A tight affair that began at electric speed ended from just 12 yards tonight as the Eagles ran-out as victors over FC Luzern by six penalties to five after the clash's 90 minutes ended 1-1.
It may have only been their second minute of competitive football since running riot against AFC Bournemouth on the final day of last season, but Crystal Palace picked up right where they left off in red hot fashion against their Swiss Uhrencup opposition.
Within a minute-and-a-half of the whistle’s shrill opening call, Christian Benteke was rising through the air in trademark fashion to meet a delicate Max Meyer dink which left shot-stopper Marius Muller floundering and his net standing naively unguarded. Naturally in such circumstances, Palace’s Belgian frontman powered home with ease.
FC Luzern, seemingly unfazed by conceding so swiftly, almost responded in the smartest fashion when Francesco Margiotta whipped a low ball across the face of goal, however no one in white rode forward enough to capitalise. From the opposite flank, though, the Swiss club earned their leveller having learnt from their conservative attacking just minutes before.
Posting the ball with height from the right wing, Christian Schneuwly found teammate Pascal Schürpf who bagged with confidence at very close range.
With both nets having bulged within six minutes the two sides were level and the game began to settle down to an even, though still high, tempo. Simon Grether sought to steal Luzern the advantage when he unleashed an effort at goal but, despite its power, the attempt wasn’t testing enough to trouble Wayne Hennessey and the Welshman beat it away with assurance.
At the other end of the pitch, Luke Dreher did well to switch the ball into space for Andros Townsend, though the Palace winger’s resulting cross was dealt with by the native defence.
This time too much for Luzern’s backline, Patrick van Aanholt did well to thread a pass to Meyer who, in little space, struck the ball as he ended an impromptu spin. Frustratingly, his effort twisted over the bar and into the raised clutches of the travelling south London faithful.
The puppeteer in Palace’s attacks, Meyer again pulled the strings which made Luzern dance as he skipped into the box before selflessly laying the ball off to Benteke, although the Belgian was unable to find his brace as the threat was dealt with reactively.
The Eagles had found their rhythm by the half hour mark and it was again Benteke who teased the fans a goal as he flung himself upwards to rotate a leg round in a re-enactment of his thunderous bicycle kick against Fulham. This time, however, the forward failed to make a strong connection with the ball and Townsend was left seeking to cast a notch on the scoreboard as the ball span loose. The surrounding defence did well to close him down and the score remained even going into half time.
The second half opened as the sun’s glare retreated behind the Swiss hills and as the Alpine air cooled off, so too did the game.
Substitute Alexander Sørloth looked to disrupt that on the hour mark though and nearly lashed home from close range at the end of a drilled Benteke shot, however the legs of Muller denied the Norweigan a celebration on his return in red and blue.
Hennessey was called into action again to deflect a shot from his goal but was left under the threat of growing cold with Luzern managing to alert him far more infrequently than they had in the opening exchanges.
Conversely, Jeffrey Schlupp sent Muller into movement when he cannoned an effort in the ‘keeper’s direction, but he was unfortunate to find nothing but the terrace behind the net.
Facing a far livelier succession of minutes, Hennessey was again forced to meet the ball as he pulled off an impressive save from a long-range hit to hold the game at a well-balanced draw.
All in all, the second half couldn’t have seemed more opposed to the game’s first six minutes as neither team caused any genuine trouble for the other.
Development prospect Tyrick Mitchell excelled himself with a fine sliding challenge from within the box before David Mistrafovic sent a bullet header over the bar from the resulting corner.
With the game level and looking likely to remain so, penalties loomed.
At the piercing caw of the referee's whistle, acting captain James McArthur settled the coin toss and the two teams were forced into a shootout to split the score one way or another.
Facing the cohort of Eagles nestled into the corner of the Tissot Arena, McArthur slotted home with confidence to give Palace their first from 12-yards. Joel Ward, Martin Kelly, Schlupp, Sørloth and Nya Kirby all followed suit until Luzern's sixth effort was remarkably saved by Wayne Hennessey to deny Remo Arnold and award Palace the full points for their efforts on the night.
Luzern: Muller, Cirkovic (Alves 45), Knezevic (Mistrafovic 65), Margiotta (Ndenge 65), Eleke (Tia 65), Schürpf (Demhasaj 45), Schulz, Grether (Kakabadze 65), Schneuwly, Sidler (Schwegler 45), Voca (Arnold 45).
Subs not used: Arnold, Jacot, Males, Burch, Binous.
Palace: Hennessey, Van Aanholt (Mitchell 65), Riedewald (Flanagan 72), Dann (Ward 45), Woods, Meyer (Kirby 65), Milivojevic (McArthur 45), Dreher (Kelly 45), Townsend (Schlupp 45), Wickham (Sørloth 45), Benteke (Daly 65).
Subs not used: Henderson.
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