SUNDAY 26TH JULY, 2020
CRYSTAL PALACE 1(0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1(1)
Referee:- Andre Marriner
Assistants:- Neil Davies, Graham Kane
Fourth official:- Tim Robinson
Replacement official:- Michael Webb
VAR:- Andy Madley
Assistant VAR:- Simon Beck.
Palace (4-4-2):- Guaita; Ward, Dann (Capt.), Kouyate, Mitchell; Townsend, McCarthy, McArthur (sub Riedewald, 70), Schlupp (sub Milivojevic, 85); Ayew, Zaha
Subs not used:- Hennessy; Kelly, Woods; Kirby, Pierrick, Meyer; Gordon
Booked:- McCarthy (foul on Son), Mitchell (foul on Lucas Moura), Kouyate (challenge on Sissoko)
Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Lloris (Capt.); Aurier, Alderweireld, Dier, Davies; Sissoko (sub Skipp, 80), Winks; Lucas Moura (sub Sanchez, 90+3), Lo Celso (sub Bergwijn, 60), Son (sub Dele, 80); Kane
Subs not used:- Gazzaniga; Vertonghen, Sessegnon, Tanganga; Lamela
Booked:- Alderweireld (foul on Ayew), Dier (foul on Ayew)
Phew! Spurs are in Europe, but they did make me twitch.
At half-time Spurs were winning this game 1-0, and Chelsea were 2-0 up against Wolves. All Spurs had to do was better Wolves’ points tally, so in that regard we had a three-goal advantage at half-time. Valiant Palace, decimated by injuries, who had lost their preceding seven games, had already been giving our defence a tough time, whilst not testing Hugo Lloris to any great degree. I had the distinct impression in the second half that Jose Mourinho’s plan was to defend our position without over-committing. After all, his team largely unchanged in recent games, had been well-drilled in the Mourinho style. It wasn’t long before Palace’s pressure was rewarded, and I spent the remainder of the game worried that we might concede again and finish in seventh. That was not to be and we have secured sixth place with Europa League football guaranteed. We still need Arsenal to lose next Saturday’s FA Cup Final so we can enter the Europa League in the Group stage due to commence on 22nd October, and not the second qualifying round which would be a one-legged affair on 17th September in the week after the Premier League starts all over again.
Jose’s one change to his starting line-up was to re-instate Eric Dier at centre-back in place of Sanchez. Dier had served his four-match suspension which followed our FA Cup exit to relegated Norwich (who today took a 5-0 battering at Manchester City). Roy Hodgson’s options were already extremely limited due to injuries to Tomkins, Cahill, Sakho, Van Aanholt and club captain Milivojevic to name five, plus the suspended Benteke. Palace had won their first post lockdown game, but lost the last seven. They scored in only one of those seven games. They were not going to trouble Spurs, were they? Well, with no pressure regarding the result, Palace did worry us, and whilst overall, you’d have to concede we defended quite well, we were certainly not convincing and our passing going forward was rarely confident.
Spurs kicked off after the taking of the knee which has been the rule throughout this post lockdown period. Lo Celso had a shot held by Guaita after three minutes. The chance followed an attack down the right-hand side where Kane had pushed the ball out to Lucas Moira whose deep cross fell to Giovani beyond the defence. In the early stages Spurs won several free kicks with the Palace midfield and defence showing uncompromising attention. After a McArthur foul on Son a free kick was taken short by Lo Celso and Son had a shot, but put it wide. Now Lo Celso was fouled out on the right, but nothing came of that free kick. Too often over the course of the game, Spurs reverted to passing backwards from good positions. “Sonny” and Sissoko combined well deep in our half to take the ball off Andros Townsend and lead a break into opposition territory.
Townsend fell under pressure near his own corner flag and when his clearance fell to Spurs feet including those of Son, and with the benefit of a fortuitous rebound or two, Lo Celso threaded a ball into the area for Harry Kane to show deft footwork and to hit the net with a swift right footed shot. In jest, I suggested Harry might be after the Golden Boot, but he needed five more goals for that. Harry’s 18 goal return is not bad though for a player who has missed 9 Premier League games through injury.
