Eze's stunner underpins serene Palace victory over rock-bottom Sheffield United
Crystal Palace 2 Sheffield United 0
A sensational solo strike from Eberechi Eze lit up Selhurst Park as the Eagles put the hapless Blades in their place one more.
Palace were already a goal to the good through an early strike from Jeffrey Schlupp when former QPR man Eze, who had just come on for the injured goalscorer, netted his wonder goal, just before half-time.
He took possession inside his own half, dropping a shoulder to ease inside Oliver Norwood, then tore up to the opposition penalty area, skipping past ailing defenders before finishing calmly with a fine shot into the far corner beyond keeper Aaron Ramsdale.
It was his second goal since the summer switch from Rangers – the first coming in the thrashing of Leeds in early November.
The goal ensured a comfortable afternoon for the Eagles and removed any threat of a humiliating reverse.
Palace did not want to be the first team this season to succumb to the Blades in the Premier League. Sheffield United are the first team in the top flight to reach the new year unbeaten in 118 years and no-one will want to be the first to suffer at their hands now.
Their haul of two points from 16 games is the joint-worst tally in the history of all four divisions. The meagre return of eight goals – half a game, on average – also tells its own story.
But Palace also wanted to grab the points on offer that would keep them cushioned safely above the bottom three – especially as they have been on a dodgy run of late, conceding 10 in back-to-back defeats to Liverpool and Aston Villa. It was only their second win in nine matches.
The start they had was just what the doctor ordered. The game was only four minutes old when Schlupp took advantage of hesitancy in the Blades’ rearguard to find the bottom corner, via a deflection, for his second goal of the campaign.
It came when Wilfried Zaha outpaced John Egan down the left, and laid off for fellow striker Christian Benteke, whose flick found Schlupp with the aid of another deflection.
Jayden Bogle did test Vicente Guaita at his near post towards the end of the first half, but the Blades response lacked any real incisiveness.
Palace easily funneled them into unthreatening positions and broke quickly in search of a second goal that always looked likely to put them out of reach of the struggling visitors.
If the game plan suited the Eagles, it did not lead to a glut of chances. Zaha headed a Luka Milivojevic free-kick goalwards that was no sweat for Ramsdale. But soon after came Eze’s moment of magic.
The second-half passed by blissfully uneventfully, as far as Roy Hogson concerned. There were a couple of efforts: from Jordan Ayew - on for Benteke, who also picked up a knock – and Townsend. But the lack of drama at the other end of the field was what the Palace boss will have enjoyed most.
After a few traumatic days of late, this routine win will have felt like an ideal start to 2021.
Palace: Guaita – Ward, Tomkins, Kouyate, Mitchell – Townsend, McArthur, Milivojevic (Riedewald 90), Schlupp (Eze 40) – Benteke (Ayew 48), Zaha. Subs not used: Butland, Van Aanholt, Dann, Sakho, McCarthy, Batshuayi