Thursday 29 September 2016

Wantaway Wilfried Zaha inspires Crystal Palace to first point of season

Published 27/08/2016 | 17:26

Wilfried Zaha's introduction inspired Crystal Palace
Wilfried Zaha's introduction inspired Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace earned a valuable 1-1 Premier League draw at home to Bournemouth after a comeback inspired by substitute Wilfried Zaha.

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Palace's preparations for this fixture had been undermined by Zaha asking manager Alan Pardew for a transfer to Tottenham and concluded with him being named on the substitute's bench.

His second-half introduction transformed their performance and led to Scott Dann's equalising goal, however, earning them their first point from their third league fixture of the season after Joshua King had given Bournemouth the lead.

The £27million club-record signing Christian Benteke may have been recruited to add the goals his new team had been missing but it was his half-hearted defending that led to Bournemouth's 11th-minute opening goal.

His casual clearance from Andrew Surman's free-kick only went as far as Harry Arter, who looped a pass to King from where the forward classily chested the ball down before finishing across the face of goal and inside the far left post.

Palace's goalscoring threat has been so minimal for much of 2016 that if a goal is conceded it often feels as though victory is already beyond them, and even more so they have to take the chances that come their way.

Just four minutes had passed when an outstanding one was presented. Referee Mike Dean harshly awarded a penalty when Charlie Daniels made slight contact with Benteke in the area, but instead of bringing his team level Yohan Cabaye watched as Artur Boruc dived to his right to save.

Palace remained unconvincing, and were fortunate Bournemouth did not score again before half-time. After playing a one-two with Jordon Ibe, Callum Wilson went one-on-one with goalkeeper Steve Mandanda but saw his hurried shot smothered clear when he should have scored.

Switching from 4-4-2 - perhaps forced on them by the unsettled Zaha's selection on the bench - to 4-3-3 in the second half, Palace significantly improved.

First Dann's header was cleared off the line by Arter. Then Cabaye's corner fell to Connor Wickham in space in the area but the striker instead struck beyond the bar.

In pursuit of a much-needed goal, Pardew in the 66th minute brought on Zaha for Wickham and Chung-yong Lee for James McArthur, and the winger's arrival lifted both his team and the crowd, whose warm reception showed no anger at this week's events.

Zaha's width, speed and belief on the right wing stretched Bournemouth's defence, creating several chances. Jason Puncheon had already shot over the crossbar when Zaha combined with Andros Townsend to play in Lee, who similarly shot over.

From another Zaha cross Townsend struck the side netting as Benteke went down and watched his claims for a penalty dismissed.

With five minutes remaining, the winger again broke down the right and again sent a dangerous cross into the penalty area. Lee's shot was impressively saved by Boruc, and Joel Ward threatened with the rebound, but again Bournemouth resisted.

The overdue, equalising goal finally came in the third minute of stoppage time. Amid further pressure, Puncheon crossed to Dann, and the club captain responded by powerfully heading into the back of the net to provide them with a much-needed lift.

Press Association

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