Despite seeing his side miss out on lifting the Cape Town Cup, Alan Pardew was delighted with the test handed to his players by one of European football’s top clubs.
Two goals from Fredy Montero secured the competition for Sporting Lisbon as they edged out the Eagles by two goals to nil in the final, but Palace more than matched a side who play regularly in the Champions League and gave a fair account of themselves across the 90 minutes.
Having come across Sporting coach Jorge Jesus previously in the Europa League with Newcastle United, the Palace manager likened today’s friendly game to a full-blooded European tie and feels it will stand his squad in good stead going into the new season.
“That was as close as a competitive game as you’ll get during pre-season,” he said in his post-match press conference. “I’m so pleased with that game, it was just what we wanted. Of course not the result but that was a Europa League-standard quality game out there today on that pitch.
“Unfortunately the referee had no concept of European football so almost every challenge was a free-kick and we’re not used to that and we probably gave away eight or nine free-kicks around our box and we usually average about two. In the end they managed to score one and that changed the game.
“They were very quick to the ball and had good technique and were well organised and drilled. I thought it was a terrific first half with two different styles but even for Sporting the referee spoilt it a little bit and we were frustrated with the stop-start nature of the game.”
Despite his frustrations with the officiating, Pardew feels his squad are on the right track and rued the little knocks that have seen Yannick Bolasie, Marouane Chamakh, and but for a late cameo tonight, Wilfried Zaha miss out on any action in South Africa.
He added: “We lacked a little bit of width today –Zaha hasn’t been fit and only trained for one day this pre-season so that was his first 10 minutes of action and Bolasie was injured in training on Thursday and it’s a shame he wasn’t involved because we probably missed a little bit of his x-factor.
“We’ll get that back in the coming weeks and possibly the only disappointment of today was that we lacked that little bit of a cutting edge. However in terms of the commitment of our team to the tournament and the games I couldn’t fault us. “
With the squad flying back to England tomorrow evening their time in Cape Town is coming to an end and Pardew will look back on the trip with fondness – even hinting that this may not be the last that the country sees of Palace in the near future.
“We’ve enjoyed every aspect of it,” the Eagles boss said. “It’s been very well received by the players and my staff and the way we’ve been treated has been superb and I couldn’t have asked for more. It was just a shame that we couldn’t get a victory today and score a couple of goals.
“We would love to come back and in fact we were talking about possibly coming back here for a mid-season break because the flight overnight makes the time difference irrelevant and it would make more sense for us.”