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Report: Bright first-half sees Palace dominate Wolves in convincing win

Wolverhampton Wanderers
0
2
Crystal Palace
Mateta 19'
Zaha 34'

Crystal Palace overcame Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-0 on Saturday afternoon, taking well-earned goals from a dominant first-half and guarding their lead with assurance throughout the second.

Summary

  • Patrick Vieira makes three changes to the starting XI from Palace’s last league game
  • Palace start brightly, creating several promising chances in the first few minutes
  • The south Londoners take the lead when Jean-Philippe Mateta strikes close to goal at the second attempt
  • Palace double their advantage when Jeffrey Schlupp wins a penalty Wilfried Zaha converts well
  • Michael Olise carves-out space for a dipping shot towards the near post, but José Sá blocks it athletically
  • Half-time: Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-2 Crystal Palace
  • Wolves return for the second-half looking brighter, but are unable to break-down Palace’s organised backline
  • The second-half is a much tighter affair, with Palace defending well and Wolves, although pushing than before, struggling to create
  • Full-time: Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-2 Crystal Palace

Looking to add to their three-game unbeaten run on the road to high-flying but out of form Wolves, Palace began their afternoon at Molineux brightly. Jean-Philippe Mateta caused trouble with Wilfried Zaha as the pair worked the sun-splashed flank on the left, driving at Wolves’ back five and cutting through on several occasions in the first few minutes.

None of these chances were clear enough to seriously unnerve Bruno Lage’s side, but they set out Palace’s stall as the liveliest team of the opening exchanges.

Opportunities began to improve after five minutes, with a Mateta header going direct into José Sá’s midriff and Jeffrey Schlupp dragging a shot narrowly wide from 12 yards.

Having weathered an immediate spell of pressure over the first 10 minutes, Wolves began to find the confidence to play their game more freely, building slick passing moves and trying to carve their way through a resolute back four.

If power was beginning to change hands then this adroit defending ensured it didn’t; Palace’s chances may have waned, but Wolves’ remained so far non-existent.

This solid base allowed the visitors a platform to rebuild their attacking dominance, and rebuild they did. Conor Gallagher collected the ball in the middle of the pitch and threaded a pass through to Zaha on the right, where the Ivorian ran to the byline and forced a low cross past Conor Coady.

Mateta wrestled with Maximilian Kilman and Sá to strike at goal, but his effort span off his opponents and into the air of an open goalmouth. Palace’s French striker held his balance well and reacted fastest, moving across the goal-line to prod home and secure his side’s advantage.

Mateta remained hungry and driven, continuing to thrive off Zaha’s service. The pair almost combined successfully twice in 10 seconds when the latter fed the former to unleash a pair of blocked shots.

But it wouldn’t be long until Palace doubled their advantage, this time through a different combination with Zaha. As he does well, Schlupp picked up the ball and drove forward, running directly and powerfully towards Wolves’ goal. When Kilman stuck a leg out to block the Ghanaian he handed Palace a golden opportunity, felling Schlupp in the box close to the referee.

Zaha stepped up to carry the responsibility for his side, duly slamming home to Sá’s right, beating the ‘keeper despite him diving the right way.

The hum of celebration and hue of a flare had barely settled when Palace created their next serious opening. This time Mateta tried to turn provider, laying-off Gallagher 25 yards out. The midfielder struck well as Sá retreated, but the Portuguese goalkeeper flew across his goal to get a glove to the ball.

Sá again had to rescue his team with a commendable stop, this time leaping the other way to defend his far post from an eye-catching Michael Olise effort.

With seconds left on the clock until half-time Wolves created two half-chances, forcing Vicente Guaita into routine action at his near post before striking from distance into his open hands.

By the break Palace had hardly allowed Wolves a sight of goal, with Guaita’s jersey almost spotless. At the other end of the pitch, they had forced several exceptional saves, kept a talented backline alert and scored two richly-deserved goals.

Wolves returned for the second-half licking their wounds but with gusto, instantly seeking to push Palace backwards. They were met by a solid 4-3-2-1 defensive diamond that prevented any notable chances, and soon saw their initial energy dissipate.

The visitors sought to restore the status quo with a testing surge forward – Gallagher first probing from the right before Tyrick Mitchell tried his luck from the left.

In the end a combination between the two saw the best opening arise when Mitchell’s cross found Gallagher on the far side of the box; the No.23 chose to cut inside and strike after a delay, unfortunately placing into Sá’s gloves.

The next time the ball struck Sá’s palms came with much more venom as Zaha cannoned a shot off the ‘keeper and then the crossbar, but the No.11 was soon pulled back for a correct but very marginal offside.

The hour-mark came and brought an air of tension: Palace had a justified lead to protect and Wolves seemed to have smelt blood in the water, their time ticking away to attack.

Now the hosts began to cause concern along the left, with Marçal drilling a handful of passes across the box only for Guaita or his backline to intervene.

Patrick Vieira made a double substitution in response – Christian Benteke and Luka Milivojević for Mateta and Cheikhou Kouyaté – and almost orchestrated an instant third: Benteke’s first touch was swarmed upon by a throng of gold inside the box – his next shortly after was similarly stymied.

Wolves’ pressure continued to build as they sought to kick-start their fightback, but Palace’s defending – a little more bodies on the line than the earlier disciplined structure – held strong.

Guaita embodied this resolve with a solid block one-on-one against Chiquinho, staying big at his near post to block the substitute's close-range effort.

His and his backline's efforts throughout the afternoon, coupled with the attacking drive shown particularly in the first-half, meant the final whistle sounded with the score as it was an hour before: Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-2 Crystal Palace, a fair reflection of a convincing performance.

Wolves: Sá, Saïss, Coady, Kilman (Chiquinho 79), Marçal, Neto (Jiménez 63), Neves, Hoever (Jonny 26), Hwang, Podence, Moutinho.

Subs not used: Ruddy, Aït-Nouri, Dendoncker, Trincao, Boly, Silva.

Palace: Guaita, Mitchell, Andersen, Guéhi, Clyne, Schlupp, Kouyaté (Milivojević 69), Gallagher, Zaha, Olise (Hughes 82), Mateta (Benteke 69).

Subs not used: Butland, Kelly, Riedewald, Eze, Ayew, Edouard.