'Outstanding' Olise the difference maker for Palace and Hodgson as Bees' slump continues
Julian Taylor at Selhurst Park
Following a testing time of late, the character and conviction of Crystal Palace today was transparent, in the wake of a deserved 3-1 triumph over Brentford.
Roy Hodgson's side worked through the disappointment of losing late on to Chelsea last Wednesday - a night when they merited at least a point. Brentford, today, though, could not foster a similar argument, despite a terrific opening goal. Worryingly, this represented a fifth successive loss for Thomas Frank's side, currently a little patchwork, by way of injury issues.
An impressive brace of goals from Michael Olise and another from Ebere Eze sunk the Bees, whose afternoon initially promised so much.
The west Londoners went ahead after only two minutes - an expertly-worked move down the right side, with Mads Roerslev and Mathias Jensen, culminating in a finely steered volley by Keane Lewis-Potter for his second goal in the Premier League.
Palace may have been shocked at going a goal down so soon - but they quickly responded, and end the year in good frame of mind as well as thirteenth place in the league table.
Brentford, other than a minor late and intermittent flurry, where substitute Neal Maupay hit the bar and home keeper Dean Henderson making a magnificent save, were clearly below-par. The suspension - soon to be lifted - for striker Ivan Toney and a spate of injuries to key men such as Rico Henry, Aaron Hickey, Ben Mee, Bryan Mbeumo and Kristoffer Ajer, exposed their vulnerabilities at the back as well as a dearth of aggression up front.
And following the 4-1 reverse at home to Wolves before their trip to south London, head coach Frank will be desperate for a return to a host of reliable personnel. The Bees are now a mere four points above the relegation zone.
Palace were worthy winners, particularly with their scorers being the difference makers in all aspects of play. The roving commission Hodgson offers Olise on the field has been a revelation of late.
“What he's done has just been Michael Olise – an outstanding player," declared Palace manager Hodgson.
"His individual performance was a crucial one, I think, in helping us to get the victory. He's just gone from strength to strength."
The renaissance of Olise has been timely in the context of Palace having ended an eight game winless run. The 22 year old made things effortless at times and how he was lauded by the Selhurst Park faithful at the end. But it was a team performance, full of belief and determination, according to Hodgson.
He added: “I'm happy today: happy for the players, happy for the club, and happy for the fans, because it's much nicer to go into the New Year on a victory, rather than perhaps another draw or even worse a defeat, which would've lengthened that spell when we weren't getting points.
"When you're not getting points or when you're slipping down the table, I'm afraid you're going to come in for negative criticism. That's the way it is. But we have to keep some sort of balance and perspective about it."
Frank, on the other hand, made a couple of changes to the team who slumped against Wolves, bringing Zanka and Jensen in for Maupay and Yehor Yarmoliuk. His choices ultimately made no difference.
“I spoke before the game about Olise and Eze, that we had to keep them quiet and, if we’d done that, we would have won 1-0!" noted Frank.
“I also must look at what we could have done, especially the first and the third goals, we could and should have done better. Besides that, I think we created a quite few big chances and good moments. On another day, we could have got more out of it.
“The decisive factor today was the quality and decisiveness in the crucial moments in both boxes and, in that aspect, Crystal Palace were better than us today, so fair play to them."