Bolasie punctures Arsenal's Champions League bid

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Arsene Wenger’s side appeared on course for victory following Alexis Sanchez’s headed goal in first-half stoppage-time.

But Palace, second best throughout in this all-London Premier League clash, hung on in and were rewarded when Bolasie’s edge-of-the-box shot beat Petr Cech, who should have saved it, at the Arsenal goalkeeper’s near post in the 81st minute.

The result effectively ended the Gunners’ already slim title hopes, with Arsene Wenger’s side now 13 points behind leaders Leicester City, with only a maximum of 15 on offer from their final five league games.

More significantly it meant Arsenal, bidding to play in the Champions League for a 19th consecutive season, failed to regain third place from Manchester City and were left just four points in front of fifth-placed Manchester United, with only the top four at the end of the season guaranteed a place among Europe’s elite.

Arsenal, jeered off the field by their own fans at full-time, were the only team that had something meaningful to play for, with Palace all but safe and more focused on their looming FA Cup semi-final against Watford.

That it took until the 24th minute for a meaningful attempt was down to a Palace side content to sit back and soak up pressure.

Palace, especially away from home, like to defend deep and hit teams on the break and Bolasie did just that but his low drive was smothered by the returning Cech.

For all Arsenal’s dominance, Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey didn’t have to make a save for much of the first half.

Arsenal’s Lauren Koscielny flashed his header from Mesut Ozil’s 36th minute corner wide before Sanchez’s free-kick drifted just past the post.

But Wales international Hennessey was called upon to thwart Mesut Ozil with a low stop after the German playmaker exchanged passes with Sanchez.

Arsenal’s pressure was, however, rewarded just before half-time.

Moments after Connor Wickham had headed over for Palace, Sanchez was more accurate when he nodded Danny Welbeck’s pass in from six yards out after Mile Jedinak had been caught in possession.

That was the Australian midfielder’s final act as he was replaced at the break, with Palace manager Alan Pardew sending out a more attacking side.

The danger was that Arsenal could pick the south Londoners off and Welbeck and Alex Iwobi both missed early chances as the Gunners took advantage of the extra space.

Ozil was then inches away with a 58th minute free-kick as the home side looked to kill off Palace.

The Eagles then introduced former Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor, who received a hostile reception from fans of his old club.

Arsenal saw Sanchez head Ozil’s quickly taken free-kick just wide but Palace, who had created little, served notice they could still snatch an unlikely point in the 77th munute.

Yohan Cabaye’s corner was glanced on by Bacary Sako but Cech turned over the near-post header.

But Cech was beaten via Bolasie’s 81st-minute strike against the run of pay.

The winger had been relatively quiet before he cut inside and saw his shot squirm beyond Cech’s grasp to stun the Emirates and earn Palace a point that all but guaranteed their Premier League status.

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Ulloa rescues 10-man Leicester in controversial draw

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Leonardo Ulloa.

Claudio Ranieri’s leaders looked destined for a damaging defeat at the King Power Stadium after late goals from Andy Carroll and Aaron Cresswell put the Hammers ahead following Vardy’s dismissal for diving.

Referee Jonathan Moss’s decision to give Vardy, who had opened the scoring in the first half, a second booking incensed the Leicester fans and they were even more irate when he awarded West Ham the penalty that Carroll converted to equalise.

But with just seconds remaining, Moss made another crucial decision and this time it went Leicester’s way as he gave a soft penalty that substitute Ulloa drilled home to leave the Foxes eight points clear of second placed Tottenham.

It summed up the astonishing nature of the finale that Moss was still booed off despite his late gift to Leicester, whose lead at the top will be cut to five points with four games remaining if Tottenham win at Stoke on Monday.

Vardy’s suspension next week against Swansea just adds another twist to an incredible title race.

Right from the opening minutes it was clear Leicester’s astonishing march towards the title was about to become even more enthralling.

When Cheikhou Kouyate met Dimitri Payet’s free-kick with a powerful header, a goal seemed certain, yet Kasper Schmeichel somehow got a fingertip on the ball to push it onto a post.

It then bounced along the goal-line before rebounding off the other post and back in the grateful arms of the Leicester goalkeeper.

If Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has patented his brand of ‘heavy metal’ football, then it can’t be long before Leicester’s frenzied approach, undoubtedly effective but at times as subtle as hardcore techno, gets a label of its own.

Thundering into tackles and moving the ball at breakneck speed, Leicester embarked on a blistering counter to take the lead in the 18th minute.

Schmeichel caught the ball from a West Ham attack and within seconds had launched a throw out to Riyad Mahrez on the right flank.

