Palace 0-1 Man City
A last gasp Manchester City goal denied Crystal Palace a deserved point in this top of the table clash at Selhurst Park. After Jesus Navas had missed an open goal in the second half for the visitors the sides look set to be heading for their first goalless fixture since 1993. However, a kid who was not even born in 1993 had other ideas and climbed from the bench to tap home in the last minute and maintained City's 100% start to the season.
The hosts started brightly with Yannick Bolasie, starting as the loan striker in the absence of the injured Connor Wickham, often finding good space in the channels but a lack of willing runners from midfield meant that he struggled to deliver a telling cross. The visitors then woke up as the Palace backline snoozed and Samir Nasri was in behind like a flash only to be denied by Alex McCarthy, standing up big to save with his chest.
"Chances were then at a premium as a high quality midfield battle ensued."
Chances were then at a premium as a high quality midfield battle ensued but this does not mean that there was a lack of incident. In the space ten seconds in the eighteenth minute Bolasie got to the byline, despite Aleksander Kolarov clearly having a handful of his shirt in the eighteen yard box, and his cross deflected to Yohan Cabaye who was, in turn, tripped in the penalty area by Fernandinho, however, it was on the blindside of the referee and within a crowd of players and a penalty was not awarded. The resulting clearance saw Sergio Aguero turn Scott Dann and the big centre back hacked down the Argentinean to ‘take one for the team’. Ian Wright said on Match of the Day that he thought it should have been a red card. Alan Shearer countered and said that Wright “was going a bit soft in his old age” and that a yellow was the right decision. The challenge ended Aguero’s participation in the match but, ironically, favoured Manuel Pellegrini’s men.
With the Aguero going off, replaced by Kevin De Bruyne, City switched from 4-4-2 to 4-5-1 and the game increasingly moved to a more assured Man City performance. This is not to say that Palace were blown away, far from it in fact.
"Yaya Toure was the next to go into the referee’s book as he jumped in recklessly on James McArthur"
Yaya Toure was the next to go into the referee’s book as he jumped in recklessly on James McArthur. Alan Pardew was incensed and went marching off down the touchline and past the Man City technical area. Pellegrini took offence and grabbed Pardew and pushed him away. No headbutt would follow in this altercation and the Palace gaffer said after the game that he “went back to his box like a good boy”. Is this Pards trying to show the FA that he has grown up and ready for the England job? Time will tell. As for the challenge, the yellow card was probably the right decision, just.
"Wilfried Zaha turned Kolarov inside out before delivering a peach of a cross to the back stick"
Two half chances would come and go for Wilfried Bony, although for the amount that they signed him for undoubtedly he should be doing better. Then on the stroke of half time, weirdly omitted from the Match of the Day highlights, Bakary Sako almost extended his record of scoring in every game that he has played for Palace. Wilfried Zaha turned Kolarov inside out before delivering a peach of a cross to the back stick. Sako met the ball on his favoured left foot but his powerful effort flew just over the bar.
Much of the pre match talk from the Palace camp was of counter attacking play and how this would be integral to any positive result that Pardew’s men might get. However, it was City that caught Palace on the counter early in the second half and it should have ended with the visitors taking the lead. A feature of Palace’s play this season has been attacking full backs and with Pape Souare high up the field when the attack broke down he was out of the game as Navas ran off into the distance. De Bruyne found him with an easy square pass and the winger had the freedom of Selhurst Park. He rounded McCarthy in the Palace goal and with the net at his mercy he somehow hit the side netting, much to the delight of Selhurst Park.
As City’s possession percentage increased, Palace harked back to their Tony Pulis days and showed how to be dangerous with the little possession that you do have. The ball was used in a far superior fashion to how it was under Pulis and it resulted in two great chances for Palace to nick the win. First a glorious Souare cross was met by the head of Jason Puncheon. The Palace number 42 didn’t quite get enough on the ball to get it over Joe Hart and the England stopper did just enough to keep it out.
"Then with a minute remaining Dwight Gayle had an even better chance to send the Eagles level on points at the top of the Premier League."
Then with a minute remaining Dwight Gayle had an even better chance to send the Eagles level on points at the top of the Premier League. Zaha got away down the right and put in a centre that found the unmarked Gayle. The substitute got the ball past Hart but the ball went the wrong side of the post. There was much debate about whether it was given offside or not - the reaction of the City players towards the assistant referee it suggested that he was flagging for a goal kick and not an offside.
As always at this level, if you do not take your chances you will get punished. Moments later a Nasri shot is spilled by McCarthy and Kelechi Iheanacho reacted quickest to stab the ball home from two yards out to break Crystal Palace hearts.
