Crystal Palace played their final match in south London without a single supporter on the terraces against Newcastle United, and the fans’ absence was notable on a chilled night requiring the warmth of an energised crowd.
The 90 minutes showed promising flashes, with both sides troubling the other, but without the reliable Selhurst buzz nothing could fill the short, tame exchanges which punctuated a close affair.
In its final seconds, the game saw a cruel twist of fate as Newcastle snatched two late goals to steal three points from SE25.
- Roy Hodgson hands Gary Cahill a return to the starting XI, with James Tomkins making his first squad of the season
- Newcastle start the brightest but cannot capitalise on their early dominance
- Authority passes between the two sides throughout the first-half, with Eberechi Eze and Jeffrey Schlupp testing Karl Darlow
- In the first-half’s final minutes, both sides squander chances to take the lead
- Half-time: Crystal Palace 0-0 Newcastle United
- The second-half is quieter than the first, with Palace enjoying a smattering of efforts in the face of few defensive challenges
- Palace in particular enjoy the lion’s share of chances after three attacking substitutions but cannot break the deadlock
- Against the run of play, Newcastle score two late goals to take home three points
- Full-time: Crystal Palace 0-2 Newcastle United
On an evening where neon and blue skins flooded the pitch and steamy breath fumed after hurried bursts, a fast, energetic start felt crucial - and Newcastle enjoyed just that. With a swift turn of pace, the visiting Magpies attacked the left-flank where Miguel Almiron fed Callum Wilson in the box.
However, under pressure from the returning Gary Cahill, the current England international couldn’t make his mark against the former and the ball spun behind for a goal-kick.
Having threatened after just 90 seconds, Steve Bruce’s men could then only warn their hosts through a wild Joelinton shot, but they pressed with urgency and Palace did well to pass around their galvanised guests.
Be it that or the two sides’ nature, the game then settled to an even tempo - with Newcastle moving the ball on the precipice of the final third and producing little else. Palace’s main hope came through Jeffrey Schlupp and Jordan Ayew’s left-wing link-up, but the compatriots failed to trouble Karl Darlow in goal.
The visitors reacted by regaining their initial spark; Wilson’s square ball just missing Joelinton deep in the box and the latter then firing into Guaita’s confident hands.
But the Eagles had weathered a bright visiting spell once already and this time changed tack in response: Eberechi Eze feeding Nathaniel Clyne at the byline and later stinging Darlow’s palms from 20 yards.
This transition saw power again change hands and Schlupp was next to thwack Darlow’s gloves as he cannoned a near-post effort goalwards. Although the Magpies’ in-form ‘keeper would clearly take some beating, he was protected by his back four at the next chance; Eze forced to concede a goal-kick 10 yards out.
For anyone watching who may have mistakenly found the half flat, its 43rd-minute provided a late flash of entertainment. Shortly after Jamal Lewis curled into Guaita’s hands, Joelinton snatched a fine chance to grab the lead by firing low to the Spaniard's left, but he too could not hit the Palace net.
The Eagles retaliated with their own opportunity as Schlupp headed over the bar and the half-time whistle sounded with both sides frustrated to be goalless.
Palace made their attacking intention clear minutes into the second-half as the visitors blocked Schlupp’s cross and Cahill headed marginally too high from the resulting corner.
Ayew then stretched desperately between a pair of neon markers to toe wide of goal and Patrick van Aanholt drilled a free-kick his adversaries' shins.
Wilson - by far Newcastle’s sharpest threat - headed inches past the post before three changes took place in two minutes, each manager clearly anxious to reignite a steadily cooling affair.
Substitute Matt Ritchie had similar ambitions when he fizzed a free-kick at Guaita but the ‘keeper put two firm gloves behind the rapidly moving shot. He was not the only shot stopper determined to preserve the status quo, however, and Darlow made another commendable save to deny Christian Benteke’s powerful, well-placed header.
In a late flurry of Palace dominance, Cheikhou Kouyate drilled the ball into Federico Fernandez’s brave block and Michy Batshuayi couldn’t reach Van Aanholt’s aggressive pass across the face of goal.
Regardless, football showed its cruellest side perhaps more against the run of play the clash had ever been. Wilson finally earned his goal by slotting under Guaita and, 90 seconds later, fellow frontman Joelinton struck a deflected effort in.
Just as Palace appeared to truly find their rhythm and step moments away from a winner, their success was snatched from their grip decisively.
Palace: Guaita, Clyne, Dann, Cahill, Van Aanholt, Townsend (Riedewald 67), Kouyate, McArthur (Batshuayi 82), Eze, Ayew (Benteke 66), Schlupp.
Subs: Butland, Ward, Tomkins, Sakho.
Newcastle: Darlow, Clark, Manquillo, Fernandez, Lewis, Hendrick, Shelvey, Almiron (Ritchie 67), S.Longstaff, Joelinton (Schar 90+3), Wilson.
Subs: Gillespie, Yedlin, M.Longstaff, Murphy, Anderson
To watch highlights and reaction for free, simply head over to Palace TV by clicking here or 'Palace TV' within the app.