EPL: United keep Champions League hopes alive with Palace win, Saints draw with Brighton

…as Everton score late to deny Villa three points

Manchester United maintained their relentless pursuit of a place in the Premier League’s top four with a hard-fought win against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side were under pressure after Leicester City’s earlier victory over Sheffield United and responded with a victory that keeps them in fifth place, level on points with the Foxes but with an inferior goal difference.
United were made to work for their victory, Marcus Rashford breaking the deadlock with a stylish finish in first-half stoppage time before playing his part in a sweet move involving Bruno Fernandes that was rounded off by Anthony Martial in the 78th minute.
It extended United’s unbeaten run to 19 games in all competitions but Palace felt a real sense of injustice, furious that they were denied a penalty just before United took the lead when Wilfried Zaha tangled with Victor Lindelof, and then seeing a potential 55th-minute equaliser from Jordan Ayew ruled out by VAR for a very marginal offside.
It meant Roy Hodgson’s side slumped to their sixth consecutive league loss and their night was made worse by what looked like serious injury to Patrick van Aanholt, who was carried off on a stretcher after trying to prevent Martial scoring United’s second.
And Brighton need a point from their last two games to stay in the Premier League after Danny Ings’ 20th league goal of the season denied them victory at Southampton.
The Seagulls would have secured a place in the top flight with a win and went ahead through Neal Maupay’s low shot.
But the Saints improved in the second half and deservedly equalised when Ings easily beat goalkeeper Mat Ryan.
In an earlier game, Ayoze Perez’s smart effort helped fourth-placed Leicester see off Sheffield United to boost their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League.
Debutant Luke Thomas found Perez just inside the area and he fired past Dean Henderson into the bottom corner to open the scoring, reports the BBC.
Jamie Vardy struck the post soon after the break and Harvey Barnes twice forced Henderson into good saves as the Foxes looked to extend their lead.
But Demarai Gray put the game beyond the Blades late on with a well-taken low finish from Vardy’s assist.
Sheffield United came closest to scoring when John Egan’s header was tipped wide by Kasper Schmeichel in the second half.
Victory moves the Foxes three points above Manchester United, who play later on Thursday, while Sheffield United remain eighth.
And substitute Theo Walcott scored an 87th-minute equaliser for Everton to nudge Aston Villa closer to relegation.
Ezri Konsa’s first Premier League goal looked to have earned struggling Villa a crucial win at Goodison Park, the former Brentford defender pouncing from close range after getting on the end of Conor Hourihane’s free-kick.
But Villa were denied a first away win since January 1 when Walcott headed the home side level despite Konsa’s attempted goal-line clearance.
Villa, who were seven points from safety before Sunday’s win over Crystal Palace, remain 19th in the table, three points from safety with just two games of the league season left.
They face Arsenal at home next Tuesday before finishing the season at fellow strugglers West Ham.
Palace 2 – 0 Man United
Southampton 1 – 1 Brighton
Everton 1 – 1 Aston Villa
Leicester 2 – 0 Sheffield United


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