Even the wind and rain couldn’t hamper Wolves’ surge up the table, as a Matt Doherty goal gave them a 1-0 win over Palace to rise into 7th place.
The cold weather had settled in at Selhurst Park as many of the players decided to don the woollen gloves, as the two sides faced each other for the very first time in the Premier League. The home side started the game the better, as they dominated possession in the early stages as they stopped the in-form visitors from settling into their flowing rhythm.
The story of the first half was one of missed half chances for both sides. Zaha took advantage of a fortunate bounce off Boly and sent in a teasing cross that wasn’t met by Ayew, as he was left on his heels. It was then Wolves’ turn to threaten the deadlock, as Jimenez dragged his shot wide and then forced Hennessey into a good save as he beat the offside trap.
Both sides would go on to have some more chances, with Schlupp skying it over the bar, Jota slicing the ball wide, and Jimenez forcing more saves from the former Wolves goalkeeper, as the half ended goalless.
The second half has been where Wolves have scored most of their goals, and that didn’t change as Doherty broke the deadlock in the 56th minute. He broke down the right side, cut inside past the despairing Van Aanholt, then played a one-two with his striker Jimenez and drilled the ball inside the near post. Hennessey should have done better with covering his near post, but it’s another example of Doherty’s attacking threat in this fluent Wolves side.
Palace didn’t go into their shells as they pressed for an equaliser. Patricio was forced into making a brilliant double save, as Townsend’s chipped cross is met by a superbly strike volley from substitute Meyer, only to be spilt by the Portuguese number one, but he recovered well to collect the rebound shot.
The visitors came closest to grabbing a second goal as Moutinho’s cross was deflected to second-half substitute Cavaleiro, whose thunder shot soared past the Palace keeper, but unfortunately for the away team, it crashed against the crossbar and away from danger.
Palace continued to press but there was no more trouble for Patricio in the Wolves goal, and the visitors held on to claim their fourth win of the season.
Home Strifes for Palace
Since Crystal Palace returned to the Premier League, they have really struggled at home. Out of the 95 home Premier League games they’ve played from the start of the 2013/14 season to the end of last season, they only won a third of them; Selhurst Park has been anything but a fortress for the South London side.
As a team that plays at their best when they counter-attack teams, it means that they tend to do better away from home where they can defend deep and break against attacking teams. Palace struggle to be the team that controls possession in a game, especially with players like Cabaye having now moved elsewhere.
Another blank of the scoresheet means they have failed to score in their first four home games this season, a first for the club. It’s a troubling statistic, especially when you think they scored ten goals in the last three home games last season. However, it is not the worst start they’ve had, having not scored in their opening seven games last season, three at home and four away, and still found the resolve to climb back up the table. They need to switch this recent form and do it soon. Maybe the latest international break has rescued them again.
Wolves Strength in Defence
For all of Wolves’ attractive attacking football, it is their defence that has given them the foundations to forward. They have now only conceded a single goal in their last seven games in all competitions, that goal being a Fred strike at Old Trafford. Four clean sheets so far this season means that they’ve kept clean sheets in half of their league games.
They have carried on the form from last season, as their impressive path to the Championship title was assisted by 24 clean sheets, and they have continued to put in impressive performances at the back. However, it’s not just their ability to keep opponents out that is so good about their defence, but their threat going forward too.
A third of the goals scored by Wolves this season have been scored by their defenders. In fact, it is only Coady and Bennett who have failed to register their names on the scoresheet so far. Doherty has been a stand out performer, as well as grabbing the winning goal today, he has assisted two other Wanderers goals, and looks like he could have a superb season at right-back for the promoted side.
Where do Palace go from here?
It is a hard question to ask where Palace go from here. This defeat means that they have fallen to 14th place in the table, only four points clear of the drop zone, and it’s only the worse form of teams below that’s keeping them from dropping lower. As a team that was touted as a team that could potentially challenge for the final Europa League spot this season, they look anything but challengers.
The lack of an out-and-out goal scorer has been most evident, becoming increasingly reliant on Zaha to drag them into winning positions. They only recruited Ayew in the summer to support the likes of Benteke and Sørloth, one of which is devoid of form, and the latter struggling to get into the team and only scored one goal for the club.
January cannot come quick enough for the South Londoners, and their fans will be hoping that the club will bring someone in that can take the goalscoring burden off the shoulders of Zaha. The worry would be that January is too late, they need someone now, so the likes of Ayew, Benteke, Sørloth, and even Townsend, will have to step up, or Palace could find themselves right in the middle of another relegation dogfight.
Man of the Match: Willy Boly
The Wolves defender put in another impressive display as he put his body on the line numerous times to block Palace shots, and help his side to a fourth clean sheet, stretching their unbeaten run in the league to six.