Crystal Palace – Newcastle United saw the Magpies pick up their fourth Premier League victory of the season by way of a late 2-0 result at Selhurst Park on Friday.
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Steve Bruce opted for a drastic tactical change — from a 5-4-1/5-3-2, to a 4-4-2 — and it produced very little in terms of results, save for a single moment of quality — wholly unrelated to the tactical setup — by star strikers Joelinton and Callum Wilson. The result and points send Newcastle into 10th place, but their bigger-picture problems are no closer to being solved.
2 things we learned: Crystal Palace – Newcastle
1. Change the players, change the system…: … but Bruce remains the problem. For the money Mike Ashley has managed to spend on the first-team squad over the last 18-24 months, he undeniably erred in hiring Bruce, someone who makes less out of more, after letting the brilliant Rafa Benitez walk out the door. For all of the talent he nows possesses, Bruce appears desperate beyond words to hold them back. If Benitez returned to St. James’ Park tomorrow, Newcastle would be battling for a top-half place — maybe even top-eight — by season’s end.
Everything with this team is reactive. That means buildup doesn’t follow a pattern, the pressing isn’t organised, and while you may win some games that way you will struggle against teams that are organised or have more quality. https://t.co/qEvxkixo1M
— Kristan Heneage (@KHeneage) November 27, 2020
2. No Zaha, plenty of problems for Palace: Don’t worry, Crystal Palace fans, now it’s time to talk about everything that’s presently wrong with your team. Spoiler alert: it’s a lot, and not at all dissimilar to Newcastle — at least when Wilfried Zaha is unavailable, as he was on Friday. It’s a credit to Zaha just how good he’s been this season — and to manager Roy Hodgson for unlocking him as an unconventional striker — but also an alarming warning sign that the Eagles are not far off being labeled a one-man team.
With both sides set up to soak up pressure and do their damage on the counter-attack, the game was more than a little slow to start.
Eberechi Eze was first to force Karl Darlow into a difficult save in the 25th minute. Eze unleashed a rocket that appeared headed for the upper-90 from 20 yards out, but Darlow read it well and made the save with two hands behind the ball.
Darlow was forced into action again just four minutes later, as Jeffrey Schlupp got on the end of a bouncing ball behind the backline and unleashed a well-hit ball of his own. Again, the shot looked to be on target but Darlow flung himself into position to push the ball around the post.
The Magpies had a decent chance in the 41st minute, but it was rather tame in the end, at least as far as Vicente Guaita was concerned. Jamal Lewis got the ball 25 yards from goal and took a touch inside before firing a right-footed shot, but the left back’s weaker-foot effort was easily seen and saved by Guaita.
Two minutes later, Joelinton created a moment of chaos and panic for the Crystal Palace backline as he stepped in front of Gary Cahill’s pass out of the back and immediately raced toward goal before firing another weak shot on goal. Guaita was, again, quite comfortable.
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Again, the second half was contested largely in the middle third of the field and quickly fizzled out anytime the ball found its way into either team’s defensive third.
Crystal Palace had a would-be chance in the 55th minute, when Schlupp played Jordan Ayew into the box but left the ball ever so slightly out in front of him. Ayew was forced into a full-stretch just to make contact, thus pushing his deft finish wide of the post.
Wilson nearly stole a goal from nothing for Newcastle, but his 68th-minute header somehow went wide of the post after Javier Manquillo delivered it into the penalty area.
The best chance of the game came, and went, in the 85th minute. Patrick van Aanholt raced toward the end line with the six-yard box free of defenders and Michy Batshuayi bearing down on the far post. It looked a surefire goal to win it, but Batshuayi couldn’t get there in time and the ball harmlessly rolled over the end line.
Wilson’s winner came in the with precious little time left in the game, but much of the credit must go to Joelinton for his driving run through midfield to lay the ball into acres of space for Wilson to run onto and slot home.
Joelinton made it 2-0 in the 90th minute as he raced into the penalty area after Newcastle won the ball back from Crystal Palace high up the field. Joelinton cut inside from the right flank and benefitted greatly from Gary Cahill’s attempted block sending Guaita one way and the ball back the other direction.