Jonathan Williams

What we learned from Manchester City’s squeaker win over Crystal Palace

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  • City’s bench comes through … even Dzeko

Manuel Pellegrini responded to the tight holiday schedule with six changes, meaning a well-deserved rest for key figures. James Miler, Edin Dzeko, Dedryck Boyata, Matija Nastisic, Gael Clichy and Javi Garcia were the newcomers, while Yaya Toure and Alvaro Negredo and a foursome of other starters took their seats for a day.

The newcomers did their parts, retaining almost all of the possession, even if the visitors did turn up some danger moments of their own on limited time with the ball.

Dzeko continues to be something of a mystery man around the Etihad – and certainly a polarizing one. The Bosnian international peeled off smartly to pry himself loose form the marking at the moment that mattered, and his ability to do exactly this – find the space and finish clinically, that is – will check a lot of boxes as City continues to deal with Sergio Aguero’s absence.

But that’s not enough for some people, and it’s not hard to understand why. He sometimes seems to lack the all-out commitment, and way too many attacks disintegrate once they reach his feet.

(MORE: Highlights and recap as City tops Crystal Palace)

Once again, we saw an afternoon where Dzeko asked too few questions of the defense – and yet managed to make the difference with a critical goal. And in the end, isn’t that all a striker needs to do, make the difference in the moment that matters most?

  • Crystal Palace made this one difficult

Palace did make this one quite difficult; but what would we expect from a Tony Pulis side? And he has certainly injected some quality and a lot of stubbornness upon his arrival into Selhurst Park.

We are talking, after all, about a City team that has scored 37 at home while conceding just six measly goals, a stunning plus-31 goal difference at home. Plus, that’s a tad more than four goals a game at home.

So for Palace to walk away 1-0 losers is hardly a shame. Plus, Pulis’ bunch of hard-trying types had a couple of late chances to level the game. And if not for a big, stretching save off Joe Hart’s left palm, the Palace man probably would have.

In fact, speaking of City now-and-again No. 1 in goal …

  • Joe Hart is standing the test

Pellegrini keeps nailing the bullseye with his personnel decisions; it seems that a benching for Joe Hart – he’s certainly strengthened his spot as England’s No. 1, too, eh? — has done the trick. Hart seems to be back at his best, all the better for the time out of City’s starting lineup.

He has been an absolute rock in City’s goal since returning to the lineup two weeks back, and especially so over the last three days. Hart was excellent when called upon in the big win over Liverpool and (ironically) even better and braver Saturday against the far less heralded Palace.

His save on Jason Puncheon’s well-aimed volley from just beyond the 18 was the veteran keeper’s best stuff. It came after a real worry for City faithful, having seen their top backstopper take a bad cut below his left eye in a no-nonsense collision with Cameron Jerome.

It left Hart looking as if he’d been on the wrong side of a barroom brawl, but he was clearly still on top of things.

  • David Silva will miss City’s next match

The City playmaker’s cynical, late challenge will prove costly. Coming in the 89th minute as it did, we can ask a couple of questions.

First, was the challenge even necessary? Yes, Jonathan Williams was running through midfield at a hardy pace, but City seemed to have its defensive house in order behind the ball. Vincent Kompany is back there, you know?

Second, should Silva have been on the field? Pellegrini had seemed to be toying with the idea of removing the Spanish creator, surely considering that Silva was sitting on four yellow cards and was, in fact, just one bad challenge from missing his next match. The manager chose other switches instead and, well …

Silva’s fifth booking means he misses City’s New Year’s Day match at Swansea.

Crystal Palace 1-0 West Ham United: Eagles protect first half goal, take first win under Pulis (video)

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Marouane Chamakh’s goal near the end of the first half gave Crystal Palace their third win of the season, the Eagles’ 1-0 victory over West Ham United at Selhurst Park vaulting the club out of the cellar Premier League cellar, giving the team their first victory of the Tony Pulis era.

After the second game of their new manager’s reign, Palace temporarily climbs above Sunderland and into 19th place, with the Black Cats hosting Chelsea tomorrow. West Ham, coming off a 3-0 weekend win over Fulham, stay 15th, having won once in their last seven league games.

