Saturdays game against Aston Villa felt like a situation Palace had been in many times in the last few years.
A brilliant result away at Manchester United last week had helped largely to rectify previous toothless displays against Everton and Sheffield United, before a frankly embarrassing loss in the Carabao Cup at home to League 2 opposition Colchester United bought us crashing back down to earth. In short, the game was a chance to turn an average start to the season into a promising one, but as all Palace fans know, it is exactly these sort of chances that The Eagles have so often spurned in recent years.
The team selection, dropping regulars such as Andros Townsend and Christian Benteke, at Old Trafford, was an encouraging departure from Roy Hodgson’s usually dogmatic approach, and after a brilliant result and performance it was the same XI that deservedly kept their place for the Villa game.
From the off, the atmosphere inside Selhurst Park was fantastic, a refreshing departure from the at times frustrated support of last season, and honestly from the get go the entire match felt like an entirely different experience to much of the home performances from the last few years.
Much of that can be credited to the brilliant and refreshing performance of Jordan Ayew, winning his third Man of the Match Award in just three starts so far this season. The Ghanaian front man hustled and bustled all afternoon, working tirelessly and not allowing the Aston villa defenders a moments rest, and was unlucky to not get an assist for his good work when robbing Engels of the ball, driving through the Villa half and setting up Cheick Kouyate. Ayew got his reward eventually however, scoring the only goal of the game after jinking between Tyrone Mings and Jack Grealish to give Palace the well-deserved 3 points. Jordan really seems to have turned a corner this year, touch wood, and frankly none of the other strikers in the squad, or that we have had in the last few years, would have taken that goal, showing the massive difference having a striker in form and suited to the system can make in the Premier League.
In fact, before the deadlock was broken, it was starting to look likely that Palace would be frustrated once again after dominating the match. James McArthur should’ve done better after being tee’d up in the first half, and minutes later Jordan Ayew failed to get on the end of a tantalising ball played across the goal, and it took the the deserved and utterly stupid sending off of Villa’s Egyptian winger Trezeguet for the game to really open up, as Palace saw more of their danger man Wilfried Zaha in possession and the Villa defence became more stretched.
New signing from Chelsea Gary Cahill also played brilliantly, making his home debut after an impressive showing last week, adding nous and experience to help quiet the Villa front line and looking like he’d been part of the back four for years, a telling sign of a class professional.
Despite the goal coming fairly late, as mentioned, this game just felt different, it felt like one Palace honestly deserved to win and would win, with, especially in the second half, some really promising passages of football coming from the boys in red and blue, which would have made Villa’s disallowed 95th minute equaliser a truly bitter pill to swallow. Much has been said of the decision to book Jack Grealish for apparent simulation, and it must be said that every Palace fan out there would’ve had a similar reaction to that of the Villa fans if a similar decision had been given against us. What i would say, however, is that Villa players had been trying to buy fouls all afternoon, and the leg that Grealish hopefully left dangling behind him on his way down, looking for contact from Gary Cahill, certainly did him no favours in the eye of the referee, but it must be said that the decision to disallow the goal was incredibly harsh.
In all, then, a very promising performance from Palace, a deserved, if slightly fortunate, victory, and one of the best home atmospheres in recent times. Hopefully this will be a sign of things to come this season, although much may end up resting on Jordan Ayew continuing his vein of form up top to get the goals our play often deserves. Now, who would’ve thought we’d be saying that a month ago?