De Boer calls for ‘courage’ after Palace crumble
Frank de Boer, the Crystal Palace manager, said on the eve of this match that he was not worried about his job, but on yesterday’s evidence he ought to be. Nothing that happened here would have persuaded the bookmakers that they were wrong to make the Dutchman favourite to be the first Premier League manager sacked this season.
Palace were second-best in a dismal game between two teams who had previously failed to find the net. Swansea put that right. Tammy Abraham scored his first goal for the Welsh club a minute before the interval, and Jordan Ayew doubled the lead three minutes into the second half.
But Palace remain goalless, pointless, and for most of this game, clueless. “It was disappointing for everyone,” De Boer said. “Especially in the first half, we didn’t show any courage on the ball. They were two teams that didn’t play at their best. Teams that make [fewer] mistakes usually win this type of game. In three minutes we gave it away.”
The opening was soporific, with a third-minute diving header well past a post from Ayew the only action of note. Palace took longer to get going, and when they did, Patrick van Aanholt’s low pass zipped across goal with no forward there to take the chance. And then James McArthur and Christian Benteke got in each other’s way as they jumped for a cross from Scott Dann.
The crowd was unimpressed and the jeers started after 25 minutes. Both sides were guilty of aimless and misplaced passes, with McArthur one of few players to show any ambition, shooting a foot wide on the half-hour when a chance came 20 yards out.
Swansea finally managed a shot on target – their first of the season – when Timothy Fosu-Mensah miscontrolled a long forward ball and Abraham hit a shot that Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey blocked with a knee.
From the corner, Alfie Mawson escaped the marking of Joel Ward only to head wide. But it was a temporary reprieve as Swansea built unhindered down the right through Kyle Naughton and Sam Clucas before Abraham lost Martin Kelly to volley in a cross by Leroy Fer from five yards – the Chelsea loanee’s ideal range when with Bristol City last season.
“At this level there’s a lot of scrutiny when a striker doesn’t score,” Paul Clement, the Swansea manager, said. “But he is a goalscorer. He’s off the mark and he’s very happy.”
And the game was effectively over three minutes into the restart as Swansea scored a farcical second. Naughton began it, robbing the hapless Kelly and playing the ball forward for Ayew.
The defenders stood still and appealed for offside, but no flag was raised and Ayew ran on, scoring into an empty net when the advancing Hennessey’s attempt to clear ricocheted back off the Ghana forward.
Palace tried to get back into the game, and their fans bayed for penalties when Chung-yong Lee and Yohan Cabaye tumbled in the area, but on both occasions the challenges were perfectly executed, the latter a particularly well-timed tackle by Mike van der Hoorn when there was no margin for error. But Palace’s attacks were predictable, lacking in variety and mostly repelled with ease. Even when a rare error by the otherwise excellent Mawson presented Andros Townsend with a late chance, he sidefooted wide. “A good victory,” Clement said. “We’ve had a difficult start so four points is pretty reasonable.”
Lift-off: Jordan Ayew (right) celebrates his goal with fellow scorer Tammy Abraham