Stoke 1-2 Palace
Crystal Palace won for the fifth time in their last six away games with a come from behind victory at Stoke - the first time the hosts have lost after taking the lead this season.
Mame Biram Diouf gave Mark Hughes' men an early advantage as a speculative shot from a Charlie Adam free kick was scuffed and bobbled all the way through to the Senegal who produced a tidy finish into the bottom corner.
Stoke looked to be cruising towards the break as they fully controlled proceedings, albeit without threatening the Palace goal, before "five minutes of madness" as Adam called it in a post match interview.
The equaliser came from the spot after a Yannick Bolasie chased a hopeful ball in behind by James McArthur. The winger jumped with the home stopper Asmir Begovic and the referee deemed that Bolasie was fouled - it certainly falls under the category of 'soft'. Glenn Murray made no mistakes from twelve yards with a thumping effort straight down the middle. "Wow!" exclaimed commentator Alan Greene in describing the effort.
Then minutes later, just as the two minutes stoppage time was drawing to a close, a long punt down field by Julian Speroni was met by Murray. His flick on behind was chased down Wilfried Zaha and his pace and strength saw him get to the ball first and slot past Begovic.
The second half was a story of missed opportunities at one end and Julian Speroni in inspired form at the other but an end to end second half finished goalless and Pardew sees his Eagles climb above Newcastle in the table and up into 11th place.
A Plan for Puncheon in a Dirty Win
"Daylight robbery" was said more than once at half time by Palace fans. We were never in the game in the first half yet somehow ended up leading 2-1 at the break. This is not to say Stoke completely ran all over us in the first half, they didn't. What they did do was stop us from playing - a compliment to the performances we have been putting in away from home under Pardew.
Steve N'Zonzi and Charlie Adam were all over us in the middle of the park. Their mission was clearly to stop Jason Puncheon from having an influence on the game by pressing very high up the field and it worked for the first forty-five minutes. We often resorted to pumping the ball long and ironically this resulted in Stoke's downfall.
In the second half we played in a more 'last season' type Palace way and looked wide first. This then overstretched Stoke's midfield and afforded Puncheon more space in the middle and his influence on the game grew.
On one flank Wilfried Zaha had a quieter afternoon than he did against QPR but still managed to get on the scoresheet before being replaced by Dwight Gayle. On the other flank Yannick Bolasie was causing all sorts of problems as his play continues to mature. However, it was far from a free flowing Palace performance. Less possession, shots, shots on target and tackles are stats that should point to a home win but stats never tell the whole story in football.
One factor that the stats do not tell in this game is the terrible performance of referee, Andre Marriner. He got two of three major points wrong in the game and they had a big influence on the result.
I have already referred to the decision to award Palace a penalty as soft and Glenn Murray probably plays a big part in the award of the spot kick as he is immediately in the face of the ref calling for it. Marriner's decision not to award a penalty for a Joel Ward handball is unforgivable if you're a Stoke fan. As Phil Neville said on Match of the Day; "that's great goalkeeping from Joel Ward as he nearly catches the ball."
Forgive me, however, if I do not cry a river for Stoke. All season long we have been on the wrong end of these decisions so for once it was nice to get the rub of the green in this aspect.
Man of the Match: Julian Speroni
The other reason stats do not always tell the story is shown through the display of Speroni in between the sticks. After a few weeks of stick from many Palace fans, the club legend came up trumps on three big occasions in the second half.
First he denied Diouf from close range with his face after Adam had whipped in a glorious low cross. Second he was once again brilliant from close range as Stephen Ireland found himself in on goal. Arnautovic scuffed his shot and just like the Diouf goal it bobbled kindly for the home team but Ireland could not find a way past the Argentine as he stayed big to save. However, Pape Souare needs to take a long hard look at his positioning as Ireland would have been offside if he was in line with the rest of the defence.
The last of the three saves was perhaps the best. Adam again causing the danger as he curled in a beautiful free kick that evaded everyone and ended up as a shot on target. Just as it look set to bounce into the back of the net Speroni flung up his arms to turn the ball over the crossbar and secure three points for Palace. A three points that perhaps show how far we have come under Pardew as not many teams win at the Britannia, especially after going behind.
Up Next: Manchester City
An international break first and then a Monday night game against Manchester City. A win could see us put the final nail in the coffin of the title defence. I'm up for that.
Come on you Palace!