A dull affair between Crystal Palace and Newcastle United ended goalless as both sides were guilty of creating few clear-cut opportunities. The weather conditions stunted either side’s ability to play expansive football, although a lack of confidence in front of goal likely hindered them both more.
Before kick-off, there were some concerns about whether Wilfred Zaha would start as he exited the pre-match warm-up early. Despite this, the Ivorian international showed little signs of discomfort in the initial proceedings.
During the early stages, neither side exercised much control on the ball and the style of play was typically frantic of two sides who were lacking in confidence.
Crystal Palace were the first to settle, however, although the barrage of crosses fired into the box failed to produce many opportunities. Multiple set pieces failed to produce any notable changes, but it was exclusively the home side in the ascendency throughout this period.
The intensity of the encounter increased as Newcastle attempt to press Palace and give them less time in possession to launch counter-attacks. Unfortunately, on too many occasions this left the away side conceding many fouls in dangerous areas.
During the first half, Newcastle gave away nine fouls, a reliable indicator of the abrasive manner in which they battled Roy Hodgson’s side.
Although both teams created openings within the first half an hour, few were clear cut. Neither Jordan Ayew or Salomon Rondon acclimatised to the game; the pair were easily marked out.
The most notable event of a drab second half was Sakho missing a late header from Andros Townsend’s cross. Selhurst Park was left stunned, but if the goal was scored, it might have been controversial given the ball possibly crossed the line before the former Newcastle winger crossed it.
Should Zaha have been risked?
After initially appearing to have picked up an injury during the warm-up, Wilfred Zaha surprised a few by retaining his position amongst the starting line-up. Due to Crystal Palace dreadful record without their talisman, this would not have been a decision Roy Hodgson would have taken lightly.
Zaha was matched for pace on the wing by Newcastle counterpart DeAndre Yedlin and thus required his virtually unparalleled dribbling ability to manipulate chances for himself or teammates. Yedlin is often uncomfortable with players who cut inside from the left onto a stronger right foot; his opposite man today excelled in those situations. This meant that once the American was exposed and shown an early yellow, Crystal Palace’s most influential player had further freedom to roam inside; where he’s most threatening.
The Ivorian justified his inclusion through exciting wide play when left marked simply by Yedlin; although when Matt Ritchie paired up to track back, this thwarted Zaha’s influence and ultimately blunted Palace’s attacking capability.
Repeat performance from Newcastle
Rafa Benitez presented Rondon with an excellent opportunity to assert his claim as Newcastle’s first choice striker at Selhurst Park on Saturday, but the Venezuelan was unable to improve upon his current record for the Magpies inside the first 45 minutes. Benitez offered little sympathy in return by substituting the on-loan West Brom striker for Joselu at halftime. The Spaniard better involved himself in build-up play than Rondon and connected well with an acrobatic effort, however, the replacement never caused Wayne Hennessy any serious concern.
Currently, it appears that Newcastle’s manager is unsure of his best forward options, this may come courtesy of a few underwhelming attacking performances from the pair. Either way at the current rate the Magpies are scoring, goals could become a pivotal issue in the race for survival.
Palace lack a clinical edge
Although Zaha’s fitness was doubted before the fixture began, a lack of potency in attack has characterised the South London outfit of late. Jordon Ayew was brought into the starting line up to rectify Christian Benteke’s lack of goals, unfortunately, Ayew always appeared well covered by Jamal Lascelles and Federico Fernandez.
From open play, Crystal Palace were underwhelming in creating for Ayew, and it was evident that the side is set up to attack set-pieces due to the fact they scarcely threatened from any other situations. Hodgson is overly reliant on Zaha’s fantastic dribbling ability to create when in possession. However, if the Ivorian isn’t firing at full throttle, then Andros Townsend hasn’t been able to produce the level of consistency to match his counterpart; this should be of concern to Palace fans who perhaps fear a repeat of last season’s struggle in front of goal.