Leicester 1-0 Palace
Jamie Vardy continued his astonishing goal scoring run to inflict a rare away defeat on Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace. The game looked set to be heading for an unexpected no score draw until a Brede Hangeland mistake allowed Riyad Mahrez to put through the England striker and that was enough to separate the two sides on the day.
The Vardy strike came just before the hour mark and it served to kick the visitors into life. Before this point Leicester had dominated the game but other than Mark Albrighton hitting the post, the Foxes never looked like scoring.
The Eagles knocked at the door for the rest of the game but, just like the hosts before them, never really looked like penetrating the City back line – until the dying moments of the game.
Wilfried Zaha was first felled in the penalty area only for the referee to think that he made the most of the contact. A yellow card would be produced for diving but there would be more involvement for referee Mike Dean – or lack of it.
In stoppage time Christian Fuchs made a hash of his clearance and the ball bounced up and struck his arm in the penalty area. Every Palace player in the vicinity went up positively screaming for the penalty, Dean waved play on and made the officiating team the post-match conversation topic.
Another Crystal Palace game, another game wrapped in refereeing ineptitude. I really do hate that I am having to discuss the referee again. I feel like that it puts me across as bitter at the result. I am not, but I will come to that later.
First, we have the Zaha decision. This has been debated heavily on social media, both for it being the right decision and the wrong decision. Danny Murphy and Ian Wright on Match of the Day said that they thought it was a definite penalty. For me, Wilf only has himself to blame for not being given the decision that his play deserved. If he just runs as normal through the two defenders that he has destroyed with his skill, he gets the penalty. Instead, he flicks his leg into the defender to look for more contact, throws his hands up and then looks straight at the referee. The contact was there without the leg flick! Just run into the leg and let it trip you over naturally for crying out loud. I do not blame Dean for booking him for diving here as Wilf did his very best to make it look like a dive.
Second, we have the challenge on Patrick Bamford. There were no great angles shown on the replays. I think that he may have slipped but it was impossible to tell – so I have no gripes here.
Finally, we have the handball. Despite Ian Wright saying that he thought it wasn’t a penalty, I have to disagree with him and favour Danny Murphy’s view that it is a clear penalty. Fuch’s arms are miles away from his body, preventing the ball from dropping to a Palace player – it’s a stonewall penalty.
Apparently they all even themselves out over the season. With the exception of the opening day at Norwich, we have been on the wrong end of so many wrong decisions – surely we a due a few.
Brede Hangeland not keeping it Karmmm
What has been so impressive since Brede Hangeland came into the team is his ability to maintain his cool at all times. The big Norwegian has looked incredibly comfortable on the ball at all times and his decision making has been excellent. So why did this all go to pot at the King Power on Saturday?
The answer is Jamie Vardy.
He did not stop putting the two centre backs under pressure and in the end he won a mistake from one of them. It is so easy to jump on a players back without understanding the reason that the mistake happens. Do not get me wrong, it is an appalling pass from Hangeland, especially considering that he had three easy options, but in context it was as a result of Vardy simply never leaving him alone.
In the last two games both West Ham and Leicester have stopped us from passing out from the back. The reason that this is proving so successful against us is because this often results in the ball going longer and with injuries the way they are, we do not have a centre forward that can compete with the more direct pass. As a result the ball comes back quicker and more often. No matter how deep we want to sit against the pace of Vardy and Mahrez, if the ball is coming back at the centre backs over and over, eventually players of this calibre, that are at the top of their form, are going to find a way past.
Is it time to for two of the four?
By ‘the four’ I mean Jason Puncheon, Wilfried Zaha, Yannick Bolasie and Bakary Sako. Without the presence of Connor Wickham up top, we are losing the desired ability to bring these players into the game in dangerous areas. Too often the wingers are coming in field to try and affect the game as the recycling from the centre forward is just not good enough.
With the lack of a centre forward that can occupy the centre backs and knowing that this means that the ball is going to be coming back at us more often than not, should we not be looking at moving back to two defensive midfielders until we are more confident that the ball is going to stick up top on a more frequent basis?
"Meanwhile, our best attacking player at the moment, Wilfried Zaha, is sat on the bench more often than not."
The Jason Puncheon debate rages on and it becomes increasingly clear with each passing game that he is not reaching the levels that he achieved at the end of last season. Yannick Bolasie has been almost exclusively ineffective this season and Bakary Sako has failed to live up the expectations that he created after his first couple of games. Meanwhile, our best attacking player at the moment, Wilfried Zaha, is sat on the bench more often than not.
With the form that Leicester are in I would have preferred to see Zaha and Bolasie on the flanks with Yohan Cabaye, James McArthur and Joe Ledley in the middle. This would have allowed us to compete more in the middle of the park, give us more options when passing out from the back and give us a chance to be effective on the counter through the flanks.
I understand Pardew’s want to score goals but the fact is that we haven’t scored a goal from open play in the Premier League since August. Playing three of the four is clearly not working without the presence of Wickham and it should have been changed by now.
Wickham should be back next week and this will hopefully make this argument a moot point.
Man of the Match: Patrick Bamford
With the return of Wickham expected next week this could be another moot point, but I thought that Patrick Bamford changed the game in our favour when he came on yesterday and it was the first time that he has actually made me sit up and take notice of him since he arrived.
I said in the opening to this report “The Vardy strike came just before the hour mark and it served to kick the visitors into life” but this goal also coincided with Bamford coming on (two minutes before the goal went in).
Bamford competed where Fraizer Campbell did not and occupied the City back line. As a result we were able to get Bolasie, Sako and Zaha on the ball in the dangerous areas, something that we did not do in the opening hour of the match.
It’s just a shame that he didn’t put this sort of performance in a few weeks ago as it is what we have been crying out for in Wickham’s absence.
Up Next: Manchester City
It is a shame that this draw came as early as this in the League Cup, a cup that we have made no secrets that we would like to win it but this draw is going to make it a tough ask. However, with City having played a tough Manchester derby this weekend, hopefully we will be able to find a performance that we know we are capable of and pick up a win.
Come on you Palace.