A deflected Wilfried Zaha goal was enough to earn Crystal Palace a point against West Ham in an entertaining London derby.
After a relatively quiet first ten minutes, West Ham had the two first major chances of the match. Ryan Fredericks and Robert Snodgrass were both denied goals by Vicente Guaita in the Palace goal, as the tempo began to rise amidst the cauldron-like atmosphere within Selhurst Park.
It was not long until Crystal Palace started to create chances of their own. Wilfried Zaha played in James McArthur who forced a stunning save from Lukasz Fabianski, as both sides persistently pressed for the opener.
West Ham were then awarded a penalty in the 26th minute. Palace goalkeeper Guaita took out Michail Antonio, for what was a clear penalty. Mark Noble then stood up assume his spot-kick duties, with the Hammers captain sending Guaita the wrong way to put West Ham into a deserved 1-0 lead.
Palace almost found themselves level as Christian Benteke was played in behind the West Ham defence by Andros Townsend, but the Belgian striker was denied by Fabianski in spectacular fashion.
Palace started the second half the stronger side and should have equalised through McArthur. The Scotsman was played in behind the Hammers defence, but with the goal at his mercy, he was unable to score. A potential miss of the season; especially as he could have passed to two Palace players for a tap-in.
Palace were then fortunate to keep all eleven men on the pitch as Luka Milivojevic should have been handed a second yellow card for a poor challenge on the goalscorer Mark Noble.
Michy Batshuyai, on as a substitute, then missed his chance to bring Palace level. Patrick Van Aanholt slipped him in, and he then snatched at the shot and fired wide. West Ham were riding their luck at this point, as the prospect of three points, let alone one, began to dwindle much to the dismay of Manuel Pellegrini.
The Palace pressure then paid off in the 75th minute. The ball broke to Wilfried Zaha on the edge of the six-yard box, and his effort took a massive deflection in order to deceive Fabianski and fall into the net.
Palace then piled on the pressure and created enough chances to win the game. Fabianski in the West Ham goal was in flying form and was unbeatable. The goalkeeper kept out efforts from Batshuyai and Zaha to keep the scores level.
Can Michy Batshuyai fire Crystal Palace into the top ten?
Michy Batshuyai made his second appearance in a Crystal Palace shirt against West Ham. The loanee striker replaced Christian Benteke and looked by far the more dangerous striker.
Batshuyai’s link-up play with Wilfried Zaha was brilliant and saw Palace create many chances. The Belgian did, however, miss a couple of chances that he should have scored. But there was a feeling watching him that it will only take one goal for the floodgates to open, and when they do Palace will have a serious player on their hands for the rest of the season. If this goal comes soon, then Palace could be real dark horses to finish in the top ten.
Arnautovic second choice?
Marko Arnautovic made his return from injury and transfer speculation, with West Ham fans holding mixed feelings about the former fan favourite. Arnautovic’s performance, when he came on, seemed lethargic especially when West Ham were dying for an outlet.
Crystal Palace were dominating the game and the Hammers needed his usual energy and power in order to relieve the pressure. This just didn’t happen however, instead the Austrian striker was unable to get himself into the game and overall it seemed to be a wasted substitute. If this attitude continues then it could signal problems for the Hammers, as it is never good having one of the highest earners at the club not pulling their weight.
Even for Arnautovic, it could be problematic as no club will want to pay him the money he wants if he is not producing. So for now, expect Javier Hernandez to be leading the line for West Ham.
VAR needed again?
Despite Crystal Palace deserving the equaliser they scored, they could consider themselves lucky that they weren’t down to ten men.
Luka Milivojevic was deserving of a second yellow card after a nasty challenge on Mark Noble. The card might not have been given as advantage was given instead. But West Ham fans will feel aggrieved especially after conceding an offside goal against Liverpool on Monday.
It makes sense with the amount of money on football that it would be crucial to have the decisions be correct in matches. VAR is a must for next season.
Fabianski the most underrated player in the league?
Lukasz Fabianski has to be considered one of the best goalkeepers in the league. Despite only keeping four league clean sheets this season, he arguably has been one of West Ham’s star performers.
Signed from relegated Swansea City for £7 million Fabianski has certainly repaid that fee in his performances. The 33-year-old has made a massive 97 saves this season and has kept his club in more games than he has lost for them. He has only made one clear error leading to goal this season, which is less than £67 million Alisson and £30 million Jordan Pickford.
Another factor that needs to be considered is Fabianski is playing behind a far less secure defence and has to do a lot more work than those other goalkeepers. At least Fabianski has been recognised on an international level, having recently been awarded Polish player of the year.
£35 million for Declan Rice?
After an impressive season so far Declan Rice has earned plenty of plaudits due to his performances. It seemed inevitable that clubs would start to be interested in the young Hammer, and Tottenham have now been linked with £35 million bid in the summer.
Rice, who can play in centre-back or in central-defensive midfield roles, has recently signed a new long-term contract with West Ham. This could make a more for him tricky for any club as the Hammers are likely to want a substantial fee, especially with the market inflation on young British players. So don’t expect the ‘Basmati Busquets’ to leave West Ham any time soon.
Man of the Match: Lukasz Fabianski.
Fabianski was on fire again and was only beaten by a deflected effort. The Polish keeper single-handily won West Ham the point as he made save after save in the second half, keeping out efforts from Batshuyai, Zaha and McArthur all afternoon at Selhurst Park.