Crystal Palace 1-0 Stoke City: Match Report


By - Sunday 19th January, 2014

Matt Woosnam reports on what could turn out to be a vital win for the Eagles


Jason Puncheon scored the winner. Photo by David Pinkney, used under Creative Commons. (http://flic.kr/p/iZ7bii)

Jason Puncheon atoned for his penalty miss against Tottenham Hotspur with a cool, calm and collected finish to earn Crystal Palace a crucial three points against Stoke City as they climbed four places in the table.

The on loan winger could have grabbed another, but for a stunning set of saves from Stoke ‘keeper Jack Butland late on. As the country flooded, Butland’s presence in between the sticks prevented Stoke’s net being flooded with goals as Palace countered with menace in the closing stages of the match.

The game was not exactly a thriller, with a particularly poor first half seeing little in the way of chances, but Palace almost took an early lead through Joel Ward, only for the former Portsmouth man to flash a header narrowly wide of the post after good work down the left from Yannick Bolasie. Soon after, Stoke were almost gifted a goal as Danny Gabbidon took a swing at an incoming Jonathan Walters cross only to slice the ball fortuitously over his own crossbar and out for a corner.

Much of the first half saw the Eagles sit deep to try and frustrate Stoke and break on the counter through Bolasie and Puncheon, but Stoke matched up well to their plans and the result was a congested midfield and a lack of spark in the match. There was little further action in a rather turgid first half, although Mile Jedinak’s clever through ball saw Jonathan Parr earn Palace a corner before Gabbidon tried his luck at the right end with a rising effort which sailed rather harmlessly over Jack Butland’s crossbar. The final chance of the half fell to Marc Wilson, whose header from a free-kick was superbly pushed around the post by Julian Speroni. The two sides cancelled each other out as the game progressed, although it seemed as though some of the Palace players were still to wake up as both Delaney and Jedinak attempted to play in Bolasie, whose movement was perhaps too clever and possession was squandered.

Half-time was reached with the match goalless, and neither team could lay claim to having had the better of the half. As the second half began, Palace seemed to leave their heads back in the changing rooms as a long ball found its way to Charlie Adam who brought it down excellently, took a touch to beat Delaney and fired a low drive inches wide of the post from the edge of the area. This was a wakeup call for the home side who took the lead only 6 minutes after the restart.

It could have been three or four by the end, but for Jack Butland’s heroics

Adrian Mariappa hassled Oussama Assaidi into an error inside his own area, and Puncheon nipped in to steal the ball away, but he still had plenty to do as he looked to shoot not once, not twice but a third time and the winger’s strike nutmegged Ryan Shawcross and nestled into the bottom left-hand corner of the net from what seemed like an impossible angle as all roots to goal appeared to be blocked off. It was a much improved performance from the loanee in the second half, but his ineffectiveness in the first half was noticeable.

Buoyed by the goal, Palace looked to capitalise on the booming support echoing around Selhurst Park as they sought to find a second, but it was Stoke who were next to threaten. Jonathan Parr’s excellent intervention was just enough to prevent Jon Walters from finding the equaliser from Assaidi’s cross, as his header drifted just wide.

The game had become a lot more stretched by this point, with Palace maintaining their shape, but Stoke looking to attack more; particularly through the middle with the height advantage offered by Peter Crouch. Consequently this provided a more entertaining duel than the dull affair contested in the first 45 minutes. A common theme had developed throughout the match; that was, that Palace were slow to close down Charlie Adam; and this nearly came back to haunt them as he struck a fierce effort towards goal, with Speroni sprawling to his left but seeing the effort flash past his post.

As the game drew to a close, the fourth official signalled four minutes of stoppage time; and with Palace under sustained pressure, you could be forgiven for fearing the worst. However, the introduction of Aaron Wilbraham proved a magnificent change by Palace boss Tony Pulis as the striker hassled and snapped at the heels of the Stoke players, before creating an important outball for the Eagles to counter; and counter they did. It could have been three or four by the end, but for Jack Butland’s heroics.

Wilbraham took the ball to the corner and held off three Stoke players for a prolonged period of time before being wrongly adjudged to have committed a foul; the assistant referee indicating it was for shirt pulling. Indeed, the striker had already made an impact of sorts; teeing himself up for an effort out of nowhere from distance but he could only fire into Butland’s hands. Nevertheless, another Palace counter saw Jedinak send a clever ball into the box, only for Wilbraham to dummy audaciously and leave it to Puncheon to apply the finishing touch… but for the Stoke ‘keeper to make an important save.

Then came Butland’s intervention. Palace countered and Puncheon squared the ball to Ward on the edge of the box and the makeshift central midfielder fired a low effort at goal which looked set to bustle in the net, but a deflection changed its course and Butland threw himself at it with a fine one handed save. The rebound found its way back to Puncheon who swivelled expertly before unleashing an effort that the Stoke City ‘keeper saved with his feet; but that was not the end of the action as Stuart O’Keefe followed up with a strike of his own, only for Butland to recover in time to keep Palace out and keep the score at 1-0. The chants of “England’s number one” from the away support were perhaps a little over the top, but his triple save was certainly international quality.

Nonetheless, despite a frantic finish to the match as Stoke refused to give up and Palace countered; the Eagles earned a vital victory which saw them climb four places from the bottom of the Premier League to 16th position. The Eagles are now only three points from 10th placed Hull City; with the Tigers’ next up for Palace a week on Tuesday under the lights at Selhurst Park.

Crystal Palace: Speroni, Mariappa, Gabbidon, Delaney, Parr, Bolasie (Moxey, 86), Ward, Jedinak, Puncheon, Guedioura (O’Keefe, 68′), Chamakh (Wilbraham, 86′).

Stoke City: Butland, Cameron, Shawcross, Wilson, Pieters, Whelan (Ireland, 58′), Nzonzi, Adam, Walters (Guidetti, 79′ ), Assaidi (Arnautovic, 72′), Crouch.

Attendance: 24, 440

Referee: L. Mason

Matt Woosnam

Matt Woosnam

Matt Woosnam is a Kingston University student in his final year as a Politics & International Relations undergraduate. A campaigner on mental health he is the founder of @Talk_Out, as well as part of the TalkEasyTrust, and seeks to break down stigma by encouraging talking out. Matt is also an avid Crystal Palace fan and the online editor of Five Year Plan Fanzine, as well as a regular contributor to the Croydon Guardian.

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