Crumbling Palace go from bad to worse with defeat to Sunderland
Crystal Palace 1 Sunderland 3
You certainly could not fault the entertainment, and on a chilly Monday night in south London, you could not fault the atmosphere either.
But for those who watched Crystal Palace performing so impressively last season under Tony Pulis, this game posed one question above all: what on earth has happened to them?
Of course Pulis was Pulis, and Neil Warnock is Neil Warnock, a manager with his own idiosyncratic qualities. But it is hard not to lament a little at the swiftness with which last season's solidity has melted away. The weaker the opposition, the worse Palace seem to play: three soft goals gave Sunderland their first win at Selhurst Park since 1995.
Sunderland broke the deadlock, it was their effort on goal. A quick exchange of passes with Connor Wickham and Jordi Gómez set Patrick Van Aanholt in the clear. His cross found Steven Fletcher - unmarked, obviously - whose header from 13 yards was perfectly directed, downwards and into the corner.
Palace could feel a little hard done by, and perhaps they emerged from the break with a certain self-righteousness. It was a much-improved showing, forcing a corners early in the second half, one of which produced the equaliser.
As it was played short to Wilfried Zaha, Sunderland's defence scrambled like fighter jets, but too late to prevent the cross. Marouane Chamakh's initial effort was saved by Costel Pantillimon; Fraizer Campbell back-heeled the ball across the face of goal, whereupon it was bundled in by substitute Wes Brown. It was the fourth own goal Sunderland had conceded in their last three matches.
Even by the standards of this error-strewn match, the way in which Palace fell behind again was little short of a scandal. Will Buckley was allowed to run unimpeded up the Sunderland right, whereupon he found Gómez, who from the edge of the area, tucked the ball in low from 18 yards.
Palace went down to 10 men late on, Mile Jedinak sent-off for kicking out at Gómez, before Fletcher made it 3-1. (© Daily Telegraph, London)