By Simon Mills
Well, the last seven days have certainly been eventful. It started with defeat at St. Mary’s in the EFL Cup, ended with the departure of the England manager and, smack bang in the middle of it, there might have been a game against Sunderland…
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am still trying to get my breath back! A frustrating first 60 minutes, in which for the most part I felt we were by far the better team and mostly in control, yet we somehow conspired to give two goals away. Joe Ledley made an uncharacteristic mistake at the back before the assistant seemed to forget the offside law in the build up to Defoe’s second goal. Having said last week that perhaps we had seen the end of ‘typical Palace’, I was really starting to regret my words.
People will usually talk about the fighting spirit or the never say die attitude of a team when they launch a comeback such as we saw at the Stadium of Light and I wouldn’t debate that at all, but that’s something this squad have had for years. The difference between Saturday’s game and some we have seen in previous seasons is the step up in quality we have, that allowed us to dig deeper than before and not just come back, but win the game.
The closest we have been to such an outcome before was that unforgettable night at Selhurst in our first season back in the Premier League – ‘Crystanbul’ as it has become affectionately known by the Palace support. That was another night where we scored three goals to get a positive outcome, but that was a very different type of scenario.
That night, as brilliant as we were in the comeback, Liverpool were throwing caution to the wind in a desperate and foolhardy attempt to score as many goals as possible (in order to crank up the pressure on City for the title). At the weekend we played a Sunderland side desperate for points and with no need to gamble in order to score again. Yet we still managed to break them down, not just to get something but to take all three points and that, I feel, is a result of the level of class we have brought in.
It may go down as an own goal but Ledley made up for his earlier error to force our first, McArthur once again demonstrated his importance to the side with his performance and the equaliser. Finally, the big man Christian Benteke showed exactly why it was worth more than doubling our record transfer fee with that, oh so sweet, last second winner.
But it wasn’t just about those players who scored the goals. For me, the contributions of our subs were just as important. Zeki Fryers came in from the cold to make his first ever league appearance for the club since signing two years ago to deliver a phenomenal deep swinging cross with one of his first touches to set up McArthur. Chung yong-Lee, it seemed to me, was coming on only to use some time for the last 90 seconds or so – how wrong was I? Benteke told him he wanted it on the penalty spot from that free kick and that was exactly where it landed. Perfection!
A game like that can give you a massive adrenaline boost and that is something I expect we will need for the game coming up. We have a very good record at Goodison Park since our return to the top flight, but we face a very different beast this weekend. Ronald Koeman, a very talented manager, is now in charge and one of our star performers in those previous games lines up against us for the first time. We all hope Yannick Bolasie has an evening to forget!
We are no strangers to playing the Toffees on a weeknight. This will be the fifth time in seven matches, although it will be the first on a Friday night. There is something a little strange about these matches. It takes a little while for the brain to clue in that you’re about to watch a competitive game, as usually Fridays are for under 21’s or pre-season friendlies. I am sure, though, that come kick off, everyone will be ready and raring to go. All we need is the players to be and let’s hope for another special night – preferably a little less drama required this time lads!
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