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Palace's 2021 Wrapped: Best goals, games and moments

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The last 12 months have seen plenty of great goals, milestones and plenty of change in south London - so relive the best moments of 2021 below!

Best goals

Eberechi Eze v Sheffield United

Two days into 2021, and already a contender for the best goal in the 12 months to come. Palace fans had seen glimpses of Eberechi Eze’s brilliance since his move from Queens Park Rangers the previous summer – including a stunning free-kick against Leeds United – but this goal was the first that could be reasonably categorised as ‘trademark’.

Picking up the ball in his own half, Eze turned and sauntered into midfield, passing one defender after another. Gliding almost nonchalantly to the edge of the penalty area, he slid the ball past Aaron Ramsdale in the Sheffield United goal and into the back of the net.

“I know I’s a good goal,” Eze said after the game, revealing it to be one of his highlights in a Palace shirt. “I thought I may as well take the chance and see if I can beat someone. When I got into shooting range, I was thinking: ‘I’ll try my luck and see what happens.’

“Thankfully it went in.”

Jean-Philippe Mateta v Brighton

What a place to score your first Palace goal. More to the point, what a way to do it.

“I’m a striker – I like to score,” said Mateta upon signing for Palace a month earlier. Would he unleash his trademark corner-flag kicking celebration if he scored for the Eagles? “Yes, of course.”

Flash forward to the Amex, and Mateta anticipated Jordan Ayew’s low cross into the area and span away from away from Ben White, back-heeling Palace into the lead.

Sure enough, he wheeled away and took aim at the corner flag – if you can’t celebrate a goal like that in exuberant style, when can you?

Christian Benteke v Brighton

If ever there was a goal that the fans deserved to see in person, it was this one.

We’ll come to what was an extraordinary match later, but the drama of Christian Benteke’s 95th-minute winner somewhat overshadowed what was an incredible goal.

Peeling off at the far post, Andros Townsend’s deep delivery fell invitingly for the Belgian centre-forward, who volleyed low and hard past Robert Sanchez.

He celebration showed him to be the coolest man in the stadium, as the Palace bench erupted. “I’m just someone who doesn’t show his emotions that much,” he later explained. “I always keep my emotion inside of me. That’s just me!”

Roy Hodgson was thrilled by his impact. “That is what all coaches and managers expect of our players,” he said after the game. “We have a squad and we can only pick 11. The only answer is to make certain that when you have your chance, you take your chance.

“All too often players would feel sorry for themselves rather than do what Christian did tonight. That’s how it should be.”

Christian Benteke v Burnley

Another entry for Benteke, but this goal was all about the build-up play – and if ever a goal was emblematic of Patrick Vieira’s desire for defenders to possess the ball-playing ability of a top midfielder, it was this.

A goal down on a turgid afternoon at Turf Moor, and Joachim Andersen looked up from the back. “I was always a midfielder before,” he had revealed in a programme interview. “That helped me. I was 17 or 18 when I moved back – quite late.

“I really like to play at the back because you can see everything, and I think that’s where my strengths come in.”

Andersen’s strengths were on show here, and he picked out a stunning ball for Conor Gallagher, who had found space to run in behind. Gallagher turned neatly away from two defenders and laid the ball off for Benteke, who slotted home to bring Palace level again.

Conor Gallagher v Everton

This was some way to seal all three points. With Palace under pressure deep into added time, Gallagher refused to give up the pressing game that had served them so well. Winning the ball back on the edge of the area, he unleashed a fierce, curling effort into the top corner to send the Holmesdale into raptures.

“That last one, the feeling was incredible,” he said. “As soon as I won it back, I was thinking: ‘I’m going to have a shot here’. Thankfully it flew into the top corner. It was unreal. The feeling, the buzz is incredible. To know that it sealed the win is even more special.

“I was a bit nervous doing the knee slide, as I don’t normally do them. I thought: ‘If I stack it here I’m going to look stupid!’”

Thankfully for Gallagher, this was a knee-slide as perfectly executed as the strike.

Best results

Brighton 1-2 Palace

So, back to the Amex we go – and not without reason. A huge game for Palace and for Roy Hodgson, who had lost the previous two games before travelling to their rivals' home.

