Crystal Palace 0 Tottenham Hotspur 1 match report: Roberto Soldado and Co show there can still be life after Gareth Bale

£26m Spanish signing gets Andre Villas-Boas' side off to winning start

Selhurst Park

Perhaps Crystal Palace were a little too grateful to be back in the Premier League, a little too respectful towards a team expected to challenge for a Champions League despite the apparently impending loss of the world’s first 100-million euro player.

At any rate Ian Holloway’s side, promoted by way of the play-offs and tipped for as quick a return to the Football League as Holloway’s highly entertaining Blackpool made a couple of years ago, concentrated on not being torn apart for nearly an hour, until Tottenham took the lead through a penalty by Roberto Soldado.

Then it was different. Holloway made a trio of substitutions and threw his men forward on a broad front. At last they made Hugo Lloris work.

But the Spurs goalkeeper stood firm and a double save from Kagisho Dikgacoi ensured a victory for quality.

Although Andre Villas-Boas’s men will have to do better than this on a regular basis if they are to inhabit the top four, the early season has the air of a phoney war. And no wonder, given that clubs of standing might lose star men before the window closes on September 2.

Villas-Boas’s reticence on the subject of whether Gareth Bale might go to Spain seemed to confirm that it is now a question of price, or how much Real Madrid are willing to pay up front.

That there can be life without Bale was obvious yesterday, especially when Soldado was on the move. A one-in-two striker with not only his every club but Spain, to whose squad he has returned after an absence of five years, he lived up to his reputation, impressing with almost every touch. Paulinho, meanwhile, emphasised his appetite for work in midfield. As for Nacer Chadli, it will be some time before he is ready to fill Bale’s boots, if that proves his destiny.

What they should all bear in mind is that English football seldom exudes such an atmosphere as this, with balmy weather and bonhomie radiating from the stadium’s slopes. It lasted beyond the final whistle, too, Palace being accorded a five-minute standing ovation as they made their weary way from centre circle to the tunnel at the Holmesdale Road end.

Losing sides don’t often get that and, if the crowd can maintain such form, they might be worth a few points before the campaign is out. Not that the Palace players didn’t deserve it. Mile Jedinak in particular; he played a captain’s part in central midfield and was last to reach the tiled sanctum on this beguiling day.

Although a drenching in late-summer sunshine can make even a brick outhouse beautiful, the South London rays struggled to work their magic on dear old Selhurst Park. It is a ground only a fan could love.

Yet the Palace faithful were only too happy to fill the place and the comedian Kevin Day spoke for all as he concluded his column in the

programme: ‘’Today we play one of England’s biggest clubs in a Premier league London derby and TV viewers the world over get to marvel at the Red and Blue Army. I am filled with love and pride.’’

As an occasion it was as delightful as that, a pleasure to share. As a match, it took too long to get going and there was especially little for the home support to cheer in the first half: a header from Aaron Wilbraham, rising to Owen Garvan’s free-kick, that went straight to Lloris at low speed was, believe it or not, their highlight.

Spurs were predictably slicker, even with Soldado, Paulinho, Chadli and eventually Etienne Capoue making Premier League debuts. Soldado, though saturation-policed by Palace defenders, managed to impress straight away with a selection of techniques.

He might have thought Dani Alves had joined him in switching from La Liga to the Premier, so quick and adventurous was Kyle Walker in advancing from right-back to link with Aaron Lennon, pinning back the left flank of the home team.

Lennon was less successful in serving Soldado and Gylfi Sigurdsson, who operated just behind the main striker, while Chadli remained peripheral on the left. But Sigurdsson did make himself a chance, turning and contriving a dipper that Julian Speroni did well to turn over the crossbar, before the resumption brought Spurs their goal.

It was no surprise that Mark Clattenburg awarded a penalty, for Dean Moxey had his arms spread wide as Lennon tried a short cross. When the ball was deflected, the referee pointed to the spot, from which Soldado made a masterly job, finding the side netting as Speroni dived the wrong way.

It should have been 2-0 shortly afterwards, for Walker and Soldado expertly carved the Palace defence apart to set up Sigurdsson, who had Speroni at his mercy but missed the target from 10 yards.

Suddenly it was a livelier, more open match with Palace, stimulated by the triple substitution – Ian Johnny Williams, Marouane Chamakh and Kevin Phillips came on – a genuine threat for the first time. Dwight Gayle, chasing Chamakh’s pass, was thwarted by Lloris, who excelled himself in denying Digakcoi at the end.

Holloway seemed unsure afterwards whether he had been too cautious – ‘’if we’d started like we finished, we might have got absolutely hammered’’ – or his players had been daunted by the opposition. He did indicate that Palace would become more attack-minded at this should give them a better chance of at least competing at this level.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam