Thursday, April 6, 2017

Premier League Match 29 - Southampton 3 Crystal Palace 1

Sammy Lee Forgets Who He Works for as he Celebrates our First Goal

A quick return to St.Mary’s to play a Crystal Palace side on the up and three days after they’ve just won at Chelsea which was their 4th win in a row.  Mind you, we played then when they were shit and had lost 5 games in a row and we got tanked 3-0 in one of those games against a relegation threatened side which we totally failed to show up for.  That was back in the pre-Gabbiadini days when we would have 65% possession and not score.  Now it’s different of course… oh no it’s not with the main striker injured so who would be the striker missing all the chances tonight, Shane or J-Rod?

After initially making no difference at all in terms of results, Fat Sam has got Palace playing and giving themselves a good chance of staying up.  With the players they have they shouldn’t be anywhere near the bottom really but that’s where they still are.  In January they added again when they paid the ridiculous money Liverpool were after to loan in rumoured Saints target Mamadou Sakho.  They also got Patrick van Aanholt from Sunderland and the holding midfielder they desperately needed in Milla Jovovic was brought in from Russion side, Resident Evil  I get a lot of Palace knowledge from my boss at work who is a home and away Palace fan.  He’s still convinced that they’re going down, especially if they lose tonight, despite the last 4 results.  The reason for his pessimism is Fat Sam’s natural conservatism in trying to draw six-pointers and the fact that they have horrible fixtures left.

On that score, we might have games in hand but we have all the top boys left to play.  Lose this tonight and I think we could be as little as 4 points above the drop zone.  So, Claude needs to get this one right having not got the Bournemouth game right.  Well, the starting XI is disappointing in my book,  Once again we have the same centre backs and the only changes are Shane in for J-Rod and Ryan Bertrand is missing presumed injured which gives a start to Sam McQueen.  Boufal is injured yet again so Sims returns to the bench and the bench full-back is Jeremy Pied, back for the first time since season Day 1.

I have to say that I have no expectations for this game.  Any discussion about potential scorelines and I’ve been saying 1-0 to Palace.  There’s a natural pessimism about us scoring with no Gabbi and I anticipate Benteke causing havoc in the air.  They’ll bomb it up there – of that there is no doubt and I bet Benteke parks himself next to Stephens and just wins everything.  I’m not worried about Zaha – even though he’s been on fire recently.  He never does anything against us except dive about and throw his toys out.  Andros Townsend on the other hand, always seems to score against us.

Palace kick off and it’s straight back to Kelly and booooom up towards Benteke and no one gets near him as he brings it down on his chest and just lays it off.  Not a positive indicator to how we’re going to deal with him.  Anyway, we get hold of the ball and Romeu finds Long who plays a give and go with Redmond and he’s in away from Kelly on the left and he shoots across Hennessey and inches wide of the far post.  It’s close and it’s a good effort but it should be on target.

We completely dominate the first 15 as Palace just seem to sit off and low us space.  JWP plays a brilliant first time ball, curling between Sakho and Schlupp and into the path of Long but he seems to take a panicky swing at the ball and just grubs it through to Hennessey.  Another chance goes begging.

Palace’s first chance comes when Zaha gets binned about 20 yards out by Romeu.  It’s a left footers free kick so I (and Fraser I think) am expecting Puncheon or Townsend to hit it but Milla Jovovic goes the other way and it hits the outside of the post whilst everyone including Fraser stands still and watches it.

There are chances at both ends with short arse Redmond beating Skate Ward to a Cedric cross and forcing a scrambling save out of Hennessey and an Fat Sam classic long ball and knock down from Benteke forcing Romeu to get himself in the way of Zaha’s shot and send it over the bar.  Whilst it’s now an even game, we’ve still butchered so many chances and of course, when you do that, you go behind as Palace got it down and Zaha weaves across our box with everyone scared to tackle him, shifted it on to Puncheon who played Townsend in behind McQueen who should have cut out the pass.  Townsend fires it over and Benteke scores from 3 yards. Shit.  Good goal but shit!

