Football: Brolin off the boil

Crystal Palace 0 Leeds United 2 Wallace 7, Hasselbaink 13 Attendance: 25,248
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The Independent Online
NORMAL service has resumed at Crystal Palace. They are still to win a league game at home this season, and the warm glow of last week's FA Cup win at Selhurst Park was soon dissipated in the less glamorous grind of the Premiership. It took Leeds just 12 minutes to seal their victory with two strikes, neatly framed by Tomas Brolin's departure and return to the pitch after a cut to his head.

Speculation had been rife all week about how Brolin might, or might not, react to playing against Leeds, the team he performed so poorly for and eventually left amongst acrimonious recriminations earlier in the season. But this could not disguise the fact that Brolin might well have not started this match if it were not for Palace's long injury list, and his contribution was ultimately muted by the injury and the marking of the excellent Lucas Radebe. The South African captain Radebe and the former Palace player, David Hopkin, were the key to Leeds' victory.

Crystal Palace's midfield wilted early under their strong tackling and confident running, and Palace rarely looked as if they had the invention or flair to pose an attacking threat.

All eyes were still on Brolin's bloodied forehead when Rod Wallace pounced on six minutes to score his 11th goal of the season, seizing on Gary Kelly's neat through pass. Then, as Brolin returned to the pitch, complete with stitches and a bandage, Jimmy Hasselbaink wriggled free of two defenders and hit a sweet 20-yard shot past Kevin Miller's left hand.

Crystal Palace manager Steve Coppell blamed poor defending for both goals. "We have got to be a lot tighter than that at the back if we are going to stay in the Premiership," he commented, but this belies the fact that they were outplayed across the field.

Only Dale Gordon on the left-flank and defender Hermann Hreidarsson with some pacy runs showed much attacking enterprise for Palace, as Leeds settled back to defend their lead.

The Leeds manager George Graham said: "We were pushed back too much in the box in the second half and gave away too many corners." But there was a stale sameness about the diet of high balls served up by Palace from set-pieces.