Thursday 18 January 2018

Clement handed a perfect welcome present by Rangel

Crystal Palace 1 Swansea City 2

New Swansea boss Paul Clement calls the shots during their 2-1 win last night. Photo: Ian Kington/AFP/Getty Images
New Swansea boss Paul Clement calls the shots during their 2-1 win last night. Photo: Ian Kington/AFP/Getty Images

Jonathan Liew

A freezing night in London, the air thick with mutiny. Angel Rangel's late goal stole all three points for Swansea City; Palace's second-half rally ultimately failing to undo the ineptitude of their first. A brilliant volley by Wilfried Zaha appeared to have saved them a point; instead, all it earned them was five minutes' grace.

For Sam Allardyce, appointed as the arch pragmatist, the febrile atmosphere will get worse before it gets better. "What the f***ing hell was that?" the Palace fans screamed at their hopeless side, and although Allardyce switched things around in the second half to limited effect, the suspicion remains that the squad assembled by Alan Pardew is ill-equipped to play Big Sam-ball: the gritty, dogged football that their new manager believes will keep them in the Premier League.

Will Allardyce try to work with what he has? Or will he use this as an excuse to rip it all up this January and start again? Swansea still need a few new players of their own, but this was an encouraging win to begin the Paul Clement era, their resolve in the face of Palace's onslaught as pleasing as their two goals.

Allardyce was greeted with lukewarm applause as he was introduced to the Selhurst Park crowd for the first time since being appointed a fortnight ago. They are still a little wary of the former England manager around these parts, and it took just 45 abject minutes for the boos to start.

Palace deservedly trailed at that stage through Lukasz Alfie Mawson's header, a delightful flicked finish from a Gylfi Sigurdsson free-kick. But in truth, they could have conceded far earlier.

The words "QPR under Mark Hughes" are not used lightly in this context, but in the Valhalla of Premier League shambles, even Palace's opponents last night might have struggled to concoct a worse first half than this.

Swansea City's Fernando Llorente and Angel Rangel celebrate after the game. Photo: Eddie Keogh/Reuters
Swansea City's Fernando Llorente and Angel Rangel celebrate after the game. Photo: Eddie Keogh/Reuters

Allardyce's search for defensive solidity has led him to move Andros Townsend and Zaha away from their favoured flanks and to sit much deeper, almost as auxiliary full-backs. These are roles they are barely suited for, Zaha especially, and Swansea were able to expose them again and again.

When Townsend and Zaha did get the ball, it was invariably within 30 yards of their own goal.

Clement, on the other hand, was enjoying a far warmer reception, even descending from the stands during the first half to bask in the glow of the performance.

His new team were dominant, going close through Fernando Llorente, Jack Cork and Ki Sung-yueng. Defensively, they looked more alert, more tenacious and tougher to break down. The frequent criticism of Swansea is that they are simply too pleasant to play against. Clement will have to change that, and Mawson's goal, a header from a set-piece, was one Allardyce would have been proud of. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Swansea City's Jay Fulton and Crystal Palace's Jason Puncheon battle for the ball. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire
Swansea City's Jay Fulton and Crystal Palace's Jason Puncheon battle for the ball. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire

Telegraph.co.uk

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