Palace into top half with third straight victory

The Crystal Palace FC mascot, a bald eagle. Credit Graham Sawell

Crystal Palace made it three successive 1-0 victories in the Premier League after a feisty encounter with Watford.

This was the first game Palace had played since the Premier League scrapped the ritual of pre-game handshakes after conversations with the government over how to deal with coronavirus. Players elected to fist bump instead in place of the pre-match ritual.

The game itself was a close affair riddled with fouls and numerous flash points with players from both teams clashing throughout the course of the game. Palace did well to restrict Watford to very few clear opportunities during the game defending with a low defensive block limiting spaces and looking to play on the counterattack with Benteke who is beginning to rediscover his form.

Crystal Palace took the lead 28 minutes in despite Watford beginning the more dominant side with Jordan Ayew scoring his 8th goal of the season. Ayew picked up the ball on the edge of the area and fired past Ben Foster after an incisive Palace attack. Palace were able to gain control of the game after the goal and looked comfortable through to half time.

Wilfred Zaha also had one of his better performances of the season linking up well with full-back Van Aanholt. Zaha was also at the centre of controversy from the Palace perspective after growing frustrated at being the target of strategical fouling from Watford players. After receiving a yellow card in the first half he was fortunate not to be dismissed early in the second when he got into an altercation that saw him put his hand into the face of Watford’s Etiene Capoue. The incident was referred to VAR but no further action was taken.

Manager Roy Hodgson challenged suggestions in his post-match press conference that his side should have been reduced to 10. He said: “You are seeing things which I didn’t see. I don’t have a 95-minute monitor on Wilfried Zaha, but I think I would see plenty of prods and kicks that he takes. It does tend to happen in football. I had no thoughts that he was in danger of being sent off. I thought his discipline was quite fantastic.”

Palace were dangerous on the counterattack through the second half as Watford committed more men forwards in search of an equaliser although keeper Guaita was not overly troubled.

The victory sends the Eagles into the top half of the table and 12 points clear of the drop zone. They travel to struggling Bournemouth next Saturday.

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