For all the chants in the Selhurst Park songbook, it is a three-word demand that has the most resonance. ‘Sign him up, sign him up,’ sang fans about the new prince of the Palace.
Conor Gallagher is the subject of said chant. And what a majestic talent he is. The Chelsea loanee, 21, scored an all-important second goal to add to Wilfried Zaha’s opener and settle an intensely tight contest against Wolves.
Just as he did at the home of the champions last weekend, when his late goal added to Zaha’s first to take the game away from an opposition threatening to equalise.
Crystal Palace brought an end to Wolves’ five-game unbeaten streak at Selhurst Park
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS
CRYSTAL PALACE: (4-3-3) Guaita 6.5; Ward 7, Andersen 7 (Clyne 90+6), Guehi 7.5, Mitchell 6.5; McArthur 7, Kouyate 6, Gallagher 8; Zaha 7.5, Edouard 7.5 (Olise 80), Benteke 6 (J Ayew 89)
SUBS NOT USED: Butland (GK); Milivojevic, Tomkins, Kelly, Riedewald
GOALS: Zaha (62); Gallagher (78)
BOOKINGS: Guehi (37); Olise (81)
COACH: Patrick Vieira 7
WOLVES: (3-4-2-1) Sa 7; Kilman 7.5, Coady 5, Saiss 6; Semedo 5 (Traore 68, 6), Moutinho 7, Neves 6, Ait-Nouri 6.5; Trincao 5 (Podence 68, 6), Jimenez 6.5, Hwang 5 (Silva 90)
SUBS NOT USED: Ruddy (GK); Hoever, Moulden, Boly, Dendoncker, Cundle
BOOKINGS: Moutinho (9)
COACH: Bruno Lage 6
REFEREE: Graham Scott 7
MAN OF THE MATCH: Conor Gallagher (Crystal Palace)
VENUE: Selhurst Park
Gallagher is making quite the theme of scoring, this being his fourth of the season to go with two assists – more goal involvements than any other Palace player.
The only grumble Palace fans will have is that, if Gallagher continues to perform like this, are they going to fall in love with a loan player who is destined for bigger and better?
For now they can dream, and tempting him away from the champions of Europe permanently can wait for another day.
This was a scrappy game that could’ve gone either way, but Palace were the better side. After a non-event first half, Patrick Vieira’s side attacked with intent and speed.
And perhaps the French manager’s biggest legacy of his first 11 matches in a Premier League dugout is that Palace are no longer a one-man band too reliant on Wilfried Zaha.
Now they have Gallagher, a constant menace, and also Odsonne Edouard who was excellent throughout. And it’s worth noting Eberechi Eze is nearly fit after a lengthy injury, and summer signing Michael Olise is going to get better and better.
It bodes well for Vieira. This wasn’t a perfect performance but it is another big three points and takes them to six matches unbeaten in the League.
It was a game settled on small margins that could’ve gone either way and perhaps last season they would not have won.
Last year, the fixture was a battle between two pragmatic managers, Roy Hodgson and Nuno Espirito Santo.
Despite a figure of well over 400 games managed between them, their defensive tactics made for two dull encounters.
Now it’s a game between two up-and-coming, forward-thinking coaches who, despite just 20 Premier League matches between them, play exciting and attacking football.
Wilfried Zaha (centre right) celebrates breaking the deadlock for Crystal Palace
Zaha was slipped through before finishing neatly past Jose Sa in the Wolves net
The Palace talisman’s effort was initially ruled out for offside before VAR checked the goal
So what a cracker it promised to be. Vieira’s Palace, buoyed after a win at the champions last weekend, and Wolves of Bruno Lage who played Everton off the park in a Monday Night Football victory.
Sadly, it was anything but. The teams had one shot apiece in the first half and neither of those were chances of note.
Indeed, the highlight of the opening half an hour or so was watching Palace goalkeeper Vicente Guaita try to keep warm. A dance routine that was reminiscent of a Joe Wicks home workout class.
At one point, he had a second ball on the pitch, bouncing it up and down while play was ongoing at the other end. The Spaniard was surely guilty of at least one rule of the game but it paints a picture of the first-half bore-fest.
Guaita finally had some goalkeeping work to do on 40 minutes, as Joao Moutinho fizzed in a venomous free-kick, though Raul Jimenez’s header was tame and straight at the goalkeeper.
The decision was overturned by VAR, sparking scenes of celebration on and off the pitch
Maybe the defenders of both sides are due some praise, though, in particular two English defenders – one for either team – who are getting better by the week.
For Palace, Marc Guehi kept Jimenez largely quiet. He was a summer buy from Chelsea after a stellar loan spell at Championship play-off finalists Swansea last term.
Wolves’ Max Kilman took a polar opposite route to the Premier League to Guehi. Instead of Chelsea, he came from fifth-tier Maidenhead United. If he continues to progress as he is, Conor Coady might not be the only Wolves defender in the England squad.
In relative terms, the game sparked into life in the second half, with Palace attacking with more pace and purpose. Edouard switched flanks to the left-hand side and was a constant menace, while poor finishing let down Christian Benteke with a handful of half-chances.
Zaha twice appealed for a penalty early in the half. Both times he performed an array of tricks and threatened to shoot, but he was twice stopped by the imperious Kilman with perfectly-timed, lunging tackles.
Minutes later Zaha had the ball in the net, slotting past Jose Sa after a deft through ball from James McArthur. He was allowed so much space in the penalty area, it looked like a simple decision as the linesman’s flag went up for offside.
But maybe not. Replays showed Coady, on the opposite side of the box to Zaha, was slow to get out. Then after a minute or so of lines being drawn, VAR official John Brooks overturned the decision to award a goal.
Conor Gallagher (right) was then on hand to smash the ball into the net to double the lead
Gallagher leaps high into the air after doubling Palace’s lead in the 78th minute
Palace players celebrate in front of their jubliant supporters late on in their clash with Wolves
Lage responded with a double-substitution and Wolves improved and were awarded a penalty minutes later as Rayan Ait-Nouri was brought down by McArthur.
But just like for their goal, Palace were dealt a huge favour from those sitting in a van at Stockley Park, the VAR adjudging the foul to be just outside of the box.
Moutinho’s free-kick was cleared and Palace counter-attacked, nearly getting a second as Edouard cut inside unleashed a powerful strike which was saved well by Sa.
But in their next meaningful attack, Palace got their second. Gallagher drove at the defence and manoeuvred himself a shooting position, before scoring with the help of a deflection.
From there, the game fell back into a boring midfield battle with nothing of note happening. Palace fans didn’t care a jot. They were supremely entertained by the dazzling talents of Gallagher et al.
Sign him up? Let’s see if they can afford him after another supreme display.