Crystal Palace secured their first ever league double over Burnley, as goals from Michy Batshuayi, Wilfried Zaha and the Clarets’ own Phil Bardsley gave the visitors a 3-1 victory and an important three points in the fight for Premier League survival.
The home side dominated possession early on as Palace struggled to get out of their own half. However, on one of their rare ventures out of their half that the away side took the lead. A quarter of an hour into the game, Cheikhou Kouyaté, who was making his return to the starting line-up, strode forward before finding Wilfried Zaha open down the right channel.
The Ivorian talisman ran at left-back Charlie Taylor, battling past him, then cut the ball across the mouth of the Burnley goal. It was pulled back by Jefferey Schlupp rebounding off the thigh of Phil Bardsley and into the home side’s net. It was unfortunate for the veteran right-back, and there wasn’t much he could really do about it. This goal meant that Palace have scored in nine consecutive Premier League games for the first time in a single season.
The first half remained to be pretty cagey, with the score remaining 1-0, but it did not take long for the lead to be doubled after the restart. Three minutes into the second half, the away side worked the ball out to the right hand side where Aaron Wan-Bissaka was on hand to deliver the ball into the Burnley box, where on-loan striker Michy Batshuayi was on hand to slot it past a helpless Tom Heaton, notching up his second for the South London club.
Burnley would continue to control the ball, having a number of chances with the likes of Chris Wood going closest to getting the Clarets back into the game, but it was the visitors who scored a third to seal the win and the three points. Kouyaté providing the influential impact as he squared it to Zaha, who again took on Taylor, weaving past him and Ben Mee before drilling a shot into the bottom of the net past Heaton; racking up his 5th goal in his last five league games.
There was a consolation for the home side as time drew towards extra time to reward their efforts, as Burnley’s two Ashleys connected to wipe out the Palace clean sheet. Ashley Westwood, on the right-hand wing, delivered the ball with a whipped cross which evaded the despairing hands of Wayne Hennessey, who was making a surprise start in place of Vincente Guaita, and Ashley Barnes was on hand to flick the ball into the Palace net.
“Can we play away every week?”
Crystal Palace may want to contact the relevant authorities to petition having all of their fixtures next season to be played away from Selhurst Park, as the distinct difference between the home and away form continues to widen.
Since the 3-2 loss away at West Ham on the 8th of December, Palace have only lost one of the six away games they have played in the league, including a somewhat surprising win at Wolves, an impressive 4-1 win at the King Power against Leicester, and that now famous 3-2 win away at the home of the incumbent champions Manchester City. In fact, the only one they have lost was the thrilling 4-3 defeat to Liverpool, and it’s not often anyone scores three goals at Anfield who aren’t in the shirt of the red half of Merseyside.
On the contrary, in the same period of time, they have only mustered two wins in the seven home games they have had, losing three of them. The next two home fixtures against Brighton and Huddersfield certainly look winnable, on paper at least, but when you factor in the rivalry between the Eagles and the Seagulls, it will probably be the Sussex side who go into that game as favourites.
The South London side have four more away fixtures this season, those being trips to Newcastle, Cardiff, and twice to North London to face Arsenal and Tottenham, where the expectation amongst the Palace faithful would be for at least six points out of them, but with the hope of more.
Turn in form, or just a blip?
Prior to the last few days, Burnley were one of the inform teams in the league. Before the defeat to Newcastle, they went unbeaten in their previous eight league games.
Included in those games were impressive results West Ham, Brighton, Manchester United, and one of the results of the season beating Tottenham 2-1 at home, all but ending the Spurs title challenge in the process. It is a run of positive results that you would have struggled to predict when they welcomed the Hammers to Turf Moor just before the new year, having lost nine of the previous 12 games in the league.
It is almost like they have had a season of two halves, which begs the question if the results in the last two games are merely a blip or a troubling sign of things to come for the Lancashire club. Is such circumstances, coming off the back of two defeats and looking to bounce back, Sean Dyche will be looking for his players to rekindle that sparkling form of January and February.
