Football/Soccer

Spurs, Arsenal and Boro record slender Premier League victories

Christian Eriksen was Tottenham's second-half match-winner at Selhurst Park

Premier League

Crystal Palace 0 Tottenham 1

MAURICIO Pochettino felt Tottenham passed a major test of their Premier League title credentials after Christian Eriksen's goal beat Crystal Palace.

Eriksen struck with 12 minutes left to ensure the gap to leaders Chelsea is back to four points with five games to play.

Tottenham had endured a tough few days, losing the FA Cup semi-final to the Blues on Saturday before Antonio Conte's side beat Southampton 4-2 to stay in control at the top.

They desperately needed a pick-me-up at Selhurst Park to keep their season alive, but that was never going to be easy against an in-form Palace side looking to add them to the scalps of Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool this month alone.

However, Eriksen's 30-yard thunderbolt secured a vital three points to keep the pressure on the Blues.

Spurs boss Pochettino said: "That was always going to be difficult after Saturday, and it was a big challenge for us.

"I think it was a great opportunity to show we are focused on us and trying to improve our game, and to fight when we are under pressure.

"We are showing we learned a lot from last season, and that is important. It was a big challenge to improve on last season. We have improved a lot this season.

"One area key for us to improve was in the mental area and the team are showing we are ready to fight."

Yet Spurs looked a million miles from title contenders in the first half, with Christian Benteke and Andros Townsend close to giving Palace the lead.

Pochettino made a double change at the interval, replacing both his central midfielders, Mousa Dembele and Victor Wanyama - who was lucky to still be on the pitch after escaping a second yellow card for a clumsy foul on Townsend - with Son Heung-min and Moussa Sissoko.

Dele Alli should have put Spurs ahead when he met Kyle Walker's cross three yards out, only to sidefoot his effort across goal and wide.

But with time running down Eriksen collected Harry Kane's pass and lashed a powerful drive inside the far post.

"I am very pleased for Christian, it was an unbelievable goal," added Pochettino.

"We changed things at half-time and in the second half we were much better and after 90, 95 minutes I think we fully deserved the win."

Palace boss Sam Allardyce felt his side, who had won six of their previous eight matches, were feeling the effects of Sunday's win at Liverpool.

"I thought in the first half we took the game to Tottenham, which is not easy, and of course the lack of recovery time from Sunday to tonight told in the end," he said.

"In the second half we were not able to challenge Tottenham as much as in the first half. It was a terrific effort, but the odds were against us, I knew we would tire.

"The lads gave everything, it wasn't quite good enough in the end but it was a terrific performance."

Allardyce fears defender Mamadou Sakho will miss the rest of the season after he was carried off on a stretcher with what appeared to be knee ligament damage.

Middlesbrough 1 Sunderland 0

DEFIANT Sunderland boss David Moyes insisted he is going nowhere after fans called for him to quit during a damaging 1-0 derby defeat at Middlesbrough.

Travelling supporters sang 'We want Moyesy out' at the Riverside Stadium as Marten de Roon's early goal left the Black Cats 12 points adrift of Premier League safety and staring relegation full in the face with only five games remaining.

But asked if he would go, Moyes, who earlier in the day was hit with a Football Association charge for comments he made to a female reporter, said: "No, I'm here, I'm the manager, you take it on the chin.

"There is nobody who wants to win more than me. I am used to winning, I'm not used to losing and I don't want to get used to it either.

"I'm a football supporter, I know what it's like. You don't like seeing your team lose."

Asked if his job had been made more difficult by Hull's resurgence under new manager Marco Silva, Moyes added: "It's good when people come in, but when people do it for 14, 15 years in the Premier League, and how their record stands up over that period, that's when you judge people."

Sunderland remain 12 points shy of 17th-placed Hull and must at least match the Tigers' result at Southampton on Saturday when they face Bournemouth at the Stadium of Light if they are to keep their weak survival bid alive.

Moyes, whose players were greeted with a chorus of 'You're not fit to wear the shirt' on the final whistle, said: "While there's a chance, I've got to keep going and we've all got to keep going.

"We are not enjoying it, we are not enjoying losing or the position we are in.

"Criticism is rightly due, but I wouldn't do it on tonight's performance. The players have stuck at it and have shown they are capable of trying to get points."

