Football Features

Roberto’s wait for a clean sheet goes on: Winners & losers from Crystal Palace 2-1 West Ham

By Steve Jennings

Published: 17:04, 26 December 2019

Crystal Palace turned things around to seal a Boxing Day victory over West Ham United at Selhurst Park.

After an uneventful first half, Robert Snodgrass opened the scoring and West Ham looked like they were on their way to picking up three impressive points on the road.

But goals from Cheikhou Kouyate and Jordan Ayew secured the win for Roy Hodgson’s men.

Here are three winners and three losers from the London derby.

Winner: Cheikhou Kouyate

Palace have been particularly goal-shy at Selhurst Park of late. The strikers simply haven’t been scoring – before today (more on that later) – which puts more onus on the midfield to start contributing. Kouyate took that responsibility and rolled with it here.

The Senegalese midfielder found the net against his former club with a composed finish following Jordan Ayew’s knockdown. Kouyate’s goal means he will probably stay in the team as long as Palace are struggling for goals, so it can only be a good thing for him personally.

That said, Hodgson will hope he doesn’t have to rely on a box-to-box midfielder to provide the goal threat over the festive period.

Loser: Roberto

Roberto has been mostly hapless since arriving at West Ham in the summer. The goalkeeper had conceded 16 goals in seven league appearances going into this one, leading to his omission from the team in recent weeks.

But with Lukasz Fabianski still recovering and David Martin also struggling with an injury, Roberto was thrown back in here. For a while, it looked as if he might keep a first clean sheet, but Kouyate’s strike ended that possibility.

He avoided a customary clanger this time around, but it could be said that Kouyate’s goal went under him – perhaps he could have kept a foot low to the floor rather than jump at the effort.

Winner: Robert Snodgrass

Robert Snodgrass kept up his impressive record against Crystal Palace by opening the scoring in what was a drab affair up until that point.

The Scot bagged his fourth goal in his last six league appearances against the Eagles, making Palace his new favourite opponent. He came close to grabbing a winner with four minutes to go but was thwarted by a fine block.

Like Palace, West Ham’s strikers have been struggling for goals recently, so Manuel Pellegrini will be pleased to see a midfielder contribute.

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Loser: Sebastian Haller

West Ham supporters will have been hoping to see Sebastian Haller kick on after his goal against Southampton last time out, so his performance here will have been particularly disappointing.

Too often Haller was waiting for the ball rather than trying to put his stamp on the game. Pellegrini eventually lost patience, replacing the expensive striker despite the possibility of a winner.

At this rate, West Ham will be looking for a new striker in the January transfer window, because Haller simply isn’t doing enough.

Winner: Jordan Ayew

Haller’s display seemed particularly poor when looked at in contrast to that of Jordan Ayew, who played an instrumental role as Palace came from a goal down to win. It was mainly of his own doing.

Until midway through the second half, Ayew’s outing was admirable but fruitless. He worked hard but struggled for chances and didn’t really look like scoring. By the end, he had a goal and an assist.

His cushioned header for Kouyate’s equaliser was perfect, but his goal was even better. A superb turn and a chipped finish added some much-needed flair to a game lacking it. Ayew is unquestionably Palace’s best striker – that much is now clear.

Loser: Manuel Pellegrini

If only West Ham had held on for a point. It would have been labelled a spirited performance on the road at a difficult venue, even if the display wasn’t perfect.

But Ayew’s late goal will now pile the pressure on Pellegrini all over again. The Chilean’s job security hasn’t been a big point of discussion after a slight upturn in form lately, but results like this will not help his chances of sticking around for the long term.

If this continues to happen, the Hammers’ owners may have a big decision to make sooner rather than later.

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