Palace 2-1 Watford
There was late drama at Selhurst Park for the third game running as Crystal Palace snatched a win from the jaws of defeat at the death. Bakary Sako and James McArthur both came off the bench to score in the 89th and 92nd minutes, sending Marco Silva’s Watford home wondering how they came away with nothing.
Daryl Janmaat put the visitors ahead as early as the third minute, nodding home a cross from Richarlison. As the hosts struggled to get to grips with the Brazilian, the Hornets threatened to run riot.
Watford’s dominance culminated in a golden chance for Troy Deeney to put the game to bed. Again, Richarlison provided the assist, but Deeney, from six yards out, could not find the net that he scored an own goal in last season.
Palace would grow into the game and were arguably the better team for the last ten minutes of the first period which left many confident of a comeback at the break. Instead, Watford took control yet again at the start of the second half before Roy Hodgson looked to his bench for inspiration.
Roy Hodgson’s Substitutions
‘There are no goals on our bench’ they said!
You would have to have been, well, mental to bet on Sako and McArthur climbing off the bench and both scoring. Credit must go to, Roy Hodgson.
His first substitution was brave. Replacing Andros Townsend with Patrick van Aanholt was unexpected, but we didn’t get a chance to see if it would work. Just moments later, Timothy Fosu-Mensah never recovered from a tweak when tracking back at full sprint and PvA had to slot in at right back and Bakary Sako entered the fray. This pushed Zaha out wide and the game started to tilt into Palace’s favour.
Then on 77 minutes, McArthur replaced a tired looking Yohan Cabaye, and he took the game by the scruff of the neck. His directness on the ball forced Tom Cleverley into fouling for his first yellow card, and his willingness to get into the penalty area gave the Watford defence a lot more to think about.
Hodgson talked after the game about Sako being receptive in training to what they want from him as a front player. His power and directness were a real asset when he came on in this one, and if he can apply himself like this on a more consistent basis, maybe he will have a role to play going forward.
It is clear that Palace started to look far more of a threat when Zaha pulled out to the left wing and I would love to be able to sit down with Roy to gain an understanding of why he persists in playing him up top with Benteke.
I shared my theory that he doesn’t want Zaha wasting energy on defending, as he would have to do if he was on the flank, and that has meant that Zaha has been increasingly dominant late in games – and this was obviously the case again in this one. But, with the first goal often so important in the Premier League more often than not, should we not want to do it early rather than late?
Having Zaha in the middle also pushes Ruben Loftus-Cheek out wide where he is so obviously wasted. His defending is abject, as demonstrated by his either unwillingness or straight up lack of defensive know-how, to track Janmaat for the Watford goal. If he is costing us goals and not being able to display his array of talents, what is the point of him? On top of all that – Zaha has learned over the years to be a very competent defensive winger.
I know questioning this seems crazy as we are now 6 games unbeaten, but I just feel that we could be a far better team than we are.
I am not going to write much here; I just want to share a few pictures. The response to McArthur’s goal from almost all our players was exceptional. Speroni down on his knees, Benteke smashing the ball into the net, Luka punching the air like a madman, half the team chasing McArthur, half the team chasing Zaha, Zaha letting out a primal scream. It was all magical. That being said, the complete lack of emotion shown by van Aanholt was weird. Perhaps a move to Everton is already on the cards in January.
Man of the Match: Wilfried Zaha
He, quite simply, has Watford's number.
It is criminal that Wilf comes away from this match with zero assists to his name. His performance thoroughly deserved them.
I am not going to tell you that he had a blinder, far from it. For a vast majority of the game, he was double teamed by Watford players and struggled to have an impact. He was on the end of some rough, but largely fair, treatment and the Watford were loving his failures. What was encouraging though was that he kept his head… just.
He channelled everything into that last ten minutes where he became utterly unplayable and when you have a player like that in your team, no game is ever lost.
From the point that the sending off occurred, the atmosphere was amazing and the culmination of the entire stadium bouncing around and singing James McArthur’s names for a few minutes was electric. I have scored it relatively low, however, because it was pretty shoddy otherwise.
There must also be a nod to us all for having a little bit more pep in our cheer for Benteke when his name was announced just before kick-off. Deep down, I liked to think that there wouldn’t be any considerable boos, but to here everyone backing him was encouraging.
Speroni: 400 Not Out
Congratulations to Jules on reaching this outstanding landmark. Crazy to think, if he'd not tried to dribble around Kevin Campbell and Alan Pardew hadn't been so threatened by his popularity, he could have challenged Jim Cannon's record of 660 appearances.
In this one, he made a vital save at 1-0 to keep us in the game and surely did enough to maintain his place for the next match.
Up Next: Leicester
Probably the worst time to play them. They look to be in blistering form and with Mahrez rediscovering his form, conveniently in time for the opening of the transfer window, it looks set to be a tough afternoon. Still, we are in decent form ourselves, so you never know. I certainly will not be heading there without hope.
Come on you Palace!