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Palace revival continues, Swansea ease drop fears Villa stop rot in Southampton stalemate

LONDON, April 19, (AFP): Australia midfielder Mile Jedinak scored the only goal of the game as Crystal Palace’s remarkable revival under manager Tony Pulis continued with a 1-0 win away to London rivals West Ham on Saturday. When Pulis was appointed in November after Ian Holloway quit Selhurst Park, the Eagles were six points from safety at the foot of the Premier League table, having collected only four points from their opening 11 fixtures. Several months on this victory, which followed their 3-2 triumph over high-flying Everton in midweek, meant Palace had won five Premier League matches in a row for the first time since 1992 — the latest feather in the cap of 56-year-old former Stoke manager Pulis. This result also left south London side Palace on 43 points, three above the 40-point mark usually associated with top flight survival, and 13 points clear of the relegation zone with just three matches of the season left.

Both teams were all but safe from the drop before this match started but 11th-placed Palace’s win took them six points in front of east London club West Ham, still 12th despite this loss. Long before Jedinak scored, another Australian was the centre of attention at Upton Park as West Ham striker Dylan Tombides, who died on Friday, was remembered with a minute’s applause before kick-off. Tombides, who joined the Hammers as a 15-year-old and made one senior appearance, had been suffering from testicular cancer, a disease he was diagnosed with in 2011. In a statement issued Friday, West Ham said Tombides “will be hugely missed by all who had the honour of knowing him”.

The closest either side came to a goal in the first half was when West Ham striker Andy Carroll’s header was well-saved by Palace goalkeeper Julian Speroni. Palace broke the deadlock just shy of the hour mark after they were awarded a penalty when Cameron Jerome, surging into the box, went down under Pablo Armero’s challenge. Jedinak’s powerful penalty into the top left corner gave Adrian in the Hammers goal no chance.

Swansea 2, Newcastle 1
In Newcastle, a double by leading scorer Wilfried Bony gave Swansea an invaluable win in their battle against relegation as they beat out of form Newcastle 2-1 for their first away win since November. The 25-year-old Ivory Coast international scored at the end of each half — the second from the penalty spot for his 14th league goal of the season — to take them six points clear of the bottom three with three games remaining and a vastly superior goal difference to boot. Defeat for Newcastle was their fifth successive one in the league — Shola Ameobi’s 23rd minute goal their first in those five games — and leaves manager Alan Pardew’s position under some threat. Newcastle had suffered an early blow when Pape Cisse had to go off injured.

However, he wasn’t replaced by ready made replacement Loic Remy but a fullback in the shape of Mathieu Debuchy. That didn’t prevent the hosts going 1-0 up in the 23rd minute as Shola Ameobi scored his first league goal since December 2012 playing a one-two with strike partner Luuk de Jong before slotting the ball past Michael Vorm. Both de Jong and referee Chris Foy didn’t last out the first-half either as the former had to go off and finally Remy was sent on for his first appearance after missing six games with a calf injury. Foy too had to be replaced by fourth official Anthony Taylor after he was hit in the face by the ball and although he got back on his feet he was unable to carry on.

Swansea, though, drew level right on the stroke of half-time as Bony — the club’s record signing last summer when he arrived from Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem for 13.9 million euros — darted in unseen to head home Ben Davies’s corner. The second-half provided little in the way of chances with Swansea going close through Jonathan de Guzman, his volley just scraping the bar. Bony too was denied as he was slipped in by Marvin Emnes but Newcastle ‘keeper Tim Krul got down to save with his legs. However, he was not to be denied with the late penalty as the lively Emnes was brought down by Chieck Tiote and he calmly stroked the ball past Krul.

