Review by Will Eldridge (Twitter: @willgeorgejourn)
Sam Allardyce’s first game in charge at Selhurst Park was a gloomy affair, with Crystal Palace missing the chance to climb four points clear of the relegation zone, suffering a 2-1 defeat to Swansea. After Alfie Mawson’s opener, Wilfried Zaha’s spectacular volley appeared to have rescued a point for Palace – but substitute Angel Rangel popped up to slot home an 88th minute winner, and help the Swans climb off the bottom of the table.
After this display, Allardyce’s side are certainly not safe from a relegation battle, having lost a game billed as ‘must win’. Palace are now just one point outside of the bottom three, and one point above Swansea, who produced a confident performance to defy their own perilous position in the table.
Fernando Llorente had the first sight of goal, out-jumping both Damien Delaney and Martin Kelly to guide a header just wide of the post. And the Eagles were seemingly intent to sit back and park 11 men behind the ball, gifting the visitors the initiative. Newly-appointed manager Paul Clement watched on from the stands and will have been delighted with what he saw from his new side.
Palace’s play was often aimless. Hopeful balls that were regularly knocked up to Christian Benteke were simply not sticking. The big Belgian also had a decent penalty shout in the first half, but was withdrawn at the break nursing a shoulder injury.
Allardyce rolled the dice again before the hour mark, introducing Birmingham City target Bakary Sako for Townsend, who continues to toil in a Palace shirt. The Malian added a spark to Palace’s play, testing Fabianski at his near post with a fizzing free kick.
Zaha eventually made mounting pressure tell when he produced a moment of class to level the score. But it counted for nothing, as another defensive lapse was seized upon by Rangel, whose late effort has dragged Palace firmly back into the relegation picture.
Crystal Palace manager, Sam Allardyce:
“The lack of energy the players had showed massively. We struggled to keep up with Swansea, we hadn’t recovered properly. I should have made more changes but I still don’t know the squad too well.
“The second half was ours – we saw a wonder goal from Wilfried Zaha that should have got us at least a point, but we switched off and it’s massively disappointing.
“You can see it with your own eyes, you don’t need to be a football manager. Some people say it’s rubbish but it’s not. The players were trying 100% but they were not physically able to reach their usual levels. They are shattered.
“It’s beyond our control, certain elements. But we can defend better for the two goals and our first-half performance was nothing like I expect to see from my team.”
Swansea first-team coach, Alan Curtis:
“It is a terrific result for us and a huge three points. The first-half performance we were excellent, and we could have gone in with more than the one goal.
“We have been accused of lacking character, but we came back and won it and we deserved it. In training you see the players have the ability, it is just the confidence that has been lacking.
“Any team under Sam Allardyce will come on strongly, they have some terrific players. We had 24 hours more rest compared to them and that may have made a difference.”
On the club’s new manager, Paul Clement, who joined Curtis in the technical area later in the match, he added:
“He came down for some moral support, he made his presence felt at half-time, but there was not too much to say. We would have surprised a lot of people with our performance today.”