Arsenal falter in race for top-four with 3-2 defeat against Crystal Palace

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Christian Benteke’s first goal in almost a year helped Crystal Palace sink Arsenal 3-2 and put a huge dent in the Gunners’ Premier League top-four hopes.

Benteke fired his first goal in 20 games then laid on another for the tricky Wilfried Zaha as the Eagles stunned the Emirates Stadium to claim their eighth league win on the road this term.

James McArthur’s header sealed a fine victory that ended Arsenal’s 10-match winning league run at home – and threw a spanner in the works in the Gunners’ bid for a top-four finish.

Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang struck for Arsenal, but those goals seemed little other than afterthoughts for Unai Emery’s rudderless hosts.

Arsenal remain fourth in the table but are only ahead of fifth-placed Chelsea on goal difference, with Manchester United two points behind in sixth.

Shokdran Mustafi endured a day to forget, the Germany defender producing a string of mistakes which ultimately help gift Palace their win.

Benteke’s first goal since Palace’s 5-0 win over Leicester on April 28, 2018 kick-started a fine Eagles performance, with Roy Hodgson’s men holding out for a hugely-impressive win.

Palace now boast the league’s sixth-best record on the road, Arsenal joining the likes of Manchester City and Wolves in finding no answers to the Eagles on the road.

Arsenal were booed off the field at half-time and rightly so.

The listless Gunners deserved to trail at the break, with Palace producing a measured away performance.

Mesut Ozil side-footed wide in an early opening but the Gunners conjured precious few genuine chances after that.

Martin Kelly flicked over when he should have opened the scoring after Scott Dann’s header into the six-yard box.

Arsenal failed to heed that warning however, and paid the price when Mustafi let Benteke stroll into the box unmarked and head home.

The German defender wrongly thought Benteke offside, and rather than play to the whistle appealed in vain – while the Eagles’ Belgian hitman coasted into position and then nodded home.

Benteke had a second effort chalked off for offside after Zaha’s fine through-ball as Palace continued to press.

And the visitors probably should have doubled their lead before the break, with Cheikhou Kouyate forcing a double save from Bernd Leno, then Benteke blasting over from Zaha’s fine tee-up.

Mesut Ozil

Mesut Ozil

Arsenal emerged transformed after the break, Ozil levelling almost immediately.

The Germany star ghosted onto Alexandre Lacazette’s deft reverse ball and crashed in at the near post.

Palace rallied though, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles had to rescue Mustafi after the German’s missed header had gifted Zaha a run on goal.

The hapless Mustafi’s next mistake cost Arsenal dear however, as Zaha raced onto Benteke’s flick and slotted home.

Mustafi could only watch on as Zaha wriggled round him to stroll through on goal, the Gunners man incorrectly expecting goalkeeper Leno to race out and mop up.

Palace refused to relent or wilt in the sunshine, and bolstered their lead when McArthur nodded home from a corner.

Aubameyang netted a neat second for Arsenal to tee up a tense finish, trading passes with Lacazette before prodding home. But there was to be no recovery, Hodgson’s men deservedly holding out.

Provided by Press Association Sport

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Why blaming Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is futile despite Everton's humiliation of Man United

Chris Bailey 21/04/2019
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Manchester United’s top-four hopes took a huge hit at Goodison Park on Sunday as Everton played Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s sorry side off the park.

Richarlison’s acrobatic finish started the rout following weak defending by United, and Gylfi Sigurdsson didn’t have to sweat shaking off Nemanja Matic before blasting a 35-yard piledriver past David De Gea.

Left-back Lucas Digne fizzed in a strike the equal of Sigurdsson’s in the second half before substitute Theo Walcott added the final insult in a one-on-one finish past De Gea.

Here’s our post-mortem …

FRED THE SORRY RED

Fred’s 45 minutes at Goodison Park was the mother of all clunkers – and he’s had more than a few in his first season with United.

The Brazilian is panic personified whenever his side do not have the ball. He didn’t seem to know how to position himself goal side when bullied by Richarlison for one early chance.

In another particularly comedic moment, the £52 million signing played the ball straight to a blue shirt from defence, and slipped over when facing the counter. Zero tackles, zero interceptions, 61-per-cent pass success rate – but a pair of fouls to show from it.

Matic was scarcely better, fully match fit or not, and his attempt to close down Sigurdsson would have been sneered at on a village league pitch.

You could of course have pointed to any player in the United XI on Sunday. But without excusing them, we know what Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, and Anthony Martial can do on their day.

Without a proper support network, including centre-backs who can take the ball into midfield and provide forward passing options under a press, the disconnect between attack and defence will continue.

This display was a fresh nadir, but who says it can’t get any lower?

EVERTON’S POLISHED SILVA

Everton’s line-up without the suspended Andre Gomes took on a veneer of respect for United, but Marco Silva’s tactics – however simple – were spot on.

Morgan Schneiderlin, Idrissa Gueye and Sigurdsson exploited United’s lack of both poise and accuracy when playing out of defence, while Bernard and the superlative Richarlison set about exploiting Diogo Dalot, a right-back playing on the left, and Victor Lindelof, a centre-back playing on the right.

