Crystal Palace 1 Leeds United 0: Morrison cements Palace's sure start

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The Independent Online

The Leeds United manager, Kevin Blackwell, having accused his team of committing "hara-kiri" on Tuesday night in allowing Queen's Park Rangers to draw, could presumably feel the Samurai sword being unsheathed for the second successive game when Geoff Horsfield was sent off after 15 minutes here yesterday.

The striker's shoulder barge into Mark Hudson's face was not spotted by the referee Andy D'Urso as the ball was elsewhere, but his assistant Phil Sharp saw what had happened. He drew the matter to his colleague's attention and the former West Bromwich Albion player departed with a few choice words in Sharp's direction.

Even though it did not reflect well on Horsfield, it certainly marked an improvement on Sharp's performance in the World Cup, when he was guilty, along with referee Graham Poll, of allowing a Croatian player to be booked three times against Australia before he was finally sent off. How Horsfield would have loved such leeway in this game.

Leeds could have got away with claiming a point as well, and indeed looked comfortable for long stretches, but finally succumbed to the pressure in the last two minutes. Twice in 60 seconds Tony Warner made fine saves but with the match in injury time, Clinton Morrison received Leon Cort's knockdown with his back to goal, turned his marker Matthew Kilgallon and volleyed home from six yards.

But despite having seen his team concede a late, decisive goal yet again, Blackwell was in a more conciliatory mood. He claimed, "like all good managers," he had not seen the incident for Horsfield's dismissal, but he was not prepared to criticise his player, having not seen a replay.

He added: "We didn't get what we deserved. I was angry at QPR, but we've given everything today and some decisions went against us. We kept possession with our 10 men and this was a strong performance from a good Leeds side. As for the goal, it was one of those things. We got undone by Palace's extra man."

That extra man was barely noticeable for most of the 75 minutes that Palace enjoyed the advantage. Indeed, only seven minutes after Horsfield had walked, Leeds went close to scoring when David Healy crossed for Eddie Lewis, who hit the post with a volley.

Peter Taylor shuffled his Palace side at the interval and the introduction of Dougie Freedman gave the Eagles an extra vitality and more penetration. The change also benefited Mark Kennedy, who twice went close with long-range shots as he moved in from the left wing, before Taylor brought on Morrison.

With two minutes remaining, his flick found Freedman but his shot was tipped over by Warner and a minute later the goalkeeper was again clearing under pressure. Warner was helpless for the decisive strike which left Taylor praising his side's persistence. "We kept going and had to be patient. We believed we could do it and full credit to the players."

That gave Palace three wins out of three but the mood of the Palace chairman, Simon Jordan, has not obviously improved. He is suing the former manager Iain Dowie for "fraudulent misrepresentation" - namely, Dowie joining Charlton in the summer when Jordan felt he would be moving north.

Jordan said: "I may be many things, but I am not a liar. I have read recent articles in that 'rag' the [London] Evening Standard printing Dowie's version of events," adding that it was not the same as his."I am not launching a petty crusade, neither am I allowing the piss to be taken out of myself or Palace," Jordan said.

Goal: Morrison (90) 1-0.

Crystal Palace (4-3-3): Kiraly; Butterfield, Hudson, Cort, Granville; Watson (Freedman, h-t), Fletcher, Kennedy; Soares (Morrison, 73), Scowcroft, McAnuff. Substitutes not used: Flinders (gk), Lawrence, Borrowdale.

Leeds United (4-4-2): Warner; Kelly, Butler, Kilgallon, Crainey; Stone (Carole, 90), Derry, Westlake, Lewis (Richardson, 75); Healy (Moore, 76), Horsfield. Substitutes not used: Gregan, Blake.

Referee: R Styles (Hampshire).

Booked: Crystal Palace Watson. Leeds United Kilgallon.

Sent off: Horsfield (15).

Man of the match: Freedman.

Attendance: 17,218.

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