West Bromwich Albion’s attempt to go through a whole season without conceding any goals away from home mercifully came to an end that was pointless in every sense. On future trips they may just possibly show a little more ambition.
The priority here was illustrated by taking off Saido Berahino, the joint leading scorer after two goals in two games, at half-time, when the only question was whether or not Crystal Palace would break through. Berahino, upset at not being allowed to leave this summer and pushed out to the wing to accommodate record signing Solomon Rondon, was “one of a number of players who never turned up today”, according to Tony Pulis, West Bromwich’s manager.
If only the home side had scored earlier, Albion would have been forced into a more positive approach. For all Wilfried Zaha’s trickery down the right and domination of poor Chris Brunt, Selhurst had to wait until midway through the second half, when the equally impressive Yohan Cabaye’s tantalisingly curled cross was bravely headed in at the far post by Yannick Bolasie.
Zaha, below, earning a starting place after his performance at Watford last Sunday, deserved his moment just before the finish when the bloodied Brunt’s lunge brought him down and Cabaye converted the penalty.
“It was getting to the stage when we were starting to worry,” Alan Pardew, Palace’s manager, said. “We needed to be patient and you need someone like Cabaye to orchestrate that.” Having earlier compared his team to the Newcastle side that he took to fifth place in the Premier League, he was keen to ride back a little on raising similar expectations, but did point out: “Last time [Palace] had 15 points in the Premier League we were eating our Christmas dinner.”
Pulis was concerned about how a team that played so well at Villa Park recently in one of their three unbeaten away games, could appear so feeble. A Saturday morning in south London clearly did not inspire the same passion as a second city derby, and there were setbacks too with injuries to Jonny Evans and James Morrison, who will be doubtful for Northern Ireland and Scotland respectively for their crucial European Championship qualifiers.
Crystal Palace: (4-2-3-1) Hennessey; Kelly, Dann, Hangeland, Souare; McArthur, Cabaye; Zaha (Ledley, 88) Puncheon,Bolasie; Gayle (Campbell, 75).
West Bromwich Albion: (4-4-2) Myhill; Dawson McAuley, Evans (Chester, 24), Brunt; McClean, Yacob, Fletcher, Morrison (McManaman, 69) McClean; Rondon, Berahino (Gardner, h-t).
Referee: Jon Moss
Man of the match: Zaha (Crystal Palace)
Match rating: 5/10Reuse content