Palace 1-1 Newcastle
Another priceless two points were left on the table as Crystal Palace were held at Selhurst Park by Newcastle United on Sunday. The visitors took the lead after a near post corner from Chelsea loanee Kenedy dribbled all the way to the back post where Mo Diame was on hand to prod into the empty net.
Before the Newcastle number 10 had given the Magpies the lead on 22 minutes, Palace had already passed up two golden opportunities to take the lead. A brilliant ball from Luka Milivojevic saw Wilfried Zaha move in between the two opposing centre-backs, but a heavy touch saw the ball run through to the impressive Karl Darlow. Christian Benteke then followed suit after great work from Patrick van Aanholt had put the Belgium through one on one. This time, Darlow stood tall and blocked the effort with his torso.
Despite not playing well, the Eagles continued to create chances, and Zaha saw an effort blocked after he looked set to score from a Timothy Fosu-Mensah cutback.
Wayne Hennessey then kept Palace in the game with a fantastic double stop. First, he denied Kenedy with his body before jumping up and flying away to his left to parry away an Ayoze Perez effort. At the other end, Yohan Cabaye passed up the opportunity to score against his former team, but he followed up Benteke’s flick with a tame effort from twelve-yards.
On his 100th appearance for the Club, Martin Kelly then hobbled off injured before the break, adding to the ever-growing list of crocks in SE25. A more notable name would follow a couple of days later.
Roy Hodgson, as he has had to do so many times since arriving at the Club, had to switch things up at half-time and Zaha moved on to the flank, and James McArthur moved in behind Benteke. The impact was almost instant. Wilf was away down the left, and Andros Townsend headed over. Moments later, he was away again, and this time his cross was just over Benteke. There were no appeals for a penalty by any Palace players, but the assistant referee was flagging wildly and awarded a penalty for a shirt pull. By the book he was correct, but it was certainly soft. Luka stepped up and, just about, beat Darlow to his left.
Palace were now brimming with confidence Rafa’s men couldn’t handle the pace. The interchanges were quick and elegant, and the chances were flowing. Benteke headed over, Townsend missed a scorpion effort, Cabaye spooned an effort clear of the goal and Darlow was once again brilliant to deny McArthur at his feet.
The Scot, reinvigorated after two and half games were of poor performances, went close again after dribbling to the edge of the box and firing over. Zaha, who was terrorising Yedlin, curled wide and provided Benteke with a cross that looked set to bring the winner only to see both his efforts blocked on the line.
Then came the moment of controversy. A Palace corner was floated in, and if the shirt pull on Benteke was a penalty earlier on in the half, then this was two penalties. McArthur tried to peel away from Jonjo Shelvey only for the former Charlton man to pull him back by the shirt. Consistency is all we ask for.
Cabaye and Atsu both tried hard to fashion chances in injury time, but both teams would have to settle for a point.
The Christian Benteke Debate
We love a trier at Palace. The common theory at Palace is that Benteke does not try – is “lazy” in fact. He rarely runs channels and can often seem slow to press. This is a sure-fire way to get you into hot water with many Palace fans, especially if you’re not scoring goals.
Look at the flip side of the coin – Cameron Jerome. There was a man that did not stop running. He chased practically every lost cause and turned some into chances and goals for Palace. He barely came under any criticism, despite scoring just two goals for the team.
I don’t think that anyone will argue the case with any true belief that Jerome is better than Benteke. However, people might feel like they could argue to the contrary at the moment if the goal return of the two players is the same. Of course, the argument would be nonsense. Benteke is still twice the player, whether he chases lost causes or not. His link-up play has been the centre of so much of the good that has happened in this run and getting on his back because he doesn’t want to chase a lost cause is counterproductive.
Of course, it is fair to be frustrated with his lack of goals. He cost us and continues to cost us, a lot of money. £100k a week and a £30m fee is ridiculous considering we nearly went out of business in recent memory for a fraction of that cost. He has to deliver, and I think he will. He scored against West Ham, missed a hatful against Burnley and missed a hatful in this one. It must be only a matter of time before they start going in. Right?
Wilfried Zaha Injured
For crying out loud. We wait for Roy Hodgson's press conference on Thursday for more details, but the rumours are not good as he appears to have picked up a knee injury that will keep him out for weeks rather than days.
Wilfried’s second-half performance was as good as any he has put in this season after a dip in form for a couple of games. For him to be stopped in his tracks now would be a big problem for the relegation run in.
If he is going to miss four games, arguably this is the best time for it to happen with 4 of the top 5 making up our coming fixtures. He would then be back in time for the final matches of the seasons that are, on paper, very winnable.
If the injury is longer than 4 games – well then we have to hope that Sorloth is the next Drogba.
Man of the Match: Patrick van Aanholt
He can be distinctly sloppy, and his positioning can be incredibly bad at times, but on occasion, he looks every inch the prospect that everyone has thought that he is for so long. This was one of those games. He was a driving force going forward and kept his flank under control at the back.
Up Next: Everton
Sam Allardyce. Hello, old friend.
Come on you Palace!