WEST BROMWICH ALBION 1-5 CRYSTAL PALACE
- Goals: Conor Gallagher (£5.5m)| Darnell Furlong (£4.5m) own goal, Wilfried Zaha (£7.3m) x2, Christian Benteke (£5.5m) x2
- Assists: Furlong| Zaha, James McArthur (£5.3m), Patrick van Aanholt (£5.4m), Eberechi Eze (£5.8m), Nathaniel Clyne (£4.5m)
- Bonus: Zaha x3, Benteke x3, Eze x1, Gallagher x1
- Red cards: Matheus Pereira (£5.7m)
The return of Crystal Palace’s talisman and a first-half red card for West Bromwich’s own arch-creator shaped Sunday’s game at the Hawthorns.
Wilfried Zaha (£7.3m) secured his third double-digit haul of the season – all of which have come away from home – in the Eagles’ 5-1 demolition of their hosts, while Matheus Pereira (£5.7m) now faces a three-match ban for Slaven Bilic’s beleaguered troops.
NOT PER THE SCRIPT
After being fouled in the 34th minute, the flailing legs of Pereira came into contact with Patrick van Aanholt (£5.4m).
Having first given the West Brom playmaker a yellow card, referee Paul Tierney upgraded that to red after the VAR advised a pitchside review of the incident.
Pereira, a key player for the Baggies last season but someone who has struggled to live up to the £6.0m starting price tag in FPL, will now be suspended until after Christmas – and that could be Gameweek 15 or 16 depending on what happens to Albion’s match against Newcastle United this weekend.
The Telegraph reported on Monday that Newcastle’s Darsley Park training ground remains shut, with doubts increasing over whether the Gameweek 12 fixture between the Magpies and West Brom will go ahead.
KNOWING ME, KNOWING YOU, ZAHA
Crystal Palace gave the Baggies little trouble going forward in the first half but the Eagles flew out of the traps in the second period as Zaha ran riot.
The Ivory Coast international was the architect of the game’s opening goal, as his low cross was put past Sam Johnstone (£4.5m) by team-mate Darnell Furlong (£4.5m). Before the game, Roy Hodgson said of Zaha:
He’s a very important player for us, there’s no question of that. He’s a very good quality player, we’re happy to have him back. It was disappointing to lose him for the last two games.
But I’m really hoping that that absence will have made his heart grow fonder and he’ll give a very good performance today.
Furlong redeemed himself with an assist on the half-hour mark as West Brom took the game to Palace. Having attempted a cross inside the box which was blocked, Furlong cut the ball back for the onrushing Conor Gallagher (£5.5m) to score.
But Pereira’s red card turned the game on its head, as Hodgson’s team took full advantage in the second half.
Having seen a cross and a shot blocked inside the area, Zaha made sure at the third time of asking with a curling effort past Johnstone after being found in the box by James McArthur (£5.3m) in the 56th minute.
Christian Benteke (£5.5m) made it 3-1 just four minutes later, turning in a stooping header from a Patrick van Aanholt (£5.4m) cross.
Zaha made it three attacking returns on 68 minutes in fortunate fashion, converting the loose ball after the Baggies had disrupted a one-two involving Eberechi Eze (£5.8m) and Benteke.
Following his 18-point haul, Zaha said:
Today was a massive win, I’m just happy to be back helping the team. We deserved the three points today.
I am shooting more this season. I back myself to take opportunities and it is paying off.
I am very happy for Christian Benteke, everyone has hard runs. He is a quality player so I am not surprised he scored.
We weren’t scared to play today. It was harder for them when they lost a player and we wanted to impose ourselves.
We have tremendous ability in our team. We just need to keep picking up points.
HE’S OUR STRIKER, OUR BELGIAN STRIKER
Benteke also bagged a brace at the Hawthorns, turning to fire another goal past Johnstone on 82 minutes from a low Nathaniel Clyne (£4.5m) ball into the area.
