Wilfried Zaha rescued a last-gasp equaliser as Crystal Palace drew 2-2 with West Ham United on Saturday in a thrilling London derby at Selhurst Park.
The Hammers stunned the home crowd by racing into a two goal lead by half-time through goals from Javier Hernández and André Ayew. Palace pulled a goal back early on in the second period through Luka Milivojević’s penalty, before Zaha performed heroics to level the scores with the last kick of the game.
Defeat for Palace would have left them in a precarious position adrift at the bottom of the table, but pre-kick off only victory was seen as acceptable up against another relegation rival at home. Considering the dramatic circumstances, to salvage a point at the end will build great momentum at the club despite Palace fully meriting the three points.
The game began with great anticipation and nerves from both sets of players and fans as the first half-hour served up a poor spectacle. Palace dominated possession but regularly squandered the ball back to the away side in promising forward areas. Dutch left-back Patrick van Aanholt was forced to withdraw midway through the half after appearing to suffer a hamstring injury.
There was nothing between the sides before Javier Hernández scored a well-worked goal on the counter-attack. Palace were caught up field as the Hammers broke through a dazzling run from Ayew. He twisted and turned past Cabaye and Tomkins before playing the ball out left to wing-back Aaron Cresswell. The former Ipswich Town man played a swift ball across the box for deadly poacher Hernández to drive home from ten yards.
The Mexican was clearly delighted with his first goal in five games resulting from his first shot on target in four league matches. Palace would feel hard done by at conceding the opening goal and it wouldn’t get any easier for them. After forcing attacking situations from set piece corners and free-kicks, former Irons defender and avid fan James Tomkins rose highest from Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s header back into the danger zone to force Joe Hart into a top-class save. The rebound fell onto the floor before Jeffrey Schlupp directed the ball back on target, only for Hart to fortuitously block the effort over the bar.
As Palace continued to push for an equaliser, the killer blow fell their way once again as Ayew turned home a sublime individual goal after Milivojević’s mistake. The Serbian midfielder turned into danger away from the Hammers goal before losing balance and surrendering position on half-way. The Ghana international darted in and out of Scott Dann before firing into the roof of the net in off the bar. The Eagles looked dead on the floor and totally flabbergasted at going down to the only two shots on their goal in the half.
The second half sprung into life instantly as Andros Townsend was carelessly impeded in the box by Angelo Ogbonna for a penalty. Milivojević atoned for his first-half error and coolly stepped up to send Hart the wrong way. The goal sparked the crowd into life as Selhurst returned to its usually loud atmosphere. Palace looked like a new side vying for revenge and justice.
For the rest of the game, Palace totally battered West Ham to the very last kick. Yohan Cabaye hit the post and James Tomkins was denied by the crossbar as Joe Hart’s goal was peppered with action. The England number one proved his critics wrong as time and time again he denied Zaha, Cabaye and Townsend amongst many in the twelve shots on target. After his heroic fingertip onto the bar to deny Tomkins in injury time, Palace found one last opportunity to squeeze the ball into the Hammers net.
Michail Antonio found himself with the ball up the far end of the pitch in the Palace half. Instead of retaining the ball for the fifteen seconds which remained, he attempted to pick out a teammate in the box to no avail. Disastrously, West Ham were caught way up field only for Palace to work the ball back to Zaha on the inside left. He swiveled past Ogbonna to the byline before cutting back inside and planting an expertly taken finish into the far bottom corner. Wild celebrations occurred as Palace felt great relief at salvaging the point.
Relief at the final whistle for Palace in a game they should have comprehensively won. Much the better side, Roy Hodgson’s men once again suffered rotten luck and were desperately unfortunate to bogey side West Ham. Slavan Bilić will be left cursing his side’s lack of professionalism in seeing out the game and is holding onto his job by the fingernails. The Hammers next face Liverpool on Saturday night at the London Stadium. Palace travel up to the North of the capital on Sunday lunchtime to face Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley Stadium.
Welcome relief in the end for us and finally feeling the magic of football once again with moments such as this. West Ham were beyond jammy and infuriatingly close to stealing another unjust win off us. Similar to the Swansea game, they rarely threatened and would’ve pulled off one of the luckiest wins ever if it wasn’t for our heroics. Just as well Wilf is top-class then, as we just about keep ourselves hanging in there. Spurs away next week is a bonus match which we will no doubt lose, but after that it becomes a lot more attainable to get points on the board. Up the Palace and keep the faith! I certainly lost it at half-time but football is a game of two emotions. Let’s rediscover more of that positive feeling. Eagles!