Crystal Palace striker Glenn Murray scored a dubious late penalty as the visitors came from behind to grab a 1-1 draw at the Liberty Stadium in a game that was very much a story of 2 halves. The Swans completely dominated the first 45 minutes, only to run out of steam in the second half, following a tough run of fixtures in the Premiership and Europa League.
Angel Rangel, Leon Britton and Nathan Dyer returned to the side, with Dwight Tiendalli, Jose Canas and Marvin Emnes making way following their admirable efforts against Napoli on Thursday night. It was particularly pleasing to see Leon return to the fold, as we missed him in Naples, especially in the latter stages of the game when we were under pressure and had our backs to the wall against the Italian giants.
Despite the exertions of the last couple of weeks, the Swans started brightly against a Palace side camped in its own half and playing with a compact 5 man midfield. In fact, Tony Pulis’ men seemed content to allow the home side to retain the ball as much as they wanted and barely mounted any attacks of worth in the opening 45 minutes.
Swans Manager Garry Monk was forced to make a change after just 22 minutes, bringing on Spaniard Jose Canas to replace injured countryman Pablo Hernandez. His parting gift for the fans was a left-footed strike that was hit with pace and went narrowly wide of the Palace post, with Speroni seemingly beaten. Tony Pulis also had to make an unwanted substitution when Chamakh went off injured, making way for Cameron Jerome, on loan from Stoke City.
Some crisp interplay from Swansea carved out the opening goal after 25 minutes. Ashley Williams played the ball into Wilfried Bony, who laid off the ball effortlessly to Leon Britton. Leon drew the Palace defence out of position, before playing an inch-perfect pass to Jonathan De Guzman, who side-footed the ball past Palace keeper Speroni, for his second goal of the week.
The Swans should have been 2 up by the interval when striker Bony forced a diving save from Speroni when he met a first-time Rangel cross, after a curling ball from former Palace junior Wayne Routledge. However, it was not to be and the half ended 1-0 to the home side in a period which saw a remarkable static of 83% possession for the Swans.
A cheer rang out around the ground at the start of the second half when it was announced the fans’ villain, Tom Ince, was being replaced by Glenn Murray as Pulis switched to a more attacking 4-4-2 formation. Following his dismissive comments about the Swans in the week before this game, it was ironic that he looked totally out of his depth as the Swans fans taunted him with shouts of “Daddy’s boy”!
The re-jig got the Eagles back in the game, and they were finally able to give their fans some territory and pressure to cheer, with winger Yannick Bolasie continually causing problems down the flank against a troubled Ben Davies.
Leroy Lita made only his second appearance for Swansea, coming on for the weary-looking Bony with half an hour to go. As always, Big Wilf put a good shift in on his own up front with little protection from referee Mike Dean (not that he needs much, mind you)!
However, Palace started to turn the screw as the second half progressed. A hooked shot from Murray was gobbled up by Michel Vorm and a header from Cameron Jerome was saved a minute later.
However, the game turned after 81 minutes when a mix-up led to a penalty for Palace and a red card for Chico Flores. As Palace launched the ball forwards, Swans’ keeper Michel Vorm appeared to call to his defence that it was his ball, then lacked the conviction to challenge the on- rushing Glenn Murray with any force. This allowed Murray to toe-poke it past the goalkeeper 20 yards out from goal. With an open goal beckoning, he was brought down just outside the box, but referee Dean, some 30 yards behind play, pointed to the spot and sent Flores off. Murray fired the penalty into the top-right corner.
In injury time, Palace substitute Jerome Thomas tried to persuade Dean to give another spot-kick but was booked for diving as the game ended all-square.
In summary, was this a case of 2 points dropped or 1 gained against 1 of our rivals? For me, it was definitely 1 gained following a run of fixtures against tough opposition and a draining visit to Naples on Thursday night.
The team worked their socks off in the first half against a Palace side that was well organised and packed behind the ball. However, in fairness to Tony Pulis, he made an important change at half time with the introduction of Glen Murray, which coincided with Swans tiring as the game dragged on.
Despite Palace’s improvement after the break. referee Mike Dean, did us no favours yet again. How he was able to give a penalty from 30 yards away is beyond comprehension. Well done Mr Dean.
The teams and player marks (out of 10):
Swansea City: Vorm 5, Rangel 6, Davies 5, Chico 7, Williams (Captain) 6 (Amat 5), Britton 8, De Guzman 8, Hernandez 6 (Canas 6), Routledge 7, Dyer 6, Bony 6 (Lita 4). Unused substitutes: Tremmel, Taylor, Vazquez, Emnes
Swans’ man of the match: Jonathan De Guzman
Scorers: De Guzman
Crystal Palace: Speroni 7, Ward 7, Dann 7, Delaney 7, Parr 5 (Thomas 5), Dicgacoi 6, Jedinak 6, Ledley 5, Bolasie 8, Ince 5 (Murray 7), Chamakh 5 (Jerome 6). Unused substitutes: Hennessey, Gabbidon, Bannan, Gayle,
Crystal Palace man of the match: Bolasie
Possession stats: Swans 69%, Crystal Palace 31%.
The match referee: Mike Dean 5. Dean came into this game having refereed 327 Premier League games, despatching 54 red and 971 yellow cards. He seemed to be on a mission to get to the magic 1000 figure as quickly as possible in this match. In a display that was at its best erratic and at its worst, downright reckless, he handed out a dubious red card to Chico and 5 yellows to Britton, Thomas, Jedinak, Dann and Jerome.