This Saturday’s Premier League early kick off featured a London derby, as Crystal Palace hosted West Ham. With both sides looking to distance themselves from the relegation zone and ensure a top-flight position for next season, it was set to be a spectacular game at Selhurst Park.
Both teams sought to put their mid-week results behind them – as Palace lost 2-0 at Wolves whilst West Ham were narrowly beaten 2-1 at home to Liverpool.
CRY: Johnstone, Ward, Anderson, Guehi, Mitchell, Schlupp, Doucoure, Eze, Olise, Ayew, Zaha
WHU: Fabianski, Coufal, Zouma, Aguerd, Emerson, Soucek, Rice, Bowen, Paqueta, Fornals, Antonio
Palace were the team in better form ahead of the game, having taken ten points from the last five league games under Roy Hodgson. This was apparent in the opening minutes as they looked to put West Ham on the back foot from the first whistle.
But it was the Hammers who struck first after nine minutes, with the goal coming courtesy of Tomas Soucek who capitalised on a poor defensive header by Michael Olise. The Czech midfielder fired past Sam Johnstone in the Palace goal from around six yards out.
The Eagles wouldn’t have been too disheartened conceding the first goal, as they have managed to come from a losing position to win on six previous occasions – the most of any Premier League team at this point of the season.
Six minutes after West Ham’s opener, Palace were level through Jordan Ayew. He slotted the ball inside Lukasz Fabianski’s near post to get his fourth league goal of the season, after being expertly found by Olise.
Palace were right back in the contest and continued to play on the front foot, taking the game to West Ham – and they were rewarded for their efforts five minutes after going level. Wilfried Zaha latched onto a loose ball in the box after some good work by Eberchi Eze on the right wing, and the Ivory Coast international passed the ball into the corner to put his side ahead.
Midway through the first half, Zaha was in the thick of the action again, this time trying to turn provider for Marc Guehi, who headed just over the bar after a short corner. It was clear that Palace were eager for more goals against what looked a struggling West Ham back line.
That’s exactly what they found following Soucek’s heavy touch deep in his own final third. Jeffrey Schlupp pounced on the ball and calmly slotted home through the legs of a despairing Fabianski – who had hardly even touched the ball thus far.
West Ham had to be worried that Palace would be out of sight before half time, as the away side looked to limit the damage, whilst trying their best to get back into the contest. The drama wouldn’t stop there with ten minutes before the break, as West Ham pulled a goal back – again through a corner – as Michail Antonio latched onto Soucek’s headed flick-on at the far post to nod the ball in for his 12th goal in all competitions.
In what was an action-packed half, Palace looked to reestablish their two-goal advantage and came close after some good work by Zaha on the left-wing, but his venomous shot hit the side netting.
During five minutes of injury time, Schlupp saw an effort well blocked by Soucek to deny the Palace midfielder a second – whilst at the other end, the home side made a meal of a long ball and Declan Rice produced a good delivery towards Lucas Paqueta that needed to be dealt with.
The half-time whistle came moments later, but neutrals would have loved the action to continue in what was a pulsating five-goal half of football. David Moyes looked to get his side back into the game, as he made two changes at the break; Aaron Cresswell for Emerson at left-back and Said Benrahma replacing Pablo Fornals in attacking midfield.
With almost an hour played, Olise – who was having a very decent outing – forced Fabianski to tip over the bar after he cut in from the right and unleashed a curling shot. The Frenchman looks to be developing nicely in what has become a vibrant, free-flowing Palace side after he was bought for £8m from Championship side Reading the summer of 2021, and he currently sits fourth in the assists table this Premier League season with nine to his name.
As the second half wore on, Palace started to take full control of the game and gained more confidence in West Ham’s final third, and Eze drove into the box before defender Nayef Aguerd pulled the Englishman back which resulted in a penalty.
Eze himself stepped up and put the ball into the bottom left corner, with Fabianski diving the opposite way. With twenty-five minutes left to play, the Eagles had restored their two-goal buffer.
West Ham looked deflated at going two goals behind yet again, and they found it difficult to create chances against a resilient Palace back line. But there had been a route where the away side could hurt Palace – through set pieces.
With just over 15 minutes of normal time remaining, West Ham managed to scramble the ball into the net from another corner, this time Aguerd redeemed himself for early proceedings after Soucek was able to get the first contact at the near post.
The goal looked to have given West Ham the boost they needed after conceding from a penalty, and they looked to turn the tables on Palace who had enjoyed being on the front foot for the majority of the afternoon.
But Palace were still able to close down West Ham’s attacks in open-play scenarios, resulting in the visitors being forced to create chances from dead ball situations. With six minutes of injury time added, Palace had to be defensively sound, and they were able to clear corners and long-throw ins well. Experienced defender Joel Ward in particular was in the thick of things at the back to prevent most of West Ham’s attacks.
Substitute Benrahma’s wild effort was West Ham’s last chance for an equaliser, as referee Craig Pawson blew the full time whistle after a thoroughly enjoyable watch. The win moves Palace into 11th on 40 points, which will surely be enough for them avoid the drop. West Ham remain in 15th on 34 points, with the very real threat of relegation on the horizon.