Terriers 0-1 Palace
Winning ugly is nothing new to any of us as Palace fans. Winning ugly with such a beautiful goal is somewhat more of a rarity
Huddersfield created enough chances/good situations to win two games, but their inability to find the net, or even find the target as only two of their fifteen attempts did, is going to see them in trouble come May.
Despite a struck post, countless deflected efforts and dangerous crosses and an absolute sitter of a header, Wayne Hennessey had a relatively quiet afternoon. Match of the Day showed one Palace fan in the crowd feeling the racing heart of his friend and it perfectly summed up the afternoon for the travelling support.
“Football is a game of small margins” has become a saying for modern day football. A press conference rarely seems to go by without a manager saying those exact words and it was true yet again. If Mounie's header was a couple of inches lower, or if the brilliant Aaron Mooy’s shot had swerved a centimetre less, Palace would have likely been on the end of a fourth defeat in a row, and that cannot be ignored.
We were not at the races in the first half and under the cosh for much of the second and a slightly better team, think Southampton before the international break, would have come away with the three points.
There were signs of encouragement littered across the game, more so in the second half, and I saw more than enough to know that we looked better in the 433 than we have previously in a 442. Hodgson bemoaned not having Zaha for the break to work on the new shape in a post match interview, but the superstars threat on the flank was there for all to see, on the occasions that we could get him on the ball.
Most notably in the 38th minute.
Before Zaha sparkled to win the match, his game was almost ended. Even worse, his season could have been ended. Zanka, which sounds like cockney rhyming slang for what the Huddersfield behaved like on Social Media after the game, was beaten to the ball by Zaha and the centre back followed through Wilf’s ankle with his studs up.
Zaha was incessant with rage when Lee Mason only showed a yellow card and would take his frustrations out moments later on Florent Hadergjonaj, flattening the full back under the guise of attempting to block a cross. The fact that both Zanka and Zaha received the same punishment seems ludicrous, but Mason got it right.
I think that the foul on Zaha is one of the rare scenarios where a player can connect with his studs on the opposition and not see red. Zaha was simply too fast for him and Zanka had no idea he was even in danger of losing the ball. The trajectory of his foot would have seen him connect with the ball with his laces, but Zaha nipped in and earned a sore ankle for his troubles as Zanka’s studs came down. Zanka didn’t mean to hurt him and I think that it would be wrong to send a player off when they had no idea they were going to commit a foul. An argument for another day, but this is why a sin bin could have a place in football.
Huddersfield supporters in the stadium followed suit like fans have all over the country before them. Player fouls Zaha, Zaha has the audacity to be hurt, fan boo Zaha’s every touch. There were fans on the Twitter saying that he dived. Even though there are cameras everywhere and they can see that his ankle was nearly snapped in two, they still say he dived. Lunacy.
“When will fans learn that when they boo you, you score,” said Chris Grierson to Wilf after the game, but Zaha was not in a joking mood. He raged in three separate interviews and his no-nonsense talking was refreshing. It was far from the seemingly rehearsed spiel that falls out of players mouths after every game and I will be very surprised if it doesn’t land him in some trouble.
"I feel like before anyone gets a red I'd have to get my leg broken or something. That's why I lose my head.
"Why am I getting different treatment from other players? It’s every referee, every week.”
Robbie Savage, yet again, jumped to the defence of Zaha:
"It is every single week," said Savage. "He gets kicked everywhere. I don't blame Zaha for showing some frustration and leaving a bit on somebody.”
All across the media, professionals and social alike, were saying that Wilf shouldn’t have reacted in the way his did with the challenge that saw him booked. The very same people were saying that he just has to get on with it and accept that people are going to foul him? Am I taking crazy pills or is the hypocrisy in that laughable?
Leon Osman just seemed to talk for talking sake in an article on the BBC:
"I do feel he goes down a bit soft. I also feel he holds on to the ball a little bit too long at times, allowing himself to be kicked," Osman told BBC Sport.
"However, the two tackles he has been on the end of in the past two games have been career-ending, both of them.
"So I can understand his frustration. Neither of them have seen a red card, so you can see why he is wondering where the protection is.
"I don't completely agree with him coming out like he has done, maybe that is more for the manager to do, but maybe by highlighting this there will be a crackdown on those sort of tackles against him."
Countless pundits, including Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer and Ian Wright on Match of the Day suggested that Zaha should take the rough treatment as a "compliment". I am sure the compliments will be a great comfort when he is finally on the end of a leg breaker.
Never stop being you, Wilf. The reaction to the foul, the frustration tackle, the goal, the celebration and the post-match interview. Just keep doing you because we don't want it any other way.
“I have to let my feet do the talking and I did today” is the understatement of the century.
When Wilf picked up the ball ten yards inside the Huddersfield half and to a chorus of boos, a feeling of certainty swept over me. He was going to score and shut them up in the most perfect of ways.
The run, the subtle nutmeg and the curling finish were out of this world. It was also the signal for me that Wilfried Zaha has fully arrived. It is an elite level goal and one that is going to get him noticed at the very top.
It is now 8 goals and 2 assists in his last 11 games. The high level of consistency is there. He will score twenty this season and, back to Savage again, “he could play for Real Madrid or Barcelona.”
Any opposition fans reading this will probably be laughing, but we know and they will all know soon enough.
Man of the Match: Aaron Wan-Bissaka
The joke about Wilfried Zaha having three goals already is that he hasn’t even reached anywhere near his best this season. Meanwhile, AWB is busy picking up his fourth MOTM award of the season from me.
- 5 Tackles (Most in the Game)
- 100% Tackles Won
- 3 Interceptions (Most in the Game)
- 3 Clearances
- 1 Block Shot
The young right-back is also taking the award for the second season in a row at Huddersfield. David Wagner, the Terriers boss, clearly identifies space in behind our full backs and attempts to exploit with crossfield balls, Aaron simply did not give an inch. Even when a Town attacker thought they might be away from the right back, his leg would appear as if from thin air and produce a telling tackle. It is already a story that we have heard countless times even in the infancy of his career.
Well played, lad… yet again!
The “Excellent” Jordan Ayew
It was a tireless performance from Ayew up top and Hodgson named it “excellent” after the game.
With Christian Benteke’s injury, and form, creating an opportunity for the man on loan from Swansea and he went some way towards grasping it with both hands. He was credited with an assist for Zaha’s goal, they all count I guess, but it was his work off the ball that impressed me the most.
As the first half approached its end, we tried to play out from the back only for Huddersfield high press to force a poor kick down the middle of the park from Hennessey. Ayew spotted the danger and sprinted some fifty yards to give us an extra man and ended up forcing a throw in that eased the pressure and ensured we made it to the break with the lead intact.
I don’t want to dog on Benteke, but we all know that he would have stood by watching from the centre circle.
If Ayew can find a way to score next week, Benteke is going to find it hard to get his place back. Maybe that could be the kick up the arse that the Belgian requires.
James Tomkins: Rolls Royce
Nothing much to say other than it was a delight to have him back in the team. I love watching him defend. He makes it look so easy and his calmness at the back was a big factor in our victory in this one.
The New Kit
Big fan and enjoyed the little buzz that it caused before kick-off.
Up Next: Newcastle
The “winnable games” are coming thick and fast.
The Geordies have lost a lot of narrow games this season and have been impressive in parts. We will need a much better performance than this one to claim our first Selhurst Park points of the season.
Well, either that or another Zaha wonder goal.
Up the Palace!