Zaha snatches draw at the death for Crystal Palace
Saturday’s game saw Crystal Palace come from two goals down to earn a point against fellow relegation strugglers West Ham.
The Hammers took the lead in the 33rd minute as Javier Hernandez slotted past Julian Speroni from close range. Andre Ayew then doubled their lead ten minutes later with a thunderous strike from the edge of the box.
The Eagles won a penalty early after the break, as Angela Ogbonna brought down Andros Townsend in the box. Luka Milivojevic made no mistake from 12 yards, as he smashed the spot kick home.
From then on out, it was one-way traffic from Palace, but they struggled to find the breakthrough they needed. In stoppage time, it was Ruben Loftus-Cheek who found Wilfried Zaha in the box, who slotted home in the dying seconds.
This result makes it four dropped points in the last three matches for West Ham and keeps Palace’s faint survival hopes alive.
A game of two halves for Palace
A win for the Eagles would’ve put them within 1 point of their East London opponents, but their first half performance was one lacking urgency.
The Palace defence was the same as it has been so far this season – careless and disorganised. Hernandez was left in acres of space in the box, allowing him to score with very little difficulty.
Passing was also very poor, with West Ham’s second goal coming after Ayew picked up a loose Palace ball.
That said, Roy Hodgson’s side will feel hard done by after Zaha appeared to have been brought down in the box a minute before Hernandez’s goal, only for referee Bobby Madley to wave away any penalty claims.
The second half, however, was an entirely different story. Palace’s early penalty was a deserved one after they upped their attack tenfold from the previous half.
They then went agonisingly close during the whole remainder of the match. After the penalty, Yohan Cabaye saw a curling shot from outside the box bounce off the inside of the post. Another close miss came in the second minute of injury time. James Tomkins hit the bar from Cabaye’s corner before Bakary Sako blazed over from about 6 yards.
The fighting Palace eventually did get their reward, it was one that was unquestionably deserved. A loss today would’ve seen them five points adrift of seventeenth place with Tottenham to play next weekend, so it’s no exaggeration to say Zaha’s late goal is probably their most crucial so far.
Hammers with only themselves to blame
While Palace’s story may have been a game of two halves, West Ham’s performance was far more consistent, but certainly not in a positive way.
As far as positives go, the Irons only really have two positives to take from today. Goalkeeper Joe Hart, on loan from Manchester City, was unquestionably their star player today, making countless point-blank saves to keep his team in the game. The most crucial coming five minutes after their first goal, as he palmed away both Tomkins’ header and Jeffrey Schlupps’ followup in a matter of seconds.
Other than Ayew’s goal, there was nothing else about their performance that stood out for the right reasons. Despite Palace’s slow start, West Ham always looked susceptible at the back. They faced a total of 19 shots all game, 9 of which were on target, as opposed to only 5 of their own. Had it not been for Joe Hart, coupled with Palace’s poor finishing, they could’ve found themselves trailing early on.
They also took part in a lot of time-wasting, the most costly of which being from Hernandez. The striker was through on goal in injury time but chose to take the ball to the corner flag instead. With Zaha’s winner coming in the seventh minute of injury time, one feels that West Ham ended up getting what they deserved in that respect.
Overall, while not the worst result, this will feel much more like two points dropped rather than one gained for the Hammers. Their late capitulation leaves them just one point clear of Everton in 18th, and with Liverpool up next at the London Stadium, those two dropped points could be equally season-defining.
Main image credit:
Embed from Getty Images