The Hammers nearly drew first blood on Tuesday, with a Carlton Cole ball sent through the six-yard box from the left of goal in the 36th minute skipping over Stewart Downing’s foot in front of a vacated right post. With a shot from Kevin Nolan having drawing a save from Julian Speroni five minutes earlier, the visitors to be breaking through the match’s early feeling out period  and building toward an opening goal.

It was Crystal Palace, however, who’d distinguish themselves before halftime, with Chamakh’s second goal of the season giving the home side a lead at the break. Against a club when he spent an ill-fated loan spell with last year, the target man converted on a 42nd minute corner, Barry Bannan’s floated cross after a ball playing short allowing the former Arsenal striker to carve out room between himself and Nolan. Heading down and into the left of goal, Chamakh sent his team into intermission with a 1-0 lead.

Early in the second, Crystal Palace nearly doubled their lead, with chances from James Puncheon and Cameron Jerome testing Jussi Jaaskelainen’s ability to keep his team within one. At full stretch to his right post, the Finnish goalkeeper denied Puncheon from 14 yards in the 51st minute, pushing the ball out for a corner. Moments later, Mile Jedinak headed Cameron Jerome past an out-of-position James Collins and in on goal. Bursting off his line, Jaaskelainen blocked the former Stoke striker’s chance to double his new team’s lead, keeping the visitors within reach.

Five minutes later, with the field starting to tilt toward West Ham’s goal, Sam Allardyce changed things up, bringing on Modibo Maiga and Joe Cole for Carlton Cole and Noble. Soon injury forced Tony Pulis into his first change, bringing on Jimmy Kébé for James Puncheon in the 66th minute. As the game entered it final 20 minutes, Crystal Palace begun holding out, conceding the bulk of the match’s possession to the Hammers.

As the second half wore down, the fresh legs of Stuart O’Keefe and Jonathan Williams gave Palace a way out of their own end, with Kébé nearly finding an insurance goal after turning on a shot toward an open goal from 17 yards out. But rushed by a small, desperate swarm of Hammers defenders, the Eagles’ attacker shot over the cross-bar, giving fans at Selhurst Park a few more moments’ doubt.

Ninety seconds later, Lee Mason’s window calmed their concerns. With their second win in three games, Palace has climbed out of last place, Tony Pulis giving his new club’s supporters reason to their team can move on from the season’s tough start.

Goals

Crystal Palace: Marouane Chamakh 42

Lineups

Crystal Palace: Julian Speroni; Joel Ward, Danny Gabbidon, Damien Delaney, Dean Moxey; James Puncheon (Jimmy Kébé 66), Mile Jedinak, Kagiso Dikgocoi, Barry Bannan (Stuart O’Keefe 82); Marouane Chamakh (Jonathan Williams 85), Cameron Jerome

Unused Substitutes: Lewis Price, Adrian Mariappa, Dwight Gayle, Kevin Phillips

West Ham United: Jussi Jaaskelainen; Joey O’Brien, James Collins, James Tomkins, Razvan Rat (George McCartney 78);Mark Noble, Kevin Nolan (Joe Cole 58), Ravel Morrison, Stewart Downing, Mohamed Diame; Carlton Cole (Modibo Maiga 58).

UnusedSubstitutes: Adrian, Matthew Jarvis, Guy Demel, Jack Collison

Watch Live: Crystal Palace vs. West Ham United (Lineups and Discuss)

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Last year this would have been a throw back to the old days in England, Tony Pulis’s dogged pragmatism against the blunt efficacy of Sam Allardyce’s approach. Now? Allardyce’s West Ham have at times played without a traditional striker, while Pulis is in his second game at a new job. The core of each man’s soccer ethos may be unchanged, but was may be in for some surprises today at Selhurst Park.

That’s where Crystal Palace, still entrenched at the bottom of the Premier League, will welcome the Hammers to start the league’s mid-week match day. With nine matches scheduled tomorrow, today’s meeting between London clubs serves as the appetizer for the league’s 14th round of action, and although we’re still likely to see a physical, direct, cagey affair battle between teams set up by two blunt bosses, the importance of three points between two lower-table teams should make for a spirited match.

