When Roy Hodgson was reappointed Crystal Palace boss last month to replace Patrick Vieira until the end of the season, fans were questioning the rationale from chairman Steve Parish to bring the former Eagles boss back.
The club were in need of results to pull them away from any real threat of relegation and given the attacking talent that Palace boast, Hodgson’s traditional old school methods were not what the supporters thought the team needed.
Six Premier League games later and Palace have picked up 13 points under the veteran coach and whisper it quietly, but his football has been very good. Hodgson has let his creative players play with freedom and in doing so has led to his side scoring 13 goals in this period too.
On Saturday afternoon, the Eagles entertained West Ham United and defeated their London rivals 4-3 in an absolute thriller at Selhurst Park in Hodgson’s sixth game in charge. While there were a lot of interesting aspects to his side’s victory, mainly the attacking link-up play, the three goals they conceded all came from corner kicks which is of some concern.
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It was a gripping first half in south London. Palace started strongly but found themselves behind as West Ham opened the scoring against the run of play. The hosts failed to clear their lines from a corner and Tomas Soucek was able to power home to give his side the lead.
That lead didn’t last long, however, as minutes later Jordan Ayew pulled Palace level with a well-placed effort past Lukasz Fabianski at the near post. The Eagles were starting to fly and were taking control of the match and they soon found their way in front when Wilfried Zaha was in the right place at the right time to fire in from a low ball across goal as Selhurst Park erupted.
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Palace looked dangerous whenever they got forward and the link-up play between Ayew, Zaha, Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze was something to behold and of a quality that should be pushing higher up the table and competing for a place in Europe.
This dazzling quartet tormented the Hammers defence but the third goal didn’t come from any of the attackers. It was Jeffrey Schlupp who gave his side the two-goal advantage as the versatile midfielder dispossessed Souceck before slotting the ball through the legs of Fabianski.
West Ham had to do a lot of defending in the first half but when they did manage to enter Palace’s half, they did look threatening themselves. A rare attack led to another corner, and just like they did for the opener, they made this one count too. The ball was sent into the box which Soucek flicked on to the back post where Michail Antonio was poised to power his header home and halve the deficit and bring the contest back to life just before the break.
The second half was not quite the goal fest of the opening 45 minutes, but there was still plenty of drama. Just after the hour mark, Palace were awarded a penalty when Eze was brought down by Nayef Aguerd and the attacker stepped up to coolly convert the spot-kick to restore Palace’s two-goal lead.
The Hammers didn’t let their heads drop and they continued to push to find a way back into the match and they did exactly that when they went up for another corner as Aguerd was able to scramble the ball over the line, atoning for his earlier error.
The victory carries Palace up to 11th on 40 points, above the Hammers on goal difference. Hodgson's side have put to bed any worry of relegation and now it is a case of seeing how high they can finish and if they can surpass their highest points total of 49 with four games to go.