Saturday was a big day for Caltex Socceroos goalkeepers as Mat Ryan and Brighton and Hove Albion took a huge step towards securing their Premier League future, while Danny Vukovic's K.R.C. Genk have one hand on the Belgian championship.
As Brighton's match with Newcastle United at the AMEX Stadium was played after Cardiff City’s 1-0 defeat at Fulham, Chris Hughton’s side knew a victory would all but secure their safety.
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But the home side’s survival hopes suffered an early setback when Ayoze Perez slammed the Magpies in front on 18 minutes with a finish that left Ryan no chance in what would be the visitors' only shot on target.
The Seagulls had not scored in eight games until the Premier League’s 17th-placed team finally made the breakthrough on 75 minutes when Pascal Gross turned in Glenn Murray’s knock down.
Murray saw a late opportunity to take all three points pass him by when his header from four yards out missed the target, as Brighton were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw.
"That performance sums up how we've been this season. A little fragile, not creating too much and being a little bit vulnerable," said Hughton, whose side are now four points clear of 18th-placed Cardiff with two games remaining.
"What I can say is the reaction in the second half is what you want to see.”
Belgian title almost within Vukovic's grasp
Danny Vukovic shut out K.A.A. Gent as K.R.C Genk clinched a 1-0 victory to maintain their nine-point lead at the top of Belgium’s Jupiler Pro League.
The Caltex Socceroos shot-stopper made a full-stretch save to thwart Gent captain Nana Asare, before Japan international Junya Ito thought he had opened the scoring on 40 minutes, only to see his effort disallowed on VAR review.
But when Leandro Trossard stroked the ball past Gent keeper Thomas Kaminski, the Smurfs opened up a lead they would not relinquish.
Tanzanian forward Mbwana Samatta almost made it two with a spectacular over-head attempt and Trossard hit the post late on.
With four games remaining, Philippe Clement’s side need four points to clinch Genk’s first Belgian championship title since 2011, in what would also be Vukovic’s first European silverware.
Irvine sparks Tigers fight back
Jackson Irvine inspired Hull City to score two goals in seven minutes in a comeback draw with Swansea City in the Championship.
When Oliver McBurnie swept in Wayne Routledge’s cross on 37 minutes, the Swans were on course for their seventh straight home win. Scotland international McBurnie netted his 22nd goal of the season on 66 minutes as Swansea chased a place in the playoffs.
But Hull kick-started their fight back on 77 minutes when Irvine found Jarrod Bowen to sweep the ball in at 2-1, and then the Caltex Socceroos midfielder set substitute Jon Toral free and he crossed for fellow sub Nouha Dicko to level the scores on 84 minutes.
Manager Nigel Adkins paid tribute to his players for fixing the Tigers’ first-half woes. Adkins said: “I take responsibility for the tactics in the first half, and great credit to the players, because we've turned it around in the second half. The lads have shown character. That's pleasing."
Hull sit 13th in ladder with a game to play. With Adkins contract set to expire in the offseason, he revealed: "Negotiations will continue next week. We've had a long conversation, but there's lots of talking still to be done. There's a willingness to make something happen."
Luongo comes close but QPR miss out
Elsewhere in the Championship, Massimo Luongo’s Queen’s Park Rangers slipped to a 1-0 defeat against Nottingham Forest in their final home game of the season after forward Nahki Wells saw a late penalty saved.
Iranian striker Karim Ansarifard gave the visitors the advantage on 55 minutes before Luongo’s long-range volley skimmed past the outside of the post as the Hoops looks to respond.
Forest goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon denied Rangers target man Tomer Hemed twice and made the match-winning save from the penalty spot to leave Luongo and Rangers empty handed and lying 19th in the Championship ladder.
"That game summed our season up. We haven't been clinical enough. It's something we need to get right in the summer,” said caretaker manager John Eustace.
"We need to recruit hungry players who it means everything to them to win games. There were a lot of young players out there fighting for the club and the experience will only stand them in good stead for next year."
Leckie helps ten man Hertha to hard-fought point
Mathew Leckie came on for the last 11 minutes as ten-man Hertha Berlin held Champions League-chasing Eintracht Frankfurt to a stalemate in the German Bundesliga.
Mid-table Hertha had frustrated the Europa League semi-finalists but appeared to be in trouble when Lukas Klunter picked up his second yellow card with ten minutes to go.
Substitute Leckie helped the Old Lady to lock down the Eagles and earn a share of the points, keeping Hertha 11th in the table. It was Hertha’s third straight match without a goal.
"We were well prepared. We played well in the first half and our possession play was clever. If Vedo had scored, we would've gone in at half-time in the lead. We are currently missing that one goal,” said Hertha coach Pál Dárdai.
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