Unfortunately, they face the unenviable task of travelling to the home of one of the main title challengers, and attempt to take points off a Liverpool side who have only failed to win on eight occasions this season. After the trip to Anfield, they do have a run of what they hope will be winnable games against Leicester City, Wolves, Bournemouth, and Cardiff City, three of which are at home. Hopefully for Dyche and the Turf Moor faithful, they can recapture that winning touch in these matches as the last four games of their season look very ominous.
Ashley Barnes: Austria’s number one?
Many fans of football would be surprised if you told them that Burnley’s Ashley Barnes is actually eligible to play for the Austrian international team.
Well he was, up until a few days ago. It was believed that he would qualify by a hereditary link through his grandmother who was from Klagenfurt, the capital of the southern Austrian province of Carinthia (geography lesson alert).
But although the Austrian manager Franco Foda has not been shy about his desire to call up Barnes, Philipp Trattner, the Council of Ministers Head of Sport, stated that ‘His previous sporting achievements (including one appearance for the Austrian U20 side in 2008) have no relation to Austria, in particular they have not been provided over a relevant period in Austria. His Austrian roots don’t matter.’ Basically, this renders his Austrian eligibility null and void.
It is a shame for Ashley that he can’t represent Ausitra, especially as he’s currently having a great season, including a current hot scoring run of five goals in his last six games. He has a further four goals in the league this season and three assists for his teammates, which is pretty good when you think Austria’s main man up front, West Ham’s Marko Arnautović, only has seven goals. Hopefully, for Barnes’ sake, there could be some form of change in opinion from the Council of Ministers, but unfortunately it doesn’t look likely. Anybody got Southgate’s number?
One more win?
These next two fixtures for the Eagles were hugely important in determining their fate this season, playing both of the sides immediately below them in Burnley and bitter rivals Brighton next week.
If they were to lose both of them, then they would find themselves right at the heart of the relegation dogfight, but wins could see them sit at a distance of relative safety.
Even with Brighton’s victory over bottom side Huddersfield Town, the defeats for Cardiff City, Southampton, and Burnley have help Palace immeasurably in their pursuit for Premier League survival.
They have moved back up to 13th in the table, climbing above Newcastle United who were yet to play at time of writing, but more importantly moving eight points clear of 18th placed Cardiff City. It does look great for the side from the Welsh capital, having lost their last 3 games to Watford, Everton, and Wolves, conceding 10 goals in the process and only notching up one of their own.
However, it could get worse still, with games against Chelsea, Manchester City, and Liverpool in their next five games, as well as sides around them playing extra games as the Bluebirds sit out of any action over the FA Cup weekends. This is all good news for Palace as it could mean Cardiff being cut adrift of the rest and leaving Palace safe in the league to concentrate on the FA Cup game with Watford in pursuit of another trip to Wembley.
Is the real Zaha back?
There have been question marks over the form of Wilfried Zaha this season, which is not unfamiliar given his ability to impact any game he plays in.
After an impressive start to the season scoring three goals in the first five league games, including the home game he missed against Southampton, he had helped Palace have a much better start to the campaign than they had in season prior.
All the signs were pointing towards Zaha, and as a result Crystal Palace as a club, having a stand out season and pushing on from their mid-table finish last season. However, although he only missed two of the next 18 Premier League games, he only notched up assists for his teammates (5) rather than continuing the goal scoring nous his early season promise showed.
The away trip down to the South Coast was the turning point in Zaha’s season that has seen his form take 180-degree spin towards the positive for Palace.
He grabbed his first league goal for four months, and has gone on a further four more goals including the one today against the Clarets, only not getting on the scoresheet against former club Manchester United. His continued upturn in form will be important to Palace as the head into more vitally important games, as he strives to bring a trophy to his boyhood club.