Palace 2-2 B'Mouth

Milivojevic (pen 41) Dann (44)
Defoe (10, 45+3)
Sat 9th December 2017
Selhurst Park

Crystal Palace left points on the table once more at Selhurst Park after Christian Benteke missed an injury-time penalty. Wilfried Zaha was fouled by Charlie Daniels, and as the visitors protested the decision, Benteke decided that he was going to take the penalty instead of Luka Milivojevic. The Belgium internationals tame penalty was comfortably saved by Asmir Begovic and the Eagles slipped back to the bottom of the Premier League as a result.

Roy Hodgson’s men made the brighter start only to fall behind on ten minutes. A ‘training ground routine’ corner kick appeared to have caught the host napping as Jermaine Defoe stroked the ball home when unmarked near the penalty spot. Jeffrey Schlupp immediately raced towards the referee, backed by his skipper Mamadou Sakho, but the goal stood. Replays showed that Josh King practically rugby tackled the Palace full-back as he attempted to track the goalscorer.

Four minutes before the break, Zaha was felled in the penalty area by a combination of Begovic and Nathan Ake. Unbelievably, referee Kevin Friend pointed to the spot and Milivojevic despatched the penalty towards the top right-hand corner. Somewhat incredulously, Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe would accuse Zaha of “diving” and said, “you don’t want to see any team cheating intentionally.” Apparently, irony is lost on Howe.

With half-time approaching, Palace got their noses in front as Scott Dann, on for the injured Sakho, slid in a Yohan Cabaye to become the first centre-back in Premier League history to score in four consecutive games against a single opposition. Bournemouth should look into signing him as it would be worth around four points a season to them.

Unfortunately, Defoe would score for the tenth time against Palace in his last eleven games against the Eagles, beautifully lobbing the ball over Julian Speroni to see the game level at the break.

Palace were the only team that looked likely to take the three points in the second half, but the Cherries would survive the onslaught thanks, in the main, to Benteke’s pass-back.

The Penalty Incident

I write these match reports a day after the game for a reason. I like to collect my thoughts and write them when I have had a chance to calm down from the game and reflect on the ninety minutes as sensibly as possible. Twenty-four hours later, however, I am still fuming. Social media suggests that I am not the only one.

From the moment Benteke went over to Luka, the penalty was missed, and it is infuriating.

A last-minute penalty is stressful enough for any penalty taker at the best of times. Factor in that it is the difference between moving away from the bottom of the table and continuing the momentum that the Club has built in recent weeks. Luka should have been left alone, and I do not doubt that he would have scored as emphatically as he did in the first half. He had to wait some time to take the forty-first-minute penalty. At one point, the Serbian glanced up at the big screen and laughed at his image before smashing the ball home. He is clearly as relaxed as they come from twelve-yards.

When Benteke goes over to Milivojevic, he has unnecessarily piled on the pressure on the penalty taker. Even if Hodgson marches onto the pitch, takes the ball from Benteke and substitutes him, Benteke has now created a scenario that it is impossible for Luka to take the penalty from a mental space that he would normally be in.

The fact that Benteke wins the argument is a disgrace. He had previously missed half the penalties that he has taken for Palace and Milivojevic has never missed a penalty in his career. Luka is the designated penalty taker, Benteke is not. It should never have been up for discussion. But, once that it was, Scott Dann should have been straight over there to sort it out. After the game, Dann said that he didn’t realise what was going on. Sorry, I am not having that. The entire stadium knew what was going on. Tomkins and Zaha were screaming, punching the air and trying to get Luka to take the kick. If Dann has not seen any of this, he needs his eyes checked.

Would Benteke have taken the penalty in Sakho was on the field? I doubt it, but, if Sakho was on the field and went along with the decision to let Benteke take it, he would have given him a captain’s ‘geeing up’ before it which might have at least helped.

At the end of the day, everyone in the stadium knew that he was going to miss as the below video illustrates. If only a Palace fan had run onto the pitch and prevented it from happening. It would have been worth the ban.

Is this the end of Benteke at Palace?

I get that Benteke wanted, nay needed, a goal. Taking the penalty comes from a good place I am sure, but not when the situation of the team is as it is. Taking it without anyone actually, have the minerals to challenge him stinks of arrogance. However, I am not on board with the “sell him” bandwagon.   

If we sell Benteke, who do we buy? Who will want to come to us at this moment in time? There is absolutely no way we can upgrade him in January. He scored 18 goals last season and was carrying an injury at the start of this season before eventually getting too injured to play. If Luka takes the penalty, we are all talking about how it looked like Benteke was approaching somewhere near his best. His link-up play was brilliant at times and was a big part of our efforts in the final third. As long as this miss doesn’t affect him too badly, he should be back amongst the goals in the very near future.

I know that he can be frustrating, I know that he earns a lot of money and if he is not scoring, then his performances are going to be scrutinised. The fact is however, he is the best that we could hope to have up front at this moment in time. There is no one else available that suits our style whom we could actually sign. Please, get over your frustrations and back him on Tuesday night. We have no one else and need him to do the business. If we are booing him, we might just take away any desire he may have to right his wrong of yesterday.

Plucky little Bournemouth

Since they got promoted to the Premier League, they have been by far and away the dirtiest team and they engage in constant shithousery – their first goal is just one of many examples from this match.

Seeing Eddie Howe come out and accuse us of cheating is ridiculous. I really do not understand why he is the poster boy for all that is good about English managers. The guy is overrated, has spent a fortune and can do nothing other than kick lumps out of the opposition over and over. The day that everyone realises he is shit cannot come soon enough.

You can save this for the day that he inevitably becomes our manager haha.

Man of the Match: Wilfried Zaha

I am as annoyed as anyone that Hodgson persists with playing Zaha ‘in the hole’, however, what it does mean is that he still has bundles of energy in the last fifteen minutes and he has been dominating games in the last fifteen minutes. Hodgson appears to want to protect him from defensive responsibility so that he can focus on simply attacking. The problem is, he looks so much more dangerous in the moments that he drifts wide as opposed to when he picks the ball up in the middle.

If Wilf was a quick learner, I’d say that we could continue with it because he will figure out how to play the role and become a force in there. The problem is, he is not a quick learner. I don’t mean this disrespectfully, but we all know how long it took him to improve his final product.

At the moment, I am not sure the tradeoff between him not defending and being fresher for longer versus playing wide and having to defend is not worth it. Especially when switching him to the flank would enable us to play Loftus-Cheek through the middle, where he is dominant.

That all being said, Wilf was my man of the match. He never gave up and came within a penalty miss of inspiring a win on his 250th league appearance.

Up Next: Watford

The big games keep coming thick and fast. We need to turn these draws into wins, and we are going to have to get behind the team – ALL of them – under the lights to help them across the line.

Come on you Palace!  

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Kevin Friend

Crystal Palace

Palace Manager: 
Roy Hodgson


Opposition Manager: 
Eddie Howe