackburn Rovers 5-1 away — Dimitri Payet and Emmanuel Emenike scoring two goals apiece as both teams finished with 10 men.
Modest Shrewsbury host Louis van Gaal’s United on Monday.
If holders Arsenal beat Hull City in a replay, after being held at home by the Championship leaders on Saturday, they will welcome fellow London side Watford.
Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini had threatened to sacrifice the FA Cup by making multiple changes, even saying in midweek he would not buy a ticket if he was City fan.
He was as good as his word with six teenagers starting against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Five players — Manu Garcia, Aleix Garcia, Tosin Adarabiyo, Bersant Celina and David Faupala — made debuts as the likes of Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure and Raheem Sterling were rested.
Faupala cancelled out Diego Costa’s headed opener before halftime but the visitors could not hold out after the break.
Pellegrini had criticised the Cup schedule, which gave City less recovery time for their last 16 first-leg clash in Kiev.
“We were forced to select that team,” he told the BBC. “We knew it was a difficult chance to carry on in the FA Cup. We cannot do anything more.”
Chelsea’s interim manager Guus Hiddink is eyeing a repeat of his feat in 2009 when they won the trophy by beating Everton in the Dutchman’s last game in charge in his first caretaker spell.
With the much-maligned Hazard returning to form — crossing for Costa’s opener, assisting in Willian’s effort and curling in a free kick — Chelsea could even afford a missed Oscar penalty.
“Manchester City made changes but that doesn’t make it easy because the youngsters that came in were dangerous,” Hiddink told the BBC.
One week after Tottenham won at Manchester City to move up to second in the Premier League, they suffered their first defeat in nine matches to a goal by Palace defender Martin Kelly’s on the stroke of halftime at White Hart Lane.
Kelly beat Spurs keeper Michel Vorm with a powerful near-post shot to put Palace in the last eight for the first time since 1995.
West Ham are sniffing a first major trophy since winning the FA Cup in 1980 after recovering from an early jolt when Ben Marshall’s low shot put Rovers ahead.
Victor Moses equalised and Payet’s delightful free kick put the Hammers ahead at the interval before they raced away. Payet completed the rout with a fine solo goal after on-loan Nigerian Emenike grabbed a brace.
Blackburn’s Chris Taylor was sent off after 55 minutes for a second yellow card while West Ham’s Cheikhou Kouyate was red-carded for a trip late on.
Mauricio Pochettino’s insistence his Tottenham players will have no problem handling their daunting workload will be tested when Crystal Palace visit White Hart Lane in the FA Cup fifth round on Sunday.
Tottenham’s surge up to second place in the Premier League means the club’s focus is now unexpectedly trained on landing a first championship since 1961.
But with Pochettino’s side also still competing in the Europa League – they face Palace on the back of Thursday’s 1-1 last 32 first leg draw at Fiorentina – as well as the FA Cup, every game between now and the end of the season will carried added significance.
The trip to Florence marked the start of a run that will see Spurs play six times in 16 days, but Pochettino is adamant his young squad is up to the task of competing on all fronts.
“The mentality is perfect. The players just want to play every game. They feel they are strong, feel they can all play every game and win every game. We need to carry on in the same way,” Pochettino said.
“We have a strong squad and in this period it’s important to use them all, to keep them all motivated and fit. It’s important to look after every single player.
“There is big competition for places between them and that’s a benefit for the team.”
Pochettino started Harry Kane on the bench for the Fiorentina game with the young striker set to return to the starting line-up for the visit of a Palace side that will include former Spurs striker Emmanuel Adebayor.
Kane, Eric Dier and Dele Alli are among the young players who have made stood out in Tottenham’s campaign and the England forward believes Pochettino’s youngsters can emulate Alex Ferguson’s youthful Manchester United team of the nineties.
“They were a great team so, again, with our squad and how young it is and obviously going into the new stadium in a few years, the future is bright,” Kane said.
“So it’s just about trying to keep everyone together and to keep moving forward and the future is ours for the taking.”
“Tom suffered a cut on his Achilles. We hope it’s only seven to 10 days and he will be available again,” Pochettino said.
“Hugo is still out for Sunday. We hope he will be available for the second leg with Fiorentina on Thursday.”
Adebayor’s return will add an extra edge to the game, with the striker having been released by Tottenham in September, although the club continued to pay his salary.
The Togo international, who joined Palace in January, has expressed frustration at the way Spurs chairman Daniel Levy handled his exit and made it clear he would celebrate if he scores against his former club this weekend.
Palace certainly need Adebayor – who scored his first goal for his new club last weekend – to quickly find his feet as they attempt to reverse their alarming recent decline.
Eagles manager Alan Pardew said: “Adebayor is someone who has character, strength of belief and is a player who can change games.
“For whatever reason, he didn’t fit in the way Tottenham wanted to go forward and that’s sometimes a decision made by the manager and the chairman at a football club, and they part their ways.
“OK, the parting of the ways could have been done better on all sides. I don’t know all the answers to them.
“What I do know is that Emmanuel is highly motivated for the game and is ready to do well for Crystal Palace, and he has a first goal.”
Yannick Bolasie and Bakary Sako are expected to return for Palace after extended spells out.
The mood in the Crystal Palace dressing room is a bit “miserable” after losing five successive Premier League games, leading manager Alan Pardew to say even a draw in Saturday’s clash with Swansea City would give his players a lift.
Palace’s woeful run has seen them slide down the Premier League table from rubbing shoulders with Tottenham Hotspur for the Champions League spots at fifth to 12th.