At £5.5m, the Belgian – making his first league start of 2020/21 on Sunday – will be one of FPL’s cheapest starting forwards if he nails down a place alongside Zaha.
There are good reasons for that lowly price tag, however, with profligacy and a paucity of goals, as well as injuries, plaguing his last three seasons.
Before the game, Hodgson remarked on picking the Belgian forward:
He’s been working hard to get back in the team. He’s done very well in training. He’s done well on the two occasions I’ve put him on at the end of games.
We haven’t scored in the last couple of games and I think it’s the right time to give him a chance to show what he can do alongside Wilf. That’s the only combination we haven’t used yet.
The Palace manager’s selection proved successful, while Benteke returned the compliments to Zaha following the 5-1 hammering.
“We can be happy this afternoon, we really showed character and composure. We were patient and controlled the game.
“There is no point in me complaining if I am not in the team, the only truth is on the pitch. I have been working hard in the shadows and I took my chance.
“We were efficient, we didn’t let them have any chance. It is a different game for us when Wilf is on the pitch. He showed again how important he is.” – Christian Benteke
On his side’s performance, Hodgson remarked:
We looked dangerous throughout the game and I am really pleased. In training we do a lot of work on attacking formations and how we try to cause problems.
We knew at half time we would have more of the ball and we had to work hard around the penalty area. Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke showed they are goalscorers at heart. Every team would miss their best player.
Benteke’s work rate pleased me. You can’t judge him just on scoring goals or not, we expect a lot from our centre-forward. I’ve told him if he does that work he will satisfy me.
Our front four have enormous talent, Premier League quality. If we can get them the ball often enough I’d expect them to score goals.
On Zaha, Hodgson added:
I thought he was really, really good. I was apologising for not giving him the chance to get his hat-trick but I’m pleased he is disappointed with that.
He scored two very good goals and he was assisted by amazing play by Eberechi Eze.
BILIC TO SCRATCH
Playing at left wing-back in place of the injured Conor Townsend (£4.5m), FPL midfielder Matt Phillips (£5.1m) created the joint-most chances in the game.
The best of those was a cross which Furlong headed onto the crossbar, with Vicente Guaita (£5.0m) beaten. Unsurprisingly, Phillips’ ability to affect the game lessened after Pereira’s dismissal.
Following the loss, Baggies boss Slaven Bilic fumed:
It is a big frustration for us [the red card]. It was the key moment in the game. We played well to come back to 1-1. They scored a cheap first goal but then we came back, we equalised and we were on top of the game.
At least he [Matheus Pereira] gave him the option. I can’t have any complaints. It wasn’t a kick ‘kick’ but you can’t do that at this level. It could have been a yellow but he gave the option to the referee and to VAR. They couldn’t wait.
He will be a big miss. For us to be competitive we need 11 v 11 in every game. Down to 10 men, it psychologically affected us big time. We collapsed after they scored the third one. 5-1 is a heavy defeat for us.
You can find excuses, we played against a talented side but I am not happy with our collapse. You can’t drop your shoulders and stop believing.
The struggling Baggies are unlikely to be high on many FPL managers’ shopping lists but then perhaps neither are Palace: both clubs are at the bottom of our Season Ticker over the next eight Gameweeks.
The Eagles caught Southampton and Manchester United at a good time in Gameweeks 1 and 2 but in subsequent games against high-flying Chelsea, Everton and Wolves, Zaha blanked in Palace defeats.
West Bromwich Albion XI (3-4-2-1): Johnstone; Bartley, Ivanovic, Ajayi; M Phillips, Gallagher, Sawyers (O’Shea 80′), Furlong; Diangana (Krovinovic 46′), Grant (Robinson 62′), M Pereira.
Crystal Palace XI (4-4-2): Guaita; Van Aanholt, Cahill, Kouyaté, Clyne; Eze, McArthur (Riedewald 73′), Milivojevic, Schlupp (Ayew 74′); Zaha (Batshuayi 80′), Benteke.
Lessons learned from FPL Gameweek 11
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