Mahrez quickly shifted possession onto N’Golo Kante and, with West Ham left hopelessly out of position by the speed of the break, the France midfielder measured a pass to Vardy, who took one touch just inside the penalty area before driving into the far corner for his 22nd league goal .

But for virtually the first time all season, Leicester’s fortunes took a turn for the worse in the 56th minute when Vardy chased a through-ball into the penalty area and appeared to deliberately nudge his legs into Angelo Ogbonna before throwing himself to the turf in pursuit of a penalty.

Moss saw it as a dive and gave Vardy a second booking to the disbelief of the forward.

Suddenly, there was a genuine sense of anxiety in the stands as Ranieri’s men were penned deep inside their own half.

They seemed to have weathered the storm until the 83rd minute when Moss once again took centre stage.

As they contested a corner, captain Wes Morgan needlessly bundled over Winston Reid and Moss pointed to the spot for a penalty that substitute Carroll crashed by Schmeichel.

If they were nervous before that, there was no mistaking the panic as Leicester were confronted by a serious test of their mettle and they cracked in the 86th minute.

Michail Antonio was allowed to get to the byline and deliver a cross that was only partially cleared to Cresswell, who had been left unmarked to bend a sublime strike into the top corner.

Several of Ranieri’s players fell to their knees, with Danny Simpson burying his head in frustration, but the drama wasn’t over.

After spending the afternoon as public enemy number one to the Leicester fans, Moss atoned for his perceived mistakes in stoppage-time when he awarded a soft penalty for Carroll’s challenge on Jeffrey Schlupp and Ulloa held his nerve to rifle home the spot-kick.

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Villa relegated as Aguero treble takes Man City third

Sport360 staff 16/04/2016

Aston Villa's long-expected relegation from the Premier League was finally confirmed with a 1-0 loss away to Manchester United on Saturday as teenage rising star Marcus Rashford scored his seventh goal in 12 games.

The 18-year-old striker, also on target in United's FA Cup quarter-final replay win over West Ham United in midweek, struck in the 32nd minute when he turned in Antonio Valencia's low cross.

Defeat left bottom-of-the-table Villa 15 points shy of safety with only a maximum of 12 on offer to the Birmingham club in their four remaining league matches this season.

Villa, under the caretaker charge of Eric Black after former manager Remi Garde was sacked last month, have won just three times in 34 league games this campaign and Saturday's loss saw them drop down to the second-tier of English football for the first time in 29 years. Saturday's late-kick-off then saw City pull four points clear of United and leapfrog Arsenal into third place, with Sergio Aguero scoring a hat-trick in a 3-0 win away to fallen champions Chelsea that came just days after Manuel Pellegrini's men reached the semi-finals of the Champions League. Aguero finished a quick counter-attack to give City a 33rd-minute lead at Stamford Bridge and doubled their advantage early in the second half with another breakaway goal after good work by Kevin de Bruyne and Samir Nasri. Such has been Chelsea's slump in form this season they are now 10th in the table and a bad day for the Blues got worse when goalkeeper Thibault Courtois was sent off late on for bringing down Fernandinho in the box when one-on-one with the Brazilian.
Argentina star Aguero completed his treble from the ensuing 80th-minute penalty. Earlier, Sunderland gave themselves hope of yet another escape from relegation, with a 3-0 win away to fellow strugglers Norwich City. Victory at Carrow Road left the north-east side still in the bottom three but just one point adrift of Norwich and with a game in hand over the Canaries. Fabio Borini's first-half penalty and strikes from Jermain Defoe and Duncan Watmore after the interval saw Sunderland to a first win in seven matches. Newcastle United, Sunderland's north-east rivals, bolstered their hopes of top-flight survival with a 3-0 win at home to Swansea. Jamaal Lascelles headed in Andros Townsend's corner four minutes before the break and Moussa Sissoko made the game safe for the Magpies eight minutes from time, as they marked manager Rafael Benitez's 56th birthday in style.
Townsend rounded off the scoring in the 89th minute. Newcastle remained in the relegation zone but victory saw them move to within three points of Norwich. Watford, promoted last season, cemented their place in the Premier League with a 1-0 win away to West Bromwich Albion, that saw goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes twice save second-half penalties from Saido Berahino. Those stops helped Watford maintain a lead established through Ben Watson's 27th-minute goal at the Hawthorns. Southampton moved to within a point of a top six place after a 1-1 draw away to Everton. Ramiro Funes Mori put Everton ahead in the 68th minute but their lead lasted just eight minutes, with Sadio Mane equalising for the Saints.  

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