Palace are out the relegation zone for the first time this season, following the late drama at Selhurst Park.
This continues Palace’s fine run of form against the Hornets, with only two losses in the past 15 meetings between the sides, a run dating back to the 2009/10 season.
Crystal Palace vs Watford Post-Match Analysis
There wasn’t much to separate these two yesterday. Watford dominated proceedings for a lot of the match and looked largely in control until Cleverley was sent off in the 87th minute.
Palace had a few flurries throughout the game, without creating anything substantial until the last five minutes.
Watford opened the scoring after the ever-dangerous Richarlison delivered a ball to the back post that was headed in by Daryl Janmaat.
Wilfried Zaha had looked lively, but couldn’t quite evade the close attention of the opposition defenders. That was the case until the final few moments when his quality shone through and got the Eagles the victory that they needed.
The first had a touch of fortune about it. Zaha capped off a decent move by Palace with a shot that was parried by Heurelho Gomes. This only diverted it into the path of substitute Bakary Sako who managed to bundle it in.
This was Sako’s first goal in the league since scoring in consecutive weeks in August 2015; once on his debut against Aston Villa and another the week after against Chelsea.
Zaha had been abused by the Watford fans all game and had appealed rather animatedly to the referee on several occasions to no avail.
However, it was he who had the last laugh after a brilliant run to the byline, before a squared ball back to James McArthur who managed to seal the victory with a smart finish in the 92nd minute.
Where was the game won and lost?
Besides Zaha’s individual brilliance, Cleverley’s sending off was an obvious turning point.
Watford’s indiscipline has cost them dear again. No club has received more red cards since the start of the 2016/17 season, and this is something that Marco Silva will have to address.
For all their attacking flair and movement, the Hertfordshire outfit can be fragile at the back. This was typified by Palace’s winner, when it was far too easy for Zaha to reach the byline and deliver his cross, despite good skill from the Ivorian winger.
Palace manager Roy Hodgson also deserves credit for making crucial substitutions. As well as Bakary Sako, match winner James McArthur was also brought on with about 15 minutes remaining.
Obviously, both scored, which is the ultimate reward, but McArthur added bite and endeavour into the midfield and can feel aggrieved not to be starting more matches.
Yohan Cabaye was the man who came off for McArthur, as usual, but this is due to stamina issues with the Frenchman rather than anything else.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek consistently shows nice touches and retains possession well, especially when linking up with Zaha, but is a passenger for a lot of the game and could perhaps act as an effective substitute himself with McArthur banging on Hodgson’s door for a starting place.
Bringing Andros Townsend off for Patrick van Aanholt was also a clever move as, for all Townsend’s willingness, the winger had failed to pose a real threat to the Watford goal. Wayward shots are a theme of his game, and it was no different here.
Lastly, individual moments seem to be falling Palace’s way at the moment. Ryan Shawcross missed a horrendous sitter for Stoke City at Selhurst Park a couple of weeks ago, and it was Troy Deeney‘s turn last night, despite a touch from Scott Dann.
Palace could well remain out of the relegation zone after tonight’s matches, as the three teams below them all face tricky ties against top six sides.
Next up is a trip to in-form Leicester, where a point will represent a good result after Claude Puel has reinvigorated the Foxes. This would extend Palace’s unbeaten run to seven, proving that Hodgson is making them a tough outfit to beat.
After that is a crunch game away at Swansea, which could prove vital in the long run. Both sides will need a win there and it will be a nervy encounter for sure. The Eagles still haven’t scored an away goal but will need to in the next two matches to ensure they progress from this position.
They were unlucky to lose last night, and their quality was obvious. If they can tighten up on defensive and disciplinary lapses, expect them to get good points return from the next few winnable matches, starting with Huddersfield at home on Saturday.
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