Sunderland’s Jermain Defoe heaps misery on broken Crystal Palace

By 5 months ago

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Sunderland’s Jermain Defoe heaps misery on broken Crystal Palace” was written by Barry Glendenning at Selhurst Park, for The Observer on Saturday 4th February 2017 17.09 UTC

A fine performance was not enough to lift Sunderland off the bottom of the table but four first-half goals did bring them level on points with Crystal Palace. What’s more, at the 38th time of asking they finally won a Premier League match which their midfielder Jack Rodwell started. Substituted in the second half with a hamstring injury, the midfielder will have enjoyed getting this giant chest-beating gorilla off his back.

Sam Allardyce, by contrast, was left visibly appalled and apoplectic by a first half in which Palace charitably allowed Sunderland to score more goals than they had managed in their previous nine games on the road combined. “It’s apparent to me that the players are struggling with fear here at home and I’ve got to get rid of that fear and get them playing much better than they are now,” he said.

“It’s nothing to do with the fans, who don’t put them under as much pressure as the fans at other clubs. And I apologise to those fans for this performance.”

They will feel entitled to their apology. As they booed their team off at half-time, one of their number was hauled away after invading the pitch to confront the defender Damien Delaney at the end of a 45-minute spell in which Palace shipped collector’s items from Lamine Koné and Didier Ndong, as well as two more from Sunderland’s go-to goal-getter Jermain Defoe.

“I haven’t been in that position too many times as a manager or player,” David Moyes said of his side’s interval lead. “If you’re a manager and you’re getting beat all the time, it doesn’t matter who you are, it affects you.”

Despite Palace having spent the thick end of £40m in January, there were few new faces in their starting lineup. Allardyce named an unchanged side from that who had secured his only Premier League win with the club against Bournemouth. Patrick van Aanholt endured a home baptism of fire against his former club, but Mamadou Sakho, Jeffrey Schlupp and Luka Milivojevic avoided being tainted by any association with this performance.

Having plundered his former club Everton for new recruits to help in his bid to keep Sunderland in the Premier League, Moyes drafted in Bryan Oviedo for a mightily impressive debut, while his fellow former Toffee Darron Gibson and Joleon Lescott also made bows from the bench.

A most implausible rout began from a free-kick inside 10 minutes. Seb Larsson wafted the ball towards the far post, where Koné leaped highest to head goalwards. Under pressure from Billy Jones, the Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey was unable to catch the ball which broke kindly to provide Koné with a second bite of the cherry. Still seated on his backside following his aeriel endeavours seconds previously, the burly French defender poked home from four yards.

Just before the 20th minute, Larsson – already on a booking – was penalised for clambering all over Wilfried Zaha and from the ensuing free-kick the ball found its way to James Tomkins. The defender forced the home crowd out of their seats as he got on the end of a Damien Delaney cross, only to plant a firm header just the wrong side of Vito Mannone’s right upright.

With thoughts turning to the break, Sunderland again forced open the Palace portcullis. Didier Ndong doubled their lead with a long-range effort after a mistake by Delaney, drilling past Hennessey with a sweet left-footed drive from 25 yards. Soon after, in possession on the left flank with half-time approaching, Januzaj rolled a weighted ball to Defoe, who curled his low drive across Hennessey’s bows and into the bottom corner. Seconds later, the incredulous pair combined again, with Defoe turning Tomkins to fire home on the turn and make it 4-0. The travelling support were left as agog as their home counterparts were enraged.

Sent out for the second half five minutes early, Palace’s visibly embarrassed players dominated the second half but could not score. A Tomkins free-kick from distance sailed high over the cross-bar to prompt a fan exodus, before Zaha, the substitute Loïc Rémy and Chrsitian Benteke missed presentable chances. With full-time approaching, Jason Denayer performed acrobatic heroics to clear a Jason Puncheon shot that looked goal-bound. Proof, if proof was needed, that this just was not Crystal Palace’s day.

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