Burley makes fine start to rebuilding Palace

Crystal Palace 3 Leicester City 2
Click to follow
The Independent Football

George Burley could not have been happier after his debut as Crystal Palace manager, but the Scot was keeping his feet on the ground after Saturday's thrilling victory at Selhurst Park. Asked whether his Ivory Coast-born striker, Wilfried Zaha, who crowned his first start with a goal, might play for England, Burley smiled. "He's a great prospect but we don't want to get too carried away," he said. "He's still only 17."

Zaha, whose speed and trickery regularly had Leicester on the back foot, was not the only youngster to impress. Kieron Cadogan, a 19-year-old winger also making his first start, played a key part in two goals, while 22-year-old Owen Garvan, who became the first player Palace have spent a transfer fee on for two years when he joined from Ipswich for around £200,000 last week, immediately made his mark in midfield with his cool head and silky passing.

When the going got tough in the second half for the home side, who were 3-0 up by half-time, older heads like Paddy McCarthy, the captain, and Julian Speroni, the goalkeeper, held things together.

However, Burley knows that his squad is still paper-thin in some areas, a host of experienced players having left in the summer in the wake of the club's financial crisis. Palace are still in administration – the four businessmen who agreed a deal to save the club in the summer hope to complete their takeover this week – and it was only late on Friday that the Football League gave Burley clearance to play his new signings.

The manager's budget is tight but he has scope to strengthen his squad. "We're speaking to other clubs," Burley said. "Without a doubt we're short up front and a little bit short in midfield. They're the two areas we're looking at.

"I know we'll get better and I know the youngsters will keep improving, but as young players I know they will have their ups and downs. We'll win some and lose some. It's important that we get more players into the squad, because we're going to get injuries and suspensions as well."

Although Palace will be more of a passing team under Burley, their first goal was pure route one, Alan Lee flicking on Speroni's kick to Zaha, who scored with a cool finish. The second and third, however, were at the end of fluent moves, Darren Ambrose scoring from 20 yards and Lee with a tap-in.

Leicester, who reached the play-offs last year, also have a new manager in Paulo Sousa, who blamed his team's slow start on poor defending but was pleased by the later response. Andy King's header from Robbie Neilson's cross put Leicester back in the match and the introduction of Steve Howard's physical presence as a second-half substitute almost rescued a point. Howard's perfect pass to D J Campbell set up a grandstand finish, but Palace held out.

"What I saw in the second half was a team with more anger to turn the situation around," Sousa said. "I think we became a better team and created more chances. In the second half the pressure was going pretty much one way and we stopped their counter-attacks, but unfortunately we did not make the best decisions in the first half."

Crystal Palace (4-4-2): Speroni; Clyne, McCarthy, Davis, Bennett; Cadogan (N'Diaye, 63), Dorman, Garvan, Ambrose; Zaha (Djilali, 77), Lee (Andrew, 63). Substitutes not used Price (gk), Barrett, Holland, Holness.

Leicester City (4-4-2): Weale; Neilson, Morrison, Hobbs, Berner; Dyer, King, Oakley, N'Guessan (Wellens, 60); Campbell, Fryatt (Howard, 61). Substitutes not used Logan (gk), Kennedy, Parkes, John, Moore.

Referee A Woolmer (Northamptonshire).

Man of the match Garvan.

Attendance 17,486.