Palace 1-1- B'mouth
Scott Dann rescued a point for Crystal Palace in the third minute of injury time and relieved some of the pressure building on Eagles boss, Alan Pardew.
The hosts struggled again from set pieces and, after losing by one goal to nil in the opening two Premier League fixtures to goals from dead ball situations, after just eleven minutes it appeared that the lessons had still not been learned. Damien Delaney gave away a clumsy free kick that Christian Benteke, making his Premier League debut, initially headed clear only for Pape Souare to fall asleep when the ball was recycled back into the penalty area. Josh King found himself unmarked and produced a brilliant low finish into the far corner.
Palace had set up in a 4-4-2 formation with Connor Wickham partnering Benteke up front, and Eddie Howe’s men were swarming all over the Palace midfield, but Mike Dean gave Pardew’s men a route back into the game just four minutes later. Charlie Daniels was trying to swap shirts with Palace’s record signing Belgian striker and the referee awarded a penalty. New rule or not, it was a penalty. Unfortunately, Yohan Cabaye’s penalty kick was lackadaisical and was easily saved by Artur Boruc.
Andros Townsend came close to scoring his first goal in red ‘n’ blue when his over-hit cross almost caught Boruc out at the far post, but the Pole just managed to adjust his feet in time and palm the ball away to safety.
The visitors then schooled the hosts on how to build from the back. Goalkeeper to centre back, centre back to full-back, pass in between the lines into the striker, play one-two with other striker and find yourself one on one with the keeper. Although, Delaney will want to look away after some terrible positional play. Thankfully Steve Mandanda, also making his Premier League debut, was able to deny Callum Wilson.
The same Palace eleven that left the field at half-time returned for the second half, but they looked like an entirely different team. Jason Puncheon dropped deeper, alongside Cabaye, and James McArthur moved in behind Benteke. Puncheon started to pull the strings and the Scot's busy work further up the pitch finally gave the Bournemouth midfield and defence something to contemplate.
In recent season, Palace have been famed for their threat from set pieces and for the first time this season they were a threat once more. Dann met Puncheon's flat corner but his downwards header was brilliantly cleared off the line by Harry Arter.
The crowd started to sing for Wilfried Zaha and his introduction into the game, along with Lee Chung-Yong fully tipped the game in the Eagles’ favour.
Lee and Zaha combined, and the South Korean’s cross was met by Souare at the far post. The header back across goal could have gone anywhere but up and away it went for a Palace corner. The resulting cross from Puncheon was headed back across goal by Benteke, and again the Cherries were able to clear after a scramble on the line.
Zaha proved as soon as he came on that he had the beating of Daniels and his first cross picked out Lee, but his effort flew over the bar. Shortly later and the man that had been linked with Spurs in the week found Benteke with his back to goal. He held the ball for Lee who smashed his shot straight at Boruc. The parry fell to Joel Ward, but his shot was blocked when a square pass would have seen a tap in for Benteke.
Just when it looked like Howe’s men had weathered the storm, Townsend, Benteke and Puncheon combined and the Palace number forty-two’s cross picked out Dann who cannoned his header back across goal and into the far corner to earn a first point of the season for the Eagles.
Terrible First-Half, Second Half Reaction
At the end of the first half, a minuscule section of Block A in the Holmesdale Road started to call for Alan Pardew’s head. Whatever your stance is on whether or not there should be such open displays of discontent during a match – it is not too difficult to understand why they finally snapped at this point. We were embarrassingly overrun by Bournemouth when playing a 4-4-2 and before 20 minutes of the game had passed, Pardew was forced into a tactical change which meant that Connor Wickham was shunted out to the left wing.
The change to a 4-5-1 didn’t change much before the break and only heroics from Mandanda, when saving from Wilson, meant that we were still in the game at the break.
I think that a lack of a reaction from the players in the second half could have potentially seen the end of Pardew. Three defeats on the bounce, no goals scored and it would be difficult for anyone to build a case for the manager to stay. Pardew did get a reaction from the players and an impressive one at that. Just take a look at the stats for the second half:
- Pass accuracy: 88%-68%
- Shots: 20-2
- Chances Created: 14-2
- Crosses: 33-1
On another day we could have come back and won the game three or four one and the people chanting for Pardew’s head just before the break may have felt a little bit silly.
Of course, our awful form in 2016 does not all evaporate after one good half of football, but I have to search for green shoots of recovery – and there were some…
… and a lot of it comes down to this man. The sheer physical presence of the man is phenomenal. Take a look at the penalty award. Daniels has almost ripped the shirt from his back, but the Belgian has not even budged an inch. It is the reason that the penalty award looks soft to some as Benteke does not look like he has been impeded.
The way he brings the ball out of the air on his chest is majestic and his ability to do this in the penalty area, where it hurts, is going to serve us very well as the season goes on.
His ability, and desire, to hold the ball up brings our midfielders into play, again in areas where they can hurt the opposition. Look no further than the goal where Benteke created the space for Puncheon to cross from a dangerous area, into the space in the middle that Benteke had created for Dann by pulling defenders out of position with his movement.
Palace spending £28m on Benteke, in terms of comparative turnover, is like Manchester United spending £170m on Paul Pogba. However, if you factor in that we have sold Yannick Bolasie for almost the same price – early impressions are that we have majorly upgraded in the final third for, effectively, free.
It is a shame that he has been called up to the Belgium squad. The international break would have been a good time for our players to learn how to play to his strengths. Match of the Day highlighted a few situations where Benteke was asking for a different sort of service that he was receiving. Souare getting to the by-line and drilling in a low near post cross when Benteke had peeled away to the far post where he can be dominant springs to mind. Once we can start to tailor our crosses for his game, I am certain that he will score frequently. The crosses to him do not even need to be 100% accurate. He has shown that he can attack an area so our players merely need to stand the ball up and let him do the damage.
Mandanda’s Debut Glove
After the game, a bloke who drinks in the Victory had managed to get Steve Mandanda’s glove that he wore in the match. My friend Nick and I made him an offer for the gloves and he accepted. Based on what I have seen from the French international so far – it should prove to be a pretty solid piece of memorabilia.
Man of the Match: Jason Puncheon
Punch put in an as close to perfect game as one could hope.
- 87% Pass Accuracy
- 61 Passes (Most in Match)
- 6 Key Passes (Most in Match)
- 6 Accurate Crosses (Most in Match)
- 8 Accurate Long Balls (Most in Match – excluding Goalkeepers)
- 5 Dribbles (Most in Match)
- 5 Tackles (Most in Match)
In the second half, when he was moved into a deeper position alongside Cabaye, he embarrassed the French international in terms of output. Yohan sulked around the field after missing his penalty – a penalty that he stole from Benteke – and started making stupid tackles, putting the team at risk of playing with ten men. He then disappeared almost completely in the second half as Puncheon run the show and ended with the match saving assist.
Cabaye, on the other hand, really does need to step up in the middle of the park because, at the moment, Lee is doing enough for me to start ahead of him.
Up Next: Middlesbrough Away
Before the international break and our trip to Middlesbrough we need to have a big few days in the transfer window. At least one more striker needs to come in and, ideally a full back and a central attacking midfielder. Then it is over to Pardew to complete the transition and make us competitive again. I haven’t been the most positive person of late, but I really do hope that Pardew can turn it around.
Come on you Palace!