The referee today is Roger East and he’s determined to prove why he doesn’t referee in the Premier League much.  Redmond skins Skate Ward and digs out a deep cross which reaches Tadic.  He tries to flip it over Schlupp who basically slaps it away with his hand as he turns.  No penalty – fuck knows why.  Arm in an unnatural position unless his shoulder is fixed on upside down.  A minute later and Tadic beats Sakho and puts a perfect ball into Long, in behind Resident Evil, contact and down he goes.  From the Chapel End (the other end) it looks like a dive and it’s Shane so it probably is and it’s not given.

It’s looking like we’re going in 1-0 down and that’s depressing but then the ref and lino cut us a break.  Cedric puts in a low cross from the right and Sakho clears it out to the wing.  Zaha gets there first and Davis puts the shoulder in and knocks him flying.  Play on.  Davo hits it over and it arrives with Redmond at the back post and his brings it down and screws it across and into the far corner.  Get in you beauty.  Palace are going nuts at the ref now but the lino was right next to it.  Methinks Wilf and Shane are paying for past indiscretions of the going down too easily variety.  Half time and the great news is that the goal has meant that the second half won’t immediately be a time wasting bore fest.

Cabaye is off for them and replaced with Sako which weakens their already weak midfield but does give them another huge bastard on the pitch.  Whilst Sako might be huge, he is ‘proper shit’ as the phrase goes. The second half starts in much the same vein as the first.  We’re on top in the main but being whatever the opposite of clinical is.  Redmond creates the first chance on the left again – dunno where Skate Ward was and plays it over.  Shane plays an airshot, JWP sees two efforts blocked and it eventually falls to Cedric on the edge of the box and he once again shows why he’s never scored for us as his effort flies just wide.

Tadic is having one of those games that he always seems to have for the Serbian national team when he looks like one of the best players in the world.  He slides a superbly weighted ball in behind the defence and Shane Long is through again.  Hennessey hesitates slightly and when he eventually comes out, Shane clips it over him and unlike the identical chance against Bournemouth which he clipped wide, this time he mixes it up and clips it up, up and over the fucking bar.

At the other end, Benteke is now winning everything and Palace are noticeably going longer.  On one occasion when they get it down and play, Zaha is halted by some shite refereeing by Roger East to give Palace a free kick 30 yards further back.  Never mind though and in it goes to Benteke and it falls to Kelly who hooks in a shot which crashes off the post and Zaha lashes the rebound wide.

Tadic creates another chance for Romeu which he hits, sees it deflect and Hennessey gets down to push it wide.  JWP’s corner is spot on the head of Yoshida but again, Hennessey saves comfortably enough.  Tadic then yet again superbly puts Long through but Hennessey is out quickly again and makes a superb save to leave Shane wondering why the world is against him.  Fat Sam has taken off Schlupp and brought on Delaney but instead of switching Kelly to left back as I expected, they’ve decided to go with 3 at the back with Townsend as a left wing back.

Ten minutes to go and we’ve made no subs as yet which is a bit strange bordering on a miracle and we must score, surely this time.  Nope.  Redmond and Tadic combine to set up Davis and his first shot is goalbound but the human mountain Sakho gets in the way and then Delaney blocks the follow up shot and Davo makes the mistake of running into him and it’s like a brick wall across a motorway and Davo needs treatment for a few minutes.

Redmond has been tormenting the shit Skate Ward all game and lines him up once more and does him again on the outside.  His pull back is knocked square (not altogether intentionally) by Stephens and there is Maya Yoshida stealing in to knock it into the empty net whilst all the Palace players appeal for offside rather than defending.  Can we hang on for the remaining 5 or so minutes?  A long ball forward from Palace and then we get our answer as we break and the ball goes from Tadic to Long to Tadic to JWP to Tadic to Cedric and across for JWP to score from 6 yards and then pull out the shittiest knee slide in the history of the game but no matter, 3-1.  What a goal and absolutely brilliant from Tadic who was involved three times and spot on with every touch.  It won’t be goal of the month because no one has smashed it into the net from 30 yards but it’s absolutely brilliant.

