Wilfried Zaha scored a wonder goal to help Crystal Palace return to winning ways as they escaped West Yorkshire with a 1-0 victory over misfiring Huddersfield Town.
The Premier League had finally returned to the John Smith’s after the international break, and it was nearly back with a bang as the home side thought they had a penalty in the opening minutes. After a long throw-in from Billing fell to Kachunga in the box, the Huddersfield man was brought down by Hennessey, but the calls of a spot-kick were waved away as the assistant referee’s flag went up for offside.
The visitors were riding their luck throughout the first half, as Huddersfield found a lot of joy down the left-hand side, especially through Löwe. The left-back provided a number of excellent crosses into the Palace box, with a couple of them meeting the head of Mounie, but he should have done better, as his efforts did not trouble Hennessey.
The deadlock was broken seven minutes before halftime, but not from the more threatening Terriers. A one-two move between Zaha & Ayew on the left sent the returning winger speeding away. Following a few customary stepovers, he cut inside between Billing and Hadergjonaj, kept his composure, and slotted the ball past Lossl into the far corner to put the visitors ahead.
Huddersfield came out in the second half much like they did the first, looking the better side and providing a majority of the goal threats. Again, they were denied the chance to claim an equaliser as Billing side-footed the ball home, but was disallowed as Mounie was adjudged to have fouled a Palace player.
Huddersfield then came closest to levelling the score, in spectacular style. Australian playmaker Aaron Mooy hit the woodwork from a volley from a floated cross that displayed some superb technique. But, unfortunately for the hosts, the ball could not find its way into the Palace net from the resultant scuffle as the ref blew for a foul.
The second half then played out in a set pattern of Huddersfield controlling the ball, creating what seemed like a never-ending amount of chances, and Palace resorting to trying to catch their opponents on the break, with opportunities on the counter falling to Ayew and Zaha, both of which failed to hit the target. The Eagles were able to withstand the constant pressure, and escape the John Smith’s with what seemed like a lucky, albeit probably undeserving, three points.
The Lone Wilf
As it was shown last week against Southampton, when Zaha doesn’t play, Crystal Palace are a different team. It can be seen that, without their biggest threat, the team is a lot more timid in their approach, and have thus failed to get any points in their last 11 without him. However, with Zaha in the side, it’s a different story.
Everything that Palace do goes through Zaha; he tends to have his name mentioned whenever there is something to be said about Palace going forward. Returning to the side after an injury, he showed why he is the talisman for the South Londoners, scoring the winning goal and dragging Palace back up after three successive defeats.
Wilf has now scored eight goals and also provided an assist for three other goals by his teammates in his last 13 games. Since the start of the 2016/17 season, Crystal Palace have scored 98 goals, and Zaha has personally contributed, by either scoring or assisting, to 35 of them. That’s a whopping 35% of Palace’s attacking returns over the course of two seasons. Its hard to argue with Palace being called a one-man team.
Mounie’s Benteke Impression
There was much said about Benteke’s performance against Southampton before the international break, as he failed to convert any of his chances in what has become a typical display by the Palace striker. However, with the Belgian missing this game through injury, Steve Mounie stepped up to take the role as he found himself on the end of many a good chance.
The biggest chances fell to the Benin born striker, courtesy of the deliveries from Löwe on the lefthand side. It came as a constant source of chances, with the ball seemingly find his head each time, but failing to prove any real threat to Hennessey’s goal.
Mounie has now failed to score in any of his last nine games, only notching one in the goals column in the last 14 league appearances. As the only real alternative to Steve is Depoitre, who has only managed one goal in his last 22 appearances in the Premier League. If there is to be top-flight football at the John Smith’s Stadium next season, Mounie will have to find the form from last season that saw him get seven goals.
It was the same old problem for Huddersfield as they struggled to convert the numerous chances they created. Prior to the game, they had only managed to find the back of the net once in their previous seven home games. In that time, they had managed to accumulate over a hundred shots on goal.
Today they racked up 15 shots at the Palace goal, but with only two of those actually on target, it was always going to be difficult to get anything out of the game.
It can be seen as both ways, as it is clear that they are working hard and getting a lot of chances, especially for a side that is not normally associated with high scores. However, what Huddersfield did well last season was winning tight games and keeping clean sheets; this season they are struggling to do that. Having now conceded 11 goals in their five games, and only scoring two, and still without a win this season, it looks like being a long fight for survival for the West Yorkshire side.