Pardew’s first game in charge ends in stalemate
Crystal Palace moved off the bottom of the table as they drew 0-0 with West Brom in former manager Alan Pardew’s first game.
Hal Robson-Kanu went close for the Baggies, firing over as they put the pressure on Palace from the whistle.
The Eagles then began to turn up the heat in the 20th minute. Wilfried Zaha once again tore the opposing defenders apart before shooting over the bar. Christian Benteke then had two more chances just before halftime but scuffed both of them.
They failed to mount the same performance in the second half, however, as the hosts dominated proceedings for the remainder of the match.
Albion had several chances to take the lead. The most key cut was when Jay Rodriguez broke through the Palace defence before goalkeeper Julian Speroni made himself big to deny the forward.
Ultimately, West Brom couldn’t find the back of the net and Palace picked up consecutive clean sheets for the first time this season.
Frustrated West Brom must continue to build
Alan Pardew praised his team’s endeavour after the match but will be disappointed that his new side couldn’t make their pressure count.
Pardew’s track record shows that he has an instant impact on the dressing room and it certainly showed here. West Brom showed energy, desire, and an urge to prove doubters wrong as they continue to fight to avoid relegation.
The two standout men for the Baggies’ attack were Rodriguez and Matt Phillips. Rodriguez created several key openings for the team and nearly put them in front before being denied by Speroni. Phillips was equally useful, his pace and delivery creating a sense of nervousness among the Palace back four.
Albion’s defence was also excellent. While Tony Pulis’ brand of football may not have been popular, his organisational skills certainly cannot be questioned. His legacy was on show today as well, as the back four managed to quash any and all Palace attacks, preventing them from having shots from up close.
Despite a spirited performance, however, they remain unsettlingly close to the bottom three. They have a crucial game away at Swansea next week before facing Liverpool and United back to back. They will need to find their scoring touch before Saturday if they want more relief in their developing relegation battle.
Still no goals, but hope for Palace on the road
The Eagles set yet another unwanted record this season as they became the first Premier League side to fail to score in 10 consecutive away matches.
Indeed, their attack did feel like their weak point today, with most attempts on goal seeming disorganised. Andros Townsend, in particular, seemed to be having a bad day of things, with most of his attacks leading nowhere.
This could well be down to the bizarre choice of tactics from manager Roy Hodgson. For the past few weeks, he thought it best to play Zaha through the middle and Chelsea loanee Ruben Loftus Cheek out wide. Given that the two are some of the best players in the league in the opposite positions, such a decision feels a strange one. To further support this, Palace’s dominant spell came after the two swapped positions of their own accord.
On the other hand, Palace’s increasingly solid defence was in spectacular form today. Newly appointed permanent captain Mamadou Sakho was once again the focal point of Palace’s back four, making several key interceptions and keeping his team’s penalty area at bay.
Joel Ward, who has been under severe criticism from Palace fans this season, was also excellent. The right-back made several crucial blocks and seemed tireless in his pursuit of Matt Phillips.
But the main spotlight must go to Palace goalkeeper and man of the match Julian Speroni. The 38-year-old Palace veteran produced some stunning saves to keep his side in contention, the most impressive of which from the previously mentioned Jay Rodriguez chance. In fact, the Argentine is only one clean sheet short of Nigel Martyn’s record in all competitions for Palace (111).
Considering Palace went the first seven games with no wins and no goals, being only 3 points away from safety can be considered a remarkable turnaround. However, they must also learn to utilise their attackers properly if they are to turn their abysmal scoring record on the road around.