It finally happened. Palace won without Wilf Zaha for the first time in over two years as they beat Leicester 1-0 at Selhurst. We learned some things while freezing our proverbials off. Here they are.
No Wilf, No Worries
Well, that's one very unwanted streak gone. Palace finally won a game without Wilf Zaha in the team, the first time since September 2016 and a 3-2 win at Sunderland. Game after game Roy Hodgson and his team (and fans) were reminded that when Wilf doesn't play Palace don't win and it's hard to ignore the psychological effect that had on the team (and the stands).
So to finally break the duck in a must-win game is huge really. We still do rely on Zaha far too much to create things going forward and that's a debate for another day but winning without him in the team, something that should really be a formality and would be for most teams, is now no longer a discussion point. Thank god.
The match winner was an absolute banger from Luka Milivojevic, curling it into the bottom corner from 25-yards out giving Kasper Schmeichel no chance. It was only Palace's third goal from open play at Selhurst Park this season, the other two being a fluke and another banger against Burnley.
It reinforces the worry that apart from penalties and worldies, Palace don't actually score or even look like scoring many normal goals. Each time they go forward it's hard to feel like they are going to create decent chances and put it in the net.
Jordan Ayew certainly put himself about on Saturday and arguably had his best game for Palace, winning some flick ons and making some intelligent runs in behind (even though he was called offside for a few of them). But even when he does get into decent positions you just never feel like he will score or that Palace are a threat going forward. That has to change.
What a Guai
Palace fans finally got to see January signing Vicente Guaita in between the sticks for a league game, five months after he arrived in South London. And it was worth the wait as he put in a very sturdy, and entertaining, display.
In truth he didn't have a lot to do in what was a frankly slog of a game but two big moments stood out. He was 'fouled' by Jamie Vardy trying to play the ball with his feet in the first half and got away with what really was a soft foul.
However, he denied the Leicester no.9 in some style late on with a save low down to his left that rebounded off the post into his grateful arms. A little tap in thanks to the post and a cheery post-match interview in broken English has only endeared him to Palace fans more. That, and the fact he isn't Wayne Hennessey.
Another player who filled in on Saturday was perennial backup Martin Kelly, who played in the place of the suspended James Tomkins at centre-back. He was arguably Man of the Match with an imperious display alongside Mama Sakho.
Kelly has come a long way from the days where he asked not to be played at left-back by Alan Pardew because he was getting torn apart so regularly and while he may not be a starter he always seems to do a job when called upon.
Back in his natural position of centre-back he was an absolute rock, keeping Vardy quiet and winning almost everything in the air. He probably deserves to keep his place in the team next week too.
After yesterday’s imperious performance, what would you do... #cpfc— Five Year Plan 🦅 (@FYPFanzine) December 16, 2018
It was only a week ago fans were calling for Roy's head but funny how they have gone quiet on social media after that professional, if unexciting, victory over Leicester.
That's now two home wins on the bounce and no goals conceded, in fact it's three games unbeaten at home in the last four and that was only cos Jordan Ayew bottled a header against Spurs.
Things aren't quite as bad as the doom and gloom merchants on Twitter will have you believe and Hodgson and Palace have a history of turning things around. January will be a big month but there are plenty of signs from Saturday that the season could pan out nicely again.