Today’s game is available live on NBC Sports Live Extra, with festivities set to kick off in Croydon at 3 p.m. Eastern.

Lineups

Crystal Palace: Julian Speroni; Joel Ward, Danny Gabbidon, Damien Delaney, Dean Moxey; James Puncheon, Mile Jedinak, Kagiso Dikgocoi, Barry Bannan; Marouane Chamakh, Cameron Jerome

Substitutes: Lewis Price, Adrian Mariappa, Stuart O’Keefe, Jonathan Williams, Jimmy Kebe, Dwight Gayle, Kevin Phillips

West Ham United: Jussi Jaaskelainen; Joey O’Brien, James Collins, James Tomkins, Razvan Rat; Mark Noble, Kevin Nolan, Ravel Morrison, Stewart Downing, Mohamed Diame; Carlton Cole.

Substitutes: Adrian, George McCartney, Matthew Jarvis, Modibo Maiga, Guy Demel, Joe Cole, James Collison

Premier League Preview: Crystal Palace v. Arsenal

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  • Crystal Palace have won just five points and scored five goals in their previous eight Premier League meetings with Arsenal.
  • Since their opening day defeat to Aston Villa, Arsenal have won 19 of a possible 21 points in the Premier League.
  • Crystal Palace have now lost five successive Premier League games. They haven’t lost six in a row in league competition since March 2001.

Crystal Palace welcome Arsenal to Selhurst Park this Saturday (7:45 am ET on NBCSN, watch live via NBC Sports Live Extra) for a clash of two clubs at opposite sides of the table with the Eagles in 19th place and the Gunners league leaders.

Saturday will mark Palace’s first top-fight match without Ian Holloway this season after the 50 year old manager left the club on mutual consent on Wednesday. Holloway’s assistant Keith Millen will deputize until co-chairman Steve Parish finds a suitable replacement. With just three points in the opening eight Premier League fixtures, avoiding relegation will be an uphill battle.

MORE: Crystal Palace eyeing Tony Pulis to replace Ian Holloway

Losers of their last five matches, Palace will be desperate for points on Saturday. After dropping three straight matches by a 2-0 margin (Manchester United, Southampton and Swansea City), the Eagles were stung by Liverpool 3-1 before being thrashed 4-1 by a stumbling Fulham side on Monday evening.

How, exactly, Millen plans on turning things around remains to be seen. Fortunately for the former Bristol City manager he will have a relatively healthy squad at his disposal with long-term absentees Glenn Murray, Jack Hunt and Jonathan Williams the only losses and center-back Patrick McCarthy set to return from groin injury.

Hoping for a miracle may by Millen’s best bet, especially when considering Palace have taken only five points from their previous eight Premier League matches against Arsenal. The Gunners are coming off fine form in the league, unbeaten in their last seven having only drawn once during that time. Last weekend Arsene Wenger’s side put on what was their best display of the season, slicing up the Norwich City defense for four goals.

The good times at the Emirates came to a brief pause on Tuesday when Robert Lewandowski scored a late goal to hand Borussia Dortmund a 2-1 victory in the Champions League. The Gunners were unlucky to escape that match without a point and will be looking forward to bouncing back with a solid hammering.

Wenger will continue to be without long term absentees Lukas Podolski, Yaya Sanogo, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Abou Diaby. Jack Wilshere may also be rested after taking a knock to his ankle against Dortmund while Mathieu Flamini should have a clear bill of health to return from concussion.

What They’re Saying

Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud (on the Dortmund result): “We lost but have won almost every game. Just Villa and West Brom [were not victories] so it’s not the time to be really worried, but we want to come back on Saturday and win the game.”

Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla: “Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky or myself are not sticking strictly to the touchline. Therefore we open up spaces so our full backs have a corridor where they can go up and down. Our ball possessions are long but they can break through by surprise. That’s why full backs are really important for our team. You can see that every game.”

Crystal Palace former manager Ian Holloway:  “I hold myself and Steve responsible. I didn’t value enough the spirit of the group that helped us get to the Premier League. I’ve lost the spirit of that group. I owe it to the lads to admit that. I could never work any harder than I have done. And this man (Parish) knows that.”

