Palace 2-1 Man City
Murray (34) Puncheon (48)
Y Touré (78)
Mon 6th April 2015
"Fortress Selhurst: where title dreams go to die" was the opening line to Sport Magazine's preview of Crystal Palace vs Manchester City.
They were not wrong. After all but ending both Chelsea's and Liverpool's title chances last season, ironically to the benefit of Manchester City, the South London club were at it again with a battling win over the Premier League holders that all but saw Manuel Pellegrini's men relinquish their crown. City now lie 4th, 9 points behind the league leaders and speculation is writhe that Pellegrini is for the chop. Meanwhile, Palace are looking upwards, moving to 11th position and within a win of a place in the top half of the table.
The hosts came out of the blocks hard and fast and should have taken the lead after 60 seconds. Martin Kelly, in for Pape Souare, whipped in a low cross to the far post towards Jason Puncheon and Wilfried Zaha. The former just missed the ball and the latter blazed over from close range looking like he had been put off by Puncheon's failure to connect. There was a hint of offside and this would not be the last time on the night.
City eventually settled into the game and David Silva was denied by the elbow of Julian Speroni before Sergio Aguero struck the upright. With the away team looking set to take advantage of their dominance, Palace scored against the run of play.
With 34 minutes on the clock, a poor Puncheon corner was cleared but only as far as Joel Ward. The full back clipped the ball into the edge of the penalty area and a Damien Delaney flick on found Scott Dann. City arms shot up calling for offside but the Palace centre back went through on goal only to be denied by a brilliant save from Joe Hart. Luck deserted the England stopper though as the ball rebounded straight to the feet of Glenn Murray who scored for the 5th time in his last 5 games.
Half time came and went and with Palace bracing themselves for a second half onslaught, incredulously Puncheon made it 2-0. Murray was fouled 25 yards from goal, just to the right of centre and the Palace winger come central attacking midfielder stepped up to curl the ball over the wall and into the bottom right hand corner, just out of reach of Hart's despairing dive. The in attendance Roy Hodgson can only have been impressed with the quality of the strike.
Yaya Toure eventually pulled one back for the visitors, not before hitting the boxes in the Whitehorse Lane end in the first half and the upper tier of the Holmesdale Road end in the second with wayward shots. That being said, the quality of his finish was of the highest order, curling a thunderbolt into the far bottom corner.
The Ivory Coast midfielder went close again but his deflected effort was well saved by Speroni and Palace closed out the game by limiting the departing Champions to long range pop shots at goal, although they can feel aggrieved at not being awarded a penalty after a clear Murray handball in the box. So much for the world's love of kissing referee Michael Oliver's behind.
If the season started when Alan Pardew took over at Selhurst Park, the Eagles would be challenging for a Champions League place. With Newcastle's notable decline since his departure, are Palace in line for a second 'Manager of the Season' in 2 years?
Is Alan Pardew the Manager of the Season?
It is slightly earlier than last year with Tony Pulis, but talk has started about whether or not Pardew should be named Premier League Manager of the Season. When I was writing in favour of Pulis winning the award last season, deep down I never fully believed that he would actually win the award as he did. Pardew's case this season is actually far more compelling than Pulis' was a year ago.
Pulis took over the team in November that sat in a very similar position as to when Pardew took over, but of course Pardew has had less games to make his impact. That being said, Pardew came into a much better squad than Pulis did.
Pre: 19th Place
P12 W2 D1 L9 F7 A21 Pts7
Post: 11th Place
P38 W13 D6 L19 F33 A48 Pts45
P26 W11 D5 L10 F26 A27 Pts38
Average Points Per Game: 1.46
Pre: 18th Place
P20 W3 D8 L9 F20 A30 Pts17
Post: 11th Place
P31 W10 D9 L12 F38 A42 Pts39
P11 W7 D1 L3 F18 A12 Pts22
Average Points Per Game: 2
If Pardew continues at his current rate of 2 points per game then Palace will end on 53 points, which will undoubtedly be good enough for a better than 11th place finish. It will also mean that he would have taken only 2 points less than Pulis did, in 8 fewer games. This is all speculative, however, as we haven't taken 14 points from our final 7 games... yet.
