Three talking points from Crystal Palace's eventful 2-2 draw with Bournemouth
Christian Benteke squandered a stoppage-time penalty as Crystal Palace and Bournemouth shared the points in an incident-packed encounter at Selhurst Park. Jermain Defoe had fired the visitors into an early lead before Luca Milivojevic equalised from the spot after Wilfried Zaha had gone down.
Scott Dann put the Eagles ahead four minutes later but, in a frantic end to the first-half, Defoe restored parity thanks to an unstoppable volley for his second of the afternoon. Palace enjoyed the better of the second period and had a golden chance to claim all three points in the dying moments.
Despite not being the designated penalty taker, Benteke grabbed the ball only to see his spot-kick saved by Cherries keeper Asmir Begovic. The result means Roy Hodgson’s side return to the bottom of the Premier League table, while Bournemouth remain 14th. Here are three talking points…
Clinical Defoe shows his true colours
After a quiet start to his second spell at Bournemouth, Defoe showed his class against Palace. Questions had been asked whether the former Tottenham Hotspur striker was suited to the Cherries’ style of play, which relies on the striker making runs into the channels to pull defenders out of position.
That is not Defoe’s game. His strength is his finishing ability and he was much more clinical here than in previous matches. The 35-year-old’s first goal – his 200th league strike – was archetypal; creating space in the box from a cleverly-worked corner and directing his shot past Julian Speroni.
The second goal was just stunning. Latching on to Lewis Cook’s downfield pass, Defoe let the ball drop over his shoulder before volleying it beyond the Palace stopper. While not of the same quality, it was reminiscent of Marco van Basten’s famous volley from an impossible angle in Euro ’88. Eddie Howe is still searching for the right combination in attack, but there is no doubt that none of his other options have Defoe’s goal-scoring pedigree.
Selfish Benteke costs Palace victory
While Defoe’s season has finally caught fire, Benteke’s is still struggling to ignite. It’s now 11 appearances without a goal this season for the Belgian, who appeared to defy his manager’s wishes by taking the injury-time penalty ahead of Milivojevic. This could result in serious repercussions for Benteke, who no doubt incurred Hodgson’s wrath in the changing room during the fall-out.
It’s all well and good if he scores, but by missing he cost his side two crucial points that might be the difference between relegation and survival at the end of the campaign. Benteke’s logic in assuming responsibility for the penalty was obvious. A last-minute goal would have restored his confidence ahead of a hectic run of fixtures during the Christmas period.
No player is bigger than the team, however, and the former Liverpool striker should have put aside his personal feelings and left it to Milivojevic, whose first-half penalty had given Begovic no chance.
Zaha controversy rekindles diving debate
Six days earlier against Southampton, huge controversy had erupted when Bournemouth defender Adam Smith was booked for diving, despite appearing to have been fouled. It was a decision for which referee Jon Moss subsequently apologised. At Selhurst Park, it was Zaha under the microscope.
Both of Crystal Palace’s penalties were awarded for supposed fouls on the tricky winger. For the first, contact with keeper Begovic appeared to be minimal after Zaha had raced clear. And for the second, Charlie Daniels looked to have cleanly won the ball. Bournemouth would have been fuming if Benteke had scored the penalty.
By retrospectively banning Everton striker Oumar Niasse for diving – coincidentally against Palace – the FA has set a precedent. It will be interesting to see how the panel interprets the first incident involving Zaha and whether they take any action against the Ivory Coast international.