A late winner from Newcastle’s Mikel Merino saw Crystal Palace fall to another defeat in the Premier League. Palace still haven’t scored an away goal this season whilst Newcastle climb to sixth place in the league.
The quality on show from both teams was lacking throughout this 90 minutes, with the first shot on target arriving with only 20 minutes to go. The Eagles didn’t manage to record a single shot on target in the game and, despite threatening at stages, looked largely toothless up front once again.
It was an unchanged line-up from the victory against Chelsea last weekend, but Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend did not have the same joy in the striking positions. Newcastle will be relieved to snatch the three points in a game that neither team really deserved to win.
The goal came from a corner in the 85th minute whipped in by Matt Ritchie. James McArthur managed to win the header but could only deflect it onto the head of substitute Merino who flashed the ball past a helpless Julian Speroni.
Awful First Half
The only action in the first half that produced any sort of excitement came as Yohan Cabaye made a late challenge on DeAndre Yedlin. This saw tempers flare, as Cabaye was shown the yellow card. On another day, it could easily have been a red.
Apart from that, little of note happened. Palace had two half-hearted penalty appeals rightly turned down. Zaha went down in the box for the first one, but replays showed that he was hardly touched, if at all. The second came as the Palace players appealed for a handball from Jonjo Shelvey but it clearly hit him in the chest.
Zaha had a chance at the back post with his head after a ball in from Townsend, but could only fire wide.
Newcastle’s best chance of the half came as Christian Atsu managed to muscle his way through Joel Ward, but Scott Dann managed to get over and apply the pressure onto the Newcastle winger. Atsu could only fire his shot into the side netting as a result.
Neither keeper had anything to do, and it was a relief when the referee blew his whistle for half time.
More of the Same
The second half continued in the same vein as the first 45 minutes.
Townsend cut inside in the 65th minute but could only flash a shot over the crossbar. The first shot on target in the game came as Mo Diame curled an effort straight into the arms of Speroni for an easy save.
This was Newcastle’s best spell of the match, and shortly after Shelvey’s powerful drive from outside the box saw Speroni pull out the save with his forearm. Palace actually had a golden chance to open the scoring six minutes before the winning goal.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek, on as a substitute, broke through and the defender slipped which gave him time to get a shot away. The effort was scuffed but very nearly fell into the path of Patrick Van Aanholt rushing in at the back post who was an inch away from connecting and diverting the ball past Rob Elliott.
Apart from that, there was nothing to report from a very chilly St James’ Park.
What now for Palace
Roy Hodgson has to ensure the players are not too disheartened by this narrow defeat. West Ham are next up at Selhurst Park in a match that both sides really need to win. Should Palace win, they will cut the deficit on West Ham to two points which could see Slaven Bilic sacked, if he is not already during the week. A West Ham win would see Palace very much in the mire and render the victory against Chelsea as useless.
Palace really need to get some wins over the next 10 games with a favourable run of fixtures. Barring Tottenham away, they are all possible wins including a tantalising affair away at Brighton.
Before all that, Palace travel to Bristol City in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night. A win at Ashton Gate would see Hodgson’s side move into the quarter-finals of the competition and shine some light on an awful beginning to the season.
Newcastle face Burnley away in their next encounter, followed by Bournemouth at home. They will be hoping to continue their positive start and build on the good foundations already set by Rafa Benitez.