While Eagles manager Roy Hodgson had admitted that regaining fitness was just as valuable from early pre-season matches as results, the nature of Palace’s display against EFL League Two opposition will still have provided much for him to celebrate.
Palace started at a rapid pace, and simply did not let up, with Jean-Philippe Mateta striking twice in the opening quarter-of-an-hour, and Eze and Naouirou Ahamada – with his first goal for the club – following suit just moments later.
Mateta could have even had a hat-trick were he not denied by a wonderful save from Crawley ‘keeper Corey Addai after five minutes. The forward’s first-time finish from Eze’s square ball was well-hit – but Addai somehow turned it over the bar.
No matter, as moments later, Palace won a corner down the right hand-side, Eze delivered, and Mateta – unmarked, six yards out – thumped a header home, his second goal in as many games.
Palace were purring, and after more delightful combination football including Eze, Mateta and Odsonne Edouard, the England international among the trio produced a wonderful run before sliding the ball narrowly past the far post.
Yet a minute later, Mateta and Palace had their second; Edouard won the ball high, it broke to Eze, and his flicked finish found the striker who – clean through – volleyed home emphatically.
Six minutes later, Eze got in on the act himself, collecting Jaïro Riedewald’s pass on the edge of the box, cutting inside and arcing a superb curling effort into the far top corner.
And within the space of a minute, it was four. A rapid counter-attack led to Eze slipping in Ahamada – the Frenchman having run into the space vacated by defenders drawn away by Mateta – who poked in a first goal in Palace colours since signing in January.
After just 24 minutes, the stats board showed six shots for Palace, four goals – and surely a first win of 2023/24 pre-season.
Indeed, such early dominance took the wind out of Crawley’s sails, the hosts coming closest with a speculative effort from Danilo Orsi which Sam Johnstone comfortably tipped over the bar.
Hodgson made three changes at the break and again his team made a quick start to the half; Joel Ward’s deflected cross almost spun inside the far post, and Jordan Ayew blazed over the subsequent corner from close range.
A slower-paced second half was still a dominant one for the Eagles, who moved the ball around nicely and came close again through Ayew, whose lobbed effort from a narrow angle was blocked by the goalkeeper.
The closest either side would come in the second period was when Crawley’s Nick Tsaroulla produced an audacious lobbed volley which looped over substitute goalkeeper Remi Matthews – but struck the inside of the post before bouncing to the Palace man.
Late substitute Jesurun Rak-Sakyi came close to extending Palace’s lead late on with a slide-rule finish, but it to be a special night for two more Palace youngsters: 17-year-olds Finley Marjoram and Zach Marsh, impressive with the Under-18s, made non-competitive first-team bows in the closing stages.
A first win of pre-season and a dominant performance heralded another step-up in Palace’s preparations, 24 days ahead of their next Premier League adventure.
Palace: Johnstone (GK) (Matthews, 45), Ward (Marjoram, 84), O’Brien, Richards (Tomkins, 72), Riedewald (Mitchell, 45), Doucouré (Ozoh, 72), Hughes (Marsh, 84), Eze (Ayew, 45), Edouard, Ahamada (Rak-Sakyi, 72), Mateta (Gordon, 72)
As It Happened