Leaving a game against Manchester City gutted is yet another sign of the progress that the Club has made on the pitch.
Alex McCarthy: “Kicking himself”
In his post-match press conference Alan Pardew said that his goalkeeper was “kicking himself” after his error that led to the goal. Pardew said that McCarthy was being too harsh on himself – I think that the Gaffer is being overly kind here. McCarthy either has to push that shot away or hold it, preferably hold it. This is the Premier League, the highest level of English football. He has to hold that shot if he wants to establish himself as a Premier League regular.
Inevitably this leads to the question of whether or not Julian Speroni should reclaim his place as number one. McCarthy has had a bit of an up and down start to his Palace career. He has pulled off some amazing saves, think the first half save from Nasri in this match, but has arguably been at fault for four of the goals that we have conceded this season. Redmond from range at Norwich, the Souare own goal, the Falcao header beating him at his near post and now this last minute goal.
So does Pardew stick with him? His post-match support suggests that his will. Further, Speroni is prone to a similar error such as McCarthy made vs City – think Everton and Arsenal last season.
As I always say, Wayne Hennessey must be wondering what he has to do to get a game in the Premier League at the moment. When he plays for Wales he simply does not concede and there is not much else he can do!
James McArthur: Getting better and better
After running himself into the ground against Germany in midweek during Scotland’s narrow loss to the World Champions, I was worried that he was going to be a bit leggy in this one. Instead he prowled around the midfield for ninety minutes and mixed it, yet again, with some of the best midfielders that world football has to offer.
The Gayle chance towards the end of the match came after McArthur had skinned Nasri and released Zaha down the flank with a perfectly weighted pass. This was in the 89th minute – so much for the ‘leggy’ fears.
Again his pass percentage was up over 80% and he actually made more passes than Cabaye, which shows his importance to our midfield.
And there was me thinking that he was brilliant last season!
Wilfried Zaha: Another step back towards his best
Kolarov and Sagna are arguably the best full back pairing in the Premier League. No matter which side Wilf attacked down, he troubled the full backs and the wingers when they doubled up on him, which they had to do often as they realised that allowing him to be one on one was suicide.
One day very soon it will all click into place for Wilfried Zaha, mark my words.
Yannick Bolasie: Can he play as a centre forward?
Pardew clearly fancies Yannick Bolasie as a centre forward and this is where he started in the absence of Connor Wickham against City. I cannot deny that I was excited by the prospect of Bolasie, Sako, Zaha and Puncheon all playing yesterday but, with hindsight, it just didn’t lend itself to clear cut chances
Anytime the ball was played into Bolasie’s feet with his back to goal he was simply bullied off the ball by either Mangala or Kompany. Admittedly he got a lot of joy in behind the full backs, however, this meant that there was no one in the middle. Puncheon tried his best to get into the box but on the occasions that Bolasie got in in the channels, Sako and Zaha were nowhere to be seen.
Bolasie was also wanting in his desire to get into the box when the ball was in wide areas. On several occasions Souare was looking to get crosses into the box but Yannick was some thirty yards from goal and making no effort to get in the box, which meant many a good position was wasted. Gayle was on the field for a matter of minutes and his desire to get into the penalty area nearly resulted in the winner.
I think with Wickham, or dare I say Murray, the result may have been a little different yesterday.
Technical Ability at an All Time High
The technical ability that we displayed in this game was probably the highest that I have ever seen it from a Palace team. It is all very well displaying great technical abilities against the lesser teams, but to do it against a team that is at the height of their game and possesses some of the very best players in the world is something else.
I think that Pardew is yet to master the way that we need to play at home and I have certainly questioned some of his line up selections and substitutions at Selhurst Park, however, one has to ‘doff their cap’ to him in the way that he has turned a bunch of players that were happy to concede possession in the last couple of seasons into a team that can hold onto the ball so comfortably against the team that will most likely win the Premier League this season.
Man of the Match: James McArthur
For all of the reasons mentioned above. A great performance to add to his one in midweek that saw him score against Germany.
Honourable mentions to Wilfried Zaha and Brede Hangeland. The latter doing himself out of this award with his disappointingly slow reactions to McCarthy spilling the ball.
Up Next: Spurs Away
A poor start to the season for Spurs but a late winner at Sunderland sealed their first win of the season and may see them go into the game with confidence. The past two seasons we have been extremely unlucky not to come away with a win from White Hart Lane. This season we have the goods and I go in quietly confident that Pardew can extend his incredible away record since arriving in SE25.
Come on you Palace.