Stoke City 1-2 Crystal Palace: Five Things We Learned

Written by Robert Sutherland

Palace are a tough nut to crackJames McArthur Clap

For all of the pressure that Stoke City applied during the first and second half, Palace proved to an incredibly tough opponent for a team that seemingly glided past Manchester City just a few weeks earlier. With the quality that Stoke have - and they have plenty - there seemed an inevitability to them scoring from one of the many chances they had - but a steadfast defence and the man-mountain that was Wayne Hennessey stood resolutely against the Potters onslaught. Credit also goes to our attacking players - the adage that defence starts from the front couldn't have been applied better than to this performance - with all of Palace's attacking line doing their bit. A combination of all that effort - the last-ditch tackles, inspired saves and indomitable spirit - came together to defeat a side that could easily have expected a win from the game. 

Ledley is proof of Palace's strength in depth

For all the talk of Palace lacking meaningful depth to the squad, performances like Saturday's against Stoke prove that some of that negativity is misguided. The news that Yohan Cabaye would not feature in the match due to an injury resulted in plenty of concern - how could a side that had featured the charismatic midfielder all season function without his calmness or authority in the middle? With the depth that players like Joe Ledley provide. The Welshman has had to put up with a fair deal of frustration this season - dropping from first-team regular to sporadic midfield cameo-master as and when needed. At a time where he no doubt wishes to play as much as possible in the run-up to Euro 2016 in France, spending time on the bench (or not even in the squad) can't be easy. But Ledley is a wholehearted professional. His performance against Stoke was faultless - he may lack some of the qualities of Cabaye but brings other elements to his game that Cabaye can't - the physicality, a more aggressive touch to aerial duels - all of which strengthened Palace's resolve in the centre of the pitch. 

What have THE Koreans ever done for us? 

...was probably the question many fans asked when Alan Pardew called on Chung Yong Lee to replace Wilfried Zaha late in the second half. After almost a year of waiting to see what he could do, the goal at Stoke - a thunderous 30-yard strike in the 88th minute - surprised and delighted euphoric Palace supporters. Lee has had a tough time at Palace - spending much of his time recovering from a hairline fracture in the same leg that he broke a few years prior - only to return to a side where midfield options were numerous. He has made a number of substitute appearances but few of us really knew what to expect. The strike was ingenious - Palace had played a game of goalmouth ping-pong just seconds beforehand - and most of us in the away end would have hoped for a cross back into a crowded box. Instead, Lee saw a chance, took it, and hit a sliced shot across Jack Butland's goal. Three points and the memory of one of Palace's best Premier League goals since promotion - that kind of contribution is what the Korean midfielder did for us. 


Perhaps it was out of kindness to Glen Johnson that Alan Pardew initially opted to play Yannick Bolasie in a withdrawn striker role - or perhaps it was tactical - but whatever the case, the switch to the wing brought him back into direct opposition to a player he'd made such a fool of previously. Johnson has difficulty in dealing with Bolasie's skill, pace and directness. Like a matador, Yala rolled the ball under his foot like a red rag - and like a bull, Johnson committed - only to see the Palace winger storming away with the ball still at his feet - it was wonderful to watch. With a more clinical approach to finishing, he might have put his side a goal or two ahead. For Johnson, such a confrontation would have brought back awful memories of that evening in May in which Liverpool's title hopes were shattered - and despite being just 31, if it might be time to consider his options. Yannick was brilliant - and had it not been for Wayne Hennessey's outstanding performance, he could easily have been our Man of the Match. 

Chamakh return couldn't be better timed 

Connor Wickham followed his first goal for Palace by getting injured again, with Pardew suggesting he might be out for a few weeks. The striker had had a tough encounter against Ryan Shawcross and Erik Pieters, but he took the penalty with the confidence of a player who looked ready to score more goals. That he's injured is terrible luck - but Wickham's performances in recent weeks meant that the club weren't forced to rush Marouane Chamakh back to fitness. He should now be fit and ready to play his part in matches. The Moroccan made a brief appearance on Saturday and saw a shot go narrowly wide - but there was a sense that he needed more time on the pitch to really get a grip of the game. Our trip to Bournemouth on Saturday will give him the perfect opportunity to get some time on the field and make the kind of contribution that we know he can.