Crystal PalaceSport

Second-half horror show leaves Palace fans peeking through their fingers as Tottenham make it a dismal derby

A quick Google search lists ‘The Shining’, Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien’ and ‘Scream’ as terrifying horror movies.

But Crystal Palace’s defensive display from the 48th to the 72nd minute against Tottenham Hotspur at Selhurst Park on Wednesday evening could have given any of those a run for their money.

Eyes began slowly peeking through fingers shortly after half time when Ivan Perisic lifted the ball towards the back post for Harry Kane, enjoying little pressure from the Palace defence, rose above Joel Ward and planted a header past Vicente Guaita.

Spurs sniffed out the frailties in the Palace backline once they opened the scoring and gracefully swept Patrick Vieira’s side away.

Bryan Gil was afforded acres of space on the left-hand side just five minutes after Tottenham’s opener to look up and watch Kane drift into a pocket of space.

England forward Kane picked up the threaded pass from the young Spaniard and buried a shot into the corner of the net.

Once Vieira made Palace’s backline increasingly vulnerable after removing Jeffrey Schlupp, dropping the creative Eberechi Eze deeper and introducing Jean-Philippe Mateta, the shellshocked hosts managed to hold on for another seven minutes before Spurs killed off the game.

Kane jinked past Joachim Andersen in the 68th minute and played Son Heung-min through on goal.

Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Hugo Lloris (left) makes a save from Crystal Palace’s Michael Olise during the Premier League match at Selhurst Park, London. Picture date: Wednesday January 4, 2023.

The South Korean was unable to get a shot off when bearing down on goal, but a pass back to Matt Doherty, who begged Son to play the ball on to his weaker left foot due to the amount of space he had in front of the Palace goal, saw Spurs grab their third.

Four minutes later and a long hopeful ball towards Son – who was struggling for confidence in front of goal this season – saw Marc Guehi fail to deal with the trouble. The forward ended Palace’s 24-minute spell of misery to score Spurs’ fourth.

This is the heaviest defeat of Patrick Vieira’s reign as Palace boss.

While there is no embarrassment in losing to a side which was bolstered by additions worth £145million over the summer, World Cup winners and previous Premier League golden boot holders, Palace had opportunities.

The final 20 minutes of the first half saw Vieira’s side pen Spurs deep into their own half, with Andersen rifling a left-footed shot from distance which whistled past Hugo Lloris’ post.

But the most significant ‘what-if’ moment came in the 26th minute. Wilfried Zaha glided away from Oliver Skipp and Gil, playing the ball inside to Jordan Ayew on the edge of the box.

Ayew, who had opened the scoring in the 2-0 win against Bournemouth last time out, had Michael Olise in space to his right. Instead, the Ghanaian chose to swivel and shoot under pressure from Clement Lenglet, with Lloris getting down well to stop the effort.

Crystal Palace’s Cheick Doucoure (left) and Tottenham Hotspur’s Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg battle for the ball during the Premier League match at Selhurst Park, London. Picture date: Wednesday January 4, 2023.

Zaha’s frustration with Ayew after the move had ended showed what a good opportunity Palace had spurned.

The straightforward second-half Antonio Conte’s side produced shows just how far Crystal Palace are from the Premier League’s top rank.

The team fluctuates from being able to take their chances and remain resilient at the back to looking devoid of creative ideas and fragile defensively.

A lack of a natural replacement for Cheikhou Kouyate over the summer, after he turned down a one-year extension from Palace to sign a new two-year deal with Nottingham Forest, has haunted Palace more than initially expected.

Cheick Doucoure is being asked to do the job of two holding midfielders, with Schlupp looking more uncomfortable in a central role as the season progresses.

Last season saw a side which pressed relentlessly and worked tirelessly to win the ball back and hit teams on the counter-attack, demonstrated by Conor Gallagher after he covered 12.5km – a Premier League-high at the time – in the 0-0 draw with Manchester City in March.

A stat which appeared on Sky Sports during Wednesday’s game showed that Palace, who are now without the Chelsea loanee and have had to adapt to a style of play that relies upon soaking up pressure instead of winning the ball back themselves, were 20th in the Premier League this season in terms of distance covered.

Vieira’s first campaign in charge felt as though the Eagles would head into any game with a competitive nature – but there is an apparent inconsistency in performances this season.

It’s unclear which Palace side will take to the field at the moment.

Cheick Doucoure. Won five tackles and had the most touches, 77, of any Palace player.

Ayew’s shot. The move from Zaha to find Ayew was perfect. It just needed that killer pass to Olise on the right.


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