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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
football
News
Tangerine Dream Edgar Froese
people
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Life and Style
The Oliver twins, Philip and Andrew, at work creating the 'Dizzy' arcade-adventure games in 1988
techDocumentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Arts and Entertainment
Krall says: 'My hero player-singer is Elton John I used to listen to him as a child, every single record
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
News
i100
Environment
Number so freshwater mussels in Cumbria have plummeted from up to three million in the 20th century to 500,000
environment
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us