Crystal Palace 1-1 West Ham: Zaha cancels out Noble as McArthur has miss of the season contender

Hammers players celebrate Noble’s first half penalty at Selhurst
Hammers players celebrate Noble’s first half penalty at Selhurst

Crystal Palace and West Ham played out a frantic 1-1 draw at Selhurst Park but it was James McArthur’s second half miss that most fans will go home remembering.

With his side trailing the Scotsman somehow put the ball wide from a few yards out with just Lukas Fabianski to beat and Christian Benteke waiting for a tap-in. He was bailed out by Wilf Zaha shortly after and it was the least the Eagles deserved.

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Roy Hodgson welcomed back Zaha – the man who rescued a late point for the Eagles in this fixture last season – from his one-game suspension for being sent off at Southampton 10 days ago. His sarcastic clapping of the referee has earned him another game on top of that, postponed on appeal.

He replaced Jordan Ayew in the starting lineup while Martin Kelly came in for the injured James Tomkins at centre-back. West Ham, meanwhile, were unchanged from Monday’s draw against Liverpool.

The opening 20 minutes were all about the goalkeepers. Vicente Guaita – sporting Sergio Aguero style bleached silver hair – saved well from Ryan Fredericks and Robert Snodgrass while Lukas Fabianski brilliantly denied McArthur from close range.

Anderson was excellent all afternoon at Selhurst Park
Anderson was excellent all afternoon at Selhurst Park

Snodgrass, by the way, was booed by the home fans with every touch for a blatant dive that earned a penalty against Palace back in 2016 while playing for Hull. At least you can’t fault Eagles fans’ commitment to holding grudges.

Felipe Anderson was at the centre of everything the Hammers did going forward and laid a great chance on a plate for Javier Hernandez with the Mexican only denied by an excellent Mamadou Sakho block in the box when he looked certain to open the scoring.

Five minutes later West Ham were handed the perfect chance to go ahead when Guaita totally misjudged the bounce of a Declan Rice hooked through-ball and clattered Michail Antonio who nipped in and nodded the ball past him. A clear penalty and Mark Noble dispatched calmly into the bottom corner.

Fabianski then had to be at his very best to deny Christian Benteke with an excellent save down to his right as the big Belgian’s search for a first goal this season continued; a season hugely blighted with a serious knee injury that had kept him out since September.

Noble sticks away the penalty for West Aaaaaaaam
Noble sticks away the penalty for West Aaaaaaaam

Palace were having one of those days. A few too many passes going astray and they were on the end of some questionable refereeing decisions, not least Craig Pawson’s decision to book Aaron Wan-Bissaka for a trademark well-timed challenge on Snodgrass that replays showed he clearly got the ball first.

Pawson was booed off at half-time and back on again by the home fans which goes some way to showing what they thought of his performance, but their team’s wasn’t much better in the opening 45 minutes.

The second half started with McArthur’s horror miss. The midfielder broke the Hammers’ offside trap and with just Fabianski to beat and Benteke an easy square pass for a tap-in he someone chipped the ball wide from five yards out. Kelly then failed to put a routine header on target while Pawson went from bad to worse and missed a clear tug on Zaha’s shirt from Fredericks.

New loan signing Michy Batshuayi was introduced for Benteke with half an hour to go and instantly Palace looked livelier, while captain Luka Milivojevic was lucky to escape a second yellow card almost instantly for a late lunge on Noble as Pawson allowed play to go on when maybe he shouldn’t have.

The referee and his assistants continued to make some strange decisions, not least a free-kick for West Ham where the ball simply his Antonio in the face under zero pressure from Jeffrey Schlupp.

Batshuayi then let McArthur off the hook a little with his own terrible miss in front of the Holmesdale Road end having been played in by Patrick van Aanholt and played on by Fredericks; he failed to hit the target when it seemed easier to score.

“You’re not fit to referee” rung out from the home fans after another odd decision, but if Palace had converted their many second half chances the official’s poor display wouldn’t have mattered. That pressure, though, finally paid off for the home side with 15 minutes left.

Zaha weaved his way into the box, played a one-two with McArthur, and fired across goal where it took a wicked deflection off Issa Diop, over Fabianski and into the net. It wasn’t pretty but no-one from South London cared at that point. The momentum, at that point, was all with Palace.

Zaha celebrates ‘his’ equaliser for Palace
Zaha celebrates ‘his’ equaliser for Palace

Fan favourite Max Meyer replaced McArthur for the final 15 minutes, as Palace looked to turn the game completely on its head and grab all three points. He nearly had an instant impact, back-heeling a lovely one-two to Zaha whose curled effort was well saved by Fabianski.

It was all Palace for the final few minutes but they couldn’t find a way through the 10-men camped in West Ham’s box. It ended 1-1 a result which helps both sides edge slightly away from danger.

Oh and Pawson and Snodgrass were booed off at full-time as well, by the way.