Norwich 1-3 Palace
Crystal Palace got off to a winning start for the first time since their return to the Premier League thanks to goals from Wilfried Zaha, Damien Delaney and record signing Yohan Cabaye. The score line tells a misleading story, however.
After Nathan Redmond had pulled a goal back to make the score 1-2, former Eagle Cameron Jerome had a goal controversially ruled out for a high foot by referee Simon Hooper, who was making his Premier League debut. Hooper then ensured that he was off the Norwich City Christmas card list as he decided against awarding a penalty for a Connor Wickham push on Sebastien Bassong.
Norwich were rampant in the first 20 minutes and Pardew said after the game that within minutes of kick off he was thinking; “I've picked the wrong team here.” The hosts possession reached 77% at one stage in the first half and this culminated in a glorious chance for Lewis Grabban. The ball was played across the 6 yard box, Alex McCarthy was out of the game in between the Palace sticks and Grabban, playing against his former club, simply had to slide in and tap the ball home. Instead he went with his right, when his left would have been better served, and he put the ball wide of the post.
Pardew has been noted for his in game management since his arrival and he “shuffled the pack” and switched Jason Puncheon from the left to the right with Zaha moving in the other direction. With this move the game changed and it didn’t take long for Palace to start threatening John Ruddy’s goal. First, Glenn Murray was denied from point blank range by the big Norwich stopper but he really should have scored - think his chance against Manchester United last season. What was interesting about this move was that a deep Pape Souare cross was nodded back across by Joel Ward to Murray for the chance; perhaps a sign of things to come this season in terms of advanced full backs.
"The second season running that Wilf has scored in his first game of the season."
Moments later another chance came along for the visitors and there would be no mistakes in front of goal this time. Ward floated a ball in behind to release Puncheon down the right. His first touch was exemplary and immediately had him one on one with his full back. A step over saw him to the byline from where he dinked the ball to the far post with his weaker right foot. Zaha had the freedom of the penalty area and acrobatically smashed the ball home off the scrambling Ruddy to open the scoring – the second season running that Wilf has scored in his first game of the season, although this time it was for Pardew and not against him as his last minute equaliser against Newcastle was last season.
Norwich came out the blocks the quickest in the first half but the start of the second half saw a role reversal. Zaha won the first Palace corner of the game in the 49th minute and a well worked routine did for Alex Neil’s men. All of the runners pulled the defenders towards the near post but Puncheon put the ball deep and towards the edge of the box. Souare had made a late run from deep and he met the ball, heading towards the far post for an unmarked Delaney to smash home for 0-2.
"A fantastic double save."
This woke the hosts up and this gave McCarthy the chance to shine on his competitive debut for the club with a fantastic double save. First he spread himself well to deny Grabban but the ball rebounded back into Grabban and then off the Norwich striker and into the six yard box. The ball was then met on the full by Bradley Johnson with a diving header but McCarthy managed to scramble across goal and keep the ball out with his feet.
Unfortunately for the Palace keeper he would then concede from range when he really should have done better. Redmond let fly and the ball bobbled towards the bottom corner and past the outstretched hand of the former QPR man. This gave Norwich 21 minutes to find an equaliser but aside from the Jerome disallowed goal and the Wickham push on Bassong, chances were at a premium.
With Norwich pouring people forward looking for the equaliser the opportunity came for Palace to put the game to bed. Second half substitute Wickham was doing a sterling job of holding the ball up in the corner before a little bit of skill got him clear of two defenders before a slightly heavy touch fell into the path of James McArthur. Martin came rushing towards the Scotland international but was undone by a brilliant disguised left footed pass that put Cabaye through one on one with Ruddy. One look up at the goalkeeper was all the Frenchman needed to slot the ball home and guarantee that the three points were going back to SE25.
Referee Watch: Simon Hooper
Simon Hooper’s last competitive game was the League One play off final. This clearly capped a good season for him and ended with his own promotion to the Premier League. Arguably Mr Hooper drowned in the deep end on his debut.
I thought he started well. He decided not to send off, or even book, Murray for an over-stretch that could easily have been seen as a dangerous lunge by more established Premier League referees. However, what surprised me greatly was his want to blow up any time there was a physical battle. Having come from league one I would have expected a more lenient view on shoulder to shoulder action but every time Murray out-fought a Norwich defender he awarded a foul in favour of the defender.
