West Ham 2-2 Palace
Crystal Palace moved to within one game of tying the unwanted Club record of fifteen league games without a win with a 2-2 draw at Upton Park. If the Eagles do equal the record at home to Norwich next week, then relegation will have to be seriously considered for the first time – something that would have been unthinkable when Lee Chung-Yong scored the last Crystal Palace winner on December 19th.
Damien Delaney headed the visitors into the lead on 15 minutes thanks to the first of three gifts they would receive on the afternoon. A Bakary Sako free kick was whipped in and looked to be heading wide of the far post and out for a goal kick. Adrian decided to parry the effort and instead of getting it away from the danger area, he put the ball on a plate for the Irish defender, who headed home from a tight angle.
The joy was short lived, however. Fewer than three minutes later, the hosts were level. Joel Ward got caught under the flight of the ball and a knock down at the back post deflected off Scott Dann and Manuel Lanzini was on hand to score against Palace for the second time this season.
The returning Jason Puncheon then had a golden chance to regain the lead in the best move of the half. Joel Ward picked the ball up on the half way line and knocked it short to Mile Jedinak. The captain gave the ball Joe Ledley and the Welsh did well to hold off two West Ham players before finding Puncheon. Sako laid a pass from Puncheon back to Jedinak first time and the Australian swept the ball out to the left to Pape Souare. The Senegal international’s cross found Puncheon completely unmarked on the edge of the six yard box but the Palace number 42 could only get his knee onto the ball and his effort flew over the bar.
Then came yet more magic from Dimitri Payet. He picked up a poor clearing header from Souare and then drew a clumsy challenge from Ward to set up a free kick opportunity. Moments later the ball was hitting the underside of the crossbar in the far top corner and the hosts were heading into the break with the lead.
Wilfried Zaha was replaced by Dwight Gayle at the break and the striker almost latched onto a short back pass from Cheikhon Kouyate. It resulted in a 50/50 challenge with Adrian on the edge of the penalty area and the ball dropped kindly for Ledley. The bearded midfielder found Sako on the edge of the penalty area with a quite brilliant first time past and the winger, making his first start since the loss at Villa Park in January, had two West Ham outfield players between him and the goal. His curling effort evaded the first but could not beat Aaron Cresswell on the line.
Then on 67 minutes the game changed in an instant as Palace received a second gift of the afternoon. Kouyate miss-controlled the ball and in an effort to win it back from Gayle he flew into a tackle and Mark Clattenburg deemed it to be a straight red offence and for once we were on the right end of a questionable Clattenburg decision.
Palace immediately put West Ham under pressure and a buccaneering run from Yannick Bolasie down the right, who came into the game in the second half when he was moved from striker to winger, and his cross found Sako at the back post. It wasn’t the easiest of chances on the volley but with the quality that Sako’s left foot can possess, he should be expected find the empty net.
The third and final gift arrived on 75 minutes. Souare whipped in dangerous cross from the left and it just evaded Winston Reid’s attempted header. Angelo Ogbonna was not expecting the header to be missed and his attempted clearance was rushed and cannoned back off Reid’s leg. Lying in wait was the poacher Gayle who brilliantly used the scrambling Reid as a shield to curl the ball around and into the bottom corner.
Bolasie turned on the afterburners late on to leave Cresswell standing and his cutback missed Faizer Campbell and Gayle but Sako was flying in at the back stick. Winston Reid wanted it more though and put in a sterling block to deny Palace a dramatic winner.
Was it a Red Card?
Ian Wright said ‘yes’ on Match of the Day, Alan Shearer said ‘no’. I tend to agree with Alan Pardew that it was “a bit harsh” but by the letter of the law it is a red card. He has lunged in with studs showing and if you’re going to do that, you’re risking the wrath of the referee. If Dwight Gayle’s foot was planted then that is a potential leg breaker. Thankfully it wasn’t but we know that referee are told to clamp down on this so it is hardly surprising when players are sent off for it.
West Ham are going to appeal the red card, they will lose the appeal I am almost certain.
Anyway, it is merely karma for the nonsense red card that Gayle received in the game between these two sides at Selhurst Park earlier in the season.
Was it brilliance from Dimitri Payet or another error add to the ever growing list of Wayne Hennessey cock ups? As annoying as it is that he is beaten on his side of the goal, I think that we have to give Wayne the benefit of the doubt here.
All of Payet’s free kicks this season from that side of the goal have gone over the wall so you have to understand why he has taken that step across. If Payet had picked up the ball and placed it with his hands he couldn’t have put it in a better place than he did. The first time that Hennessey sees that ball, it will look like it is flying over. The dip and placement is perfection.
It feels easy with what has passed since December to jump on his straight away, but I think people are being unfair on this one. After all, listen to everything that has been said about it the goal, not one person outside of Crystal Palace fans has said that Hennessey was at fault.
Man of the Match: Jason Puncheon
I don’t think that he was amazing by any stretch of the imagination, however, he was often a calming influence in the middle and showed a desire to get a result that has been missing somewhat of late. I really hope he can kick on and once again end the season with a run of goals.
Up Next: Norwich City
It is our biggest league game of the season, it’s that simple. Win and we can start planning for another season in the Premier League. Lose and the league table is going to start looking very ugly.
Come on you Palace!