Yannick attacks and Aussie rules as Eagles grind out key victory

By - Friday 10th October, 2014

Nadim Lilani is in buoyant mood. He reviews Palace’s first league victory at Selhurst Park this season, which catapulted the team to their highest league position since 1997

Crystal Palace 2-0 Leicester City

For three quarters of an hour on Saturday, Crystal Palace played like the champions of Spain. Resilient rear-guard action: check. Midfield dominance: check. Maximum exploitation of set-piece opportunities: check.

All of the above were regular features en route to Atletico Madrid’s La Liga conquest last season. And Palace utilised this approach to overcome Leicester City in the second half of their latest triumph. Although Neil Warnock may carry a different swagger to that of the Godfather-like Diego Simeone, his tactics ultimately carried the same weight as the Argentine’s: eventual victory.

Yannick Bolasie’s feints proved too hot for Wes Morgan to handle

Equally, it is worth reflecting on goalkeeping mainstay Julian Speroni’s recent claims. The custodian insists that he and his teammates deserve as much credit as Tony Pulis received for the club’s Lazarus-like turnaround last season. You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot force it to drink. In this sense, Saturday’s success was not just a testament to Warnock’s strategic nous. It also highlighted the patience and self-assurance of a well-oiled, red-and-blue machine.

Yannick Bolasie excelled, producing a performance as eye-catching as it was effective. Perhaps inspired by his recent ribbing of friend and former teammate Bradley Wright-Phillips – with whom he is locked in an ongoing rap battle – the winger transferred his microphone prowess onto the pitch. Leicester defender Wes Morgan was forced to deal with Bolasie’s melodic footwork in the 53rd minute. As the two were pitted against each other one-on-one, the trickster’s feints proved too hot for Morgan to handle. The result: an appealing dead ball situation in Palace’s favour.

Mile Jedinak has won 25 tackles in the Premier League so far this season – 6 more than any other player in the division

As Arsene Wenger would begrudgingly admit later the same day, a team in the ascendancy should never waste their set pieces. Jason Puncheon certainly capitalised on the free-kick won by Bolasie, as he swung in a curling ball which evaded all of the Foxes in the box. The first man to get a touch on it was a very big man. And what a touch it was. Palace captain Mile Jedinak flicked the deftest of headers into the side netting. Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel was left helpless.

This was the first time that the Australian had scored a Premier League goal with his head – his two previous top-flight strikes coming from the penalty spot. As long as Bolasie maintains his dazzling wing play, the Eagles will continue to be awarded free-kicks in dangerous areas. Thus, Jedinak’s colossal frame – plus a penchant for winning ariel duals – can equate into headed goals on a more regular basis.

The Socceroos’ skipper is already a brilliant midfield powerhouse. A league-high 25 successful tackles so far this season – 6 more than any other player in the division – demonstrate his immense value. Adding goals to this already phenomenal contribution would only augment Jedinak’s worth, as well as lessening the burden on Palace’s attacking personnel.

James Mcarthur outshone Champions League winner Esteban Cambiasso

The Eagles’ number 15, along with his two midfield compatriots, was the driving force behind an extremely encouraging second half display. Until Saturday, league encounters at Selhurst Park this season must have felt like Groundhog Day for Joe Ledley. An injury during the warm-up before the match against West Ham on 23rd August meant he was unable to participate. Then, he managed to bizarrely crock himself in the dug-out during the Burnley game a fortnight ago.

Ledley was getting struck down by nothing this time. A combative workhorse throughout, he showed great conviction at both ends of the pitch. The Welshman exerted himself defensively and, were it not for a clearance off the line, would have been rewarded with the goal that his efforts deserved.

The last third of Palace’s midfield trio, James McArthur, also impressed. His accurate passing and willingness to tackle permitted the home side to control the tempo of the second period. Such are the fine margins in football, McArthur could have easily been playing for the South Londoners’ opposition on the day.

Wigan Athletic’s asking price proved a stumbling block in the Foxes attempt to acquire the midfielder this summer. A move fell through, with Leicester opting to sign an alternative – Esteban Cambiasso – from Inter Milan. McArthur was hell-bent on sealing a Premier League return though. The 26-year-old eventually completed a £7 million move to Palace – albeit after a stressful and frantic transfer deadline day to-do. Had the planets not quite aligned as they did on 1st September, the Scotland international would still be playing Championship football with Wigan. Instead, he outshone Champions League winner Cambiasso at Selhurst Park on Saturday.

Fraizer Campbell’s goal was a product of determination and opportunism

Former Cardiff City striker Fraizer Campbell was also closely watched by Leicester throughout the summer – before Palace snapped him up on 24th July. Ironically, the forward escaped the Foxes’ attention to open the scoring in the 51st minute.

The build-up was somewhat similar to that of the second goal. Bolasie’s rasping shot was tipped over the crossbar, allowing his team to launch an assault from a corner kick. An inviting delivery was pumped goalwards by Puncheon. Again, the initial contact came from a unit of a player – the 6′ 5″ Scott Dann causing havoc in the penalty area. Campbell showed improvisation to prod the centre-back’s header home at the far post. It was not pretty, but rather a product of determination and opportunism. The kind of goal that Simeone loves to see his Atletico side score.

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Nadim Lilani

Nadim Lilani

Nadim Lilani is a recent Hispanic Studies graduate from the University of Birmingham. A keen football fan and writer, he enjoys expressing his love for Croydon by documenting all things sport in south London.

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