Block G Report: Crystal Palace 3 – 1 Sunderland


By - Sunday 1st September, 2013

Tom Lickley was in the stands as Crystal Palace recorded their first Premier League victory for eight years – and was excited by the attacking threat posed


Crystal Palace  3 (Gabbidon 9′, Gayle 79′ (pen), O’Keefe 90+2′)

Sunderland  1 (Fletcher 64′)

If Palace are in a so-called ‘relegation battle’, then they can rest assured that not only can they compete with relegation rivals, as Sunderland will surely be if they maintain the form they displayed, but they can significantly outperform them over ninety minutes. On a balmy late summer afternoon, the south Londoners put in the dynamic, fluid performance they had been threatening at points in their first two matches against Tottenham and Stoke.

Right from the start, as the atmosphere fizzed around a Selhurst Park stadium packed to the rafters under a deep blue sky, the home side looked calm, assured in possession and confident in attack. Little wonder then that the opening goal came early; an inswinging corner from Campaña caused mayhem in the Sunderland six-yard area, eventually clipping Palace defender Danny Gabbidon on its way into the net.

Joel Ward put in a comfortable display at right back. Photo by Tom Brogan. Image used under Creative Commons License.

From thereon, the confidence spread like wildfire through the Palace attack. Simple, but quick and effective passing defined the forward momentum between Puncheon, Gayle and Dikgacoi. Puncheon in particular looked positive on his home debut; the Croydon-born winger having two efforts just off target which Sunderland `keeper Westwood scrambled after. Captain Jedinak too, so impressive so far in his first Premier League campaign, curled an effort narrowly over the far post. The away side, with an impressive following from the north-east, rarely threatened Speroni’s goal as the first-half drew to a close.

Echoing the Stoke side of last weekend, after the break Sunderland put the pressure on Palace, and, like Stoke, scored close to the hour mark. A sweeping move across the Selhurst lawn saw Steven Fletcher nod an impressive header into Speroni’s net. Yet again however, the Palace fans roared ever louder after conceding; and 15 minutes later they were presented with their reward.

A simple mistake by Sunderland captain and former Manchester United defender John O’Shea allowed the lightning fast Gayle to nip on to the ball on the edge of the penalty area. O’Shea instinctively lunged in an attempt to rectify his mistake. Too late. Gayle was brought down, and O’Shea rightly sent off. Cue the escalation of nerves as Gayle, two years ago playing for Bishop’s Stortford in non league, stepped up to take the sport kick. Bated breath in the crowd. The penalty was below par; scuffed and almost straight down the middle. Little did the jubilant home crowd care as the ball slipped beneath Westwood. Bedlam ensued.

What was particularly impressive about the performance was the ability of all ten outfield players to interchange positions

With Palace having a goal and a man advantage, the instinct was that the Eagles were to try and hold out for the final ten minutes. Instinct should not always be trusted however, with Palace continuing to surge forward, substitutes Jonny Williams and Aaron Wilbraham chasing every loose ball. Williams and Dikgacoi had chances to increase the lead; Dikgacoi with a sweet strike which required a magnificent save from Westwood. The home side grabbed a third nonetheless; Stuart O’Keefe, so impressive in the play-off final, curled an excellent strike in from the edge of the penalty box – not a bad way to score your first senior league goal. Eardrums suitably pulverized and voices lost into the north Croydon evening, Crystal Palace fans went home happy.

As the Palace fullbacks attacked, Jedinak and Dikgacoi dropped deep to cover. App source: lineupbuilder.com

Tactically, what was particularly impressive about the performance was the ability of all ten outfield players to interchange positions. Witness the attack for instance. One moment, Chamakh and Puncheon would be on the left and right side of attack respectively, with Gayle playing through the middle. The next, the former two players will have swapped sides, or narrowed their angle of attack and Gayle will have dropped deeper into midfield. Puncheon looked comfortable regularly coming in from the wings and playing through the middle also. It was the same for the defence – the full backs, Ward and Moxey, had good games, both in defence and pushing forward to join the attack. When this happened, defensive midfielders Jedinak and Dikgacoi dropped into the full back positions to cover.

What defined the performance was the passing however. Against Spurs, Palace looked rushed and edgy in possession, and lost the ball often through stray or silly passes. Against Sunderland they were a different proposition, with simple passes to the nearest player calmly taken. There were exciting signs of more complex moves too; the front three practiced this rapid interplay in the pre-match warm-up, and looked to have a very promising understanding of each other in the game itself.

There is still a long way to go, of that there is not doubt. Post match, manager Holloway confirmed the signings of two more players (winger Jimmy Kebe from Reading and defender Jack Hunt from Huddersfield) and expects more to come before the transfer deadline on Monday. With Manchester United away up next, Palace will have to be at their very brightest and best if they hope to gain anything in the north-west. More realistically, they will be eyeing their next home match in three weeks against a slow starting Swansea City. On this performance, the Eagles will go into the international break with the knowledge they can compete in the Premier League.

Crystal Palace: Speroni; Ward, Gabbidon, Delaney, Moxey; Jedinak, Dikgacoi, Campaña (Jonny Williams 54′); Puncheon, Gayle (Wilbraham 83′), Chamakh (O’Keefe 83′).

Sunderland: Westwood; Celutska, Colback, O’Shea (Sent off, 78′), Diakite; Larsson, Vaughan, Giaccherini (Mavrias, 61′), Johnson; Dong-won (Fletcher, 46′), Wickham.

Referee: L. Probert

Attendance: 22,671

The Croydon Citizen is looking for a Crystal Palace supporter who will be travelling to Manchester United (a) on Saturday 14th September to report on the match. If you are interested, please contact us.

Tom Lickley

Tom Lickley

Contributing a variety of roles to the Citizen since early 2013, Tom now focuses upon regeneration, urbanism and real estate writing. He is a strategic communications consultant specialising in the real estate sector, and counts a number of the world's largest investment and fund management companies amongst his clients.

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