Opposite number Steve Agnew's emotions were markedly different after he guided the club to a first league win since December 17, and the first of his brief reign.

Agnew said: "I was pleased. I was pleased not so much for myself, but really, really pleased for all the players and all the support staff because I know how much work has gone in in recent weeks and it's a result that they very much deserved.

"We hadn't won a game since December, so we needed to win the game, we did win the game and all the players are very, very pleased.

"The second half wasn't as fluent and eye-catching as we would have liked, but we showed the grit and the determination and the spirit to see the game through."

Boro nevertheless remain deep in trouble with Hull still a distant six points away.

And with Manchester City, Chelsea, Southampton and Liverpool awaiting them in their final four fixtures, adding to their five victories to date could prove intensely difficult.

Agnew said: "I think there will be lots of twists and turns. We have a massive game on Sunday and we have seen it before. The next game is the most important one and if it goes our way, who knows?

"We plan for Manchester City tomorrow morning. They have got a really, really tough game against Manchester United tomorrow night, and that's as far as we look."

Arsenal 1 Leicester City 0

ARSENE Wenger breathed a sigh of relief as Arsenal kept their Champions League qualification hopes alive with a last-gasp victory over Leicester.

The Gunners needed 86 minutes and a large slice of luck to break down the resilient Foxes as an own-goal from Robert Huth snatched a 1-0 win at Emirates Stadium.

It means Wenger's men move four points behind fourth-placed Manchester City, whose next game comes against fifth-placed Manchester United on Thursday.

"Does it keep us in the race for the top four? Yes, we have one advantage and that is the advantage of clarity," Wenger said.

"We have to win our games and so that's why every time we cannot be happy with 0-0. We have absolutely to take the gamble to try to win the game at any cost."

Arsenal dominated Leicester throughout but they lacked a killer pass or a change of pace in the final third.

The winner came from an unlikely source too as full-back Nacho Monreal unleashed a wayward strike, only for the ball to cannon off Huth and into his own net.

The Gunners had been stretched to extra-time in their FA Cup semi-final victory over Manchester City on Sunday and Wenger said the lack of recuperation time perhaps played a part.

"We lacked a bit of change of pace, penetration. You could see we had some heavy legs but we were serious, we didn't give chances away," Wenger said.

"Maybe we lacked a bit of speed in our game to get them out of position but they defended well, Leicester are very difficult to get out of position. In the end the win rewards the team that took the initiative in the game."

Arsenal's victory, however, was blighted somewhat by a knee injury sustained by Laurent Koscielny, who was forced to stay on for the final 10 minutes as Wenger had already used his three substitutes.

Koscielny will be assessed ahead of Sunday's crunch north London derby against Tottenham but any absence would be particularly unwelcome, given Arsenal are already without Shkodran Mustafi in central defence.

"Koscielny has a knee problem but I don't know (how serious it is)," Wenger said. "I have to check."

Leicester threw men forward in search of an equaliser late on and the tension almost spilled over when Christian Fuchs launched a throw-in directly at Alexis Sanchez's head.

The ball struck Sanchez on the shoulder but the striker, who had been standing immediately in front of Fuchs, made out as though it had struck him in the face.

The Chilean was given a yellow card for not being the required two metres away.

"I think he didn't know he had to be further away," Wenger said. "He thought he was in the right position. After that he got a yellow card because he didn't respect the rule. I accept that."

Sanchez was on the end of some heavy challenges and Wenger said his player had been left with a bleeding lip.

"Huth went really in with him I think," Wenger said. "I helped him to get up and he was bleeding on the lips."

Olivier Giroud also endured some special attention as Leicester's Yohan Benalouane thrust his boot into his opponent's back but only received a yellow card from referee Mike Jones.

Wenger admitted it was worth a "dark orange" but Foxes manager Craig Shakespeare saw no wrong-doing.

"I don't think it was a drop-kick," Shakespeare said. "I think a yellow card was the correct decision."

Defeat leaves Leicester 15th in the table, six points above the relegation zone and with one game in hand over 18th-placed Swansea.

"The goal was a cruel deflection because it wasn't even on target," Shakespeare said. "It happened so quickly he couldn't even get out of the way. We have to recover quickly."

 

 

 

 

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