Townsend hit a 25 yard shot well off the target with his left foot after Jordan Ayew had passed to his left for the ex-Spurs man. Andros’s career seems to be on the wane now, as he has started only 14 Premier League games this season, scoring one goal last September.
Lucas Moura worked very hard throughout the game – only being replaced near the very end of the game. Lucas is involved up and down the wing, and showed skills in both areas. After 18 minutes he made a battling run down the right, passing to Son in the middle outside the area. 2Sonny” was often having one of those days when a shot or a pass would not quite come off as desired, and this was an occasion when he failed to take a shot and the defence were able to clear.
Palace had more corners than Spurs (5-0 at half-time) and from one of these Son and Kane brilliantly led a break forward with a pass sent to Winks, whose cross was too long. Spurs were on the back foot a lot of the time, and not over-convincing at the back either at times. However, it is true to say that neither goalkeeper was bothered too much in this game. One clearance fell to Schlupp. Schlupp scored a late winner against us for Leicester in the FA Cup in January 2015 in a game when Townsend had scored our goal. This time his shot was held by Hugo Lloris comfortably.
After half an hour Lo Celso passed to Son who was on the left side of the area. Son had a shot blocked, as did Lo Celso when seeking to follow up. In a following play, Lucas Moura made a penetrating run into the box on the other side, struggling to keep the ball in play. Lucas did manage to hit a short cross, but he was the most advanced Spurs player and Palace cleared.
There was a worrying moment later in the first half when Zaha was just ahead of Sissoko and went down as he entered the area. Referee Andre Marriner (who had not previously refereed a Spurs game this season) was not interested in a foul, and VAR saw no reason to intervene. Mr. Marriner is an official who tries to allow fluent play.
Palace kicked off the second half, and early on Lucas Moura won a corner on the right which was taken by Lo Celso and met at the near post by Toby Alderweireld, whose attempt passed just over the goal. Lucas was testing 20-year-old left back Tyrick Mitchell to the full, and Mitchell did take a booking for a subsequent foul. Lo Celso took the free kick but this was overhit and easy for Guaita. Serge Aurier hit a low cross which passed outside the Palace area with Sissoko in the middle. Sissoko could not get his feet right and missed the chance to shoot. We all know a goal was unlikely anyway!
Palace had an equaliser in the 53rd minute and quite frankly they were worth their first goal in four games. It came from a corner on the left which was headed back into the middle by Scott Dann. Ayew tried to latch onto the ball and shoot, but failed. The ball ran to Schlupp who fired into the roof of the net for his first goal since December.
A Ben Davies cross reached Lucas Moura towards the back of the area. Lucas hit a right foot shot, but placed it on the wrong side of the post. To be honest there was very little noteworthy football played after this point. Joel ward was chased by Harry winks deep down the right flank and Winks deflected Ward’s speculative cross which actually rebounded into play off Lloris’s frame.
After the drinks break there was some quite heavy rain in the Selhurst Park sunshine. Sissoko pulled up and tried to carry on, but was replaced by Oliver Skipp who did a competent job. Dele replaced Son. Bergwijn had replaced Lo Celso after an hour. The Spurs bench knew the score at Stamford Bridge and the clear intention was to defend our position, although that made me twitchy and worried that we might concede a goal and potentially loose our place in Europe (bearing in mind that FA Cup Final next week). There were no such mishaps though and the sixth place was celebrated with passion by Mourinho and his team – even though there were still several minutes to be played at Stamford Bridge.
Sixth place is of course not what we hoped for at the start of the season. We were in fourteenth place when Jose took over from Mauricio Pochettino. There have been times since when I thought that any place in Europe was beyond us, so I will gratefully accept this pass to Europe. With the Covid-19 pandemic ongoing it remains to be seen whether we fans will be able to join the European Tour.
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