Crystal Palace once again lost in the Premier League without scoring as they went down 0-1 to Newcastle United at St. James’ Park on Saturday.
Spanish utility man Mikel Merino stepped off the bench to secure all three points with a fortunate header from a late Matt Ritchie corner. Palace have now lost eight of their opening nine league matches this season.
Much the better side throughout, the Eagles failed to capitalise on their superiority and rarely challenged the home side goal. Despite showing more adventure and desire on the ball, Palace failed to register a single shot on target in the match. They did create openings through the impressive Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha up front, but largely struggled to ever test Toon goalkeeper Rob Elliot.
With chances few and far between for the away side, Newcastle also produced very little threat going forward. The first half saw Palace dominate possession and dictate the play to the home side. Zaha and Townsend were constant menaces and looked dangerous on the ball, but were limited in supporting options around them. Jeffrey Schlupp and James McArthur offered little width for Palace as Newcastle played their tactics well and forced the Palace forwards out and away from central areas. Once the opportunity arose to pick out a cross, the South Londoners unsurprisingly had nobody in the box without a recognised forward in the side.
Subsequently, star men Zaha and Townsend had to take on the whole Newcastle back four by themselves. Cast as the pantomime villains to the showpiece, the North East crowd took unkindly to the danger and trickery imposed by one of their former players. Receiving a frosty reception throughout, Townsend wasn’t the only ex-Newcastle player who left in acrimonious circumstances – Yohan Cabaye was singled out for particular abuse all game as he caused great controversy for a late challenge on DeAndre Yedlin in the first half. Arguably fortunate to escape a red card, the Frenchman was on a tight rope for the remainder of the game.
With the rope tightening around Cabaye’s neck, Newcastle came onto Palace in the second half with more guile and drive. Merino entered the fray early on and tried to link the play with Shelvey to the isolated centre-forward Joselu. Despite showing signs of positivity, Newcastle lost their momentum and succumbed to Palace dominance once again. Townsend continued to terrorise and create openings, only for substitute Ruben Loftus-Cheek amongst others to miss good chances. Star man Wilfried Zaha was taken off for the Chelsea loanee before Palace suffered the fatal blow in the closing minutes of the game.
Newcastle began to force the issue with speculative efforts from distance leading to corners and free-kicks. Ritchie’s delivery from the left in the 86th minute was met by his Scotland colleague James McArthur, who flicked the ball away against the head of Merino. The ball fortuitously ricocheted off the Spaniard to loop back the other way and connect perfectly into the back of the net. It was a goal Palace felt was unjustified, but summed up their season in a nutshell. There was no response after that as the home crowd danced in joy in the face of Townsend and Cabaye. Palace were depleted and knew it was another crucial blow.
Palace next face a crunch game at Selhurst Park against London rivals West Ham United on Saturday. Hammers boss Slavan Bilić is somehow still in the job for two further matches after yet another embarrassing result on Friday night losing 0-3 to Brighton and Hove Albion. The only side possibly worse than the Eagles at the moment, it is a must win game for both sides with Bilić on borrowed time. Much like Newcastle, West Ham are another bogey side who always seem to get a result against Palace regardless of situation.
It really is Palace’s last chance to not leave it too late, if hope isn’t already lost. The defeat to Newcastle is particularly painful as it was totally undeserved. Our performance was good and the commitment was definitely there. The one thing that wasn’t? A striker to put the ball in the net. There’s only one person to blame again for our shortcomings. You know who I mean…