West Brom 3-2 Palace
Crystal Palace’s league run without a win extended to ten games in a Jekyll and Hyde performance at the Hawthorns. West Brom scored three first half goals in a Premier League match for the first time in their history as Tony Pulis tactically out thought Alan Pardew, only for the visitors to come storming back in the second half.
It took the hosts just 12 minutes to break the dead lock. The Palace back four could not handle the pace, power and movement of the West Brom front free of Saido Berahino, Salomon Rondon and Stephane Sessegnon and all of the warning signs had been there before Rondon found himself through on goal. His effort was awkwardly saved by Wayne Hennessey in the Palace goal and the rebound dropped straight to Craig Gardner who yet again against the Eagles.
Sessegnon then embarrassed Jordon Mutch and Joe Ledley on the Palace touchline and won a free kick through his skill and strength. The defending that followed from the resulting cross from Gardner was comical from the visitors and an unmarked (why did it have to be him) Craig Dawson headed home. To add another unwanted record, this was the first time that Gardner has scored and assisted in the same match.
Then came the killer third just after the half an hour. Missing for the second goal, Scott Dann was missing again and a simple ball over his head was volleyed home first time by Berahino to make it three. Half of the away end made their way to the bar out back.
Pardew’s men started to wake up a bit and managed to find a way into the West Brom half and force a few shots but the hosts ended the half the strongest. Gardner fired in a free kick from range and a deflection off Joel Ward saw the ball cannon off the outside of the post. A fourth and the Palace fans at the bar might have been heading for the train.
Unsurprisingly the shape and personnel was changed by Pardew at half time. The under-fire manager, in some quarters it would seem, would appear to have flicked a coin to pick which one of his two completely ineffectual strikers he would replace. The coin landed favourably. Emmanuel Adebayor was hooked and on came Yannick Bolasie to hearty cheers from the travelling support.
Pulis would have spent half time organising a shutting up of the proverbial shop so would have been steaming from the ears when a Damien Delaney header, from 10 yards inside his own half, was allowed to bounce five yards outside the Baggies area just 3 minutes after the break. Even then Jonas Olsson could have simply nodded the ball back to Ben Foster but clearly thought that his keeper was coming to collect and positioned himself to hold off the onrushing Connor Wickham. The Palace number twenty-one stole in, lifted the ball over the keeper, run around him and tapped home left footed to claim his first Palace goal from open play.
Behind the goal that was seeing all of the goals the Palace fans had been getting increasingly frustrated with referee Jon Moss. Wilfried Zaha and Yohan Cabaye were targeted for aggressive treatment by Pulis’ men and Moss was prepared to let two footed lunges and tackles from behind slide when they were made on either of those two, yet blow up every single time Palace reciprocated the treatment on a West Brom player. The frustrated boiled over to sheer anger just two minutes after Wickham had scored. Bolasie sprinted away down the left and won a corner. The first was flapped at by Foster and went for a second that Cabaye floated in. Dann was completely unmarked and was a cert to head home a second Palace goal. Instead, Gareth McAuley made a beeline for the Palace defender and speared into his back. Incredulously, Moss waved play on when he should be awarding a penalty and sending off McAuley for denying a clear goal scoring opportunity. I approximate that the foul was 17 times worse than the foul that won Troy Deeney a penalty at Selhurst Park a few weeks ago. The hosts then broke and Berahino clipped the outside of the angle with a curling effort. If that would have gone in, there might have been a riot in the away end.
Twenty minutes later and Moss managed to outdo himself yet again. Mutch fed Bolasie and the wingers dummy completely fooled Darren Fletcher and the former Manchester United midfield went through Yala like a freight train. Moss, little more than five yards away, again waves play on. Surely he should be booking Bolasie for diving if he thinks that Bolasie has tried to win a penalty through deception?
James Chester then went through Cabaye with a high boot and flourish of a stamp, but apparently that was only enough for a booking, and from the resulting free kick, Wickham smashed home a stunning volley into the far top corner after the ball had dropped in the area.
Palace pushed for an equaliser and came close with 8 minutes remaining. Zaha won a corner which Dann climbed to meet. His header found the target but Gardner was there to clear off the line. Meanwhile, behind Dann a West Brom defender looks like he is trying to rip off Mile Jedinak’s shirt. Again, around 15 times more of a foul than Jedinak on Deeney at Selhurst Park a few weeks ago.
The hosts held on for the win with Crystal Palace left ruing a shocking first half display.
Is Blaming the Referee Covering up the Cracks?
I saw many arguments yesterday suggesting that blaming the referee for missing two blatant penalties was detracting from the abysmal first half display. From the above you will be able to gauge how annoyed I was with yet another inept refereeing display and, yes we gave ourselves a mountain to climb, but on paper we would have climbed it if the decision had gone the way they should have.
There is no doubt that West Bom’s tactics in the first half shocked our coaching staff. We were not set up to deal with three up top and with Cabaye and Ledley both looking defensively abject in the middle, we were left with the back four up against the front three on far too many occasions and we were punished. We could keep hold of the ball as the pressing of the front three meant that our first thought was to go to long to Adebayor or Wickham, but the West Brom defence are all giants and they comfortably dealt with that game plan and as a result the ball kept coming back. By the time we reacted and moved Mutch centra to give us the extra man in the middle that we needed and Wickham out left, we were already three nil down. This switch should have happened as soon as the first goal went in as it was clear that we couldn’t cope.
I saw Dann getting blamed for the third goal, when in reality he was left out to dry by our tactics as he had no choice but to come over and cover, as pointed out by Graeme le Saux on Match of the Day. I’ve seen Hennessey getting lambasted for the first goal. Sure he his save looked awkward but he did save it and is extremely unlucky that it fell where it did, but again he was exposed because our pace-less back four is not built to handle a front three without a central midfield that is built to help out.
I’m making no excuses for the second goal. Dann and Delaney should be fined a week’s wages each for going missing.
Pardew got it horribly wrong in the first half and was slow to change it that resulted in the loss. But credit where it is due, he got it right in the second half and it should have been enough to see us salvage at least a point.
What is worrying is that we appear to be a one man team. Since Bolasie found his feet in October he has been near unplayable. He then gets injured and we have not one a league game since. He comes back for one half and we win that half two nil and could have easily scored four. Could we actually replace him regardless of the amount if we were to sell him? His worth to us, for me and many others I know, is far beyond what anyone could pay for him.
Man of the Match: Yannick Bolasie
Completely changed the game in our favour and alsmot hauled us back into the match with a display full of energy, pace and skill. He basically scared the shit out of them when he came on and immediately tilted the game in our favour.
I’m very excited to, fingers crossed, get an extended period of games with Zaha, Wickham and Bolasie up front.
Up Next: Sunderland
Somehow this is now a must win match. We are fast approaching the point where we would require a point a game to reach the 40 point mark. We need to arrest this slide and doing it against a team that is below us is exactly what we need to do.
Come on you Palace!