BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Crystal Palace have struggled for goals at Selhurst Park. Not today. This was about as good as it gets as they ran out big winners against Leeds United.
Scott Dann, Eberechi Eze, Jordan Ayew and an own goal by Helder Costa moved the Eagles up to sixth in the Premier League table.
It was the first time that Palace had scored three goals in the first half since their 5-3 home win over AFC Bournemouth on May 12, 2019. That was a dead rubber at the end of the season in which both defences took a day off.
This was different. Leeds had scored 13 goals coming into the match – the most for a promoted team since Nottingham Forest (14) in the 1994-95 campaign.
By contrast the Eagles have not been big scorers at Selhurst Park in 2020 – they had only scored more than once in one game. But they produced some excellent attacking play in the opening 45 minutes.
Ilan Meslier will probably feel he should have done better with the opening goal as Dann’s close-range header from Eze’s corner put Palace in front.
Leeds thought they were level when Bamford strode on to Mateusz Klich’s pass and confidently scooped over Vicente Guaita. But VAR ruled it offside – the Leeds number nine penalised for an outstretched arm as he indicated where he wanted the ball played.
A brilliant free-kick by Eze stretched the Eagles’ lead. He had been brought down on the edge of the box and whipped a right-footed effort over the wall and into the top left corner of the net.
Bamford did get his goal on 27 minutes. Cheik Kouyate’s clearance was unconvincing and the striker emphatically dispatched the ball past Guaita.
But Palace gave themselves breathing space again on 42 minutes. Wilfried Zaha played an excellent ball down the left and Patrick van Aanholt’s cross was deflected past Meslier by Costa.
The Eagles were happy to keep their defensive shape after the restart and see if they could counter on Marcelo Bielsa’s side and add to their tally.
The answer was they could.
United’s defensive midfielder Pascal Struijk headed a Jack Harrison corner wide and his reaction suggested he didn’t need to be told he should have done better with the opportunity.
Leeds were leaving gaps as they pushed to get back into the contest and the hosts had the attacking quality to make hay when they gained possession.
Zaha showed excellent awareness to pick out Ayew in the area and his low effort clipped off the base of the right post on its way in.
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