Palace 1-0 Watford
Crystal Palace became just the second team in ten years to win a Premier League match despite not having a shot on target. Their opponents, Watford, were the last team to achieve this feat back in October of this season when they benefitted from an own goal from Hull’s Michael Dawson. None of the hosts seven shots called Heurelho Gomes into action, but the stopper was beaten by his captain, Troy Deeney, with an imperious near post header.
With all their main relegation rivals losing, Palace moved four points clear of the relegation zone – a buffer that will be needed with an April from hell ahead in terms of fixture difficulty.
Should we be concerned with 0 shots on target
I don’t think so. We certainly created some good chances in this one. Some great blocks and poor shot accuracy in good positions were the reason for the doughnut in the shots on target column.
Zaha and Cabaye both saw efforts brilliantly blocked and both missed the target when slightly more composure would likely have seen them score.
At this stage of the season, I’ll take results however they come and I would probably have been more inclined pre-match to accept 1-0 with a Deeney own goal over 1-0 with a Christian Benteke overhead kick.
Talking of Christian Benteke
Talk about a man with no confidence in front of goal. Another reason for the zero shots on target stat is that the big Belgian twice neglected to shoot when the opportunity was ripe. The first time, he picked the ball up into a very similar position to the one that saw him score the winner for Villa at Selhurst Park a couple of seasons back. This time, instead of repeating the trick, he ran himself down a blind alley. They second time, Wilf found him through the eye of the needle, but Benteke failed to pull the trigger and then even tried to blame Wilf for pushing him to wide with the pass. The 23,000 Palace fans in attendance made it clear that he was barking up the wrong tree there with a roar of “SHOOT FOR FUCKS SAKE!”
I hope that it just takes a goal for him to reset and get back to his prolific ways. However, under Allardyce is going to have to do a lot of donkey work – which at the moment, he appears to be doing (most of the time) with little complaint.
A tough afternoon for Martin Atkinson
It was clear from the opening stages that the referee was going to struggle with the game. Wilfried Zaha, who tormented Watford all afternoon, ran from the halfway line, beating all comers before Craig Cathcart pushed the winger in the back right on the edge of the penalty area. Atkinson’s positioning couldn’t have been better, but his judgement couldn’t have been worse – and it didn’t get better for the official.
Tom Cleverley seemed to take offence to something that Yohan Cabaye had said as he completely levelled the Frenchman with an elbow to the stomach on the blind side of the referee. A clear red card. Later, Tom Cleverley seemed to be suggesting that Cabaye stamped on him. I haven’t seen any video evidence that shows this. After the goal, there is footage of Cleverley diving on the floor off the ball to cheat the referee into sending Cabaye off, but Atkinson again didn’t see the incident.
Zaha is very lucky not to have seen a red card in the second half when he smashed his forearm into the back of Sebastien Prödel. Wilf was battling for the ball with the Austrian defender and wore a slight elbow to his throat, however, it was far from deliberate and the Palace man reacting by thumping the Watford player to the ground. Luka Milivojevic came charging over and created a wall that prevented several of the Watford players from surrounding Zaha.
Moments later, Milivojevic flew into a challenge on M’Baye Niang and, despite taking the ball, also took a large chunk of the man with his studs showing. Luka will certainly claim to have been in control of his lunge, but by the book (these days) it is a red card. Palace broke away and Zaha was completely flattened by Prödel, the Austrian was booked, and from the resulting free-kick, Deeney headed into his own net.
Then more controversy and one that most seemed to miss and which certainly hasn’t been shown in any replays that I have seen. Deeney headed home, puts his hands on his head and then Gomes, in trying to gee him up, pushes him towards halfway just as Milivojevic is running past Deeney. There is a small collision, which is neither’s fault, yet the Watford captain lashes out and kicks the legs of Luka. Another clear red card missed. To be fair to Luka, he didn’t make a meal of it, jumped straight up and got on with it.
While Watford can certainly feel aggrieved with some of the decisions on the day, they cannot pick and choose the decisions that they want to highlight. Further, their dirty tactics the brought it upon themselves. From the first whistle, they were trying to kick Zaha and Cabaye up in the air. The response from Palace was encouraging. For too long we have been a soft touch now, but in this one, we stepped up to the physical challenge and gave as good as we got. Allardyce had clearly installed some metal into the troops.
Man of the Match: Wilfried Zaha
Cabaye and James Tomkins came close. The former was everywhere and with a bit more luck could have had two goals, the latter was a rock at the back before hobbling off. Zaha, however, was on a different planet. He was ghosting past defenders with ease, was threatening and ultimately won the game with his positivity.
Up Next: Chelsea
Yet another two-week break before the tough run begins. Chelsea have won every game but one at the Bridge this season which makes it a nearly impossible task. However, we did win there last season (yes that was only last season – yet it seems so long ago!) which means we have to go there with some hope. If we come away with anything, the feel-good factor will be sky high around SE25.
Come on you Palace!