Hodgson the happier of managers as flighty Eagles grab win over jaded West Ham in capital thriller
Crystal Palace 4
West Ham United 3
Julian Taylor at Selhurst Park
A capital thriller in long-overdue south London sunshine, with Roy Hodgson the happier of two managerial veterans.
This clash was not for defensive militarists but, fortunately for Crystal Palace, they managed – eventually – to prevail against West Ham, thanks to the effusive trickery of Ebere Eze as well as the Wilfried Zaha-Michael Olise-Jeffrey Schlupp axis which has been causing so much damage of late.
A first half goal glut, while pleasing on the eye for the fans, despite questions of erratic deficiencies from both sides. “Absolute madness” was Eze’s verdict, as the Eagles worked hard, and took flight at West Ham after going a goal down in the ninth minute, when the Hammers’ Tomas Soucek lashed home from six yards out when Olise’s attempted headed clearance was too weak.
Five minutes later, Palace showed their capacity to thrive, as they have done so quite superbly since Hodgson was reappointed as boss last month, with Jordan Ayew drilling low in to the corner of the net from a clever Olise through ball.
West Ham, from going ahead early, experienced a couple of particularly bad moments, when Kurt Zouma was carried off injured in the 19th minute, before the hosts went ahead. Eagles’ skipper Zaha tucked the ball in from close range when three Hammers defenders failed to clear a basic low cross by Olise on the right. A snapshot to simply explain the Selhurst goal feast.
As the east Londoners lost their shape, Jeffrey Schlupp robbed Soucek of possession in the 29th minute and kept his cool to slide the ball under exposed West Ham keeper Lukaz Fabianski to put Palace 3-1 ahead.
Matters ebbed and flowed in wild, entertaining fashion as Hammers’ forward Michail Antonio reduced the deficit in the 35th minute, peeling away from Cheick Doucoure to head in at the far post.
West Ham have had a busy, tiring, schedule of late, with their exertions in the Europa Conference League, and manager David Moyes brought both Aaron Cresswell and Said Benrahma on at half time to freshen his side.
But in 63 minutes, Moyes could only look on at the game’s most controversial incident, leading to Palace putting the contest out of reach. Referee Craig Pawson and VAR judged West Ham’s Nayef Aguerd to have tugged Eze’s jersey for a penalty – but the contact was slight and the visitors can feel a real sense of injustice. It is the second such incident to have affected Moyes’s team, with another decision going against them at Liverpool in the midweek loss.
And with Eze converting the spot kick, sparking relief and a different kind of ‘madness’ from the home stands, the Hammers’ reply in 73 minutes – a faint header on the goal line by Aguerd was to prove insufficient.
The seven goals in Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off were a pleasant surprise – but a fourth Palace Premier League win under Hodgson is the stuff of redemption and optimism. Having reached the notable 40 point mark which essentially ensures league safety, the run in to the end of the season can be one where the Eagles can glide, without pressure from within or elsewhere.
Eagles: Johnstone, Ward, Mitchell, Guehi, Olise, Ayew, Eze, Zaha (Edouard 83), Schlupp, Andersen, Doucoure (Milivojevic 90)
Hammers: Fabianski, Zouma (Ogbonna 19), Coufal, Fornals (Benrahma 46), Antonio (Cornet 88), Paqueta (Ings 68), Bowen, Aguerd, Soucek, Emerson (Cresswell 46), Rice