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  • By Julian Taylor at Selhurst Park

Eagles and Edouard on cruise control as lacklustre Norwich struggle at Selhurst Park



Crystal Palace 3 Norwich City 0


Julian Taylor at Selhurst Park


Crystal Palace moved into ninth place in the Premier League with what amounted to a casual, routine victory over Norwich City.


There was little difficulty at Selhurst Park overall for the Eagles, the bulk of their work coming in the first half. Goals from man-of-the-match Odsonne Edouard via the penalty spot, and excellent strikes from Jean-Philippe Mateta and Jeffrey Schlupp essentially provided plenty of wriggle room against the troubled east Anglian visitors, who remain at the foot of the table.

Substitute Christian Benteke had an effort ruled out by VAR in the closing stages, but Norwich were at least spared an extra pounding.

Assistant boss Osian Roberts again took charge on the touchline for the hosts in the continuing absence of Patrick Vieira, due to illness.


Roberts had to field a team, minus Wilfried Zaha. The Eagles’ talisman was suspended due to a fit of pique which earned him a red card during the chastening 3-0 Boxing Day defeat at Tottenham Hotspur. Edouard and Schlupp looked the part, though, and Zaha was barely missed as it happened. Indeed, former Celtic striker Edouard harnessed the extra responsibility with aplomb, forever a danger right across the combined shoulders of the Norwich back four.


While four successive league defeats and no goals scored was unquestionably poor form ahead of the game, another grim statistic for Norwich was the fact that they had won just one of their last 27 top tier games in London. The initial new manager ‘bounce’ upon the appointment of Dean Smith last month has well and truly evaporated.


Eagles take flight


Therefore this was an ideal encounter for the hosts to relish: a potential recovery from the loss against Spurs. Mindful of the opportunity, the Eagles didn’t waste time in taking flight when they went ahead from the penalty spot in the eighth minute.


A yard inside the City area, Will Hughes was poised to turn Kenny McLean only for the Scot to clip the Palace midfielder. Edouard kept his cool to plant the ball low past Angus Gunn into the left hand corner of the net, to set Palace on their way.


Sadly, for the sheer sense of spectacle, referee Paul Tierney was, once again, involved in zealous meddling and enforcing stoppages, his overbearing presence hindering the game’s flow. Despite that, Palace were poised, and it was plain the league’s nether region status was not a misrepresentation of the Canaries’ plight and worrying lack of confidence. Throughout the first half, Palace keeper Vicente Guaita was barely troubled, other than watching a Sam Byram header clip the crossbar at its climax.

The second goal, meanwhile, arrived in the 37th minute. Edouard – such an irritant to City in the final third – picked up possession on the left, and set up Mateta who delivered a crisp left foot shot across Gunn into the net. It was also the Frenchman’s second goal in Eagles’ colours, with his club still to decide on a permanent swoop for the loanee from Mainz.


Oddly, Palace weren’t extravagant, fresh or always fluid, yet they didn’t have to be, such was Norwich’s negligible impact in south London. And they added a third goal just four minutes later.


Edouard was at the nub of affairs again, on this occasion working hard to evade a couple of defenders just inside the Canaries’ box before inching the ball into the path of Schlupp. Impressively, and from the tightest of angles, the winger lashed home with something approaching contemptuous ease.


Scraps

It was no surprise to see Palace maintain the pressure after the restart. Schlupp drilled a shot which was well turned away by Gunn, with Edouard lurking for any scraps.


To their credit, Norwich battled away but lacking in so much conviction, it is going to be quite the task for Smith to propel the Canaries to safety. There may be only six points between them and a possible escape act, but this was the kind of game they really needed to make an impression on. A tame, 70th minute sclaff from Pierre Lees-Melou which sailed wide instead of at least hitting the target, was an unerring microcosm of their afternoon.


The majority of the second half was rather anti-climatic. With the Eagles organised and their workload largely on autopilot, they could even afford to witness the very occasional bout of profligacy in front of goal by the visitors.


A welcome victory, nevertheless, at an opportune time for Crystal Palace to bookend their 2021. This festive period has now brought some cheer to Vieira and all at Selhurst Park, ahead of a New Year’s Day London derby, here against West Ham United.


Eagles: Guaita, Mitchell, Guehi, Andersen (Tomkins 83), Ward, Hughes (Milivojevic 72), Kouyate, Schlupp, Ayew, Edouard, Mateta (Benteke 79)

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