Stoke 2-1 Palace
Marouane Chamakh scored on his full debut for Crystal Palace but a second half comeback from Stoke City left the Eagles still searching for their first Premier League points.
In stark contrast to the season opener at Selhurst Park, Palace fans travelled to the Britannia quietly optimistic of picking up a result. With Mark Hughes' men tipped to be in the mix at the wrong end of the table come May this game was seen as an opportunity for Holloway to pick up his first points of the season.
For forty-five minutes it looked like this optimism was well placed as Palace, fielding three full debutants, ran Stoke ragged.
Donning the "evil sash" kit, black triangles were created all over the field and slick passing and moving pulled red and white shirts all over the shop and the only surprise upon taking the lead was that it had taken thirty-one minutes to do so.
"Then with a drop of the shoulder he put Huth on his backside before giving Begovic 'the eyes', wrong footing the keeping and finishing low into the near corner"
As Stoke pressed forward, leaving space in behind, a long but deliberate punt down field by Delaney saw Chamakh and Shawcross in a race. Chamakh made up the yards and got shoulder to shoulder where he easily brushed the usually strong City captain aside. Then with a drop of the shoulder he put Huth on his backside before giving Begovic 'the eyes', wrong footing the keeping and finishing low into the near corner.
As the Palace fans went crazy in their corner of the Britannia Stadium, Chamakh ran to the sideline to make a point of celebrating with Holloway.
Let’s talk about Chamakh briefly...
There is no doubt that Chamakh has ability. Scoring in six consecutive Champions League games tells us all this. For the record, he was the first ever player to achieve this feat.
Many Palace fans heavily criticised the potential signing when he was linked with a move to SE25. "Flop" being the most common word used in relation to the French born Morocco international. Holloway tempered these feelings well with his statement of "you try getting into a team over Van Persie."
"If he can find the form that earned him a move to Arsenal then Wenger has effectively handed Palace a £10-£15m striker for free!"
My reservations over the signing had nothing to do with ability. If he can find the form that earned him a move to Arsenal then Wenger has effectively handed Palace a £10-£15m striker for free! No, my reservations were around his hunger. "Does he want it?" I asked myself.
Two games later and these reservations have evaporated. He clearly feels that he has a point to prove and he looks very hungry. He is going to be huge for Palace this season.
"Speroni denies Crouch with a world class save"
Back to the action and Stoke almost equalised instantly through a Peter Crouch header only for Speroni to deny him with a world class save, finger-tipping the lanky striker’s effort onto the underside of the crossbar. This was just a mere blip in an otherwise faultless first half Palace performance.
Moments later Moxey is a coat of paint away from doubling the lead with a low effort just sliding past the far post with Begovic well beaten.
The half time whistle sounded and Holloway and his eleven men departed the field to deafening cheers from the Palace contingent that were gathered in the corner by the tunnel and as they emerged for the second half, the gaffer turned to the Palace fans and bowed in respect to our efforts.
The second half started where the first left off before suddenly everything started to unravel at the seams. I believe that there were two main reasons for our capitulation.
Unfit Key Players
Chamakh looked dead after forty minutes and he was just not the same player in the second half. His efforts in defending from corners and long throws looked lethargic and his two attempts to clear for the Stoke second goal compounded this.
"Stoke were able to press higher up the field"
His presence in the final third pinned Stoke back in the first half. As this presence deteriorated in the second half, Stoke were able to press higher up the field and this resulted in the pressure that lead to the two goals.
In turn this also enabled Stoke to see out the game relatively easily as his removal from the match took away his aerial strength up top. We no longer had a longer outlet as Gayle is just not that sort of player. Our build up play had to be more patient as a result and this allowed Stoke to just sit everyone behind the ball, making it very difficult to break them down. Only a Puncheon effort really troubled Begovic in the second half.
Campana also tired in the second half. In the first half his closing down was always good and his composure on the ball allowed Palace to dominate the middle of the park. Once his energy levels started to drop so did Palace’s grip on the midfield battle.
The Need for an Organiser at the Back
Both of the Stoke goals were just horrific to watch.
The first sees Crouch bring a cross down on his chest in the box. A crime in itself. Gabbidon is then able to get a foot to the ball and loop it up in the air. At this point either Delaney or Gabbidon can challenge Crouch for the header. For some reason Delaney leaves it to Gabbidon who gives up several inches to the Stoke striker. Of course Crouch wins the header and then it is a simple lay off for Adam to slot home... Although why Adam felt the need to punch the air at the Palace fans I have no idea.
"The second is just a comedy of errors"
The second is just a comedy of errors. A long throw comes in and is headed up in the air and goalwards. There is no pressure on Chamakh but his header is weak. Speroni shouldn’t even be letting Chamakh head the ball as he should be coming and claiming it. Puncheon’s challenge is then weak yet it gives the opportunity for Chamakh to get in another challenge, however, he puts in a stand up tackle instead of going through the ball with a slide tackle and Huth wins the ball easily from the striker and it drops for Shawcross who slots home.
A bit more organisation in the eighteen yard box and neither of these goals happen.
A new centre back with these credentials is a must before the transfer window closes and nothing adds to this statement more than the following stat provided by Ed Malyon:
"Stoke attempted 42 long balls today and 26 crosses. Two of our back four didn't win a header."
Mark Hughes, Andre Mariner and Jonathan Walters
Two moans and a ‘what do you expect?’ to end.
Andre Mariner was shocking. Every fifty/fifty went in Stoke’s favour and after booking half the pitch during his match on Monday night he seemed to forget his yellow card this time around. Stoke players consistently roughed up Palace players with late tackles yet absolutely no punishment, short of the occasional free kick, followed.
Holloway would have been better off having his rant this week as it would have been far more warranted than last week.
"Jonathan Walters is just a dirt little man"
Jonathan Walters is just a dirt little man. He has a lot of the Craig Bellamy’s about him. At one point in the first half Delaney went down and Speroni threw the ball into touch. When play restarted the ball was thrown to Walters who walked the ball into touch leaving Palace with a throw in near their own corner flag! He then proceeded to put pressure on the throw in as his team just stood back and looked a little embarrassed by his behaviour.
As much as I hate to drop to his level, I was happy when Garvan did the same in the second half and made a point of turning around and pointing at Walters.
Finally, Mark Hughes. Some Palace fans seemed upset that Mark Hughes cupped his ears at us as he walked off at the end of the match. The fact that in the first half we were chanting “Hughes Out” and singing “You’re getting sacked in the morning” means that we have to take it. His team turned the game around and won it. Deal with it... and maybe, just maybe, don’t goad the opposition until the game is won!
In closing, there are plenty of positives to take from this game as well. Again we have shown that we can compete in this league and genuinely played some fantastic football.
However, if I am still looking for positives after a defeat next Saturday against Sunderland then we are in big trouble.
Man of the Match: Mile Jedinak
It is going to be a struggle for anyone to take his Player of the Year crown away this season. He has taken to the Premier League like a duck to water and is dominating like he did in the Championship. He never misses a header, rarely misses a tackle and his passing percentage is next to immaculate.
He will be turning a lot of heads this season. I guarantee there will be an offer for him in January... if not before!
For seventy minutes the Palace fans were superb. Unfortunately I feel that we fell a bit flat in the last twenty minutes when it became clear that we were struggling to get back into the game. Could do better, but props for the first Seventy.
As for Stoke, laughable. How they have a reputation for being ‘great’ I have no idea! They did not utter a word until they scored and then stopped singing five minutes after they took the lead. Rubbish.
Ashton Fucking Gate. I hate Bristol City. Let’s hope that we can go there, trounce them and get some well needed confidence!