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London Calling: Palace’s curious derby habit


Words from Richard Foster - The Football Mine

Most fans have a sneaking suspicion that fate conspires against their club now and again. In extreme circumstances this feeling develops into rapidly escalating levels of paranoia reaching a consensus that firstly, the whole world is against you and secondly and more worryingly that there is very little that can be done about it. For Palace fans the propensity for opposition players to score incredible goals in derby matches completely out of the blue is one that has haunted us over the years. So here is the evidence I present to the jury for their consideration. 

The earliest example of this disturbing trend came on a chastening October night in 2013. Having gained promotion via the Play-Offs in May Ian Holloway’s ragtag collection of players was struggling to acclimatise to the higher division. Seven games in and one solitary victory nestled amongst six defeats the Eagles seemed destined to add a fifth successive Premier League relegation after a single season. Fulham were the visitors to Selhurst and, miracle of miracles, Adrian Mariappa scored the opening goal after seven minutes.

Any new-found optimism was punctured just over ten minutes later. Patjim Kasani latched on to a ball wide on the right and in an apparently innocuous position, he chested it down before unveiling a volley that swerved over the flailing Julian Speroni. It was the sort of goal where there is a momentary silence around the ground before everyone realises that it has ended up in the net. It was the Swiss international’s second goal for the club and he only added another one but he could have scored another two hundred and he still would not have matched this special effort. In just over 30 minutes of this sumptuous strike the visitors were 4-1 up and coasting. Holloway’s reign came to an end that night and Palace eventually survived under Tony Pulis while Fulham were relegated. 

In March 2015 another team from West London that were eventually relegated left their mark with an equally amazing goal at Selhurst. This time around Palace were the team that were cruising to a comfortable win, 3-0 up against QPR at half-time. With the game meandering to a conclusion, Matt Phillips collected the ball around the centre circle took a couple of strides before unleashing a shot from fully 45 yards that flew past Speroni like a tracer bullet. Palace manager Alan Pardew described it as an even better goal than the one David Beckham scored against Wimbledon from the halfway line almost twenty years beforehand. While it might be a little hyperbolic to compare the two, the rare quality of the goal was incontestable. 

The next in a long line of goals of the season scored by the away team arrived in January 2016. This one was slightly different in nature to the previous couple as it was mostly about the set-up rather than the shot itself. With less than ten minutes remaining Palace and Spurs were locked at 1-1 when Dele Alli decided to intervene. Bringing the ball under control with a deft touch he then turned full circle in the act of flicking it over a flummoxed Mile Jedinak on the edge of the area before volleying it into the corner of the goal with Wayne Hennessey beaten all ends up. Even Mauricio Pochettino joined in with the congratulations. The ease with which he scored this goal masked the technical difficulty and the consummate skill. Suffice to say it won the BBC’s Goal of the Season. 

If Dele Alli is somebody you would expect to perform such a sublime moment, then Andy Carroll would probably not make your top 10 candidates but that didn’t stop the pony-tailed one producing an acrobatic volley that almost defies description. This one was executed at the London Stadium in January 2017. If it had been scored by Marco van Basten or Zlatan Ibrahimovic it would have made more sense. This time West Ham were already 1-0 up when Carroll somehow managed to swivel mid-air and fire his scissor-kick with his left foot and with such power that it had billowed the net before Carroll had come back down to earth. 

If that was a surprise then another misfiring Hammers striker managed to almost outdo Carroll this season. It could be fair to say that Sebastian Haller did not exactly light up the Premier League after his move from Eintracht Frankfurt in 2019 but he did specialise in the spectacular rather than sheer volume of goals during his 48 appearances. Almost his last shot in anger, and certainly his tenth and last Premier League goal for West Ham, was an acrobatic overhead kick against Palace at the London Stadium. Sounds familiar. Out of nothing he conjured up this flashing strike and then that was pretty much it as he was off to Ajax the following month.

Leaving possibly the best, but certainly the most outrageous, until last. A dark, wet afternoon at The Emirates, 1 January 2017. In the pervading gloom Alexis Sanchez crossed from the left and as the ball was slightly behind the only Arsenal player in the box there was no imminent danger. Unfortunately for Palace that lone striker was Olivier Giroud who had other ideas, pulling back his left leg to make contact with the slightly misplaced cross. In most circumstances the end result of this sort of manoeuvre would be harmless. This time it was altogether different as the ball flew off the Frenchman’s heel into the top corner.

Having not witnessed too many ‘scorpion kicks’ I and the rest of those inside the stadium were not quite sure what had happened. It certainly stung the Palace contingent. Breaking a habit of a lifetime I watched the replay of the goal on the screen and was still none the wiser at how it had happened. Not wishing to be churlish but it seemed to owe a great deal more to fortune than to skill. It is a moot point as to whether Giroud really mean to plant it in the top corner. Clearly others felt it was a deliberate act of genius, winning the Puskás goal of the season award and drawing praise from Arsène Wenger who described it as one of the best in his 22-year stint as Arsenal boss so who am I to question it? 

Deep down I think old Ferenc would have scoffed at the intent, but still what a way to welcome in the New Year! I am not sure what inspires other London clubs’ players to produce their greatest goals when playing against Palace but it is a phenomenon that I would like to think has run its course and we can all get back to normal. Please.


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