Crystal Palace 0
Leeds United 0
I think many of us were nervous that this game might bring an end to our little unbeaten run, so to come away from London with a point must be regarded as another positive outcome. It wasn’t so long ago that we couldn’t buy a point in the capital! This was another gritty, stubborn performance from Leeds rather than anything flamboyant but, in the situation we find ourselves in, it doesn’t really matter what it looks like; we have to keep picking up points.
If I have a criticism of Leeds tonight, it is the same one I’ve felt all season; we just were not very creative. It may be just a different, more conservative Leeds we are seeing under Jesse Marsch compared with the gung-ho approach we usually showed under Marcelo, or it may simply be the inevitable nerves showing as we strive to get over the safety line. Whatever it is we have to accept it is not pretty on the eye but, equally, five unbeaten on the trot in these circumstances is no mean achievement. I refuse to get into the discussion (ne Argument!) as to whether Marcelo would have seen a similar run of results; the fact is we can and will never know the answer to that one. We also need to remember that, on their day, this Palace side is a decent outfit. They have held Manchester City to a goalless draw at Selhurst Park this season and recently walloped the Arsenal 3 – 0. I confess that I didn’t think they were actually “on their day” this time, but they possess enough weaponry to hurt even the best of sides despite them also probably feeling they are not safe from the dreaded drop yet.
We also should acknowledge that Palace probably just shaded this game and, had it been boxing, they’d have won it on points. They amassed 17 goal attempts to our meagre nine and they managed to work Illan Meslier seven times – particularly in the final ten minutes when Zaha tested our French keeper’s reactions but found he was more than up to the task. In fact, if you were trying to find a Man of the Match in this game I don’t think the objective observer would get far past Meslier for that award. He had to be sharp to stop an early effort from Zaha too.
At the other end, Guaita was hardly tested at all; a tame Liam Cooper header from an early Leeds corner and a regulation save from a Joffy Gelhardt left-footer were all he had to deal with all night.
With only Norwich having conceded more goals than us this season (and only by one at 69 against our 68) a second consecutive clean sheet, both coming away from home, was rightly lauded by Jesse Marsch after the game and surely it can be no coincidence that we’ve at last got a stable centre pack partnership of Captain Coops and Diego Llorente. Other than those seven shots that tested Meslier the Leeds defence looked unruffled in the main.
So, that lack of creativity apart, this was a satisfactory performance I thought. We do lack though someone in the middle of the park with vision. Palace had two such players in their midfield – Eze and Conor Gallagher looked to me exactly the sort of players we are missing or maybe a James Ward-Prowse would do the job… be nice to have someone with a deadly free-kick too! Elsewhere on the pitch, I thought we matched up to them well with Palace having the live-wire and sometimes annoying Wilf Zaha and Leeds relying on Raphinha for that spark of genius that can win a game.
On we go then and who knows what Saturday will bring as we face Manchester City again. Remember that I mentioned that Palace and Citeh shared the spoils earlier this month so we ought not to go into this game thinking about that 7 – 0 drubbing at the Etihad but instead focus on our better defensive record of late. It’s hard to see us beating City but, as Jesse just said: “Whatever, let’s go for it!”
Crystal Palace Leeds U Possession 53% 47%
Shots 17 9
On Target 7 2
Corners 6 3
Fouls 12 13