Palace 0-0 Man City
Crystal Palace slowed the Manchester City juggernaut at Selhurst Park on New Year’s Eve in a game that possessed far more entertainment than the scoreless outcome suggests. The hosts missed a penalty through Luka Milivojevic, and both Kevin de Bruyne and Jason Puncheon were stretchered from the field, and that was just in injury time at the end of the match.
The visitors enjoyed a majority of the possession, but a tactical masterclass from Roy Hodgson, executed in a near faultless fashion from his players, saw City fail to score for the first time in the Premier League this season.
Christian Benteke marked Fernandinho out of the game. The Brazilian did not have the chance to get City moving, and that meant they had to force the ball a bit more, which enabled the likes of Yohan Cabaye and Jairo Riedewald the chance to intercept passes or get closer to make tackles. Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend kept Danilo and Kyle Walker occupied which meant that they could not help overload on City attacks and this meant that the defenders had less to worry about when dealing with attacks. Patrick van Aanholt and Timothy Fosu-Mensah’s pace nullified Leroy Sane and Ilkay Gundogan. The game plan was perfectly executed, and Roy might just have given teams the template on how to deal with City who managed just four shots on target in the match.
The Missed Penalty
For the first time since Luka arrived at Palace, I was not confident when he stepped up to take the penalty. He put the ball on the spot and then spent a few seconds with his hands on his knees as he tried to suck some air into his lungs. After spending 180 minutes chasing around two of the best passing sides in the Premier League in the space of just 48 hours, he was clearly exhausted and the lack of power in the penalty showed this.
As for the three Manchester City players, all standing directly in front of Luka and shouting at him before he took the penalty, well, the media haven’t mentioned that as it doesn’t fit the narrative. It shithousery of the highest agenda from City, but Chris Sutton, Jake Humphrey, Michael Owen (the list goes on) are too far up their arses to mention anything about it.
The Media Agenda Against Zaha
I had this sectioned penned, but Steve Parish has written it for me in the Daily Mail:
"There’s an agenda against Wilfried Zaha.
"I don’t know why or where it comes from, but it is outrageous to accuse him of being a diver. It’s total nonsense.
"I’m not sure some of the pundits pointing the finger at Wilf even know the rules. What are they watching?
"The penalty we were awarded against Manchester City on Sunday was nailed on. Wilf can’t carry on running. He can’t stay up. He’s in front of Sterling who pulls his arm and falls on him. Look at the picture. How is that not a penalty?
"It’s nonsense to claim he dived. If he could have stayed on his feet, he would have done."
Unfortunately, the Daily Mail had already given Chris Sutton oxygen and allowed him to accuse Wilfried Zaha of diving, something that he has since been cleared of by the diving panel, because, well, he didn’t dive:
"It would be laughable if the panel do not punish him. Hopefully, a two-game ban will encourage Zaha to clean up his act."
Clean up what act, mate? If other teams stop kick lumps out of him he wouldn’t be falling over so much. Seeing that he has been cleared, we should be expecting an apology from Chris Sutton. I will not be holding my breath.
I think it all boils down to this. Zaha was written off by every single pundit after he left Manchester United. Wilf has now proven them all wrong, and they hate being proved wrong, so are hell-bent on burying him by any means possible. It is childish in the extreme, but they are too stupid to see that this is only going to spur Wilf on further.
Jason Puncheon the Murderer
The media was not done with throwing shots as Palace as most outlets seem to want to see Jason Puncheon locked up for 30 years for murder for fouling Kevin de Bruyne. I must be viewing the world through red and blue tinted specs as I really do not understand why the foul is such an issue?
He went for the ball, he was late, and he caught de Bruyne with a hooked leg. It wasn’t studs up, it wasn’t executed with excessive force, he was merely late. The reason being was because Puncheon had his back to the penalty when it was being taken. Puncheon’s only crime was taking his eye off the ball.
The other week, Dele Alli stamped on de Bruyne in what was a real leg-breaking challenge and yet he seems to have got off more lightly than Puncheon.
Further, what is Puncheon supposed to do in that scenario? It is the final minute of injury time, City are breaking in numbers, and arguably the best passer of the football in the world is about to release one of the fastest players in the world in Leroy Sane. Is Puncheon supposed to just say – “go on, Kev, fill your boots mate” – or does he have to make a challenge even if it is 30/70 against?
The media need to take a day off. They’re embarrassing.
That being said, I wish a speedy recovery to de Bruyne, Punch, Jesus and Dann. Ironically, the only one that looks set to be back within a week is that one that Jason Puncheon killed.
Man of the Match: Timothy Fosu-Mensah
He marked Sane out of the game and had Manchester United fans questioning why he is out on loan and not playing at United. Timothy still has a lot to learn about defending, but his pace is such a big asset it can often get him out of trouble. On this occasion, everything he attempted worked out and Sane had to give up and switch flanks in the second half just to get away from him.
Now let’s see this on a more consistent basis!
There were other big performances all over the pitch. James Tomkins is in the best form of his Palace career and was excellent once again. Patrick van Aanholt had his best game in a Palace shirt. Then there was Jairo Riedewald who was magnificent in the middle of the park. Tackles, interceptions and a glorious range of passing, even though he was, clearly by instruction, regularly attempting high risk passes to try and get us away on the counter. His performance had many people asking if he could be a long-term replacement for Yohan Cabaye, who is out of contract this summer. Based on that performance, I don’t see why not.
The best atmosphere at Selhurst in a while. Five minutes before the break, the entire crowd were chanting Roy Hodgson’s red ‘n’ blue army and my friend Jon Petrie summed it up best – “it was trance-like.” Having since watched the game back on TV, the singing was almost non-stop through the match and I am sure the support helped the players to pick up the unlikely result.
Up Next: Southampton
Our record there in the league is shoddy, they will be on a day’s more rest and will also be on a high after coming away from Old Trafford with a point in their last match. It is a big game for both teams, but seeing that we have such great momentum in comparison to a more stuttering Southampton, I hope that we can edge them out on the night.
Come on you Palace!