Saturday evening’s game against Chelsea may have ended in a familiar feeling of disappointment for Palace fans but there was a shining beacon of light provided by Wilfried Zaha’s return to first-team action.
Having been introduced to the game at half-time in place of Christian Benteke, the wide man looked as though he’d never been away, teasing and probing at the Chelsea defence with every touch whilst also getting an assist to his name following Patrick van Aanholt’s low finish through the legs of Thibaut Courtois in the closing stages of the game.
After finding himself with the ball at his feet in a central position, Zaha anticipated the oncoming run of Van Aanholt to perfection and slid a beautifully weighted reverse pass across the turf, allowing the Dutchman to take it in his stride and finish neatly for what was his second goal in as many games.
It may have only been a second-half appearance with the Eagles already in a two-goal hole but after weeks of swimming against the tide against opposition from the top half of the table, we now find ourselves entering into a run of games that appear far more winnable on paper with our star man back and ready to fire on all cylinders.
I’d like to think that our second half formation will provide something of a blue-print for how we look to approach Huddersfield when we travel there next weekend, using the pace of Zaha and Townsend on each flank to keep the Terriers on their guard throughout. There can be no debate that the winger’s introduction completely changed the feel of yesterday’s trip to Stamford Bridge, giving us an attacking outlet that forced them to sit up and take notice, whilst also allowing others across the forward line far more space in which to operate.
There are plenty of Palace fans who remain concerned about the physical approach David Wagner’s side will adopt when attempting to counteract Zaha’s game but with the side in desperate need of points, we will simply have to do our best to protect him from the first minute until the last.
No one needs reminding of the kicking Huddersfield game Wilf on the opening day of the season, it is our duty as a club to ensure that the referee is primed for what is likely to be a repeat performance this weekend.
Bring it on.