EPL

Crystal Palace 5-0 Aston Villa: Mateta hat-trick sends Eagles soaring to final-day win

By Sports Desk May 19, 2024

Jean-Philippe Mateta stole the show with a hat-trick as Crystal Palace ended the Premier League season unbeaten in seven straight games after a 5-0 hammering of Aston Villa at Selhurst Park.

Palace manager Oliver Glasner replaced Roy Hodgson in February and has made an immediate impression on the Eagles, with promising signs awaiting his first full season in England next term.

Mateta has been one of many Palace players to enjoy an upturn in form since Glasner's arrival, with the in-form striker's deadly first-half double paving the way for an impressive victory on Sunday.

Frenchman Mateta completed his hat-trick with a well-taken finish in the second half, in between a pair of eye-catching Eberechi Eze goals, as Palace's dominant triumph saw them finish 10th in the table.

This final-day defeat will not dampen the mood too much for Unai Emery's fourth-placed Villa, who head into next season with UEFA Champions League football awaiting.

Selhurst Park erupted after just nine minutes when Michael Olise slipped a delicate pass into the area for Mateta, who blasted a left-footed effort past the helpless Robin Olsen.

Villa responded with a barrage on Palace's goal, but Dean Henderson denied a well-struck Moussa Diaby volley before Marc Guehi cleared Ollie Watkins' looping header on the line.

Glasner's Eagles struck another decisive blow six minutes before the interval as Daniel Munoz swept a low cross for Mateta to slam into the top-left corner from close range.

Olsen stopped Olise from making it 3-0 on the stroke of half-time, with his low curling attempt pushed away by the Villa goalkeeper, who replaced Emiliano Martinez for this final-day meeting.

Yet Olsen had no chance after 54 minutes as Eze danced inside from the left and powered into the bottom-left corner, before the Palace midfielder teed up Mateta to complete his treble with a well-taken finish from the right of goal nine minutes later.

Palace's in-form striker thought he had another to add to his tally moments later but a VAR review ruled the Frenchman offside after racing onto a long pass in behind.

Mateta responded to that VAR decision by setting up Eze to drive another brilliant attempt into the bottom-left corner from the edge of the area after 69 minutes and complete a dominant victory.

Palace excitement builds with Glasner

Prior to this game, Palace had won five of their last six Premier League games (D1), as many as they had in their previous 27 (D8 L14). 

The Eagles smashed Manchester United 4-0 and Wolves 3-1 in their last two games before this victory made it three Premier League wins in a row, while Palace scored 3+ goals in each triumph for the first time in their top-flight history.

Austrian Glasner's next challenge will be to keep up the improvements going into next season, with Palace – boasting quality in the likes of Eze, Mateta and Olise – capable of competing in the top half of the table.

Amazing Emery inspires Villa revival

Villa were only promoted back to the Premier League five years ago, after their Championship play-off final victory over Derby County, but will be preparing for Champions League football next term.

That remarkable rise to compete with Europe's elite can largely be apportioned to Emery, who was appointed in October 2022 after Steven Gerrard was dismissed with Villa struggling at the bottom half of the league table.

The Spaniard, a record four-time winner of the Europa League, has 35 wins in 63 games of his Premier League managerial career with Villa – a record he will hope to continue improving next season.

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    Zlatko Dalic was left to apologise for Croatia's woeful Euro 2024 showing on Saturday against Spain, whose head coach Luis de la Fuente heaped praise on teenage star Lamine Yamal.

    Spain opened a European Championship tournament with a victory by 3+ goals for just a second time, following their 4-1 win against Russia on MD1 at Euro 2008, after a 3-0 triumph against Croatia.

    Alvaro Morata, Fabian Ruiz and Dani Carvajal were all on target in a dominant first half, while Bruno Petkovic had a late goal ruled out after his penalty was saved and Ivan Perisic encroached to setup the striker's rebounded finish.

    The defeat marked Croatia's joint-heaviest ever defeat at a major international tournament (Euros/World Cup), following 3-0 losses against Portugal at Euro 1996 and Argentina at the 2022 World Cup.

    Dalic could only offer his apologies to the travelling Croatia fans after an underwhelming Group B showing in Berlin.

    "It was a great atmosphere," the 57-year-old Dalic, who led Croatia to the 2018 World Cup final and semi-finals of the same tournament four years later.

    "I apologise for this bad show today. We were not aggressive enough.

    "I hope this was just a bad day."

    Yet the opening win largely centered around Yamal, who became the youngest player to ever feature at the European Championships after appearing aged just 16 years and 338 days.

    The Barcelona winger saw his inviting cross prodded home by Carvajal for La Roja's third goal, much to the delight of Spain boss De La Fuente.

    "Yamal is impressing everyone and going up through the levels," De la Fuente said.

    "He has to keep improving every day, and over time he will become a wonderful footballer."

    De La Fuente also reserved special praise for Fabian, who teed up Morata's opener after 29 minutes.

    "[Fabian] is at the top level," he added. "Based on what we see from him on a daily basis, he's fantastic. He has brilliant technique.

