Football Features

Sheff Utd 1-0 Crystal Palace: Winners & losers as Lundstram joins niche goalscoring club

By Ollie Thomas

Published: 16:10, 18 August 2019

What a day for Sheffield United.

After 12 long years, the Blades have returned to the Premier League with a bang: a dramatic point on the South Coast and now an imposing victory over a Crystal Palace side which offered simply nothing going forward.

An intriguing first-half was juxtaposed by an explosive start to the second as John Lundstram smashed home from seven yards to send Bramall Lane wild and Chris Wilder’s team into 7th place.

Here we take a look at the winners and losers from a memorable afternoon in South Yorkshire:

Winner: Luke Freeman

A player once described by Arsene Wenger as “a very interesting prospect”, Freeman began the game on the bench but an injury to John Fleck ended his game prematurely and thrust the midfielder into the limelight to make not only his home debut for Sheffield United but also his Premier League debut.

The game had lacked intensity before his introduction. However, Freeman came on and played like a man that wanted to give his manager a selection headache. He gave Luka Milivojevic, Max Meyer and James McArthur no time at all in the middle of the park and did fantastically to create Lundstram’s opener.

Together, he and Oliver Norwood bossed the midfield and showed neutrals that the Blades absolutely possess the necessary quality to keep themselves up after back-to-back promotions.

Loser: Max Meyer

Much was expected of Meyer when he arrived at Palace.

Joining on a free from Schalke, the German international has been highly rated for much of his young career and was even linked to the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Spurs for multiple transfer windows in the lead-up to his exit from Germany.

After a season spent learning the ropes of English football, Palace fans will have hoped that Meyer could have helped ease the weight of expectation on Wilfried Zaha, who is widely regarded as their main source of creativity.

However, it appears that Meyer is still not ready. He was anonymous against Sheffield United: completing fewer passes (16) and having fewer touches (23) than any other starter on either side. For a player who was meant to be conducting Palace’s attacks by now, that is simply not good enough.

Whether he will ever be ready to take control of a Premier League game remains to be seen.

Winner: John Lundstram

It was Billy Sharp last week. This week, it was all about Lundstram.

The former Everton youth player joined Sheffield United in 2017 and has been on quite the journey with the Blades, helping them to promotion last season and impressing at Bournemouth last weekend.

Today, he worked tirelessly in midfield and capped off a fine display with a well-taken goal to ultimately win the game for his club.

His goal was not his only contribution. He made more tackles (5) than any other Sheffield United player and only Norwood regained possession more times (7) than Lundstram (6).

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Loser: Dougie Freedman

Freedman has been Palace’s sporting director for nearly two years now and has split opinion amongst Palace fans before this summer. The club have bought shrewdly, getting Meyer and Vicente Guaita (the only Palace player to leave Bramall Lane with any real credit) for free, but the lack of marquee signings has frustrated the Selhurst faithful.

After receiving £50m for Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Palace were expected to spend big this summer and address the gaping holes in their squad.

Instead, they enter the season with two full-backs, two wingers and three strikers who scored two league goals between them last season. They exited the window with a surplus of both centre-backs and centre-midfielders.

Freedman spearheaded this effort and it was, to put it bluntly, a failure. Palace fans will understandably be very frustrated that they failed to add to their toothless attacking arsenal, especially as Michy Batshuayi looks set to struggle for game time at Chelsea.

Crystal Palace’s Andros Townsend (left) and Sheffield United’s John Fleck battle for the ball during the Premier League match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield.

Winner: Chris Wilder

It’s easy this Premier League malarky, isn’t it?

After a solid point away at Bournemouth, Sheffield United won this game their way: the full-backs overlapped, they put Palace under immense pressure and thoroughly deserved to win their first home game back in the top flight after a 12-year absence.

If you hadn’t watched football before and you were told that one of the sides has spent seven years playing in the Premier League and the other was playing in League One three years ago, you would certainly be forgiven for getting the answer wrong.

Wilder is responsible for that. He has rejuvenated Sheffield United and is living the dream: managing his boyhood team.

Loser: Wilfried Zaha

A penny for Zaha’s thoughts.

Having single-handedly kept Palace up two years in a row, he was ultimately priced out of a move this summer: after all, he is more or less priceless to the Eagles.

Despite a late transfer request, it seems very likely that the Ivorian maverick will be at Palace for the rest of the season. Or, perhaps a better way of putting it: he will have to endure another season at Selhurst Park.

Most teams know these days that if you stop Zaha, you stop Palace. Wilder simply put three men on him all day and Zaha couldn’t get a sniff. He played with a smile on his face and will no doubt continue to give his all for his local team this season. But he may well do so hoping that this season will be his last.

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