Palace 2-3 Man Utd

Townsend (11) van Aanholt (48)
Smalling (55) Lukaku (76) Matic (90+1)
Mon 5th March 2018
Selhurst Park

Crystal Palace suffered yet more late heartache at Selhurst Park, this time at the hands of Manchester United. After losing to an 88th minute Harry Kane goal the previous weekend, the Eagles fell to a stunning 91st minute Nemanja Matic strike despite leading the game by two goals with nearly two-thirds of the game gone.

A deflected Andros Townsend effort gave Roy Hodgson’s men the lead in the 11th minute, and Patrick van Aanholt double the lead three minutes after the break to put the hosts into what looked like a commanding position. That was until Chris Smalling pulled one back with a header nine minutes later after James Tomkins played him onside.

As United pushed for an equaliser, Christian Benteke cleared a Matic shot off the line with 16 minutes left, but the clearance provided only a brief respite. Two minutes later, a deflected Alexis Sanchez shot looped onto the crossbar, and the Romelu Lukaku (I am unsure if this was before or after he had pissed himself) was first to react and eventually fired through a crowd of players and into the back of the net.

The goal slapped Palace into life and two glorious opportunities to retake the lead came and went.

A little over sixty seconds after Lukaku had scored, Benteke met a Townsend centre and his downward header looked set to restore the lead. Enter David de Gea with a ridiculous parry away to his right.

Five minutes later and Palace were away on the counter with Alexander Sorloth down the left, his good work fed Jairo Riedewald and the former Ajax man’s centre looked set to be cut out by the United defender. He missed it and James McArthur was caught unawares and half shot, half tried to control the ball, and the gilt-edged opportunity was gone.  

Then came the sucker punch in injury time and from the moment the ball left Matic’s foot – well, that’s just how Palace’s season has gone in recent weeks.

Christian Benteke the Scapegoat

Benteke grabbed an assist, cleared a shot off the line, cleared a series of corners, run himself into the ground, but it is still not enough for a majority of fans. At one point, Sorloth leathered a ball 50 yards over Benteke when he had come to receive the ball short. The viciousness with which someone screamed “you’re a f****** lazy c***, Benteke” made me turn around and I genuinely believe that if that bloke was standing in front of Benteke at that point, he would have physically attacked him. Because he didn’t chase a ball that was already at de Gea’s feet before he’d even had a chance to turn around and see where the ball had landed. awarded Benteke man of the match (a stat based website), but he was diabolical according to some.

When Matic scored, multiple people around me immediately blamed Benteke. Why? Because he didn’t reach a ball, from Sorloth again, that was smashed over his head. He chased this time. He really put in a shift in the 91st minute to try and retrieve yet another terrible ball, but because he wasn’t quick enough, it means that it is all his fault. Meanwhile, go back and watch the goal. The throw in that United won, as a result, is taken and the ball is passed to the other side of the pitch. Sorloth declines to press Pogba and then doesn’t track Pogba, all in the space of ten seconds – but Benteke who sprinted as fast as he could after a ball in the 91st minute is the man to blame?

Everyone needs to get a grip.

Talking of Blame

Every single time that something doesn’t go our way, everyone wants to point the finger of blame at someone. I am guilty of it as well I have come to realise. Sometimes, things simply do not go your way, and you get beaten by a world class save and a world-class strike.

Sorloth didn’t track Pogba because he was shattered. Milivojevic turned his back on Matic’s shot. Hennessey isn’t de Gea. Blaming the players for these things, when there is only 12 of them fit enough to kick a football is stupid. It is not their fault that we are in a run of games against top teams with a threadbare squad. They are running themselves into the ground and the fact of the matter is thinking properly goes out the window the more tired one gets. As a result, mistakes happen. These little mistakes led to limiting United to a shot from range and it just so happens that Matic nailed it into the corner. It might take him another 15 tries to execute the shot again.

Just accept that we were undone by a moment of quality, not because you irrationally hate Benteke and he isn’t as fast as you’d like him to be.

Man of the Match: Aaron Wan-Bissaka

It was a tossup between Townsend and Wan-Bissaka, but the sheer fact that the kid was pitted against Alexis Sanchez and came out on top is impressive. Seemingly unfazed he went toe to toe with the United number 7 and never looked out of his depth. On top of that, he still managed to get forward on occasion to support Townsend on the overlap.

The problem is, Wan-Bissaka is only in the team because of injuries. Hodgson has now said that “the shirt is his” and that the people coming back from injury will have to win it back. However, he would never have had this opportunity if not for this injury crisis, and if said injury crisis had not occurred, next season he’d be loaned out to a League One outfit and we would never have seen him again.

Aaron is proof that these kids need to be thrown in at the deep end to see if they will sink or swim.

One Guardian columnist is already calling for Everton to sign the kid to solve their fullback issues. Of course, this is extremely premature, but he is talking about a player that Sam Allardyce probably doesn’t even know despite being manager here last season.

I am delighted that Roy has said that he will keep his place. I am delighted that he feels that he can trust him in what is going to be a run of games that will see us either claim another season in the top flight or relegation to the Championship.

If we do survive and Aaron plays a role, I really don’t want to hear about how playing a youngster is too much of a risk when the stakes of Premier League survival is so high. Give them a chance for crying out loud.

Up Next: Chelsea

With Barcelona to follow, we are unlikely to face a full-strength Chelsea side, so maybe, just maybe, we could sneak a result against an out of sorts team. Hopefully, I’ll witness a bunch of hypocritical Palace fans celebrating a Benteke winner at The Bridge for a second season running.

Come on you Palace!

Did you find this Match Report interesting?

Tweet us your comments

Neil Swarbrick

Crystal Palace

Palace Manager: 
Roy Hodgson


Opposition Manager: 
Jose Mourinho