“Unplayable” Wilfried Zaha among Premier League’s best as Crystal Palace come from behind to win again
Crystal Palace moved into the top half of the Premier League table thanks to their come-from-behind win over Wolves on Tuesday night.
The Eagles had endured a tough spell either side of the international break, going four games without a win in the Premier League, though two defeats came against Manchester City and Chelsea. In the latter, Palace will have felt aggrieved to lose not just because they conceded a late goal to miss out on the draw but also as Thiago Silva could have been sent off for deliberate handball.
Their run had some Palace fans asking for Patrick Vieira to prove himself once again as their manager, after suffering a poor second-half of the season in 2021/22. But the Frenchman appears to have steadied the ship and things are on the up.
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Palace went into Tuesday’s game off the back of four points from their past two matches, beating Leeds and then drawing with Leicester, and faced a Wolves side who would have been looking to build on their second victory of the season last time out.
Things didn’t get off to a good start as Adama Traore’s first goal of the season put Wolves 1-0 up at half-time, but Palace fans weren’t worried. They know they can get out of these situations, and that’s exactly what they did.
In the second half, Eberechi Eze equalised and then Wilfried Zaha scored the winner, meaning Palace have now won three of the four Premier League matches in which they have conceded the opening goal this season. The only team to have opened the scoring against Palace in the league this season and not lost are Arsenal on the opening weekend.
In fact, Palace fare better when conceding the first goal than when they open the scoring, with two draws and two defeats on those occasions.
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Back onto the match-winner Zaha, the goal continued what has been an excellent year for the Ivorian. He has now scored 14 goals in the Premier League in 2022, with only Harry Kane (22), Son Heung-Min (18), Ivan Toney (16) and Erling Haaland (15) managing more.
“Me personally it’s a mind shift, where I’ve shifted from just a dribbler to goals,” Zaha said of his improvements in 2022.
“When I talk to the youngsters like Eze and Michael (Olise) I’m like, ‘As soon as we get on the pitch efficiency is all we need. Nothing else’.
“Everything else doesn’t matter. When I step on the pitch, my mindset is efficiency. Me dribbling, I only dribble when I really have to and I get my shot off. Obviously I’m happy it’s making a difference now.”
Despite the perceived change in his mindset when it comes to take-ons, Zaha does still lead the way for attempts in the Premier League this season at 44, completing 20 of those.
Wilfred Zaha's game by numbers:
13 duels won
11 touches in opposition box
2 possession won in final third
2 shots on target
1 chance created
The main man. 👏 pic.twitter.com/T2sP2PN3DZ
— Squawka (@Squawka) October 18, 2022
“Wilfried Zaha was sensational in the second half and at times when he is in this mood, he’s unplayable,” former Wales defender James Collins told BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra.
“Whether he is creating chances or getting chances himself. But on the other hand tonight, you could see what it meant to him.
“He was back defending and working for his team. When they defend well and these attacking players are let off the leash for Palace, it really is a joy to watch.”
In the other match of the night Brighton’s woes in front of goal continued as they failed to score for the third match running, their worst run in the Premier League since going six without scoring between March and April 2019. Brighton have now taken 54 shots without scoring since Leandro Trossard’s late equaliser in that thrilling 3-3 draw with Liverpool in Roberto De Zerbi’s first game in charge.
While a draw does not move Nottingham Forest out of the relegation zone, it has lifted them from bottom, and with the changes made late on it appears that Steve Cooper was happy to take the result.