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Crystal Palace v Spurs, 28.03.98

"It was Twenty Years ago today!"
article published March 2018, but first written in 1998


Crystal Palace scorer:-
Shipperley, 82

Spurs scorers:-
Berti, 55
Armstrong, 72
Klinsmann, 77

Attendance:- 26,116

Referee:- M.D.Reed

Crystal Palace:- Miller; Edworthy, Gordon, Curcic (Hreidarsson, 60), Lombardo, Padovano (Shipperley, 65), Brolin (Billio, 75), Rodger, Smith, Ismael, Jansen.

Subs not used: Nash, Bent.

Booked:- Edworthy.

Tottenham:- Walker; Carr (Howells, 30), Vega, Calderwood, Campbell, Wilson; Fox (Brady, 73), Berti, Saib; Armstrong (Dominguez, 81), Klinsmann

Subs not used:- Baardsen; Mabbutt.

Booked:- Armstrong, Fox, Dominguez.


Contemporary report

So this is how it ends for Crystal Palace. By the final whistle it had become a matter of how many Tottenham would score against their deflated fellow relegation strugglers. Yet for the opening 45 minutes it had been a very different story.

Attilio Lombardo summed it up best: At half-time we thought we should have been ahead. By the end we were lucky to be only 3-1 down."

On a heavy surface and under sapping March sunshine there was always the danger that if Palace did not capitalise on their fine start then the fact many of them had barely played a competitive game all year would cost them dear. How true it proved.

Because while running the opposition ragged in the first half, they were running themselves into the ground and, slowly but surely, out of contention in this capital relegation six-pointer. The 1million deadline-day singing from Aston Villa, Sasa Curcic was a perfect example. Outstanding for 45 minutes, the Yugoslav midfielder could barely summon the strength to walk off when substituted after 52 minutes. The standing ovation received from a sold-out Selhurst Park underlined his earlier influence.

Michele Padovano, an Italian barely seen since his arrival from Juventus, was back from injury, went off soon after Curcic, clearly struggling after three months out injured. Tomas Brolin, who had not trained for two days because of flu, was next to falter, meaning player/manager Lombardo, himself getting back to match sharpness after a long layoff, had no option but to plod on.

By the time of Brolin's exit on 65 minutes, Spurs had taken the lead and were well on the way to guaranteeing themselves three vital points. The goal came in the 55th minute. A long throw from impressive Ruel Fox, flicked on by Jurgen Klinsmann, found its way to an unmarked Nicolas Berti, whose looped header deceived everyone including goalkeeper Kevin Miller. He stood motionless, watching the ball dip under the bar to give Tottenham the critical opener.

If that was a blow to the Palace survival bid then Chris Armstrong's flying header into the roof of the net 16 minutes on, from Fox's whipped cross, was an absolute killer. Whenever Tottenham breached the midfield of Palace, there was absolutely no cover whatsoever - the players out of position, out of breath and out of touch with proceedings.

All of which made a third Spurs goal inevitable, and but for two brilliant stops from Miller to deny Armstrong and Klinsmann, it would have arrived sooner than the 77th minute.

Moussa Saib, Tottenham's astute Algerian signing, collected possession in the centre circle, and ate up the empty ground ahead before releasing German striker Klinsmann. Making amends for a terrible miss at the start when he fired high and wide from five yards, the ageing forward clinically lofted the ball in for the third goal of his second spell with the club.

No wonder, the Spurs players were celebrating at the final whistle. Not even a consolation effort from Neil Shipperley, playing his first game in three months, could wipe off the smiles.

Armstrong, unlucky to be booked for diving but lucky to stay on later after clearly handling a disallowed goal, said: "This was the best performance since Chris took over. We turned it on a bit, and if we carry on like this it should be no problem staying up but we have still have a big games to come against Barnsley and Everton so we can't afford to sit back."

Poor old Palace, though, must now be all but out of the battle to beat the drop. Still without a home win in the League this season and with five of their last seven games on their own patch, the yo-yo south Londoners, up and down from the Premiership more times than any other since the top flight's inception in 1992, are now four points adrift of the rest.

Spurs manager Christian Gross, who has not had much to cheer about in his four months in England, beamed: "It was a good win in the circumstances. The next one versus Everton will be much the same.

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