CRYSTAL PALACE 0
BY ROB SUTHERLAND AT BRAMALL LANE
Crystal Palace’s lack of attacking intent will be the headline-grabbing story of Sunday’s defeat to Sheffield United, but Roy Hodgson will be most concerned with the way his side lost its direction in the second half.
Despite the Blades having the better of the first half in terms of chances created, Palace matched the Premier League newcomers for the majority of the opening 45 minutes.
But that could not be said for the second half, especially in the aftermath of John Lundstram’s 47th-minute goal.
Palace lost their composure. Passes went astray, crosses were mishit, clearances were skewed and frustrations came to the boil.
It wasn’t just a case of Sheffield United having the better of the play, it was Palace’s lack of response that was alarming.
Where cool heads were needed to find routes into United’s half, the Eagles instead looked rushed – both on and off the ball. It wasn’t an issue that could be pinpointed or isolated – panic had spread throughout the side and every player was guilty of it.
Bramall Lane is a crowd that really gets behind its team and on every occasion that the Blades bore down on Vicente Guaita’s goal the atmosphere amplified.
It’s a rare thing in the Premier League to see supporters directly affecting the outcome of matches, but it was clear that the noise was having an effect on the visitors. At a point when Palace needed to take the sting out of the game, they instead handed the initiative to United.
A goal had been coming for the hosts and it was predictably down the flank that the opportunity presented itself, with much of Sheffield United’s best work carried out down the wings.
Joel Ward was exposed, Luke Freeman played a one-two around him and his shot was deflected into the path of Lundstram, who hit the ball into the roof of the net.
Palace tried to regain a foothold in the match with an Andros Townsend shot which Dean Henderson saved well, but it was that lack of composure as a team that let the side down.
Palace failed to create any further meaningful chances in the remaining 40 minutes, and allowed their opponents to have the majority of the play.
The way in which the team kept losing possession, often from unforced errors, will worry the manager too. A side that is typically so well organised under Hodgson looked at times to be completely disjointed. Too often, simple passing manoeuvres were abandoned for long, hopeful kicks upfield. Each one proved to be fruitless.
It was telling too that Hodgson, who is usually cautious with his in-game changes, was so concerned by his side’s lack of workmanship that he brought on two substitutes with more than 20 minutes to go.
The introduction of Jeffrey Schlupp and recent addition James McCarthy didn’t have the desired impact however as Palace toiled in their attempts to break through United’s lines.
Hodgson said that his focus now would be on working with the team to rectify those problems.
There is enough quality in this team to both create chances and to prevent opponents from being presented with them.
With a trip to Manchester United up next, it’ll be a trial by fire to see if the team responds.
Crystal Palace (4-4-2): Guaita 7, Ward 5, Dann 5, Kelly 5, Van Aanholt 5, Milivojevic 5, McArthur 5 (Wickham 82), Meyer 5 (Schlupp 65, 5), Townsend 6 (McCarthy 70, 5), Zaha 5, Benteke 5. Not used: Hennessey, Cahill, Kouyate, Ayew.