Palace 0-1 Spurs
Crystal Palace’s impressive run against the top six came to an end on Wednesday night as Sam Allardyce’s men lost to a late Christian Eriksen goal against twelve man Spurs.
Jon Moss and the Bottle Job
The game looked to be heading for a stalemate before the Denmark international let fly from 35 yards, beating Wayne Hennessey low to his right. The strike moved Spurs back to within four points of Chelsea, but the big talking point after the match was Jonathan Moss’ decision not to send off Victor Wanyama.
The midfielder had already been booked for a late tackle when he dived in and flattened an advancing Andros Townsend. The foul was the definition of a yellow card, but Moss decided to let him off with a stern word. A few weeks back, Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville trained with the referee’s and the officials said that it hurts the most when commentators say that “they bottled a decision.” Well, stop bottling decisions and perhaps people will stop saying it. If Moss has deemed it a foul, then it must be a yellow card and thus a red card.
It didn’t get much better for the man in the middle – and I will stress the word “middle”, as he can’t keep up with play and spends most of the time stood in the middle of the pitch. Dembele committed four fouls in the first half. Two of them were, once again, the definition of a yellow card. On the occasion of what should have been his second yellow card, Moss pulled him to one side, pointed out his three previous fouls with over-elaborate gestures and then, with another over-elaborate gesture, told him “no more” and didn’t book him. This is from the referee that has booked the most players in the Premier League this season! What was going on, one may ask.
Joel Ward, first foul, booked. Milivojevic, first foul, booked. Oh, I see what is going on here. Sissoko kicks the ball away, no yellow. Zaha kicks the ball away, yellow. Yup, there it is. Big team favouritism that supposedly doesn’t exist. A Tottenham player could have pulled a shiv from his sock and stabbed a Palace player and got away with it – unless it was Dele Alli, Moss seemed to have it in for him for some reason.
Jon Moss’ big team favouritism undoubtedly affected the game. In the first-half, Crystal Palace matched Spurs and shaded the half. If the red cards had happened, we would have had a great chance of winning the game. In the second-half, two major happenings changed the game.
Firstly, Pochettino became the third opposition manager in an eighteen-month period that has been given the opportunity to substitute players after they should have seen red cards. Dembele and Wanyama were removed from the action and Spurs switched their formation to match ours. Obviously, this is a huge compliment to the way that our team was performing. However, it doesn’t make it any less annoying that Moss gave him the opportunity to make this adjustment, no matter how smart it was from the Spurs boss.
Secondly, the injury to Mamadou Sakho completely changed the momentum of the game. After the Liverpool loanee had gone off injured, Palace mustered just one more shot on goal. The defensive line dropped deeper and deeper, Townsend and Zaha were pushed further back and Spurs easily controlled the game. Vertonghen and Alderweireld with Dier acting as a foil in front of them look formidable, and Benteke barely got a sniff before being substituted.
Regardless of Moss’ terrible display, Pochettino’s tactical switch at half-time and Sakho’s injury – we probably did enough to earn a point, but when your goalkeeper is average, you’re only one moment away from losing at 0-0.
The beauty of procrastinating and writing this match report two days late is that we now know that Sakho’s season might not be over just yet. Where any mere mortal’s leg would have snapped in two, Sakho appears to have only bruised and strained his ligaments which means that he could make the last game of the season at Old Trafford.
With my hands on my head, I watched him being carried off pondering; “is he the greatest centre-back that I have seen in my years of supporting Palace.”
The answer is a resounding yes.
He is exactly what we love from a centre-back at Palace. Heart on his sleeve, Diving into tackles, making blocks, huge clearing headers and giving 100% in everything he does. On top of that, his positioning is near faultless, he can pass, and he can dribble. He has it all.
Should those 55 minutes be the last that we ever see him in a Palace shirt, he will never be forgotten by this Crystal Palace fan. He has fully earned Cult Hero status in just a handful of games, and I will be telling my grandchildren about the crazy centre-back that backheeled his way out of trouble almost as many times as Damo launches diagonal long balls. I will be telling them how he could be flying full-stretch towards his own goal yet somehow clear the ball to the edge of the penalty area with a backwards header. I will be telling them that he went to Anfield as a Liverpool player, and celebrated our win.
What a player.
Please sign for us.
Man of the Match: Martin Kelly
I struggled to choose between Kelly, Schlupp and Milivojevic. The reason that I went for Kelly is that his performance far exceeded what I thought he was capable. He kept Harry Kane very quiet, which is no mean feat, and put in an excellent all-round performance. I guess this is what happens when a player gets an extended run in the position that they actually play.
In the middle of the park, Luka intercepted the ball EIGHT times. The closest to him on the pitch was Ward and Zaha on two. The fact that he saw off Dembele, who is the “hipsters” best player in the league, bodes extremely well for us going forward. Just think what this man is going to be doing for us when he is fully up to speed with the Premier League.
Many said that Schlupp was the man of the match at Liverpool, I disagreed. In this one, I would have understood the argument. He completed the most tackles in the match as well as the most clearances and his pace bailed us out over and again. Still, not a left back for me.
The internal battle has begun – to sing, or not to sing, “Allardyce’s red n blue army.” Many in the Holmesdale were singing his name, with a clear minority, refusing to join in. I was in the minority, as were the HF.
I cannot speak for the HF - I can only speak for myself. I will never sing his name. The reasons are two-fold. The first is for all the reasons that he was the subject of a Panorama documentary, was sacked by England, is a known bully, works to use the new-found fortunes in football to further hurt the game and so on. That stuff matters to me. It doesn’t have to matter to you. You should be able to turn up and enjoy Palace and not have to concern yourself with what sort of man that is bringing us this relative success. Unfortunately, for me, I cannot do that. I wish I could, but my wiring doesn’t allow it. Ultimately, it will probably ruin football for me at some point down the line – and that thought makes me sad.
Secondly, after singing “There’s only one Tony Pulis” at Upton Park – I have vowed only to sing a manager’s name if they used to play for the Club and did something worthwhile. This is probably irrational, especially when that would mean that, in the past, I would not have sung Steve Coppell’s name as he never played for us. But, that is where I am in my head now. That might one day change when the memory of Pulis fades, but it will not change while the current man is in charge.
I know that is not a popular opinion, but this, at the end of the day, is a blog of my thoughts and I am not going to stop sharing them as they are after seven years.
Up Next: Burnley
What’s that, Burnley? You haven’t won away from home all season long?
The next task for Allardyce is to shed the reputation we have for allowing teams to end their awful runs at Selhurst Park. For that reason, I think that this game is very important for the future, more so than in the context of this season.
Come on you Palace!