West Brom 0-3 Palace
Andros Townsend’s first career brace, either side of a Patrick van Aanholt strike, saw Crystal Palace storm into the last 16 of the League Cup.
On paper, a chilly night in the West Midlands against recently relegated West Brom looked tricky, in reality, it was a walk in the park. The 0-3 scoreline flattered the hosts and only a combination of goal-line blocks, spectacular saves and poor finishing kept the Palace tally below what could have been as many as six or seven.
The Palace midfield three of Jason Puncheon, Cheik Kouyate and the brilliant Max Meyer was too hot for the Baggies to handle and they created chance after chance for the front three of Townsend, Schlupp, Sørloth and his late replacement, Ayew.
Goal of the Month Competition
The goal of the month competition at Crystal Palace is going to be hotly contested this September. Wilfried Zaha had already laid down a top marker with his wonder-strike at Huddersfield, but both Townsend and van Aanholt threw their names into the hat. The fact that the latter’s strike, with his weaker right foot, into the top corner, doesn’t even come in the top three is a testament to the quality of Townsend’s goals on the evening.
That being said, if Mo Salah can win the Puskas Goal of the Year awards, anything can happen.
Townsend’s first was what should be a trademark Townsend goal or, as Chris Grierson said to the goalscorer after the game - "if you could make an Andros Townsend robot and make it score an Andros Townsend goal, that would be it". Making a run, cutting in from the right and bending a shot into the far top corner. Unfortunately, these often end the stands, as one did in the second half. I think it is fair to say, however, that one of these has been coming as his efforts have been getting closer in recent weeks, notably hitting the crossbar against Liverpool. As Andros said to Chris Grierson after the game, "hopefully I can put away a few more chances in the coming weeks."
The tireless forwards second capped a lovely move from Hodgson’s men. Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who replaced the injured Jairo Riedewald in the first half, slid a pass to Andros and his left-footed chop completely fooled the defender, or “sent him for a hot dog” as Wilf hilariously stated on his Instagram story (click here to see the video), and he smashed home with his right foot, in off the far post.
Jason Puncheon: The Second Coming?
I know that we were playing Championship opposition, but they were fielding a midfield stacked with Premier League experience and it is far from a soft touch – but Punch looked completely revitalised.
When Jason was scoring vital goals for the Club and almost singlehandedly keeping us in the Premier League, he was doing it from a wide position. It is sometimes easy to forget that he is still new to the centre midfield position that he has found himself in since Alan Pardew coined the term “transition” in SE25.
Early on he took to the position like a duck to water and people were even talking about an England call-up, but as results started to go pear shaped under Pardew, so did Punch’s form. This was probably a combination of the fallout from the FA Cup Final and Punch not being able to play with as much freedom which often saw him slow the pace of the game down far too much. This resulted in his stock, in the eyes of Palace fans, falling off a cliff.
In this match, there were hardly any signs of him slowing down the play. In fact, with Meyer next to him, the ball was bouncing through the midfield with delicate one-touch passes that had the hosts chasing shadows. Puncheon has clearly bought into Hodgson’s work on patterns.
The Gaffer talked of a “selection headache” after the performance, and it certainly wasn’t just Max Meyer that he was referring to. After Puncheon’s performance good against Swansea, and now excellent performance against West Brom, he has thrown himself into the mix for a place on the bench at the very least.
Vicente Guaita’s feet
One of the surprises of the night is how comfortable Martin Kelly and Joel Ward (once he moved into the middle after the injury to Riedewald) were in the middle, and the Spanish keeper behind them was a big part of this.
Having a keeper that is so comfortable with the ball at his feet is a must if you want to play out from the back. For a defender to know that he can turn around and pass back with no dramas is a big plus and Ward and Kelly exploited this whenever they were under a bit of pressure. The best thing about that was that it didn’t come across as slowing down the play as Guaita quickly moved it on and helped us pick holes in the West Brom press with ease.
As improved as Wayne Hennessey has been since Dean Kiely came in and started coaching, he is never going to have the feet from the man signed from Getafe on a free and I think that it will ultimately cost the Welshman his place.
Guaita’s feet behind Tomkins and Sakho would improve that centre-back pairing another few percents, and we all know how good that partnership is already.
All of that and I haven’t even mentioned him tipping one out of the top corner in this match.
The change between the sticks will not happen against Bournemouth, but it is surely only a matter of time.
Man of the Match: Max Meyer
The hilarious thing is, if Aaron had started, it would have probably been him yet again. Instead, Meyer takes the award. Obviously, this is harsh on Townsend, but Max was at the crux of everything on the night and his performance all but demanded a starting role in the game against Bournemouth on Monday night.
The German is basically Yohan Cabaye, but a version that is ten years younger and can last the entire 90 minutes. On this evidence, the coup is every bit as amazing as we thought it was when he was announced in August.
Up Next: Bournemouth
This match will be another good yardstick to measure how the squad is melding together. A positive result here will tell us that we are looking up, where a loss will probably end with Hodgson making a couple more tweaks to find out his best eleven. I don’t think any of us know with any degree of certainty what that is.
Come on you Palace!