While first-day disappointment is hardly unknown in these parts – Norwich City have failed to win their opening game for the past 13 years – the margin of defeat was hard to take. What Norfolk will already have realised, however, as sunny yellow optimism slowly disappeared, is that defending like this can only result in a one-way ticket back to the Championship.
Alex Reid’s team began and finished well but were unconvincing in between times until Cameron Jerome and Nathan Redmond arrived at 2-0 down to offer some extra physicality and creativity respectively.
After Redmond drove in a fine goal from almost 30 yards, Jerome had an acrobatic equaliser ruled out for a high foot and Sébastien Bassong understandably felt he had been pushed by Connor Wickham in the penalty area.
Then Yohan Cabaye, touted as one of the signings of the summer, but struggling to adapt again to the tempo of English football, rubbed salt into wounds with a third goal right at the finish. Like the first two, it exposed the home defence horribly.
Alan Pardew, who lifted Crystal Palace from 18th to tenth after arriving in January, has claimed they will be exciting again and yesterday’s events confirmed that there should be no shortage of goals at one end or the other.
“I realised early on I’d picked the wrong team today, the balance wasn’t right,” he said. “Sometimes the players have to get you out of jail and I thanked them for that.” Generous in victory, he agreed that the scoreline “flattered” Palace.
Reid expressed frustration over Norwich’s disallowed strike, saying: “I thought it was a pefectly good goal. We had enough chances and in the first 30 minutes were totally dominant, though we didn’t help ourselves. Some of the goals were extremely sloppy.”
In that early spell his team appeared to be targeting Palace’s left-back Pape Souare, whipping in crosses from that side from which Lewis Grabban ought to have profited. It took the visitors half an hour to threaten, after which Glenn Murray hit a post; within a minute Jason Puncheon crossed for Wilfried Zaha, unmarked at the back post, to squeeze the ball in.
A well-worked corner soon after half-time gave Damien Delaney the second goal before Norwich’s revival, in which referee Simon Hooper, on his Premier League debut, became the villain of the day.
Norwich City: (4-4-1-1) Ruddy; Whittaker, Martin, Bassong, Brady; Howson, Dorrans (Hooper, 80), Tettey (Redmond, 53), Johnson; Hoolahan; Grabban (Jerome, 53).
Crystal Palace: (4-2-3-1) McCarthy; Ward, Dann, Delaney, Souare; McArthur, Cabaye; Zaha (Bolasie, 72), Mutch (Jedinak, 72), Puncheon; Murray (Wickham, 82).
Referee: Simon Hooper
Man of the match: Puncheon (Crystal Palace)
Match rating: 7/10