Patrick Vieira has called for his Crystal Palace squad to show more maturity in recent weeks. He wanted them to display their nous to kill off victories and, at the same time, a shrewdness to defend what they have.
But the Eagles showcased their inexperience as they failed to hold off a Leeds side still finding their rhythm following a poor start.
They fell to a late defeat at Elland Road – their second Premier League loss in succession – courtesy of a Raphinha penalty in added time.
It was a night of nearly moments against Marcelo Bielsa’s side.
The Eagles nearly took all three points, they nearly managed to secure their second away clean sheet of the season, and Vieira’s side nearly came close to showing they can find a way of winning a game without injured midfield kingpin James McArthur.
Vieira made a positive substitution – learning from the defeat to Aston Villa that you don’t take off Wilfried Zaha when you’re still in the game – by bringing Christian Benteke on for Odsonne Edouard, who had an uninspiring 68 minutes.
The shift in formation and placing Benteke up against Liam Cooper and Diego Llorente gave the South Londoners a focal point. But, in a similar story to early games under the Frenchman, the Eagles lacked the cunning and clinical instinct to take the lead.
The most clear-cut chance fell to Benteke in the 73rd minute. The 30-year-old forward did everything right in his approach play – cutting his way through Leeds and teeing up Conor Gallagher inside the area.
When the England international’s shot was deflected back to Zaha, the Ivorian lifted the ball over every white shirt and found Benteke at the back post.
With the goal at his mercy, six yards out, and with only an out-of- position Illan Meslier to beat, the Belgian planted his header wide of the post. His miss cost Palace the win.
The Eagles were unable to find the ruthlessness required if you’re going to cement your place in the top half of the Premier League.
Their attacking passages of play and cohesion going forward has drastically dwindled since the 3-3 draw with Burnley. There has been an air of nervousness and flatness in their attacking build-up during the past two games against Aston Villa and Leeds. It was highlighted on Tuesday when they only managed to record one shot on target.
There were positives to take from the game. Jeffrey Schlupp, making his first start since the 0-0 draw with Brentford, brought dynamism and expansiveness to the midfield, and Will Hughes added tenacity and bite during his 10-minute debut.
Tyrick Mitchell caught the eye and continued to show why an England call-up isn’t out of the question.
The 22-year-old left-back produced a stellar audition with Gareth Southgate watching on. He fended off Raphinha and completed the most tackles, passes, touches and clearances of any Palace player.
As the clock ticked down, and Vieira’s Palace appeared reconciled and content with taking a point back to South London, it was a set-piece and an error of naivety that condemned them to defeat.
Marc Guehi’s awkward hand in the air, which was in an unnatural position, stopped Liam Cooper’s header from a Raphinha corner and gave Kevin Friend no other option than to point to the spot.
The Brazilian winger wrong-footed Vicente Guaita and sentenced the Eagles to their first consecutive defeats under Vieira in the Premier League.
There is still a hint of rawness about this Palace side. They are lacking the consistency and momentum that they had in abundance prior to the international break.
Perhaps the biggest reason behind their dip in form has been the absence of McArthur. The 34-year-old’s ability to keep all areas of the pitch ticking over and supported has been noticeably missed.
Hughes and Schlupp both have the chance, with McArthur’s hamstring issues set to sideline him until early 2022, to show they can step up.
With the Eagles playing six games in December, it will be vital to get back to winning ways swiftly as the bottom half of the top-flight is easy to spiral towards.
Tyrick Mitchell. Had Raphinha in his pocket and continues to get better with every passing game.
Will Hughes’ debut. Provided energy to the midfield in a 10-minute cameo. He should have been introduced earlier.
Business News Governmental News Finance News
Need Your Help Today. Your $1 can change life.