Palace 2-1 Spurs
Crystal Palace won for the first time in the Premier League since November as they came from behind to beat 5th placed Tottenham Hotspur. Harry Kane gave Spurs the lead just after the break but his goal only served to kick the Eagles into life and turned the game on its head with goals from Dwight Gayle and Jason Puncheon.
Alan Pardew went into the match boasting the very impressive record of having won his first league game in charge of every club that he has managed and he did not disappoint at Selhurst Park.
The first half was a drab affair but both sides had glorious opportunities to open the scoring. Christian Eriksen is a strong contender for miss of the season as he missed a practically open goal from six yards out and Glenn Murray found Hugo Lloris in inspired form when the ball broke to him in the box.
The second half was everything that the first half was not with excitement from the very start. Kane continued his impressive scoring run with a right footed shot across Julian Speroni but this "was the best thing that (could have) happened for us" according to Pardew after the match. The shackles came off and Palace looked to press forward and they got the break they needed the the 69th minute as Joe Ledley was fouled in the penalty area. Gayle made no mistake from the spot and scored his 8th goal from 9 starts this season. Impressive numbers by anyone's standards.
This turned the volume up in the stadium and when the Holmesdale Road is in full voice it has proved that it can "suck in a goal" or two. Wilfried Zaha replaced Murray and that was all she wrote for Spurs. Kyle Walker could not live with the Palace Academy graduate as he mesmerised the England full back with his trickery before finding Jason Puncheon ten minutes from time where the winger made no mistakes.
For Puncheon it was the perfect way to end the week after the incident at the darts.
Speroni was called upon in injury time, making an impressive stop from a low and swerving shot that bounced just in front of him. With Spurs players rushing on the stopper managed to hold on and secure the points for Pardew and Palace.
Al, Super Al!
In among all of the bitterness I saw from Newcastle fans when Pardew left the superpower of the north (I say that with tongue in cheek) there was one bit that worried me. "He is tactically inept" said many Geordies. Having had to deal with Neil Warnock for the last few months, the last thing I wanted was another man devoid of tactical nous. With this in mind I simply assumed that Barry Bannan had picked up a knock in the first half hence he was replaced by Adlene Guedioura at the break. When listening to his post match press conference if became clear that he made the change as he believed that Bannan was struggling in a very physical midfield battle. Brilliant from the man and it was a change that won us the match as Guedioura was close to man of the match with his second half performance.
What I found further encouraging with this change is that he is replacing a player that is so hungry for first team action and now that he has finally got it he has been pulled after just forty-five minutes. This could be very damaging for his confidence. Instead, Pardew says "Bannan's a good player... a great technical player. I thought we could get him on the ball today but we just couldn't get enough of the ball." He has made it clear that he rates Bannan but made it clear that it just wasn't the game for him which Bannan should understand. Great stuff.
Then comes the Zaha substitution. As the game was becoming more stretched it was clear that the extra bit of pace up top could cause Spurs problems and it proved to be the case. He set up the winner and could have put the game to bed twice on the break only to be foiled by Lloris twice.
A very impressive start from Super Al.
He starts, he scores. It is a very simple formula. 8 goals in 9 starts does not lie. Keep that man on the pitch from the start.
Especially now he feel likes he belongs in the Premier League. I think that he struggled with the price tag and the step up initially and now I believe that he is over that. Just compare yesterday's penalty to his first in a Palace shirt against Sunderland last season. The first just about dribbled under the goalkeeper as he struck the ball with no confidence at all. Yesterday's effort would have taken Lloris into the net is he had got anything on it as he struck the ball with belief and confidence.
Say it quietly but the signs that the old Wilf is returning are there. There have been flashes in recent weeks (when he hasn't been asked to play as a striker) and yesterday every time that he went forward he made something happen. Lets hope he leaves 2014 firmly behind him and makes 2015 his year.
Man of the Match: Damien Delaney
This could have gone to half of the team but Delaney just pipped it for me. He made so many last ditch tackles and blocks that I lost count and he captained like a true leader. His pass percentage accuracy was 84% for this match which is considerably up on his season average of 64%. This is definitely down to Pardew asking the centre backs to use the ball a bit more wisely. Damo loves to lump the ball long. However, he shortened his passing game considerably yesterday and this draws the Spurs midfield and defence up the pitch and leaves them more vulnerable to the longer ball when he did play it. 4 of his 7 long balls were completed yesterday which is drastically better than the 4 from 15 that he usually completes. The perfect way to mark his 100th Palace appearance.
As I say there were many other contenders. Jason Puncheon looked liked the Jason Puncheon of a year ago as he caused Spurs all sorts of problems before eventually scoring the deserved winner.
Martin Kelly, Scott Dann and Joel Ward were excellent at the back with Kelly having arguably his best game in a Palace shirt.
Adlene Guedioura changed the game and would have easily taken the honours if he played the full 90 minutes. His outside of the boot pass to Puncheon just before the winner was a thing of beauty.
Joe Ledley was brilliant, winning the penalty and posting an 88% pass accuracy which is key in the style of football that Pardew will look to evolve us into.
Then there is James McArthur. It was devastating to hear that he could be out for up to 6 weeks with a potential broken foot after the game but to hear that he done it with around 20 minutes to go only to play through the pain without a single person noticing harks back to proper old school footballers. We like to abuse players who crumple into pathetic heaps on the ground at the slightest touch so it is only right that a player is praised when he literally puts his body on the line for the cause. I bloody love, James McArthur.
Best goal celebrations since Dwight Gayle's equaliser against Liverpool. I ended up in the row behind under a pile of people as every single person went wild. Further, the noise when the ball hit the back of the net was deafening. That it more like the Selhurst Park we know. "Our season starts now" read the second part of the HF banner. That should read both for the players and us in the stands as we have all been under par so far this year.
Up Next: Burnley
A huge match in our season. If we play like we did in the second half of this match then we will run them over and the Alan Pardew party bus will go on.
Come on you Palace!