Sunderland won 4-0 away at Crystal Palace in an astonishing performance that saw the lads net three times in the late stages of the first half. Lamine Kone's early strike was followed up by a thunderous finish from Didier NDong. Not to be outdone, Jermain Defoe exercised his genius to sink two stunning goals before the break, sending the travelling fans into rapture. What a game. What a day.
After a spirited draw against Spurs where Sunderland showcased arguably their finest defensive performance of the season, a trip down to Crystal Palace got fans licking their lips for a bit of a mid-season relegation dogfight. With Sam Allardyce now managing Palace, and van Aanholt moving to London within the last week, there was definitely a little bit extra to make this fixture a spicy one.
Jones, Kone, Denayer, O'Shea, Oviedo
NDong, Larsson, Rodwell
In an ALS Twitter poll before the game, 80% agreed with Moyes' decision to drop Borini, however, they were less complimentary over Fabio's replacement, Adnan Januzaj. Though he's still a young lad, turning 22 tomorrow, Januzaj has done nothing at Sunderland so far to suggest he is the world class player that the British media once groomed him to be. In the playmaker role for Sunderland, he needs to be at the top of his game to really stand out.
Defoe was almost through on goal early on when a long ball found his speculative run. While he was pressured well, he managed to get a shot off with a swinging leg, forcing the keeper into a save and awarding Sunderland with a corner. The corner came to nothing but we did manage to win a foul.
GOAL – Sunderland – Kone – 9 mins
After an accurate free kick delivery, Kone leapt into the air and connected with a looping header that appeared an easy take for the Palace keeper. Billy Jones was there to make the job difficult however, contesting the header and making contact with the keeper, who fumbled the ball. Kone somehow managed to swing his body around and connect with a volley. The ball tucked right into the far corner and Sunderland went ahead. A fantastic finish with a possible foul on the keeper from Jones, but I'm not complaining. 1-0.
Seb Larsson was booked early in the match, but the yellow card did nothing to dissuade the sexy Swede from lunging into Rodwell-esque challenges. In truth, he was lucky to stay on the pitch after he cut down Wilfried Zaha after a good spell of possession for Palace. The home side should have scored soon after, with James Tomkins missing a header two yards out at the far post. The defence had completely switched off. Kone then stopped Benteke from converting after Scott Dann delivered an unusually accurate cross into the danger area.
Dider NDong looked a different player to the one who left for the AFCON. After a quick counter attack from Palace, NDong was the one busting a but to break up the attack, which he did successfully. For all he got off to a good start to the game, nobody expected what would come next.
GOAL – Sunderland – NDong – 42 mins
After winning the ball from Joe Ledley, NDong took a touch to gather his bearings before thundering the ball past the keeper from 25 yards out. It was a stunning finish and completely uncharacteristic of the Dider NDong we've seen so far at Sunderland, who always looked like he had quality but struggled to keep up with the pace. This was a new day. 2-0.
But there was more.
GOAL – Sunderland – Defoe – 45 mins
Januzaj burst down the left hand side. With the Palace defence still rocked from our second goal, they had completely fallen out of organisation and allowed Defoe to make a run across the left side of the box. When he was slotted in by Adnan, he fired the ball across the face of the keeper and into the net. An excellent finish to cap off an excellent move and a hugely impressive performance from Sunderland in the first half. 3-0.
But there was even more.
GOAL – Sunderland – Defoe – 45+ mins
In what could only be described as a shift in the laws of the universe, Sunderland again advanced up the field towards goal. In the dying seconds of the half, Defoe found himself with the ball inside the box but with his back to goal and a defender between him and the sticks. Despite the physical pressure, Defoe turned with ease and fired a shot off before Wayne Hennessey had time to even process the eventuality of a clean strike from Jermain. The ball nestled deeply in the net and the Sunderland fans lost their minds at the sight of their team 4-0 up at half-time.
The concourse housing away fans at Selhurst Park must have been rocking at half-time. Like a scene from Jurassic Park or something, only the velociraptors are chucking beer in the air and singing about Jermain Defoe.
The Palace fans were singing 'you're not fit to wear the shirt', with one fan actually confronting
Delaney on the pitch as he left the field for the break. Delaney didn't emerge for the second half, so god knows what's gone on there. Unacceptable that, really. The hostilities continued into the second half which did nothing to aid the performance of the visibly frightened Crystal Palace.
With Sunderland happy to rest on the four goals converted in the first period, and Palace with little to show for themselves other than Cristian Benteke, very little happened in the second half outside of Sunderland suffering another annoying set of injuries. First Rodwell dropped and was replaced by Darron Gibson. Then O'Shea went down to signal the debut of Joleon Lescott, who probably wasn't yet fit but was at least mobile enough to warrant a place on the bench. Januzaj then looked to be struggling and so was swiftly replaced by Steven Pienaar, officially getting the band back together for David Moyes.
Palace only truly came close to scoring once in the second half, with an excellent strike from Jason Puncheon appropriately denied by an astonishing goal-line clearance courtesy of either Vito Mannone or Jason Denayer — the ball was travelling so fast that it was difficult to spot even after several replays.
The introduction of Loic Remy certainly made the home side more dangerous, but it was nothing that an unusually organised Sunderland defence couldn't handle. An almost-perfect tactical performance from the side will give David Moyes plenty to smile about ahead of what will no doubt be a tough relegation battle, but one we're more than capable of winning. An excellent team performance and a great day to be a Sunderland fan.
Final Score: Crystal Palace 0–4 Sunderland
ALS Man of the Match: Bryan Oviedo/Didier Ndong
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