Crystal Palace vs West Ham United match report: Mauro Zarate grabs fine debut goal for the Hammers as manager-less Eagles flounder

Crystal Palace 1 West Ham United 3

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The Independent Football

There will be a sense of urgency when Crystal Palace co-chairman Steve Parish renews his search for a manager.

The season is still very young, but Palace are pointless as well as managerless, and one place off the bottom of the Premier League. The situation is not as dire as when Tony Pulis took over from Ian Holloway last season, which underlines there is plenty of time to recover, but with the transfer window closing in a week’s time, and the team in clear need of inspiration, Parish cannot afford to delay.

Of course, this should have been Malky Mackay’s first match in the Selhurst Park dug-out, but that was scuppered by “textgate” during what Parish admitted in his programme notes was a “very difficult week”.

Instead Keith Millen, the caretaker who Parish effectively  ruled out for the job a week  ago, was given a second  audition. It did not go well. The Premier League is a ruthless environment and West Ham United capitalised on Palace’s weaknesses to kick-start their own season.

Two quick goals shortly before the break, from Mauro Zarate, on his West Ham debut, and Stuart Downing, put West Ham in charge. Marouane Chamakh pulled one back soon after the interval but Carlton Cole’s 62nd-minute strike confirmed West Ham’s supremacy.

“The frst half was not good enough,” said Millen. “I don’t like to make excuses but it has been a tough week for the players, whether that had any bearing I don’t know.” The caretaker said he expects to be in charge for Tuesday’s Capital One Cup tie at Walsall, still wanted the job permanently, and did not think this one match should have any bearing on his candidacy. Millen is also involved in transfer plans. “Everyone knows we need to strengthen the squad. I have put names forward and the chairman is working on them.”

He had to dip into the current squad to make three enforced changes yesterday. Barry Bannan replaced the suspended Jason Puncheon and Damien Delaney deputised for the injured Scott Dann. Then, in the warm-up, Joe Ledley injured his groin. Stuart O’Keefe stepped up from the bench.

Bouyed by their noisy home support, Palace began brightly with Chamakh twice coming close to scoring, but West Ham then took control in midfield. Aaron Cresswell, who looks a neat and tidy signing, should have opened the scoring after 24 minutes after Cole laid back Downing’s cross but wrongly opted to shoot with his left. The advantages of being two-footed were being demonstrated by Downing who was tormenting Joel Ward.

Palace beat West Ham 1-0 home and away last season but any prospect of a third such win disappeared after 37 minutes. Palace, dozing, allowed Mark Noble and Ricardo Vaz Te to run a short-corner routine, and though Fraizer Campbell blocked Noble’s shot, the ball fell to Zarate. The Argentine volleyed past unsighted compatriot Julian Speroni from more than 20 yards. Three minutes later Downing cut in from right with Ward in his wake and threaded a left-footed shot inside the far post.

Luck seemed to have returned to Palace when, within 120 seconds soon after the re-start,  Tomkins eluded Brede Hangeland but headed Downing’s corner against the bar, then Chamakh, found in space by Mike Jedinak, halved the deficit from the ede of the area.

West Ham briefly looked vulnerable but, on the hour, Palace failed to deal with a deep lofted free-kick by Tomkins and were punished when Cole smashed in the loose ball. It was his first goal since February, evidence, perhaps, of the impact of Teddy Sheringham, the club’s new finishing coach.

Though Palace never gave in, it was, thereafter, a stoll for the Hammers, with Allardyce able to give new signings Diafra Sakho and Diego Poyet their first action. It is early days but West Ham, unlike their opponents, suddenly look like a club that knows where it is going.

“It is a really good comeback from losing last week,” said Sam Allardyce. “We got that performance last week, this time we got the result as well.”