Townsend upstages Zaha to punish Burnley
Such is Crystal Palace’s reliance on Wilfried Zaha that it is rare for him to be eclipsed by a team-mate. But Andros Townsend was the game’s standout player in this first home win of the season against an insipid Burnley.
That is not to say that Zaha failed to shine. He was, as ever, at the heart of much of their best work and was desperately unlucky not to score himself after rattling the underside of the crossbar in the second half.
Townsend is deputising for injured Christian Benteke as centre-forward with the wide positions being his more familiar habitat. But even before his wonderful 77th-minute strike into the top corner from the edge of the area, Townsend had caught the eye with his tireless running and excellent link play.
“He’s got it in his locker. We know that and we’ve seen it. It’s no surprise to me when he cuts in and produces that sort of shot. It’s just a question of whether he can get it on target,” said manager Roy Hodgson. “It would be a very curmudgeonly person who denied us the right to win this game today. It’s not often you have 30 attempts on goal [it was 29], nine on target. We were clearly the better team from start to finish.”
Burnley failed to muster a shot on target and appeared to have little intention of trying to win the game. Sean Dyche admitted that his players had “lost the eye of the tiger” and they are now seven matches without a win.
“They were good. They deserved it, they created chances,” said Dyche. “I knew in the summer that this would be a really tough season.”
It took Palace 16 minutes to go in front, in fortuitous fashion, when James McArthur’s cross eluded everyone and went in off the far post. Incredibly, that was the first Palace goal from open play at Selhurst Park this season – but they could have reached double figures, such was their dominance. They should have been further ahead by half-time, with Max Meyer twice going close after cutting in from the left.
There was no change after the break and, with no sign of a Burnley fightback, the pressure intensified. Ben Mee brilliantly denied McArthur a second goal as he executed a last-ditch block, while Luka Milivojevic somehow contrived to miss after a clever pass from Patrick van Aanholt to find him.
Zaha called Hart into action at the start of the second half with one of his characteristic jinking runs, culminating with a shot from close range. He again went close after Townsend found him to the right of goal but the Ivorian fired over.
It looked as though a single goal would decide it before Cheikhou Kouyate picked out Townsend on the left touchline. He burst across the pitch and struck a powerful rising drive that gave Hart no chance. Wilfried who?