Eagles show elegance at last to see off battling Wolves
Crystal Palace 2 Wolves 1
The Eagles’ orchestra is, almost, in full swing.
Patrick Vieira had challenged his Crystal Palace players, flattering to deceive at times this season, to start turning encouraging performances into both goals and, crucially, victories.
They managed to overcome a dogged Wolves side, thanks to the craftsmen, Ebere Eze and Wilfried Zaha, at their disposal. On these occasions in home games where responsibility hangs heavy, invariably a sliver or two of ingenuity can be relied upon. This was such a night.
With this 2-1 victory, Palace’s fourth of the season, there was a confidence and a purpose to their play. A header, of all things, by creator Eze and a superb goal by Zaha, a culmination of a stellar incision, earned the points against Wolves who had taken a shock first half lead through Adama Traore’s first goal of the campaign.
The woodwork denied the Midlands outfit, admittedly, and although the Eagles faced a late onslaught, these were merited three points. Vieira can now feel a little less weighty than he has appeared of late.
If this was an encounter where goals - or at least goalmouth action - wasn’t assumed to be high on the agenda, particularly in the case of shot-shy Palace, then the opening minutes dispelled any concerns. There was, presumably, plenty of responsibility placed by Vieira on the shoulders of the zesty, albeit wayward, Eze, as well as Zaha to pick a few locks. Speed and incision was required in the aftermath of a disappointing weekend scoreless draw at struggling Leicester City, an opportunity missed.
The Eagles began with initiative. With only five minutes gone, Cheick Doucoure foraged forward from his central midfield role before unleashing a shot from 25 yards which skidded against the base of Wolves’ post and away to safety.
The hosts were unlucky to break the deadlock, but the scare did at least serve to waken up Wolves to an extent. The visitors, still under the temporary charge of Steve Davis, amid the search for sacked Bruno Lage’s replacement, almost took the lead straight away. However Palace keeper Vicente Guaita thwarted a predatory strike from Diego Costa at close quarters with the veteran former Chelsea gunslinger fastening on to a pass from Daniel Podence.
Palace centre back Marc Guehi has the task of keeping a watchful eye on Costa, back in the Premier League. And with Wolves labouring, could the hit man recreate the magic of 58 goals in three seasons unsettling defences while at Stamford Bridge?
As it happened, Traore transpired to be the Spaniard in the works in south London, with a shock goal on the half hour mark. With most of their men up field, Palace failed to anticipate a counter attack and were exposed on their right side. Hugo Bueno took advantage, racing into space, and the precisely swept cross by the full back was gleefully headed home at the far post by Traore. It was a stunningly efficient move and in no regard anticipated by the vast majority inside Selhurst Park and, certainly, Wolves had provided few hints of such intent.
Yet with a minute to go before the break, the visitors were unlucky not to double their lead. Ruben Neves, that most impressive of orchestrators and a regular delight to observe in Old Gold, fired a free kick against the woodwork. The near-miss was to prove fruitful for Vieira’s side.
Palace, clearly still smarting at the perceived injustice of being a goal down, came out at the start of the second half – and levelled in style.
Michael Olise, who was in the mood for so much of the contest, sent in a finely clipped cross from the right, which eluded the entire Wolves defence - and Eze somehow wafted in on the blind side to deftly glance the ball past Wolves’ keeper Jose Sa. The perfect response.
Unsurprisingly, the wind was taken out of Wolves’ sails and interim boss Davis, rather oddly, withdrew both Traore and Neves. Surely such baffling decision making would embolden the Eagles further?
Palace began to play with a welcome slice of swagger, Olise and Zaha especially combining well at times. Edouard took aim with with an overhead kick too, which went a few inches wide. However, they still needed a second goal against their under pressure opponents.
The wait was brief. And what a speedy move and despatch it proved to be.
In the 69th minute, Eze effortlessly split the Wolves defence on the left and, sizing up options, Edouard set up Zaha, who took a touch inside the penalty area before slotting past Sa with aplomb. This noted, passionate corner of the capital was ignited once again.
Olise, meanwhile, received a standing ovation when substituted with eleven minutes remaining. Wolves rallied impressively but that final exacting act proved to be beyond them.
Eagles: Guaita, Ward (c), Mitchell, Guehi, Olise (Ayew 79), Eze (Riedewald 89), Zaha, Schlupp, Andersen, Edouard (Mateta 79), Doucoure