Palace 5-1 Newcastle
This performance was the Dr Jekyll to Monday nights Mr Hyde for Crystal Palace. After failing to find a way through a stubborn Sunderland defence at Selhurst Park on Monday Night Football, Alan Pardew’s Eagles returned to the scene of the crime just five days later and sliced through Newcastle’s defence at will.
When Jermaine Defoe gave the Black Cats the lead on Monday night, the hosts immediately came to life and only a brilliant save from Costel Pantilimon denied Yohan Cabaye almost directly from the kick off. The difference between the Defoe goal and the Papiss Cisse goal that gave Newcastle the lead in this one, a header from a Daryl Janmaat cross, was the time remaining on the clock. With most of the game remaining, Palace could take advantage of the kick up the backside that the goal initiated.
This proverbial kick is probably not the only reason that Cisse might regret giving the visitors the lead so early in the game. He inadvisably celebrated in front of the most vocal section of Selhurst Park and goaded the fans. They would not forget. “Cisse, what’s the score?” greeted the Newcastle number 9 anytime that he got remotely close to the Holmesdale Road end of the pitch, with the Palace fan mimicking his celebration to add extra insult.
“Completely different. I thought we were excellent” said James McArthur after the match when comparing the performance to that against Sunderland. “Even at the start I says to the boys up front when we were taking centre (after the Cisse goal), ‘keep going’ as I felt were playing well. But I think them scoring gave us a wee bit of belief to start taking our chances and get back into the game and it worked tremendously.”
This was not before Newcastle almost doubled their lead, however, having two efforts blocked in quick succession by Joel Ward and then Pape Souare – both of whom had considerably better performances than they did against the Magpies North East rivals.
McArthur would get the leveller for Palace just four minutes after Cisse had opened the scoring and it came with a huge stroke of luck. Connor Wickham held the ball up well on the edge of the penalty area and teed up the Scotsman’s whose strike from the edge of the box was on target but was probably heading towards the goalkeepers hands. Fortunately for Palace, the ball deflected off Paul Dummett and into the opposite corner - just the bit of luck the Eagles had been looking for.
Three minutes later Pardew’s men were in front and Wickham was heavily involved again. He dispossessed Jack Colback on the halfway line and laid the ball to Wilfried Zaha before bursting around the outside of the Palace winger. Zaha slotted Wickham through on the right hand side of the penalty area and his cutback bamboozled SIX Newcastle defenders and found Yannick Bolasie at the back post who smashed the ball low and hard and into the back of the net.
"Wickham was instrumental again as Zaha scored to put Palace firmly in the driving seat."
Wickham was instrumental again as Zaha scored to put Palace firmly in the driving seat. Bolasie fed the ball to Wickham on the left where he skipped past Chancel Mbemba with ease before looking up and dinking a ball towards the unmarked Zaha on the edge of the penalty area. The body shape from the Palace number 11 said that he was going to hammer home a rasping volley but instead he scuffed his effort into the ground where it bounced up and over the keeper and in to the far top corner – nobody at Selhrust Park was complaining with the outcome.
Like a broken record, Wickham was yet again involved in the fourth goal. Steve McClaren had made a change at half time to try and sure up his defence. Instead Jamaal Lascelles, the defender that he had bought (sacrificing Ayoze Perez, arguably the Magpies only real threat), immediately climbed all over the back of the Palace striker and referee Stuart Atwell rightly awarded a free kick. Former Newcastle midfielder Cabaye floated in the free kick, Damien Delaney who, with Janmaat standing right next to him but with his back turned away from the ball, headed the ball back across goal for Bolasie to tap home and level his goal tally for the whole of last season in the process.
Palace continued to create chances long after taking their foot off the pedal but would have to wait until the last kick of the game to complete their best ever Premier League win (joint second best top flight win – 5-1 vs Sheffield United in 1971/72, 4-0 vs West Brom in 1972/73 and 4-0 vs Derby in 1979/80) . McArthur stole the ball in the Palace half and started a counter attack that he finished off, slotting in from a tight angle, through the goalkeepers legs.
