Saturday saw Palace finally record a home win in 2017 and it was much needed, not only to make the league table more aesthetically pleasing (despite not being quite out of the relegation zone we’re level on points with Middlesbrough and put some distance between ourselves and Sunderland) but also to calm the clear, uncharacteristic tension around Selhurst Park that there’s been recently. So this is how I think each CPFC player did against relegation rivals Middlesbrough in that wonderful 1-0 win.
Wayne Hennessey 6/10: Despite the clean sheet, the Welsh international still looks like the weak link in this side. He made a few good saves but he would’ve been expected to make all of them, and he flapped at one or two crosses again. After 10 years of Julian Speroni’s brilliance, it feels alien for Palace fans to be worried about the man between the sticks.
Joel Ward 7/10: The Englishman looked like his old self again after a couple of months of uncertainty. His dip in form has been in sync with the whole team’s, so hopefully his confidence might be returning. He sent balls into Benteke early and provided support for Andros Townsend, while doing his bit in defense.
James Tomkins 7/10: Despite not having his usual defensive partner, Scott Dann, next to him, Tomkins looked like the centre back we all thought we’d bought during the summer. He was strong in a tackle, assured on the ball and he bossed Alvaro Negredo aerially all game long. Lets hope Tonks performs like this for the rest of the season, because he looked fantastic.
Mamadou Sakho 9/10: What a monster this man is. The Liverpool loanee was sensational on Saturday, he really showed his class. Every header he challenged for he won, he completed 100% of his tackles and he very rarely gave away the ball. He was superb, if he keeps up that form then the £3 million we paid to have his services for the rest of the season will look like a steal.
Patrick van Aanholt 8/10: It’s amazing the difference a left back makes. Not only did the Dutchman score a very well taken goal with his weak foot, but he was a constant thorn in Middlesbrough’s side with his pace and crossing ability. Despite his fearlessness going forward, he completed his defensive duties well too. A great performance from yet another of our new signings.
Luka Milivojevic 9/10: Watching this man is like travelling back in time and watching Mile Jedinak in his prime, just with better passing ability. The Serbian international provided the perfect cover for our centre backs by getting stuck in with his tackles and battling for every loose ball around him. He’s a huge physical presence and as well as that he kept possession very well. He was my man of the match and I’m very excited to see how he performs through the rest of the season.
Jason Puncheon 8/10: Punch was given the armband for Saturday’s game, and he looked more of a captain than Scott Dann has all season. He provided leadership and was communicating throughout the match with all of his teammates, however, that might’ve also been influenced by Luka next to him. Speaking of which, I think having an out-and-out midfield anchor next to him helped Puncheon lots on Saturday, and he looked a lot freer and more creative. I personally would make the Croydon man skipper until the end of the season because he looked so much better having that responsibility to step up to.
Yohan Cabaye 7/10: Cabaye set the tone of the first half with his pressing in midfield, he was sharp in the tackle and much more creative than we’ve seen him in recent weeks. I think he also benefitted from having a midfield general next to him in Luka, and I think we’ll see performances much more similar to this for the rest of the season.
Wilfried Zaha 7/10: Palace’s star man didn’t impact the game in terms of goals or assists, but he still put in a good shift. Zaha had a clear penalty turned down in the first half, proving once again that he needs to be shot dead in order for a referee to give a decision his way; he burst into the box and before he had the opportunity to flash a ball across the face of goal, the Boro defender shoved him over inside the box but the officials deemed it fair. However, his head didn’t drop and as always, he completed his defensive duties, providing Van Aanholt with cover and tracking back diligently.
Andros Townsend 6/10: He’s improving, but slowly. He did his best to track back and help Ward, but he didn’t create much again at Selhurst Park. At one point late in the second half Palace counter-attacked, the England international had a chance to square the ball to Benteke for a certain goal, but he opted to blast the ball into the Holmsedale Road stand which could’ve proved costly. We’re still yet to see the best of Andros Townsend.
Christian Benteke 8/10: His big, physical presence occupied both Middlesbrough centre backs all game long. He looked much sharper, his touch was very good and he managed to fashion a few half chances using just his guile and talent. He linked our play up well and, like everyone else, he seems to of benefitted a lot from the two-week break.
James McArthur 7/10: Big Sam opted not to start the Scottish international which, had the result not gone our way, would’ve been a controversial decision to say the least. I doubt he’ll be out of the team for long, he’s one of the most underrated players in the league, and that showed when he came on. Within 30 seconds of his introduction, Zaha had played him through on goal because of his intelligent run from deep, only for his shot to be well smothered by Victor Valdes. As well as his usual non-stop running and tackling, he should’ve been given a penalty after Stewart Downing stamped on his foot in the box, but the referee decided once again that because it’d be a decision given in Palace’s favour, he wouldn’t make the right call. But McArthur influenced the game in a very positive way when he came on.
Scott Dann N/R: Palace’s captain was brought on late in the game to help cope with long balls and set pieces and he did just that.
Jeffrey Schlupp N/R: He didn’t have a lot of time to influence the game when he came on at left wing-back, but he didn’t make any mistakes during his time on the pitch.
That’s what I’d rate each of the Palace players on their performance on Saturday. It was much improved all round, but do you think I’m being too harsh on some people, or maybe too generous to others? Let me know in the comments below.
Feature Image Credit: jeffwarder