Crystal Palace finally secured their first Premier League win, 3-1 over Sunderland, but they sure made it as difficult as possible. The home side had secured the lead by the time ten minutes were up, then spent the next hour sending speculative shots in the general direction of Keiren Westwood’s goal. It would take an equalizer from the Black Cats, a red card, and a penalty conversion before the Eagles looked confident in their victory — and even then, the players managed to look nervous of it being ripped away. Fortunately for Palace, they managed a third in added time, finally putting the game to rest.
Palace scored the opener in rather amusing fashion. The home side’s corner connected with…no one, really. Or possibly everyone. The ball bounced around, ricocheting off seemingly everyone inside the area, before bouncing off Daniel Gabbidon and into the back of the net.
Perhaps Crystal Palace sensed that Sunderland would eventually get an equalizer — they certainly gave it a shot in the first half — and so attempted to find a second goal. Jason Puncheon, Dwight Gayle and Kagisho Dikgacoi all gave it their best shot, but the attempts never really threatened Westwood. For the Black Cats, Connor Wickham and Emanuele Giaccherini both made decent attempts.
But those attempts by the visitors rather petered out in the second half. Perhaps Paolo Di Canio didn’t have a plan B, expecting Palace’s defense to be simple to get around. Whatever it was, the home side were the ones that kept up a constant attack, while Sunderland looked bereft of options.
So it was all the more surprising when the Black Cats equalized in the 65th minute. After a neat one-two, Jack Colback took the ball up the left side, pulling back to lob it into the middle of the area. Steven Fletcher was there with the perfect header, and it seemed Sunderland had, at least, rescued a point from the match.
But barely ten minutes later, it all fell apart for the visitors. Sunderland captain John O’Shea charged in to stop Gayle, sliding in and tripping up the Palace attacker just inside the area. The referee immediately blew the whistle for the penalty, then dug around to find the red card for O’Shea. Gayle stepped up to take it himself, easily bypassing Westwood with his right-footed shot.
At that point, Sunderland just gave up, allowing Palace more time and space to press for a third goal. It was no surprise when it came, two minutes into the four minutes of added time. Substitute Stuart O’Keefe, on for Marouane Chamakh, got the final goal, a solo effort that curled past a dejected Westwood.
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Ward, Gabbidon, Delaney, Moxey, Dikgacoi, Jedinak, Campana (Williams 54), Puncheon, Gayle (Wilbraham 83); Chamakh (O’Keefe 83)
Subs not used: Phillips, Alexander, Ramage, Dobbie
Sunderland: Westwood, Celustka, Colback, O’Shea, Diakite, Larsson, Vaughan, Johnson, Giaccherini (Mavrias 61), Dong-won (Fletcher 45), Wickham
Subs not used: Cabral, Cuéllar, Moberg-Karlsson, Roberge, Mannone