This moved Palace up to 6th place in the league and back in contention for the top eight according to Pardew.
Connor Wickham – I told you…
Anyone that read what I wrote about the Sunderland game will know that I was extremely pissed off with the lambasting that Palace fans directed towards Wickham in the forums and on social media in the aftermath of that frustrating defeat. I am not going to full out say “I told you so” but this performance should have many Palace fans reigning their necks in.
He ended the game with two assists to his name and he played an integral part in two more. Sure there was no goal this time but I think that we can forgive him for this one.
“Would you say that you are really hitting your stride now?” asked Chris Grierson after the game. “I wouldn’t say that. I’ll say that I am feeling a lot better than I was last week. A million times better than I was against Sunderland. I am just taking every day as it comes in training, working as hard as I can and I'm gonna try and get myself scoring again sooner rather than later" answered Wickham.
Grierson than asked an excellent question of the £9million man:
“How good is it to play with those wingers?”
“It’s brilliant. It’s something that I’ve not really had through my career, having out and out wingers either side of me.”
On Monday night he was making his first start in months, in a set up that he has not experienced in his career before arriving at Palace. If you are expecting a 22 year old to waltz straight back into the team and immediately understand how to play with two of the most unpredictable wingers in English football, then you really need to rethink the way you think about football. He still has a lot to learn and but once he starts to ‘get it’, and he will, we are going to be in for a real treat.
Here is an example of where he should be doing better (excuse the crude paint job).Yannick Bolasie has crossed the ball and James McArthur has made a brilliant run into the box and attacked the ball. Connor Wickham on the other hand has ball watched and not gambled on Bolasie beating his man and is therefore a bystander as the cross comes in. Instead he should be busting a gut to get across to the near post or peeling away to the back post to get on the end of a deep cross:
Sure, on this occasion he would not have scored a goal if he went to the near post but it is a great percentage move when playing with Bolasie and Zaha. He may have scored if he gambled on a deep cross. This is why I was keen for us to keep Glenn Murray as he would have been able to pass on vital knowledge of how to get on the end of crosses from our two wingers.
"Just give him time and do not base his impact from one performance to the next."
I know that there are people out there that look a bit more long term than the 90 minutes that they have just witnessed but for those of you that do not, please take in the information that I have provided. He was out injured for a long time, he still has a lot to learn about playing with wingers and it is not going to happen overnight. Everything that he did well in this game came from playing brilliant hold up centre forward play, stuff that he has been used to doing throughout his career and that is why he was able to influence the game so much. The goals, however, will take a little more time to come on but I am confident that they will once he has made the adjustments needed to make the most of our wing play. Just give him time and do not base his impact from one performance to the next.
Man of the Match: Yannick Bolasie
This is probably the hardest decision that I will have to make all season. How can I pick between Wickham, McArthur and Bolasie from a match in which all three were outstanding?
McArthur scores twice and had a pass completion of 92%, Wickham assisted two goals and played a key role in four of the five and Bolasie twice got on the score sheet and “caused havoc” as Pardew pointed out post match.
I have gone for Bolasie for this reason (and you’ll have to excuse more crude pictures) – he moved around the penalty area like a centre forward in a way that I have never seen him do before. The movement for his second goal was perfect (pictured below) and he almost completed his hat-trick with some expert centre forward movement, getting in front of the Newcastle defender and on to the end of a Jason Puncheon cross, only to slide the ball over.
He knows that the plan is for Cabaye to get the ball into Dann or Delaney who will nod it back across goal. He doesn’t hang around to wait to see if it is on, he just puts his head down and makes the run, a little like a wide receiver in American Football, and the ball pops up where he has gambled on it arriving. Incredible forward play from Yala:
Pardew is convinced that Bolasie can be a prolific centre forward – this was the first time that I’ve actually believed him.
Up Next: Everton
Time for our annual 3-2 win at Goodison Park. I jest obviously. A tough away trip to a team that are in form. Hopefully we can avoid our recent Monday Night Football dilemmas and put in a performance that will do us proud.
Come on you Palace!