Prediction

It’s not a matter of who will win (Arsenal, obviously) but by how much. If it were any other top club facing Palace, I’d say we’re looking at a score of five or six nil. But knowing Wenger, this is a match where he’ll play a number of his youngsters and hand rests to veterans, meaning the score difference will only be a few goals.

Expect guys like Serge Gnabry and Carl Jenkinson to feature, as well as possible appearances by Ryo Miyaichi and Emmanuel Frimpong. My dark-horse call on this one, however, is that Gedion Zelalem (pictured) – the 16 year old phenom who spent time playing for the Washington, D.C. area based club Olney Rangers before being scooped up by Wenger – will get his first call in the league.

Crystal Palace – 0 Tottenham – 1: Soldado scores on debut as Spurs dictate opener (Video)

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A stubborn Crystal Palace side, backed by a rocking home crowd, performed valiantly against Tottenham Hotspur at Selhurst Park, but had little possession and their counter-attack wasn’t enough as a Soldado penalty proved the difference.

The scoreless first half – while the build-ups were quality for both sides – offered little as far as solid chances on goal go.

The Palace midfield exerted everything they had to maintain possession, but often had to spend long spells trying to quell Spurs buildup play flowing through Mousa Dembele and new signing Paulinho.

However, the visitors found it difficult to get the ball into the box as the Eagles defenders marked the Spurs frontmen solidly, and Palace goalkeeper Julian Speroni positioned himself well all match.

The 35th minute saw the opening half’s best chance when a spinning Gylfi Sigurdsson fired a knuckling shot from the top of the box which Speroni brilliantly parried over the bar while leaping high into the air. Mousa Dembele also whipped in a laser beam earlier on in the 12th minute that fizzed just over.

Spurs finally broke through in the 51st minute as Aaron Lennon broke down the right side of the box and sent in a cross, which found the outstretched arm of Eagles defender Dean Moxey, and referee Mark Clattenburg – who had a fantastic match – gave the penalty.  New Spurs striker Roberto Soldado stepped up immediately to take, and he wrong-footed Speroni to net the opener on his debut.

Palace had a counter-attack opportunity 15 minutes later when Palace captain Mile Jedinak dispossessed Paulinho and the loose ball fell to Dwight Gayle, who flashed up the left side, cut back in, and fired a laser just over the bar.

Sigurddson, who had a tough year last season, had a beautiful chance to seal the deal just after when Soldado found him all alone in the middle of the box but he slid and touched it just wide of the left post. The game began to open up as Palace boss Ian Holloway threw on all three substitutes at once. Substitute Marouane Chamakh, recently acquired on loan, nearly released Gayle but the ball was just long.  Lloris was then forced to come out of his box as sub Kevin Phillips latched onto a long ball but Lloris came out to make the tackle.

The home side pushed forward towards the end but couldn’t find the final ball.  Spurs sub Jermain Defoe had the goal gaping with a chance to put it away, but inexplicably went near post when the other side was completely open, and he dragged it wide. Lloris had to make two more last-ditch saves off the feet of former Fulham man Kagisho Dikgaccoi at the death to preserve the lead.

It’s a great start for Spurs as they look to overtake rivals Arsenal this season, after two seasons of falling agonizingly short of Arsenal for the final Champions League spot.

Lineups

Tottenham: Hugo Lloris; Kyle Walker, Michael Dawson, Jan Vertonghen, Danny Rose (Younis Kaboul, 86′); Aaron Lennon, Mousa Dembele (Etienne Capoue, 57′), Nacer Chadli, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Paulinho; Roberto Soldado (Defoe 83′).

Crystal Palace: Julian Speroni, Joel Ward, Daniel Gabbidon, Damien Delaney, Dean Moxey, Kagisho Dikgacoi, Mile Jedinak, Owen Garvan (Marouane Chamakh, 66′), Stephen Dobbie (Jonathan Williams, 66′), Dwight Gayle, Aaron Wilbraham (Kevin Phillips, 66′).