Watford vs Crystal Palace match report: Yohan Cabaye penalty fires Palace to sixth in table

Watford 0 Crystal Palace 1

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The Independent Football

Yohan Cabaye has openly admitted that the abundance of chances created by Yannick Bolasie and Wilfried Zaha - still the Premier League’s great attacking wide pairing - were a significant factor in drawing him from the Parc des Princes to Selhurst Park.

Taking them via the penalty spot probably wouldn’t be his preferred option, but they all count.

An edge of the box foul by Allan Nyom on a typically exuberant Zaha, who’d only been on the field a few minutes, was a forgettable game’s decisive moment. Cabaya blasted the spot kick to Heurelho Gomes right, his first Premier League goal since stoppage time on the opening day of the season that didn’t change the result in a 3 - 1 win over Norwich.

Zaha was the best player on the pitch from the moment he came on. Arguably, he should have started the match, but his team left with a win all the same, at a ground where, before today, no one has managed to score so far this season.

“From a manager’s perspective it was a great day,” said Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew. “Concentration levels were really high. Our centre halves did a super job at the back, they gave us the platform to break into wide areas. It wasn’t an entertaining game because it was so tight. 

“It wasn’t our great performance, but it was a really good, professional performance, and as manager of the team that makes me happy. I can’t argue with the players today, who did a great job.”

The winning goal, a penalty drawn by Wilfried Zaha on the edge of the box was an uncanny replica of the goal that sent Crystal Palace in to the Premier League at Watford’s expense in the 2013 play off final, days that were long before the time of both Pardew and the Watford manager Quiqe Sanches Flores.

“We didn’t lose because we conceded the penalty. We lost because we didn’t play well. 

They played really well. They have excellent players - skilful and fast. For us, it wasn’t our best match but we are in twelfth position in the table after seven games. I am happy with the players.”

It’s a win that takes Crystal Palace up to sixth. They deserve it. A glittering collection of players and a series of fine performances, but it’s another win that only prompts the same set of questions.

The early signs indicate that Messrs Bolasie and Zaha might have an even more productive season than last year. What might this team be capable of with a finisher to match the quality and consistency of this team’s creative impulses?

Dwight Gayle had plenty of opportunities last year to show he was a worthy benefactor of one of the Premier League’s most abundant production lines. He didn’t take them. He might have scored a hat trick in midweek against local rivals Charlton in the League Cup, but he didn’t take them again this afternoon.

“Perhaps Dwight should have scored one of his chances but I was pleased with his performance and he’ll always score goals,” said Pardew.

“You could argue we should score more goals but we have Marouane Chamakh injured and Connor Wickham injured, they’re like Sturridge and Benteke for Liverpool, for us.”

Glenn Murray, one might speculate, might have done better, the man that Palace let go to Bournemouth with just a few hours to go before the end of the transfer window. £5m was clearly a temptation too far for a never particularly fashionable 31 year old.

But even at the most rudimentary calculation, a Premier League goal and a Premier League point tend to be worth well over a million pounds when the TV money gets handed out at the end of the season.

As for Watford, Heurelho Gomes’s unlikely run as the football league’s only keeper not to have conceded at home is over, even if it took a penalty to do it. It was a record that bounced miraculously back in to his arms off the post, fifteen minutes in to the second half, when Gayle got on to the end of a low Bolasie cross and - yet again - should have done better.

Watford might have only conceded one goal in four home games, but they’ve only scored one too.

A Jurado free kick that bounced down and out off the underside of the cross bar early in to the second half was the closest they came. Had that gone in - and it deserved to - it might well have been worth all three points. But relying on such things is a perilous business. Captain Troy Deeney, scorer of 21 Championship goals last season, awaits his first at this exorbitantly higher level. It doesn’t look close to coming.

“It’s just like Wembley again,” chanted the Crystal Palace fans, for the last half hour after they had taken that eerily familiar lead from the penalty spot two years ago. Two seasons is a long time in football. This South London side is a team utterly transformed beyond all recognition since the one that won that day. Jason Puncheon, for a start, should be playing for England.

Watford have arrived in the Premier League are a far more certain and confident outfit than the Crystal Palace 2013 vintage. But when the likes of Cabaye are signing for the likes of Palace, everyone simply has to better. Come May, will Watford have had what it takes, ? On Sunday afternoon, in what might well be the last of the Premier League’s summer sun, the conclusions weren’t there to be drawn