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Monday, April 27, 1998 Published at 22:36 GMT 23:36 UK

Sport: Football

Crystal Palace relegated

Crystal Palace have been relegated to the first division, losing to Manchester United in a three-goal thriller at Selhurst Park. The victory leaves United one point behind Premiership leaders Arsenal.

Palace boss Atillio Lombardo picked an attacking side to push for the victory the Eagles needed. But the tactic backfired badly as their midfield neglected their defensive duties, allowing United to dominate the match.

Either side could have scored in the first four minutes, with first Lombardo and then Nicky Butt running through from midfield - but the attacks simply set the scene for what was to come.

Paul Scholes, bursting through from midfield, put United in front in the fifth minute.

Teddy Sheringham won possession from a Palace throw-in and fed Cole on the edge of the box.

He held the ball up, before sliding it neatly into the path of the onrushing Scholes, who held off his man and slid the ball underneath Kevin Miller.

Sasa Curcic and Thomas Brolin in the Palace midfield were being completely over-run and their inability to either keep the ball or win it back from Scholes and Nicky Butt led to United's second goal in the 22nd minute.

Again a midfielder, Butt, was the scorer, finishing off a scintillating move as United sliced through Palace.

The ball was played out of midfield to Cole on the left who hooked the ball over his head to Teddy Sheringham. For once, Valerien Ismael got his tackle in, but the ball broke to Butt. He shaped to shoot, but instead jinked round his man, and hammered the ball past the hapless Miller.

By now it was shooting practice for United, with good saves by Miller and bad misses by David Beckham and Ryan Giggs keeping the score down.

Palace, though, kept gamely going forward, roared on by a fantastic crowd clearly relishing one of their last home Premiership matches for the foreseeable future.

The fans clearly felt their side were denied a clear chance on the 27th minute as Lombardo found Michele Padovano slipping past the last line of the United defence.

The Italian striker was flagged for offside, but it was a debatable decision.

Neil Shipperley went close twice, without seriously bothering Peter Schmeichel, but Lombardo finished the half as he started it, going close with a superb shot.

United started the second half as they had played the first, and Cole, who had never scored against Palace, missed an easy chance in the 49th minute. Again United cut Palace apart down the right hand side and Sheringham picked out alone Cole in front of goal, but he headed wide.

Just three minutes later, Jamie Smith saved Palace twice, first nodding an inventive back-header by Cole off the line, and then unwittingly blocking Scholes' piledriver of a shot.

United seemed content with the 2-0 lead and eased off as the second half wore on, but Palace stepped up the pace as United relaxed, and tried to make a fight of it.

First Curcic was left totally bemused as his appeals for a penalty were waved away after he was upended by Giggs in the box.

Palace really should have pulled a goal back in the 68th minute after Lombardo won an indirect freekick just outside the box.

The Palace player-boss rolled the ball to Dean Gordon, whose shot was saved by Schmeichel. But the Dane could not hold onto the ball, and it came straight back to Shipperley who somehow managed to spoon it over the bar from four yards.

Sheringham was equally guilty five minutes later, but it took an excellent save by Miller to deny the England striker after the ball broke to him in the box.

But Cole put the match beyond doubt, breaking his personal duck against Palace, when he scored from two yards with seven minutes to go.

Scholes was the architect, bursting into the box, playing a neat one-two with Sheringham, and then seeing his shot blocked by Miller. But he was able to head the loose ball across the goal to where an unmarked Cole could not miss.

The result means that Arsenal now cannot win the Premiership when they meet Derby at Highbury on Wednesday.

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