It could’ve went either way in the final 10 minutes, but that’s a huge win for Steve Bruce, a big moment for Joelinton and another reminder of just how important Callum Wilson is to this team!
Our £20m man broke the deadlock in the 88th minute via a cool finish and brilliant assist from Joelinton, and was then on hand to set up the big man just 90 seconds later, with the Brazilian bagging a well deserved goal to seal a much needed 0-2 win.
It wasn’t pretty at times, with a promising first half display followed by an uninspiring second 45 that saw us create very little and begin to sit deep, however it’s a big three points that stops the rot and sends us into the top half and 10 clear of the bottom three.
Bruce made FOUR changes to the team that went down without a fight against Chelsea, bringing in Shelvey, Hendrick, Almiron and Wilson and ditching five at the back in favour of a 4-4-1-1 system – a move that must now become the norm after we created more, won and kept a clean sheet!
Elsewhere, Lascelles and Saint-Maximin dropped out through injury, with Hayden also missing (Covid?) and U-23 star Elliot Anderson on the bench for the first time in a Premier League game as a result.
(4-4-1-1: Darlow – Manquillo, Fernandez, Clark, Lewis – Hendrick, S Longstaff, Shelvey, Almiron – Joelinton – Wilson)
We started well, having 60% the ball in the opening 15 and pressing higher up the pitch, with a good give, go and run in behind from Joelinton creating an early opening for Callum Wilson – only for a last ditch Palace clear their lines after a dangerous ball across the box from the Brazilian.
Aside from the odd decent stop from Karl Darlow, who parried clear powerful efforts from Schlupp and Eze, we were the better side and looking the more likely to score.
Shelvey’s ability to pick out forward passes was making a difference and Joelinton looked lively. He was pressing well, linking up nicely and looking much more confident in possession, however he did lack conviction where it mattered, hitting a tame effort too close to Guiata after catching Dann on the ball.
Going into the second half, this felt a lot like that opening day game at West Ham. We were the better side without being brilliant, but the home side were passive and there for the taking if we wanted a win.
That said, the biggest chance after the restart came for Palace, with Ayew getting in between Fernandez and Manquillo and through on goal – only to poke his effort wide.
Sadly, the much improved pressing and passing game that saw us control large parts of the first half seemed to disappear in the second, with us punting hopeful balls long to Wilson and Joelinton for the first part of the final 45.
Without creating much at all, Palace were now the ones enjoying just short of 60% possession and looking the more likely, with them getting behind our midfield on a few occasions and winning the odd dangerous free kick.
Not much to write home about, but Bruce-ball was creeping back in and we now looked the side both there for the taking and most likely to lose.
Aside from one header apiece from Joelinton and Benteke – who had his well saved by Darlow – there were few chances, meaning it was anyone’s game heading into the final 10 if one side could kick one.
Thankfully, we rode a late Palace storm, with Fernandez doing brilliantly to block a goal-bound Kouyate shot and Van Aanholt flashing wide from a dangerous position…and you know what happened next!
Joelinton burst inside, latched onto a lay off from Wilson and played a clever reverse pass to set his striker partner in behind, leaving our lethal No 13 to do the rest.
A clever finish through Guiata’s legs and brilliant late goal – but we weren’t done yet.
This time it was Wilson who turned provider, getting the ball out to Joelinton down the right hand side. He got one-on-one with his man, cut inside and saw a left-footed shot sneak in via a wicked deflection.
A slice of luck for the big man, but a goal his industrious performance fully deserved, with him refusing to let his head drop after a few too many first-half misses!
Next up, a trip to Aston Villa and several winnable games ahead of a few tough tests after Christmas:
- Aston Villa (A) – Friday 4th December
- West Brom (H) – Saturday 12th December
- Leeds (A) – Wednesday 16th December
- Fulham (H) – Saturday 19th December
- Man City (A) – Saturday 26th December
- Liverpool (H) – Wednesday 30th December
A big win for Steve Bruce and more proof that we must stick with a four-man defence!