W.B.A 0-2 Palace
Crystal Palace marched into the fourth round of the FA Cup for the first time in five years with a hard fought two nil win at The Hawthorns. Goals from Dwight Gayle and Marouane Chamakh secured the win but the Eagles owe the victory to Argentinean stopper Julian Speroni who produced a string of fine saves to keep the hosts at bay.
With rumours circulating that Tony Pulis is looking to sign Welsh Wolves goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, Speroni made save after save including a world class stop to deny Matej Vydra in the second half.
"Palace’s record signing smartly swept the ball back in the direction that the keeper was running from."
Gayle opened the scoring in the 23rd minute after a blistering start to the game. Barry Bannan had already hit the post and Speroni had comfortably saved from Vydra before some pressure high up the pitch from Palace forced Goran Popov into an error. The Macedonian passed the ball straight to Hiram Boateng and the 17 year old immediately fed Gayle. Foster was out of position having offered himself as an option for a pass from Popov and as the England keeper sprinted to get back into his goal Palace’s record signing smartly swept the ball back in the direction that the keeper was running from, completely wrong footing him and giving the visitors the lead.
West Brom then piled on the pressure for the remainder of the half and hit the top of the crossbar through Craig Dawson but Palace held on to lead 1-0 at the break.
Yannick Bolasie had a glorious chance to open up a two goal cushion early in the second half, heading over from less than six yards out and West Brom looked to punish him for the miss only to run into the brick wall that was Speroni and the Palace defence.
"Yala went around his man, drew Foster from his goal and squared to Chamakh who nonchalantly side footed past the two defenders covering on the line."
In injury time the ball dropped to Zoltan Gera eight yards from goal and he mustered up an effort that look set to beat Speroni at last only for Danny Gabbidon to come sliding across to deflect the ball just wide. Moments later Bolasie was roasting McAuley down the left flank in front of the Palace fans. As the away fans sang “Ole Eagles” Yala went around his man, drew Foster from his goal and squared to Chamakh who nonchalantly side footed past the two defenders covering on the line. The away end was sent into ruptures and as Chamakh pointed to Bolasie, heaping praise on the efforts of the winger, the full time whistle sounded giving the Eagles a fourth round tie against lower league opposition. Could this be our year?
For the second year running the 17 year old played in the FA Cup 3rd round. Last year, his debut against a Tony Pulis managed Stoke City, was a week after his 17th birthday and this year, 4 days before his 18th birthday, he made his second Palace appearance and what better way to cap it off than setting up what was effectively the winning goal?
Back when he made his debut I wrote the following:
“Centre back and centre mid are the two positions in which it is very rare to see a 17 year old prospect play. It is much easier to put in a 17 year old out wide or up top and have a chance of them being effective. Just look at the amount of academy centre backs that we have lined up yet have not been handed full debuts yet, despite glowing references from all that have seen them at academy/development league level.”
“The reason why it is rare to see young debuts in the centre of the park is because of the responsibility that those positions come with. It is unfair to throw a 17 year old in to the centre of the park as wily old pro’s will use their experience and run all over them.”
Once again Boateng impressed despite his age and inexperience. In many ways this performance was better than his performance at Stoke last year. In the 65 minutes that he played in that game, Palace were in control and it was only really in extra time that Stoke’s extra bit of quality showed. In this match we were under the cosh for long periods and the young lad never flinched. Even after getting booked he continued to play his natural game and got in the faces of the West Brom players.
He can tackle, he can pass and he is comfortable on the ball. I can only see a prosperous future for the kid especially considering he fits the bill of what Pulis looks for in a midfielder.
Congratulations Hiram and happy birthday for Wednesday.
Chamakh & Puncheon
With eleven minutes to go Tony Pulis made what was nothing short of an inspired change, aside from the fact that he should have made the substitutions as two separate substitutions instead of a double change (we’re holding on to a 1-0 here... waste some more time!) Everyone assumed that Puncheon and Chamakh would replace Gayle and Bolasie. Yala already looked knackered, yet went on to create the second with an energy sapping run, and there was no way that we were going to change to two strikers when looking to see the game out.
The board comes up and we are all wrong. Off go Bannan and Williams and all of a sudden Palace are ten yards further up the field and creating good opportunities to put the game to bed.
"The key was Chamakh and Puncheon’s first touch."
The key was Chamakh and Puncheon’s first touch, even under pressure. Each and every time they bought the ball down with consummate ease and kept possession. As long as we have the ball the Baggies can’t score. It’s a good philosophy and one that saw us not only just hold on but also score the second goal.
I can only apologise to anyone who was standing near me for the orgasmic noises that I made every time the ball came into Chamakh. The man is just absolute class and his technical ability is Berbatov-esque. Everything looks so easy for the Moroccan at the moment and all of a sudden we have gone from having what everyone looked at as a joke of a striker to people harking back to what was said when we signed him: “If we can get him playing, Arsenal have given us a £20m striker for free.”
Man of the Match: Julian Speroni
Nine saves including a worldy, commanded his area expertly claiming several crosses in the process and even his distribution was solid. A great performance from the great man.
Some 950 tickets were sold in advance to Palace fans which means that over 1000 turned up on the day to see the away end reach 2000 fans on the day.
I saw one newspaper suggest that the atmosphere was flat. They must have been sat in the home end as it was far from flat in the away end. It was an away day plucked straight out of last season with fans able to pay on the gate and sit wherever they wanted and the 1000 or so fans towards the back of the stand sang for 90 minutes in a party type atmosphere.
There was a strong HF presence and they used it as an opportunity to get “We are South London’s Number One” going on a bigger scale than previously managed. It was much like “So here’s to you” that got its first real traction at Middlesbrough away the season before last. Let the away fans bed it in first and then take it to Selhurst. I expect that come our next home match, against Pulis’ former club Stoke, we will be hearing it sang all around the stadium.
For me the day was topped off when Vydra was substituted. “Did you cry at Wembley?” laughed the away end. Although the irony is, he probably didn’t care as he has made the Premier League anyway which again highlights what was fundamentally missing from Watford in that final... a desire from the players to want to win for the shirt and not just personal gain. Give me Delaney over Vydra any day of the week.
Up Next: Spurs
A short time ago this would have been seen as an easy three points for Spurs. Who knows now? Could this be our first real big upset of the season?
Come on you Palace!