BY SAM SMITH
Jordan Ayew’s stunning late solo goal earned Crystal Palace a 2-1 victory against West Ham United.
The Ghanaian manoeuvred around at least four Hammers defenders and chipped Roberto as the game headed into added time. Cheikhou Kouyate had levelled against his former side after Robert Snodgrass had put the visitors ahead early in the second half.
The hosts were the better team throughout this game but squandered several opportunities – a theme of Palace’s 2019.
Roberto Jimenez has been criticised for several high-profile errors this season and Palace sought to regularly put the West Ham goalkeeper under pressure. The Spaniard twice flapped at crosses from which Max Meyer wasted the rebounds.
James McArthur also got in behind against a Hammers defence which gave Palace far too much space, but the Scot’s cross for Ayew was cleared.
Roy Hodgson’s side should have led after half an hour. Wilfried Zaha’s sensational touch to bring down a long, high clearance and his subsequent tricky approach play led to him crossing but the ball rolled agonisingly across the face of goal where Ayew was not quick enough to position himself. Meyer picked up possession and crossed for Patrick van Aanholt, who somehow slid wide from inside the six-yard box.
West Ham had their first chance towards the end of the first half when Vicente Guaita dropped a cross and Sebastien Haller passed to Robert Snodgrass. The Scotland international delayed his shot and was eventually crowded out.
Early in the second half, the 28-year-old Ayew forced a mistake from Aaron Cresswell and bore down on goal but shot straight at Roberto from a tight angle. Luka Milivojevic then fired over the crossbar as Palace continued to waste good chances.
Palace’s good play meant it was all the more surprising when West Ham went ahead on 57 minutes. Van Aanholt was caught too high up and Snodgrass took advantage, collecting Michail Antonio’s cross and guiding an effort past Guaita.
But that lead only lasted 11 minutes. Jordan Ayew headed a cross upwards and the ball fell to former Hammers midfielder Kouyate, who side-footed past Roberto. The reaction from Selhurst Park was more one of relief than genuine celebration.
Connor Wickham had the chance to put the Eagles in front after coming on a substitute. He raced in on goal but Palace’s general lack of confidence in front of goal prevailed as the forward produced a measly finish – poking the ball straight at Roberto despite being under little pressure.
And the 27-year-old should owe his thanks to fellow substitute Jairo Riedewald, whose goal-saving block to deny two minutes from full time ensured Palace remained level – only for Ayew to leave it until the final game at Selhurst in 2019 to score one of the best goals the stadium has ever witnessed.
The Ghanaian initially did well to hold onto the ball, he then pirouetted around Declan Rice and dummied to get past both West Ham defenders to create a clear route to goal. He then steadied himself as Roberto drew closer and nonchalantly dinked the ball over the Spaniard to win the game.
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