Late Zaha Magic Foils Naive Hammers

Match Report West Ham United

An agonising 97th-minute strike from Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha was enough for Crystal Palace to snatch a point in a thrilling 2-2 draw at Selhurst Park on Saturday, as huge pressure was heaped back on Slaven Bilic.

The Hammers had raced into a two-goal early lead through an improvised Javier Hernandez finish and sumptuous strike from in-form Andre Ayew before the game was turned on its head in the second period.

The home side netted at the start of the half through a Luka Milivojevic penalty and then the aforementioned Zaha salvage, but there was so much more to a classic London Derby in the South of the City.

The sharing of the points sees Palace edge ever closer to climbing off bottom spot on four points, whereas, we remained rooted to 16th position, but could be even closer to the Relegation Zone by the end of Matchday Ten.

From the start at Selhurst, Roy Hodgson opted for eight changes to the side that were dumped out of The Carabao Cup 4-1 at Ashton Gate and they started in goal as Julian Speroni came back in for Wayne Hennessey.

At the back, Joel Ward and Scott Dann replaced Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Martin Kelly, further up the field there were five changes with Yohan Cabaye, Luka Milivojevic, Jeffrey Schlupp, Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha taking the places of Jason Puncheon, Jairo Riedewald, Chung-Yong Lee, Sullay Kaikai and Bakary Sako.

Meanwhile, Slaven Bilic made four changes to the team that came from two goals down at Wembley on Wednesday to claim a 2-3 win.

Adrian San-Miguel, Sam Byram, youngster Declan Rice and Andy Carroll made way for Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta, Jose Fonte and Javier Hernandez, with the likes of Michail Antonio and Marko Arnautovic on the bench.

It would be the hosts who created the most early on at a sunny Selhurst as Zaha was clipped in the opening stages and hauled down by Fonte, but Referee Bobby Madley was having none of appeals for a spot-kick.

However, the hosts wouldn’t be on top for long and they were soon behind, as Ayew, played in by Manuel Lanzini, linked up perfectly with Cresswell who found Chicharito, his flick beating Speroni for a 31st-minute lead.

Only the heroics of England keeper Joe Hart kept us in the ascendancy after that, with former Hammer James Tomkins rising to head from a Dann lay-off, Hart sprawling to push the ball out, before denying Schlupp from point-blank range.

The save would be rewarded with the doubling of the two-goal advantage on the stroke of half-time, with Ayew profiting from an Edimilson Fernandes tackle to unleash an incredible top corner thunderbolt that gave Speroni no chance and Bilic’s Boys a clear cushion.

But, it wouldn’t be very comfortable for long as Angelo Ogbonna fouled Townsend in the box to earn an early second-half penalty, that Milivojevic dispatched with ease.

The hosts were now brimming with confidence and going in search of an equaliser and they came excruciatingly close when Cabaye’s effort from the edge of the area found the inside of the post.

Meanwhile, every time that they did manage to hit the target, Hart proved to be an impassable wall, lunging to his left to keep out a powerful Zaha effort.

And then lunging to his right to keep out Cabaye yet again as he struck a delightful free-kick, whilst at the other end, travelling Hammers fumed at a tangle between Chicharito and Tomkins, on replays the former Hammer looked to hold the Mexican by the neck.

By the time that added time came around, it looked like it just wasn’t going to be Palace’s day at all despite their domination as Tomkins rose to head and had his effort tipped onto the bar by Hart, while Sako volleyed the rebound over from close-range.

With less than ten seconds remaining, substitute Antonio had the ball in a counter attack and was urged to keep it in the corner, however, his lazy cross was easily dealt with allowing Palace a final attack.

The ball was quickly shipped to Zaha via Ruben Loftus-Cheek, as the Ivorian danced in and out of defenders to find the far corner and send SW25 into delirious cheers.

The point could prove pivotal for The Eagles, who have their first draw of the season, albeit, by an absolute whisker, they will face a trip to Wembley next Sunday to face Tottenham Hotspur.

Meanwhile, as a pale-faced Slaven Bilic addressed the shocked Media post-match, he must have been wondering what the unbelievable draw meant for his future.

One thing it does surely connote is that next Saturday evening’s home visit of Liverpool is a must-win if there ever was one and that Saturday’s draw is a must-forget, something that has to be done quickly.

Hammer of the Match: Joe Hart