Palace 1-1 Huddersfield Town: Zaha strike not enough for ten-man Eagles
CRYSTAL Palace were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Huddersfield Town this evening.
Damien Delaney and Anthony Gerrard both received their marching orders in either half for dangerous challenges, but Palace went into the break one goal to the good thanks to Wilfried Zaha's fantastic strike.
But they were pegged back when Keith Southern's soft effort back at goal went through Julian Speroni's legs from close range in the second period.
It was harsh on the stopper, who had a tremendous first half with three fantastic saves, including a penalty to deny Adam Clayton.
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It was a very bright start to the game with both sides having good chances in the opening two minutes.
Having won a free-kick 20 yards from goal, Palace had the first opportunity when Mile Jedinak, back in the side following a one-match ban, curled the ball around the Huddersfield wall and skimmed the side netting.
Parts of Selhurst Park thought the ball had crept in, but just 40 seconds later, Jermaine Beckford headed powerfully towards the top corner, but Speroni pulled off a stunning save to tip over.
Wilfried Zaha then went close when he cut in from the left and dragged a low shot wide of the near post, while Owen Garvan pulled the trigger moments later with a low first time effort from outside the box which whistled past the post.
But after such a good start from Ian Holloway's men, they were reduced to ten men after 13 minutes when Damien Delaney was adjudged to have been the last man by the referee after cutting Beckford down to size. However, after discussions with skipper Jedinak, it could have also been for the severity of the challenge.
Danny Gabbidon came on to fill the void, with the unfortunate Garvan replaced in the middle of the park.
However, Huddersfield had a great chance to open the scoring minutes later when they were awarded a penalty after former Eagle Sean Scannell was brought down on the left side of the box by Joel Ward.
Clayton stepped up, but Speroni got down to this right to save easily. It was a very poor penalty, however.
And shortly after, Speroni was the Palace's saviour again when Scannell beat Ward down the left and delivered low for Beckford, who hit the ball first time from close range, but the Argentine stopper pulled off an unbelievable reaction save.
Glenn Murray had a good chance to give Palace the lead when he capitalised on a poor back-pass from Jake Hunt and went around goalkeeper Alex Smithies, but the angle was fairly tight and he dragged his shot across goal.
Oliver Norwood then tried his luck from range for the Terriers, while Murray sent a tame header wide from a free-kick at the other end.
However, the deadlock was broken on 39 minutes thanks to a breath-taking finish from Zaha, ending his 12-game run without a goal.
Yannick Bolasie picked the ball up on the right side of the box and played in the overlapping Zaha with a ridiculous piece of trickery, and the winger had the option of playing the ball back to Bolasie, but sent a rasping shot high up into the net past Smithies.
Selhurst erupted into a rendition of 'he's just to good for you', and ten-man Palace were ahead before the break.
Beckford blazed over inside the box as the visitors looked for an immediate response, but Simon Grayson's side were denied by further fantastic goalkeeping from Speroni on the stroke of half-time when he tipped over Clayton's dipping shot from outside the box.
Gerrard had the first chance of the second half when he headed wide from a corner, while former Palace loan striker James Vaughan dragged a shot just wide from the edge of the box after being teed up by Beckford.
An injury to Ward then forced Holloway to bring on Dean Moxey after 53 minutes, with Jonathan Parr moving across to right-back.
Midway through the half, Scannell went off for Danny Ward as the visitors looked to inject some fresh legs down the left, but the game had gone a bit quiet with not many chances created from either side.
But then came the equaliser - and Speroni would not have been happy about it either.
A Huddersfield corner fell to the feet of Southern 12-yards out and the midfielder poked the ball back towards goal and through the goalkeeper's legs.
Both sides played the final ten minutes with ten men, however, as Gerrard was given a straight red card for a two-footed lunge on Bolasie on the edge of the box. Having looked at television replays, it was reckless but perhaps not worthy of a dismissal.
Jedinak stepped up but curled the free-kick over the bar as Andre Moritz made his way on for Bolasie.
With both side fighting for the winner, four minutes were added on by the referee, and despite late pressure from Palace, they had to settle for just a point.
From all of us at the Croydon Advertiser, have a very, Merry Christmas. Catch us on Boxing Day for the huge game at Cardiff City.
Palace: Speroni, Ward (Moxey 53), Parr, Ramage, Delaney, Dikgacoi, Jedinak (c), Garvan (Gabbidon 15), Zaha, Bolasie (Moritz 81), Murray.
Subs Not Used: Price, O'Keefe, Appiah, Easter.
By Croydon Advertiser Sports Reporter Mark Ritson