What followed was utter humiliation for United, but the result in itself is no shock. Apart from a misstep against an already relegated Fulham last week, Everton have recently kept clean sheets against Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and West Ham.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin up front has acted like a lightning rod for defenders, giving Richarlison space to breathe out wide, aided by Bernard – one of the best free agent signings for a long time – and Sigurdsson just behind.

What you get is a relentless and compact side who possess enough wizardry to not just trouble high quality opponents, but beat them. You could in fact say that the Marco Silva formula is Mourinhoesque …

LAY OFF SOLSKJAER

The honeymoon is not only over for Solskjaer, but some fans are wishing United had arranged a pre-nup.

The last month has been nothing short of a catastrophe for the Norwegian, having lost six of the last eight games in all competitions.

Some blame undoubtedly has to be apportioned to Solskjaer. Asking Fred to perform a holding role – or in truth, much of anything at all – is folly at this stage, while playing your best centre-back in Lindelof on the flank.

What were the alternatives, though? Starting the universally maligned Ashley Young? Bringing back Matteo Darmian from Siberia or wherever he’s currently presiding? Expecting Andreas Pereira to have magically developed into a No.6 without playing?

Don’t lose of the sight that horrendous squad planning for the best part of a decade has given Solskjaer, and his predecessors, a disjointed and woefully top-heavy squad to work with.

Despite his horror run, Solskjaer has still won 12 more points than Jose Mourinho in as many games (17). This is United returning to the mean – and as it stands they are nothing more than an average side.

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Everton 4-0 Manchester United: Player ratings as Lucas Digne and Gylfi Sigurdsson run riot

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Everton rubbed salt into Manchester United wounds which were opened earlier this week at Camp Nou by thrashing the Red Devils 4-0.

Goals from Richarlison, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Lucas Digne and Theo Walcott rounded up a memorable afternoon for the Toffees, who continued their excellent run of form.

Digne and Sigurdsson were excellent for Everton, among other players. We take a look at how the players from both teams fared.

EVERTON

Pickford 7: Hard to rate an on-field spectator. Pickford was not troubled at all as United produced just one shot on target.

Digne 9: One of  the best players on the pitch, Digne was always creating problems on the left flank. The left-back produced good deliveries into the box and scored a belter.

Zouma 8: Absolutely solid at the back, part of the reason Pickford had a boring day at the office.

Keane 7: Looked sloppy at times, but a solid shift nonetheless. Kept Romelu Lukaku in check throughout the game.

Coleman 7: Completely shut down Anthony Martial and provided some legs in attack too.

Schneiderlin 7: Ran the midfield along with Idrissa Gueya, played a progressive and confident game against his former club.

Gueye 8: Toyed with United’s midfield, especially in the second half. Disciplined and sharp performance by the 29-year-old.

Bernard 7: Lacked end-product at times, but had enough in his boots to continuously test the United defence.

Sigurdsson 9: A complete performance as a number 10, the long-ranger was the cherry on top of what was one of his best performances this season.

Calvert-Lewin 7: Whether he meant to assist Richarlison with his touch or not is immaterial. Nevertheless, he was lively throughout and kept United’s defence on their toes.

Richarlison 8: An injury cut his evening short, but Richarlison did more in one half than what United collectively managed in two. Scored the opener with a brilliant aerial effort.

Substitutes

Walcott 8: Joined the party in the second half and slotted one past David De Gea comfortably.

McCarthy 6: Replaced Gueya for the last 15 minutes, when the game was practically done and dusted, wasn’t troubled as much.

Jagielka N/A: Came in for Digne at the 85th minute, not enough touches to pass a judgement.

MANCHESTER UNITED

De Gea 5: There was probably not much he could have done about two of the four goals, but it was still a terribly sub-par performance by the Spaniard, to his and regular standards.

Dalot 5: The youngster started on the left in this game and was comfortably beaten by Richarlison in most of the duels.

Lindelof 6: Probably the best player in the back-line, but this back-line just conceded four goals and could most certainly have conceded two more if not for a couple of good saves by the keeper.

Smalling 5: Won a couple of aerials thanks to the height-advantage he enjoys over Calvert-Lewin, but did nothing to prevent the humiliation.

Jones 4: Picked off from where he left at Barcelona, yet another poor performance by the centre-back.

Matic 3: Provided absolutely nothing to the game and allowed Siggurdsson acres of space as he squared up for the shot which hit the back of the net.

Fred 4: Woeful performance by the Brazilian who was mostly running around without much purpose. Understandably removed at half-time.

Pogba 5: With four key-passes, Pogba was the only source of creativity and the best player for United. But that’s not saying much.

Pogba was the best player for United

Pogba was the best player for United

Martial 5: Was at the end of probably the best chance of the second half, the shot which went wide summed up his night.

Lukaku 5: The striker had zero shots on goal and looked lost throughout the game.

Rashford 4: The youngster’s woeful run continued as he failed to pose any threat of any magnitude.

Substitutes

McTominay 3: Let Everton’s attack run through the neutral third like hot knife through butter on what was a forgettable outing for the youngster.

Young 4: Replaced an awful Phil Jones at half-time and was clearly not much of an upgrade.

Pereira N/A: Replaced Rashford for the last 15 minutes, wasn’t involved in the game as much.

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