Davis is off to be replaced with Hojbjerg and Redmond takes a bow to give J-Rod a run on the left.  There is only time for Fraser to push a Puncheon free kick over the bar after Yoshida had carted Zaha up in the air.  Full time and job done.

Get in.  Well I never saw that coming at all.  I was pissed off and resigned to a 1-0 defeat when we missed chance after chance in the first 20,  annoyed up until our first goal, happy enough at the start of the second half, pissed off that we kept missing chances and then on top of the world at the end.  All over the place, like the Palace defence in the 2nd half once Fat Sam went to three at the back.

They gave us a bit of space and we exploited it.  When you think about who played well for us then you look at all the attacking midfielders.  Tadic was a genius today.  As individual performances go it was up there with Eyal Berkovic against Man United in the 6-3 win.  Watch the replay of the move that led to the third goal.  Tadic was involved three times and every time it was a superb touch, followed by a superbly weighted pass.  The assist will go to Cedric and the goal to JWP but that goal was all about Dusan Tadic – which is another example of why stats can be bollocks.  Nathan Redmond was fantastic throughout.  His highlight was burning up the Skate twat Ward and setting up the second goal.  Again the assist and goal will go to others but Nathan was the man on that goal.  After being ropey against Bournemouth, JWP was superb tonight.  The tone was set after 5 minutes when he hit a superb first time curling pass to dissect the defence and Shane fucked it up of course.  Christian Eriksen played one of those passes against us and it was highlighted massively and everyone was creaming themselves over it.  JWP’s pass didn’t even make it into the Match of the Day highlights though they did talk about it at the end.

Did we handle Benteke… no quite frankly.  He won every single header but Palace didn’t get enough players round him frequently enough so we were usually able to pick up the 2nd ball and clear the danger.  Fraser continued his recent improvement in goal and Sam McQueen was solid enough though I did feel he got caught out a bit on the Palace goal.  Oriol and Davo were decent in midfield and bossed it in the main though Oriol did eventually pick up his tenth booking of the season and will miss the next two games which is a shame but it gives one of Hojbjerg or Clasie a chance to stake a claim to play more often.

Shane Long – fucking hell.  Maybe he should be a goalkeeper because he’s as expert at keeping the score down.  He works so hard and if he had even average finishing ability he’d score 20 a season every year.  I would persevere with him against West Brom next week… a) because it’s West Brom and he used to play for them and b) because their central defenders are about 35 each and not the quickest.

Fat Sam of course made a big deal out of the Davis challenge on Zaha for our first goal.  I feel that with Zaha, like with Shane Long, referees know they dive about and so unless it’s nailed on, there’s a decent chance that they won’t get the free kick or penalty when they hit the deck.  I’m amazed that it wasn’t given as a free kick but there you go, play to the whistle chaps.  I thought Fat Sam killed Palace when he brought on Delaney and changed formation to 3 at the back.  The game was fairly even until that point but suddenly they had Townsend at left back which he clearly hates and there was even more space in the central midfield for us to our through.  The second and third goals both came from wide areas which are not so well protected when you have 3 at the back.  So, that formation change was the biggest fucking he’d given himself since he decided to comment on getting round the rules 3rd party ownership of players.  Fat Twat.

So – the league table certainly looks a bit better now and we’re up to 9th and there’s no way we’re going to get dragged into it.  All the other results in the midweek games were good to us on that score as well so we can move on and have a crack at West Brom away on Saturday.  They reached 40 points in record time for them this year and have been in beach mode on occasions since so it’s a good time to be playing them and why not.  Hopefully Gabbi will make it back at least as far as the bench and maybe it’ll be the game where Shane Long has five chances and scores three.  A bit late for April Fools that one…

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