    "We should recognise the quality that he has. He has real imagination."

  • Italy 2-1 Albania: Defending champions overcome record-breaking setback in Group B opener Italy 2-1 Albania: Defending champions overcome record-breaking setback in Group B opener

    Italy opened their Euro 2024 title defence with victory after overcoming a record-breaking early strike from Albania to triumph with a 2-1 comeback win at Signal Iduna Park.

    The reigning European champions were shocked early on when Nedim Bajrami hammered home after just 23 seconds for the fastest goal in European Championship history.

    Alessandro Bastoni soon levelled with a routine header, however, before Nicolo Barella's fizzing finish muted Albania's short-lived celebrations in their first Group B encounter.

    The Azzurri, champions just three years ago at the delayed Euro 2020 tournament, never appeared troubled after the interval as Italy moved level on points with Spain, who hammered Croatia 3-0 earlier on Saturday.

    Backed by thousands of Albanian supporters in Dortmund, Bajrami stunned the defending champions with his record-breaking strike after less than 30 seconds of action.

    A sloppy Federico Dimarco throw-in proved Italy's undoing as Bajrami powered into the area before launching into the top-right corner past the helpless Gianluigi Donnarumma.

    Yet Luciano Spalletti's side soon turned things around with two goals in the space of six first-half minutes.

    Lorenzo Pellegrini lifted a well-worked short corner towards the far post, where Bastoni headed in with ease, before Barella arrowed a perfect half-volley past Thomas Strakosha from the edge of the box.

    Matters almost worsened for Sylvinho's team, but Strakosha produced an expert reflex save to push Davide Frattesi's deft lob against the left-hand post and away from danger.

    A far more subdued opening to the second half followed as Albania dominated possession without reward, though Federico Chiesa went close for Italy when driving a rocketed effort wide of the top-left corner.

    Donnarumma was, however, required late on to keep Italy's lead intact, racing out to deny Rey Manaj's chip, though somehow the referee gave a goal-kick in the dying seconds.

    Youthful Italy respond emphatically

    An eye-catching Bajrami strike ensured Italy conceded the opening goal in successive European Championship games for the first time since a three-game run between June 2004 and June 2008.

    Yet that fast start proved to matter little as Spalletti's side, who are attempting to become just the second team to win back-to-back Euros after Spain (2008, 2012), roared back with an emphatic response.

    Bastoni headed in just his second international goal on his 24th appearance, with both strikes coming on German soil, before Barella's 10th goal for Italy returned Spalletti's men to their expected course.

    A dominant performance followed with a showing belying their youthful age as Italy fielded their youngest starting line-up (26 years and 287 days) at the Euros since June 1988 – against the Soviet Union in the semi-finals (25y 2d).

    Albania's Azzurri struggles persist

    Bajrami's goal was just Albania's second ever at the European Championships and shattered the record for the fastest strike in the tournament's 64-year history.

    Yet it was a familiar tale for Sylvinho's side, who have now lost their last five meetings with Italy across all competitions after a remarkable turnaround in the first half.

    Albania will be desperate to respond when they meet Croatia on Wednesday, aiming to add to their sole Euros victory that came in a 1-0 win over Romania in the final group game of the 2016 edition.

  • Yamal revels in 'dream' Euros bow as Spain crush Croatia Yamal revels in 'dream' Euros bow as Spain crush Croatia

    Lamine Yamal described his historic Euro 2024 bow as a "dream" after Spain hammered Croatia 3-0 in their Group B opener on Saturday.

    Starting at the age of 16 years and 338 days, Yamal became the youngest player to ever feature at the European Championships, and he rewarded Luis de la Fuente's faith with a terrific performance.

    The Barcelona winger saw his inviting cross prodded home by Dani Carvajal for La Roja's third goal, after Alvaro Morata and Fabian Ruiz had put them in control.

    Only fellow youngster Pedri matched his total of three chances created, while he led all players for crosses (three) and saw his three successful dribbles equalled only by Dani Olmo.

    Speaking after the game, Yamal said of Spain's fine display: "We trust ourselves a lot. We went out to give it our all, because three points already does a lot in the group stage.

    "It's a dream. I'm very happy to have played in the European Championship.

    "The team is very confident. Now we have to go all out against Italy. Nothing changes for one game. We go with the same confidence. The work of these last few months has been reflected today."

    Spain are now in the driving seat in a group many regard as the toughest at the tournament ahead of facing Italy and Albania.

    Captain Morata moved to seven European Championship goals with his opener, with only Cristiano Ronaldo (14) and Michel Platini (nine) ever scoring more.

    Morata later seemed to be holding his leg in discomfort when he was withdrawn for Mikel Oyarzabal, but the striker has assured fans he will be fit to face Italy on Thursday.

    "It was important to start like this," Morata said. "We pressed a great team very well. We must go for the games from the start and now think about the next one."

    On the knock he suffered in the second half, he said: "It was just a blow, I was loading other parts of my leg. 

    "The best thing was to go out and have another team-mate play better."

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