Christian Benteke scored both goals and could have had a third against his name as Crystal Palace thrilled their home ground audience with a polished 2-0 win over West Ham.
For Palace Manager, Alan Pardew – and the 24,800 crowd at Sellhurst Park – the performance was one of Crystal Palace’s most accomplished efforts in recent seasons. At the back they were composed, in the midfield they were industrious, and up front they were lethal.
West Ham came into the match as slight favorites but failed to live up to that expectation with a limp effort on the park, devoid of the energy that had marked previous appearances against the Glaziers.
For thirty minutes the ebb and flow of the first half was largely equal as both teams tried to establish midfield dominance. In the 32nd minute the status-quo was finally broken with a Crystal Palace move that began in midfield. Ledley played a well-weighted pass forward and Benteke had the skill and experience to make a diagonal run across the face of the defense to beat the off-side line. The pass played through was perfect and Benteke pounced on the ball and made half a yard of space. His turn of speed and skill on the ball carried him inside the penalty box and a flashing right-foot shot was too well placed for West Ham’s goalkeeper to stop.
Perfect pass! Ledley plays the ball forward into space and Benteke makes a diagonal run to beat the offside trap.
On the ball: Benteke drives into the box to score Crystal Palace’s first goal as West Ham defenders try valiantly to recover position.
Two minutes before half time Palace scored again, this time through clever play by Townsend who broke into the penalty box and stepped out of a desperate tackle by Reid. Townsend cut the ball back across the face of goal and Benteke was perfectly positioned to slot his shot into the bottom right corner of the goal.
Disaster for West Ham just minutes before half time. Townsend steps out of a defender’s challenge and looks to cut the ball back to Benteke waiting in front of goal.
It was 2-0 at half-time.
In the second half Slaven Bilic’s men came out with more determination, but still lacked the penetration needed to trouble Crystal Palace’s defense. The best chance for West Ham came in the 57th minute when Antonio drifted out to the left wing and received a good ball out of midfield. The striker looked up and saw that Payet, playing centrally, had moved off his marker. Antonio’s cross was well placed but before Payet could unleash a strike on goal, Delaney was there for Palace, blocking the shot. The ball deflected harmlessly to the keeper.
Antonio’s cross from the left wing to Payet was perfect, but Delaney gets his body in the way to diffuse the attack on Crystal Palace’s goal.
For the last fifteen minutes West Ham threw everyone forward and mounted intense pressure on the Crystal Palace goal with two successive corners and an extended period of possession inside the Palace half. Yet still West Ham were unable to score.