Match Report - Crystal Palace 0-2 Swansea City
26th August 2017
Goals from Swansea City`s front two - Tammy Abraham and Jordan Ayew gave them their first Premier League win of the season, while Crystal Palace lost a third consecutive game - one that new boss Frank de Boer called a "must win" before kick off.
Paul Clement made two changes to the side that lost 4-0 at home against Manchester United, giving Sam Clucas his full debut in place of Roque Mesa, and Mike van der Hoorn came in for the injured Kyle Bartley, as the Swans boss stuck with his 3-5-2 formation.
The first half was a dull affair, with very little to report on in terms of chances on goal. The Swans dominated most of the possession with 60%, but most of that was in the middle third, with very little penetration in and around the penalty area.
Once again, the ball couldn`t stick up top with Abraham and Ayew, with both strikers still clearly needing some time to get used to one another as they were unable to link up together effectively for the most part. But it`s not just down to the front duo to make things happen in the final third, like last Saturday, we`re still playing with a huge gap between the front two and the midfield, meaning that the former is usually lacking support and are outnumbered - particularly up against a defensive 3-5-2 system.
Below is a rough layout of the average positions of both sides - mainly accurate in terms of players relative to other players.
The average positions shows the Swans mostly camped in their own half, with a big gap between the midfield and the front 2 - who were outnumbered up top.
With Clucas in the middle, the Swans had a bit more mobility in the middle of the pitch but they had a problem in wide areas, as the full backs were restricted due to a lack of support ahead of them, and they were often forced to pass backwards as the ball kept getting recycled sideways.
Swansea`s first chance on goal came when Abraham was sent down the right, who then picked out his strike partner Ayew, but he glanced a header well wide of the far post.
Alfie Mawson should have done better with his headed effort, but he couldn`t direct his chance on target direct from a corner.
At the other end, Palace were limited to mainly chances from distance in the first half, but they failed to register a shot on target in the opening 45 minutes.
But as the game looked like having a 0-0 scoreline written all over it, Leroy Fer and Tammy Abraham linked up and showed some quality that the match desperately needed. As the ball was worked down the left, Fer dropped back into space to retrieve the ball. He sent in a tricky in-swinging left-footed cross that Abraham did well to get a clinical touch to it, whilst battling off his marker.
The goal just a minute before half time forced Frank de Boer into switching things up at the restart as he needed to make his team more of a threat. They had players like Townsend and Benteke up top, but they just couldn`t get them involved. The changes did help the duo in the second half, mainly Townsend who was getting more of the ball and into better positions.
Lucasz Fabianki was called into action a lot more often as Palace upped the ante - as they finally registered a shot on target. Puncheon whipped in an in-swinging corner that was met by the head of Kelly, but our Polish goalkeeper got down well to make the stop.
But as the game looked to be switching - with the momentum now in favour of the hosts, the Swans doubled their lead, and they probably won`t get a goal gifted to them as much as this one. Kyle Naughton deserved the credit for pushing forward and stealing possession near the half way line and then playing a through ball for Ayew, who got the better of goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, as the ball rolled into an empty net.
De Boer took a risk by using up all three substitutes before the hour mark, but he needed to be bold - as Swansea`s defenders needed to make two crucial, goal-saving tackles to keep their 2-goal lead in tact.
Martin Olsson made the first, sliding in inside the box to make a well-judged tackle, before Mike van der Hoorn made an even better one on sub Cabaye. The Frenchman was in on goal and just 7 or 8 yards out, and as he was about to take a shot, van der Hoorn slid in from the side to push the ball away for a corner.
Clement also switched systems during the second half, bringing on Wayne Routledge for Mike van der Hoorn. The change didn`t appear to make much sense at the time, and it also proved to make little impact as we continued to defend out a 2-goal lead.
De Boer later said that his side lacked confidence - and they certainly looked like one - particularly in the first half. It was the worst I`ve seen Palace in the games we`ve played at Selhurst Park, and that was probably our most straightforward victory there in the five we`ve played.
The Dutchman also claimed that the Swans "didn`t create anything", but I suppose he must have forgotten about Mawson`s big miss from 6 yards, or Ayew`s sliding header early on in the game, or the actual opening goal that helped us on our way to three points.
Clement also wasn`t as happy as you might have expected - mainly about the second half as he thought his side had to do too much defending - and he was right. It`s actually good to see him still wanting better and improvement, not to mention a couple more attacking signings.
But he was happy with the opening three League games on the whole. Two clean sheets away from home is a huge step up from last season, defensively we`re much better despite the four goals conceded last weekend.