Crystal Palace 0-1 Tottenham: Score, Grades and Post-Match Reaction
The Lilywhites are notoriously slow starters, and with Andre Villas-Boas desperate to avoid a second consecutive opening-day loss in his career at the helm, he named an extremely strong side.
Spurs dominated the first half but failed to turn possession into goals. In a far looser, open second half, Roberto Soldado converted from the penalty spot to notch the only goal of the game.
Palace pressed hard for an equaliser and came desperately close late on, but Ian Holloway's men fell just short on their first day back in the Premier League.
Spurs were heavy favourites before referee Mark Clattenburg began the proceedings, and the visitors kicked off and kept the ball for four straight minutes.
It was a Swansea-esque move from the Capital One Cup final last season, where Michael Laudrup instructed his side to withhold the ball from Bradford City in an effort to stem the momentum and flow of the lesser side.
It worked, and despite a raucous home crowd creating a cauldron of noise, Palace barely got a touch in the opening stages.
Knocking it around with ease and probing patiently for openings, Spurs flexed the muscles in their strong right side. Twice Aaron Lennon and Kyle Walker overlapped superbly, and Dean Moxey faced numerous early sieges on his side of the pitch.
On the whole, Palace were stifling well but struggling to carve out any opportunities for themselves inside the first 15 minutes. A few low crosses were sent in behind the defence by the home side, but Michael Dawson stepped out expertly to beat the midfield runners to the loose ball each time.
With the game scoreless at the half-hour mark, Spurs' frustration began to show.
Walker produced a petulant foul on Moxey after the left-back did superbly to rob him of possession; the play was switched to the left, utilising Danny Rose and Nacer Chadli, but still no breakthrough came; Gylfi Sigurdsson's desperate, dipping effort was tipped expertly over the bar from Julian Speroni.
Five minutes before the break, the best chance of the half arrived. Lennon sprang clear on the right and fizzed a low ball into the box, but Speroni saved at point-blank range and smothered the second attempt.
The better ball was a cutback to the penalty spot, but Lennon's poor choice in the moment epitomised Spurs' irritating half—plenty of attacks, dominance in possession, but how many clear-cut chances were created?
The second half started with a bang. Moxey's left arm blocked a Lennon cross from the right, and Mark Clattenburg rightly awarded a penalty.
Up stepped debutant Soldado, who expertly curled a right-footed effort to the 'keeper's right after sending him the wrong way.
Palace responded with a good spell of pressure, forcing successive corners that turned the volume right up inside the stadium. Rose, Walker and Jan Vertonghen were all forced into rash clearances as the Eagles searched for Dwight Gayle and Stephen Dobbie over the top.
Ian Holloway made a triple substitution on the 65-minute mark, with Kevin Phillips, Marouane Chamakh and Jonathan Williams coming on.
With two true strikers on the field, Palace looked potent, and the home side began to string meaningful, quick counterattacks together. It made for an end-to-end open game, with Gayle testing the pace of AVB's back line and Chadli testing the concentration of Holloway's.
Jermain Defoe replaced Soldado late on and went on two late, surging runs. The first ended up in the corner without help, but the second saw him beat three players only to fire inches wide.
With the home crowd roaring them on, Palace dominated the closing minutes and came desperately close through Kagisho Dikgacoi. Hugo Lloris was on alert to block both efforts from the midfielder, and the final whistle ended Spurs' struggle.
Key Player Grades
Mile Jedinak: A-
The Palace captain put in a warrior-like performance at the heart of the home side's midfield, and although his passing was a little iffy, his positioning and tackling was top-notch.
He'll need 37 more of these if the Eagles are to stay up, and the fans know he'll do his utmost to provide them.
Danny Rose: B+
After a highly successful loan spell at Sunderland last season, Rose came straight into the starting lineup and excelled at left-back.
He was defensively conscientious, provided some stunning lung-busting runs and cleaned up several long, searching balls directed at Gayle.
Roberto Soldado: C
The €30 million man notched on his first appearance in a Spurs shirt, but on the whole his performance was extremely underwhelming.
His penalty was expertly taken, but the Spaniard offered very little in every other phase of play.
|Etienne Capoue (on 57')||C+|
|Jermain Defoe (on 82')||N/A|
|Younes Kaboul (on 85')||N/A|
Saturday, Aug. 24, sees Crystal Palace travel to the Britannia Stadium for a different kind of examination against Stoke City.
The following day, Spurs host Swansea City in a truly mouthwatering tie.
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