There is not point beating around the bush with the two major talking points. The Jerome goal should have stood, regardless of Pardew saying that it is a foul “anywhere else on the pitch” and if the Wickham push had been on a Palace player in the other penalty area, I would want a penalty – although there has not been anything said about the fly kick by Johnson on Ward as the push on Bassong was taking place.
I turned 33 today and with each passing year I am learning to accept the rub of the green when it comes along and accept it more when these sort of decisions come along against us… although admittedly I can’t always keep my cool when we are hard done by.
All in all, a terrible performance for Mr Hooper – which means that he will fit in perfectly in the Premier League.
The New Boys
Yohan Cabaye: 90% pass accuracy. I could probably end this there but I will wax lyrical a little bit more. I mentioned Pardew’s in game management above, Cabaye’s on field ball management is every bit as good. He makes the best decision almost every single time that he is on the ball. He plays simple when he should, he tries to be more creative when he should and he dribbles when he should. He is exactly what we have been missing in the middle of the park and our potential with him in our midfield is very high.
On August 9th 1997 a great Palace number 7 scored on his debut in a 2-1 win at Everton. Cabaye’s signing has been called the best since Attilio Lombardo – the comparisons to the great Italian continue.
Alex McCarthy: A mixed bag. A wonderful double save, an error for the goal and some god-awful distribution. If I am Wayne Hennessey I am sitting on the bench wondering what I have to do to get into the team.
Connor Wickham: A little run out in the second half but he had quite the impact on the game. Thankfully he got away with his push on Bassong and then displayed some brilliant hold up play at the start of the move that led to the Cabaye goal. I stand by my words, he is going to do the business for us - but first he needs to shed some of his Sunderland weight. Just like Mutch last season, his conditioning looks poor having come from a club with low standards.
The Ex Files
Lewis Grabban: His miss was nothing short of criminal at 0-0. As the ball came across I was thinking “typical, another ex-player bags against us” yet he goes with the wrong foot and misses an open goal. It will be finishes like this that will see Norwich go down this season.
Cameron Jerome: Another ex-Palace player and he was unlucky not to have a goal as already discussed. I look at Grabban and Jerome and I do not see how they are going to score enough goals for the Canaries this season.
Just as I was thinking that two ex-Palace players up top for them was a worry, I am sure that Norwich fans were thinking the same thing with two ex-Ipswich in our line up – fortunately for us their fears were realised. Delaney scored the winning goal and Wickham prevented a Norwich chance with what was a foul in the penalty area before playing a pivitol role in our third.
What Did They Say on Match of the Day?
Danny Murphy: “Now we are starting to see strength in depth… Cabaye could be the difference between 10th and 7th.” Optimism or a potential reality? We will certainly have to play a lot better than we did here if we want to finish 7th but it is a lot better hearing them talk about Palace in this vein compared to how they slagged us off in our first season in the Premier League.
What Did They Say on Goals on Sunday?
“Palace are going to be a force to be reckoned with, that is one thing that is certain” said Chris Kamara as Chris Coleman compared the team to the squad from the late 80s and early 90s. High praise indeed!
They positively raved about the execution of the corner kick for the second goal before describing the decision to disallow the goal as a “shocker” – again they were complimentary of Ward for putting his body on the line for the cause and winning the free kick.
“I think you know, you know Pard’s took a lot of criticism when he was at Newcastle you know, unfairly as well a lot of it. He comes to Palace, not easy to stay in the Premier League but he knows the club inside out, you know he had some great times there as a player and the fans adore him. Sometimes that comes with a bit more pressure you know, you know people will think it’s easier to go back into when the fans love you but you can quickly lose them if you’re not winning games. The Palace fans are great fans, fantastic fans but he has won games and he has won in a certain way, I think he understands what Crystal Palace is all about, he understands what the fans want to see, what type of football they want to see and he’s got a real good team there and he has done a fantastic job.” Chris Coleman with almost as many “you knows” as Steve Parish.
Up Next: Arsenal
We’ve beaten Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool since we returned to the top flight. This season I want to target Man United and Arsenal for victories. We have a chance early on and with the backing of a loud Selhurst Park crowd, with the wind of the Holmesdale Fanatics display in the sails, I think that this might just be the time for us to get one over Wenger’s boys.
Come on you Palace!