BY MATT WOOSNAM
Crystal Palace made it three South London wins from three in the FA Cup fourth round as they coasted past a lacklustre Tottenham side at Selhurst Park.
Connor Wickham’s first goal for over two years set them on their way, before Andros Townsend converted from the penalty spot, with Palace’s defence holding firm despite pressure from the visitors.
The first meaningful action of this all-Premier League cup tie ended in dramatic fashion. Jeffrey Schlupp drove through the Tottenham defence, who allowed him far too much space and time to burst towards the byline and cut back a perfect ball for the awaiting Wickham to nudge home.
Patrick van Aanholt stung the palms of Paulo Gazzaniga from distance with a powerful drive after 20 minutes, but the shot was in reality straight down the throat of the Argentinian goalkeeper.
Then, Palace attacked down the right. Wilfried Zaha was manhandled off the ball but Kevin Friend was unmoved despite what appeared to be a clear foul. It mattered not, however, as with their next attack, the hosts broke down the same flank with Townsend, who slipped the ball to Zaha before the Ivorian floated a cross towards Wickham at the back post, only for Kyle Walker-Peters to inexplicably handball. There was no doubt, and Townsend made no mistake from the spot on 34 minutes.
Shortly afterwards, it should have been three. Zaha played in Patrick van Aanholt, and the Dutchman squared perfectly for the onrushing Townsend, but the man who doubled his side’s lead fired his shot straight at Gazzaniga, who stood up well to save fairly comfortably.
Julian Speroni was called into action for the first time in the game with less than five minutes remaining before half-time when Lucas Moura was tripped in the edge of the area. Kieran Trippier found an unmarked Georges-Kevin N’koudou who shot at Speroni from close range. Saved. The rebound? Saved again.
But for all Palace’s hard work, they were almost let down by a rash moment from Van Aanholt. Moura turned him in the area, and the left-back tripped his opponent. But Trippier stepped up and blasted a woeful spot-kick wide of the goal. They say you make your own luck, but this was a huge slice used up.
Nonetheless, it was a deserved lead. Palace had, for the majority of the opening 45 minutes, dominated their visitors in a pulsating match full of drama.
There was little let-up in this high-tempo, gripping game, as the second half progressed.
For all their dominance of possession Spurs were incapable of using it effectively. A lack of clear cut chances ensued, but Speroni had to be alert to turn behind a deflected Fernando Llorente effort from the edge of the box.
On 67 minutes they had another opportunity when Trippier sent a cross into the area, but Llorente was unable to convert.
It was Palace who nearly put the game beyond doubt when Zaha cut inside on the edge of the area and squeezed a shot in which tested Gazzaniga at his near post, but the keeper was down well to claim it.
For all the pressure and effort exerted in the second period, there was seldom any serious threat to the Eagles goal and they ran out comfortable and very much deserved victors in a far superior performance than that of their triumph over Grimsby in the previous round.