After Joel Veltman pulled the hosts back into the game, they laid siege to the Palace penalty area, peppering Vicente Guaita’s goal with 25 shots and 13 corner kicks. The Eagles had just 25% of possession.

But in the end, there is only one statistic that matters: the scoreline. With the seconds ticking down in the final minute of added time, Benteke volleyed home to spark wild celebrations in the living rooms across south London, and to send Palace home with a famous victory.

Smash and grab, baby.

Palace 3-0 Spurs

Sometimes, a result is needed to spark a season into life. For Crystal Palace under new manager Patrick Vieira, this was it.

Palace’s performances so far had been positive, but positive results hadn’t been forthcoming. Then, everything clicked.

The Eagles were clinical. Odsonne Edouard’s stunning two-goal debut – the first strike just 28 seconds after coming on – built on Wilfried Zaha’s penalty to seal a sensational three points.

“From the first minute we wanted to put pressure on because we knew the fans would be behind the players,” Vieira revealed. “We managed to win the ball high, we put them under pressure and at times we played some really good football. So at the end we got rewarded with the goals we scored.”

Palace 2-2 Leicester City

It’s not so much the result that elevates this game into one of the highlights of the year, but the way it was achieved – and what it said about the team’s fighting spirit.

Two goals down at half-time despite a positive performance, it would have been easy for heads to drop in the dressing room. Instead, Vieira and co. masterminded a turnaround.

After Michael Olise volleyed home his first goal in Palace colours, Jeffrey Schlupp popped up to score against his former club and bring the scores level.

The third goal never came, but the message was still clear – Palace’s never say die attitude was reaffirmed.

Manchester City 0-2 Palace

Wins at both the Etihad and Old Trafford meant Palace were full of confidence heading back to Eastlands, although the imperious home form of Pep Guardiola’s side meant they were given little chance of a repeat result.

As is becoming the norm, however, expectations were defied as Zaha fired the visitors into the lead early on.

As Man City poured forward in the second-half, determined to find an equaliser, Vieira made what seemed a curious change: taking off a defensive midfielder in Cheikhou Kouyaté, and introducing an attacker in Olise.

“The plan was to try and score that second goal – because we knew with the quality they had they could score at any time,” the manager later explained.

“The decision went in our favour.” It certainly did, as Olise broke forwards to set up Gallagher to slot home the winner, and send the travelling fans back to south London smiling.

Memorable moments

Farewell, Roy

Boyhood fan, Academy player, first-team manager. Roy Hodgson’s long and storied relationship with Crystal Palace came to an end in May, as he left the club after four years in charge.

Tributes came from far and wide for an extraordinary career in football, as Hodgson bid farewell to Selhurst Park in a final home clash against Arsenal.

The south Londoner who conquered football – a Crystal Palace legend.

The return of fans

“It’s different gravy,” was the response outside the ground when one Season Ticket holder was asked about returning to live football.

The return of fans after a long spell of football behind closed doors was an emotional moment for all at Selhurst Park, and boy did they make up for lost time.

“The atmosphere here is really special,” Patrick Vieira said this season. It certainly is.

A new era begins

“It’s a crucial period for the football club,” Patrick Vieira said in his first interview after becoming Crystal Palace manager. “I think we’re looking forward to a new chapter, and I’m really proud and happy to be a part of it.”

That new chapter has been an exciting one – including the arrival of Conor Gallagher, Marc Guéhi and more – and with half the season still to come, who knows what 2022 will hold for Vieira’s side.

The Academy

Palace’s incredible new Academy facility was opened this year, and who better to do so than former captain and current England manager Gareth Southgate.

A host of current and former players welcomed in a new era at the club, as a long-term vision was realised.

Our teams also excelled in 2021, with the Under-18s finishing their first Category 1 season as runners-up and the Under-23s securing a dramatic promotion to the Premier League 2 with a play-off win at Selhurst Park.

Generation Cup

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the FA Cup, the participants of the inaugural tournament took part in a special competition – with Palace progressing to the finals.

A team of legends – including Mile Jedinak, Julian Speroni, Mark Bright and more – took to the field in the club’s 160th anniversary kit to commemorate the world’s oldest football competition.

2021 was a testing time for everyone, affected by events beyond football and Crystal Palace.

But, throughout it all, we continued to forge new memories. Thank you for your unwavering support, and here's to everyething to come in 2022.