Where Pardew's case becomes compelling is that he may well have guided two clubs to Premier League safety in the same season! With Newcastle sliding down the table, it might just end up being the points that Pardew hauled in during his final months there that will ultimately see them survive in this league.
Do I think he will get the award? Much like with Pulis, deep down I think not. With Jose Mourinho already winning the League Cup and looking all but set to claim the Premier League title as well, there is a good chance that the people at the top will look to brown nose the Portuguese. However, much like with Pulis, we all know that Pardew deserves the award having seen him transfer us from relegation certs under Neil Warnock to top 8 hopefuls in the space of 11 games.
Are Scott Dann & Jason Puncheon in England Contention?
Let me start with Scott Dann. Yes, in a nutshell! With England fielding the already proved that he cannot do it Phil Jagielka and the quite useless Chris Smalling in Italy, it is clear that England is struggling for centre backs at the moment. It pains me to say it, but with the exception of John Terry, I have not seen a better English centre back this season than Dann and he deserves a call up, all Palace bias aside. With Hodgson witnessing his imperious display last night, here's hoping that it arrives.
That being said, I am all but certain that when it does, Mr Parish and co will be feeling it in their pockets with inevitable pay rise that will be needed to keep out the circling vultures.
As for Jason Puncheon, he is a bit of an enigma. Throughout his career he has shown flashes of brilliance and promise but has never kicked on to the next level. Perhaps Pardew has discovered the reason why. Since he was moved into the middle of the park against Arsenal a few weeks ago he has been a revelation. Outperforming every other English midfield in statistical terms during this game-span and even outperforming many of them when their full season numbers are compared to Puncheon's in the few games that he has played in the middle, Puncheon is taking to the position like a duck to water.
Back to the Italy England game and it was clear that there is a lack of creativity and drive in the centre of the park for England. It was not until Ross Barkley came on that England start to affect the game in this area.
Because he is not a particularly fashionable player, nor does he play for a fashionable club, it becomes very easy to write the off the suggestion that he is ready for an England call up. On Holmesdale Radio, after his performance against West Ham United where he notched up 3 assists, I said that he would need to prove it in the centre of the park on a more consistent basis. The grounds for this argument was that teams were not yet making plans for him in that position. They were turning up and expecting him to play wide and then had to react to him being in the middle as opposed to putting into execution fully worked out plans on how to neutralise his influence on the game.
As the games roll on by and Puncheon continues to perform with said plans now in place, it is becoming less and less a far fetched notion that we could see him in the white of England before the season is out.
Man of the Match: Glenn Murray
This was almost the perfect lone centre forward performance. In a game in which we had such little possession it was key that Murray held on to the ball as often as he could, which is easier said than done when competing with one of the best centre backs in the world in Vincent Kompany.
1 Shot on Target
10 Aerial Duels Won
1 Unstable Touch
2 Blocked Shots
*Stats from WhoScored.com
Murray basically won everything in the air when he had to, controlled the ball well when he had to and drew foul after foul (although that figure of 7 should have been much higher if Michael Oliver actually used his eyes) to relieve pressure from the back line. Further, in a night when chances were at a premium, he took advantage of his only one and chipped in with some solid defensive work (and goalkeeping) as well.
It was a truly remarkable performance from a player that many were prepared to completely write off in January.
Meanwhile over at Brighton, after losing 1-0 to Rotherham, a thread on NorthStandChat.com headed "Just to make a bad day WORSE Muzza scores for Palace" makes for wonderful reading.
Mentions have to go to Speroni, Delaney, Ward and Dann who all had excellent games.
That was more like it! Loud, oppressive, united and once again revered around the world through the medium of TV. At points the noise was actually hurting my ears in the Holmesdale as everyone belted out "You'll know us by our noise" and as the full time whistle approached the "Here's to you" chant rocked around a bouncing stadium and it was one of those moments that makes me proud to be a Crystal Palace fan.
Prior to the match we were selling Flying High Fanzine and one of my two articles was about fan division and why it needs to stop. This glorious night under the lights is a perfect example of what I was talking about.
Up Next: Sunderland
It is about time we won up there. It has been far too long! In truth it is a far bigger game for us than it is for them but we do not possess the kind of squad that will "rest on their laurels" as Glenn Murray put it after this win. We will be looking to win, especially considering a victory against the Mackems for Pardew will rub even more salt into the Geordie wounds.
Come on you Palace!