Villa 0, Saint 0
In Birmingham, United Kingdom, Aston Villa ended a difficult week with a 0-0 draw at home to Southampton that inched them closer to safety in the Premier League. Villa suspended assistant manager Ian Culverhouse and head of football operations Gary Karsa earlier this week, following a run of four successive defeats that had seen Paul Lambert’s side slither towards the bottom three. They snapped the sequence by avoiding defeat against an enterprising Southampton team, but they are not safe yet as the result left them only five points clear of the relegation zone with four matches to play. Despite Villa’s pressing need for points, it was eighth-place Southampton who made all the early running at Villa Park, dominating possession in trademark fashion.

In the fifth minute Luke Shaw hared down the left flank and crossed for Rickie Lambert, who put his header straight at Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan, and moments later the England striker saw a shot deflected wide. Mid-way through the half, Steven Davis was presented with a clear sight of goal after Nathan Baker inexplicably left James Ward-Prowse’s cross, but the Northern Irishman’s shot was brilliantly saved by Guzan. Southampton goalkeeper Artur Boruc, back in the team after a back problem, was a virtual spectator during the first half, with Villa failing to muster a single attempt at goal. The hosts corrected that statistic early in the second half, but Karim El Ahmadi’s effort was tame and Boruc fielded it comfortably.
Southampton captain Adam Lallana then squandered a good opportunity when he completely miscued from a Shaw cross and Marc Albrighton almost punished him, only for the Villa winger’s shot to be saved at the second attempt by Boruc.

Moments later Lallana had the ball in the net after neatly controlling a long ball, but the goal was ruled out for a clear offside. Southampton coach Mauricio Pochettino sent on Sam Gallagher for Ward-Prowse and the teenage striker almost made an immediate impact, stabbing a cross from Lambert towards goal, but Guzan saved.

Cardiff 1, Stoke 1
In Cardiff, United Kingdom, Cardiff remain deep in relegation trouble despite Peter Whittingham’s penalty equaliser in Saturday’s 1-1 Premier League draw against Stoke. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team fell behind in controversial circumstances at the Cardiff City Stadium when referee Howard Webb gave Stoke a dubious penalty which Austrian striker Marko Arnautovic converted. The Bluebirds drew level with a penalty of their own in the second half as Whittingham fired home from the spot. But Cardiff couldn’t find a winner leaving them third from bottom and two points from safety with only three games remaining. Cardiff manager Solskjaer had included Aron Gunnarsson among his substitutes despite reports linking the Iceland international with an alleged leak of team information to Crystal Palace before a league game between the clubs earlier this month.

But Gunnarsson, who has denied any wrongdoing in the matter, didn’t come on, leaving the officials to take the spotlight instead. Cardiff made a bright start and Mats Daehli teed up Jordon Mutch, who should have done better than shoot straight at Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic from close-range. It took a piece of brilliant defending from Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross to deflect Fraizer Campbell’s shot away for a corner as the hosts pressed again. But Stoke almost took the lead on the counter-attack through former Cardiff striker Peter Odemwingie when the Nigerian international surged away before forcing Cardiff goalkeeper David Marshall into a fine save from the edge of the area.

Mark Hughes’ team were indebted to Begovic just before half-time as the Bosnian raced off his line to clear before Campbell could pull the trigger and moments later produced a fine save to push Whittingham’s free-kick onto a post. And Stoke took advantage of those escapes to snatch the lead in first half stoppage-time. Odemwingie went easily down under the slightest of challenges from South Korea midfielder Kim Bo-Kyung and Webb awarded the penalty, with Arnautovic stepping up to convert from the spot to mark his 25th birthday. It was a debatable decision and Cardiff were furious, but they got a spot-kick of their own six minutes after half-time.

Steven Nzonzi tripped Campbell, Webb gave the penalty and Whittingham drove his strike down the middle to restore parity. Juan Cala thought he had completed Cardiff’s fightback moments later, but Webb and his officials were back in the thick of the action as the effort was correctly ruled out for offside. Begovic made a great save from Steven Caulker’s shot and the Cardiff centre-back then hit the post from the rebound, with the ball bouncing up for Cala to head in from close range, but the hosts’ celebrations were premature because the Spanish defender was in an offside position.

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