MillwallSport

Only one Crystal Palace player caused Millwall problems in FA Cup tie

Millwall boss Gary Rowett felt it needed a “quality” spell by Michael Olise to decide Saturday’s FA Cup tie – and claimed that he was the only Crystal Palace player to cause them defensive issues in the third round tie.

The Lions were 1-0 up at the interval through Benik Afobe’s finish.

But Olise curled the Eagles level early in the second half. The £8million summer signing from Reading then hit the left upright for a second time in the derby before producing the cross for Jean-Philippe Mateta to head the decider past George Long.

“If you look at the game overall then you could make a very good argument that we were the better side – performance-wise – over the 93 or 94 minutes,” said Rowett.

“First half we were excellent. We really controlled Palace and had the better chances.

“What it highlighted is that quality turns okay performances into winning games. We’ve played really well in a lot of games and ended up drawing them. Then you play against a team and a moment of quality – those can be the difference in a football match.

“That five-10 minute spell by Olise, he was probably the only one who truly gave us any problems in the game. It looks easy when he does it the first time and then he does it straight after and hits the post – it’s actually quite a difficult thing to stop.

“You need your players to work it out on the pitch and deal with it. But it’s not easy to do. Other than that I was really, really pleased coming away from the game – apart from the result, which I know sounds a little bit stupid. I was really pleased with the performance.

“It was a strong home performance where we showed a little bit of fight and front-foot mentality. There was some really good play.

Michael Olise curls home Palace’s equaliser Picture: Keith Gillard

“The one big thing is if we can add that kind of quality – in a lesser way for us – in January then we might be able to turn some of those games against Championship opponents our way.”

ITV pundits Roy Keane and Ian Wright were critical of Scott Malone for not preventing Olise from cutting on to his stronger foot for the equaliser – and then added that Maikel Kieftenbeld should have stepped across to prevent him being able to pick out Mateta in the penalty area.

“It’s easy for people to say ‘show him one way’ then a good player goes that way and then cuts the other way,” said Rowett. “It’s never quite as easy to stop someone.

“People have to push you out and force you to go and get tight. Or you have to have some support, so if he does go inside then someone else is coming out to close you down.

“You have to assess certain dangermen in teams and sometimes you double up on them so there is less space.

“The second one, you have to mark in the box. You can’t allow a centre-forward a free header in the six-yard box. Between the Bristol game and the Palace game, there are areas I’d like to see us do the basics a little better. But you’re trying to do it against good quality players – they are going to find solutions, aren’t they? It’s like Sheyi in the first half, he went past the players they have got and their manager is saying ‘we’ve got to stop him’.

“You are always going to look back at those key moments and think ‘could we have done better?’ I spoke to the players, it’s something we’ll work on in the second half of the season.

“We’ve started to show some really good quality going forward. Benik and Bradders have started to produce a really promising partnership up front. What we’ve got to do behind that is have a really solid look about ourselves, like we have done previously.”

Benik Afobe celebrates his goal against Palace with Tom Bradshaw also in shot

 

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