Despite being happy with a draw, Pardew made it very clear that his side will go to the Liberty Stadium in order to pick up three points.
“We’ve had two good cup wins but the league win has avoided us. Even a draw would be a good result at the moment. We need to get off the points total we’re stuck on, that will help mentally,” Pardew told reporters on Thursday.
“We’re going to keep pushing. You have to keep momentum.(Winning) would bring back a smile to everyone’s face. We’re all a bit miserable. We’ll go there to win.”
Pardew also said that midfielder duo James McArthur, who started all but one of Palace’s league games, and Jason Puncheon, who has started in all 24 league games for Palace, are facing a long spell on the sidelines.
“I have some disappointing news – McArthur and Puncheon are out for a long period,” he said. “That’s a significant blow.”
However, Palace will welcome back record signing Yohan Cabaye and striker Dwight Gayle for the trip to take on the Welsh club, while pacy wingers Yannick Bolasie and Bakary Sako should be available for the league trip to Spurs on Feb. 20.
McArthur confirmed via his Twitter account it is unlikely he will be involved again this season after he tore his ankle ligaments.
“Looks like season over for me with ankle ligaments tore. Just another challenge in my career to make sure I work hard and come back stronger,” McArthur said in a tweet.
Crystal Palace’s new signing Emmanuel Adebayor said he has nothing to prove and does not deserve a reputation of being a disruptive influence in the dressing room.
The Togo striker, who joined his fourth Premier League club last week, made his debut in Tuesday’s 2-1 Premier League defeat by relegation-threatened Bournemouth.
Prior to his move to Palace, the 31-year-old was a free agent after being released by Tottenham Hotspur in the close season and had played just 17 minutes of top-flight football in a little over a year.
“There is a bad reputation about Adebayor. But if you ask every single manager that I have worked under, maybe just one or two would say I am a bad apple in the dressing room,” Adebayor told the Evening Standard newspaper.
“I just want to play football and have happy moments again. I do not have anything to prove. I just want to enjoy my football. I have been there and done it and I am pleased to be back.”
Adebayor said he had held talks with manager Alan Pardew over taking a leadership role in the Palace camp.
“He said I have to be a leader, which means I have to set an example. Which means I have to come on time in training, do my job professionally and that is what I am doing,” the former Arsenal striker said.
“Football is something I love doing and I want to enjoy it.”
Emmanuel Adebayor has joined his fourth Premier League team after signing for Crystal Palace, the club said on Tuesday.
Adebayor, 31, who has been a free agent since being released by Palace’s rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the summer, has signed until the end of the season.
Palace chairman Steve Parish expressed his joy at the deal. “Real pleasure to welcome @e_adebayor to #cpfc,” he wrote on Twitter.
The Togo striker has also played for Arsenal and Manchester City in the Premier League — scoring on his debut for all three — as well as for Real Madrid and Monaco in a 15-year career that has taken in six clubs in three countries.
Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew acknowledged that the club were interested in Adebayor following their 3-1 defeat to Spurs on Saturday and said he had no doubt he could deal with the player, who has fallen out with previous managers.
The lanky striker first moved to England in January 2006, when he joined Arsenal from French club Monaco for a fee of around seven million pounds ($10.05 million).
He moved to Manchester City for almost three times that figure in July 2009, but was loaned to Real Madrid 18 months later.
When the loan period expired in the summer of 2011 Adebayor joined Tottenham, initially also on loan before the switch was made permanent in August 2012 for a fee of about 4.5 million pounds.
However, with Adebayor out of favour at White Hart Lane, the club agreed to release him from his contract last September but have continued to pay his wages, reported in the English media to be 100,000 pounds a week.
He has been training alone in an attempt to stay fit and Palace made their move after suffering a slump in form and injuries to key players — in particular, Yannick Bolasie, who is still out after suffering a leg injury before Christmas.
Palace announced Adebayor’s signing on their website (www.cpfc.co.uk) and said the player would wear the number 25 shirt.
Adebayor has scored 96 times in 230 league games in England, eight behind Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba, who is the Premier League’s leading African goalscorer.
Manager Remi Garde breathed a huge sigh of relief after finally getting his first Premier League victory as manager of rock bottom Aston Villa with a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace on Tuesday.
The only goal arrived in the 58th minute when Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey allowed a header from former England centre half Joleon Lescott to slip through his hands and into the net.
“That was very important for the team, for the club, for everybody,” Garde told Sky Sports television. “We have suffered so much over previous weeks but today we are very happy.
“I think we deserved to win because we put them under pressure and that’s what we wanted. We created many good opportunities and always tried to attack — it’s a good win for us.”
Villa are still eight points from safety despite having registered their first league victory since the opening day of the season.
The home team seemed set for another 90 minutes of struggle when Palace’s Wilfried Zaha struck the woodwork inside the opening minute but Garde’s men held firm.
“We were helped after 20 seconds by the post, I don’t forget that but that’s the game,” said the Frenchman, who took over in early November following the sacking of Tim Sherwood.
“I think we made our luck today by being very aggressive on the ball and wanting to attack. I’m very pleased for the players because they made huge efforts today … now we have to build on this win.”
Garde’s counterpart Alan Pardew described seventh-placed Palace’s performance as one of their poorest of the season.
“A lot of things went wrong today,” said Pardew. “We lacked energy and we lacked quality.
“Villa deserved the victory because they worked so, so hard. They didn’t really give us a moment’s rest, they really had a go.
“We couldn’t find any cohesion and it was a disappointment, no doubt about that,” added Pardew. “We had no cohesion in the team and that’s something we’re renowned for.”