Crystal Palace will not be relegated from the Premier League despite losing its first seven matches of the season, a remarkable feat made more so by a wild statistic.
The Eagles are the first team in nearly 120 years to avoid the drop despite losing its first seven games.
[ RECAP: Stoke 1-2 Palace ]
Yep, more than a century came and went since Liverpool turned the trick in 1899-00.
So Palace has been concerned with relegation for some time, and that’s making it more difficult for them to celebrate clinching their safety by sending Stoke City to the Championship at the bet365 Stadium.
Palace boss Roy Hodgson admitted he felt the season might’ve been a lost cause given the slow start (He took over for Frank De Boer after a handful of games).
“After seven games, or after 11 games with four points, I never saw it coming,” Hodgson said. “I was hoping it would be a low-scoring year in terms of points for the lower sides and we’d just scrape over the line.”
And like Van Aanholt, he’s having a hard time due to the atmosphere around the Stoke ground. The Potters took an early lead but saw it evaporate along with their Premier League gopes.
“I’m proud of the team not just today but all season but I feel a lot of sympathy and empathy for Stoke. Any joy I feel is measured by looking at the faces of the Stoke players who gave everything today but they came up against a team that wasn’t prepared to lay down.
“Paul Lambert‘s said come and have a drink with us, but it’s a hard one because you don’t know what to say. So, I feel a lot of empathy for Stoke today, because I don’t think they could have done anymore, they came up against a team who weren’t willing to lie down, who put in a top, top performance.”
Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle cover a Saturday filled with relegation storylines galore: Southampton keep their top-flight hopes alive against Bournemouth (0:35) while Stoke City are held goalless at Anfield (6:50). Swansea lost to Chelsea (11:38) and crept closer to the relegation zone while Huddersfield lost at home to Everton and face a tricky schedule to end the season (14:10). Meanwhile, the Baggies live to see another Premier League day after beating Newcastle (18:54) while Palace smash Leicester and the guys wonder — Roy for Manager of the Year? (22:20). Finally, the show ends with a Sunday preview (28:00)
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It would take a total collapse over the season’s final weeks for Crystal Palace to be relegated from the Premier League, and that’s already saying a whole lot for the work of Roy Hodgson.
[ RECAP: Palace 5-0 Leicester ]
Palace, you’ll remember, started 0-7 and 1W-1D-9L in league play, with Hodgson taking the reigns after Frank De Boer presided over the first four losses of the season.
Now, a four-match Feb/March swoon aside, Palace is pretty much safe.
Hodgson’s first win came the day Zaha returned from six-straight matches away with a knee injury, and three of the four-match winter woes came with Zaha fighting another knee injury.
So…. yeah. Zaha.
“Wilf today, that was maybe one of the very best during my time at the club. He balanced running with the ball, creating chances and tracking back. His all-round game was great. He got the balance between when to hold on to the ball and when to lay it off. If he can continue like that there is no barrier for how high he can reach.”
To recap, Crystal Palace with Zaha this season: 9W-11D-7L
Crystal Palace without Zaha: Nine losses
Projected over a full season with Zaha’s form, Palace would have (rounded up) 51 points, three behind seventh place Burnley.
Now five of the nine matches Zaha missed were against Top Six sides, but four were 1-0. Methinks this guy is going to get some major attention this summer, though Palace may just hold onto him if they can convince Chelsea to sell Ruben Loftus-Cheek (3-3-6 without him).
Crystal Palace looked set to pull off another Selhurst shock after Andros Townsend and Patrick Van Aanholt scored to give the Eagles a 2-0 lead over Manchester United on Monday.
[ MORE: Recap | Matic reacts | Mourinho, too ]
It wasn’t to be, though, as a Nemanja Matic wonderstrike capped off a furious United fight back that pushed the Red Devils back into second place and kept the Eagles in the Premier League’s relegation zone.
“It’s the Premier League and unfortunately we were on the wrong end of it tonight,” Townsend said. “We have proved we can pull off shocks against the top sides. We will put on a show on Saturday [against Chelsea] and hopefully pull off another shock.”
Palace was lively and busy, with twin tall forwards Christian Benteke and Alexander Sorloth a handful for the United defense and opening up lanes for Townsend and others. Here’s Sorloth, who arrived from Midtjylland in January.
“It’s an empty feeling, we should have had the three points today after leading 2-0 against United then we should have controlled the game more and don’t give them so much space on the ball and then they go and score at the end,” said Sorloth.
As for Roy Hodgson, he’s been through the wars and will be ready for the weekend, but can’t help but feel sympathy for his men after a decent effort.
“Where we are in the table doesn’t enter my mind during the match,” he said. “It would have been nice to have two more points but we still would have been very much in a relegation battle. It could well go down to the wire.”
“I was expecting to come away with one point but once again it is nothing and I feel devastated for the players.”
Palace is off to Chelsea on Saturday before a bona fide six-pointer at Huddersfield Town.
There’s a bit of good news when it comes to Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha: The Ivorian attacker won’t miss the rest of the Premier League season with a knee injury suffered and played through in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Newcastle United at Selhurst Park.
[ MORE: PL Power Rankings ]
Zaha, 25, could be out for a month with the injury, which the Palace web site says is similar to one that sidelined him for eight games earlier this season.
That may have been the biggest reason for Palace’s miserable early season, so some fans are understandably alarmed with any absence for their best player.
Here’s Roy Hodgson, from CPFC.co.uk:
“We don’t know how long he is out for, that is the bottom line and it’s amazing he was able to play so long in the game with the injury. The good news for us is that he is a very quick healer, he and the medical staff will work very hard to get him back on the field as soon as possible and we know he will definitely not play against Everton, that’s for sure, and it might even take a week or two more than that.
Palace has 27 points, three points clear of the drop zone. The Eagles face Everton, Spurs, Manchester United, and Chelsea over the next month, so points were always going to be at a premium.
So we supposed the injury coming in February, when Palace has so few matches remaining in the month, is the second bit of good news.