Eberechi Eze steals the show against Sheffield United as Crystal Palace guarantee safety

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·17-min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Eberechi Eze scored a magical solo goal against Sheffield United late on - AFP
Eberechi Eze scored a magical solo goal against Sheffield United late on - AFP
To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

Christian Benteke’s future remains unresolved but Crystal Palace’s other goal-scorer here, Eberechi Eze, is a man that the club will want to hold on to.

Benteke’s contract is running down and he managed to score after just 67 seconds but missed other chances, having a sitter of a header kept out by Aaron Ramsdale, who impressed again in Sheffield United’s goal.

Thankfully for Palace, tricky and troublesome Eze finished off Sheffield United with Palace’s second goal late on.

Eze had scored a solo effort, in January’s 2-0 win against these opponents, and the England Under-21 midfielder tormented them again here. He also teed up Benteke’s early goal after a piercing run and assist.

“It’s quite an investment from our club,” said Roy Hodgson, Palace’s manager, of Eze, who joined for a fee that could rise to £20m from QPR last summer. “I’m pretty sure the club will work hard to make sure any interest is warded off.

“We know that’s the quality he possesses. We’re not going to criticise him if he tries things and it doesn’t come off.”

Whether Hodgson himself will be there to continue the player’s development is another unresolved area.

Hodgson has still not confirmed what his “next step” will be after this season finishes, regarding his future.

This result, though, made Palace mathematically safe for the season, yet again, although, realistically, that has been the case for some time.

Hodgson, their manager - a regular proponent of cautious attempted solidity at Palace - said he would encourage his players to be more bold and this was a positive showing, sometimes looking slick in the rain, and could have been a heavier margin.

The former England manager admitted he has been “not worried about it at any stage” recently about going down, but added “it’s nice to get over that line, over the 40-point mark as well”.

Palace had lost three in a row going into this fixture - against Chelsea, Leicester and Manchester City - but this was a different ball game and saw them grasp a rare away clean sheet.

Sheffield United, meanwhile, have now lost 13 times at Bramall Lane this season - and, if they do it again, they will equal the Premier League record of 14, created by Sunderland and Huddersfield Town.

The Yorkshire club looked like the relegated club that they are, mustering no shots on target, something that they have not been accustomed to doing, despite having such a bad season.

Palace’s cutting start came when Sheffield United’s slack defending was exposed, giving Benteke his chance. The striker’s shot struck defender George Baldock - which wrong-footed Ramsdale - and the ball bobbled in.

Christian Benteke celebrates with Eze after making it 1-0 to Crystal Palace early on - AFP
Christian Benteke celebrates with Eze after making it 1-0 to Crystal Palace early on - AFP

On his 100th Premier League start for the club, Benteke had a chance here to impress any potential suitors.

The 30-year-old has found some goal-scoring form in recent months after a disappointing few seasons, in contrast to the more positive start he made to life as a Palace player five years ago. Missing big chances has been too big a problem though.

On the whole, Palace’s attacking unit looked liberated here though. After the quick-fire start, Hodgson’s attacking players kept advancing and the home side looked passive in the early stages.

Joel Ward, Palace’s right back, made his presence felt by clattering into John Fleck but only received a yellow card, with the incident having been reviewed by Var.

Benteke blew his chance to make it 2-0 when Jeffrey Schlupp floated over a cross and the header was directed at Ramsdale who alertly saved - and Eze also shot just wide before the break.

Sheffield United had lacked any threat whatsoever in a tepid first-half showing by them, but there was some more fight in the early stages of the second period.

Sander Berge, back in the Sheffield United starting line-up, could have won a penalty early in the second half but stayed on his feet and the chance came to nothing, after he was challenged by promising Tyrick Mitchell, who had a rare shaky moment.

John Egan also fluffed a chance to equalise with wayward finishing.

Benteke then dispossessed Fleck to create is next opening, which led to him shooting against a post. The Palace striker muscled his way through and fired an angled effort that Ramsdale touched on to a post.

Chances at either end came, in the latter stages. Sheffield United saw one missed by Daniel Jebbison, 17, on his debut as he headed wide from Ben Osborn’s cross. Palace also came close again when Zaha skilfully teed up Jordan Ayew, whose eight-yard shot was blocked.

The issue was settled though by Eze.

Paul Heckingbottom, Sheffield United’s interim manager, said: “The fact we conceded so early knocked the stuffing out of us. The way Palace play, and how good they are on the counter, it set the game up perfectly for them.”

Hodgson tight-lipped over future

Roy Hodgson has remained tight-lipped about his future beyond this season but this game provided a glimpse of what Crystal Palace’s future could look like.

This was a match in which the players were tasked with being bold in attack. There was a goal after 67 seconds and a late, solo effort to finish - and there should have been more in between.

Historically, it’s the type of footballing approach that those wearing the red and blue have been associated with. It is the type of direction that stable Palace, having secured another survival with attempted solidity, need to be going.

Eberechi Eze, their only costly signing for this season at £15m plus add-ons, was the catalyst.

Hodgson himself inherited many of his players and, next season, rejuvenation could revitalise the club.

“The club has wanted to invest more, the club has wanted to help out,” said Hodgson after this win. “But we haven’t been able to do that so far. Let’s hope now that’ll come about and some of these guys will get a little bit of a boost, if you like, from one or two new faces, just like we had a boost with Eberechi Eze.”

Aaron Ramsdale, Sheffield United’s goalkeeper, was key to keeping the score down for the home side.

Paul Heckingbottom, interim manager, said: “He has come through that tough spell at the start of the season, which is a big plus and shows a lot about his character.

“He made a fantastic save from Benteke’s header and there were other moments in the game.”

The identity of who will be in charge of Sheffield United in the long run is another topic for debate.

A style change at their club could be welcome too. The more aesthetically-pleasing approach that Slavisa Jokanovic has shown, in the past as a manager, would certainly be a considerable departure from the current era.

Heckingbottom argued that there will not be a hangover from this, when the club starts next season, saying: “It is totally different teams you play against, totally different league, totally different set-up.”

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

03:55 PM

Full time, Sheffield United 0 Crystal Palace 2

Palace fully deserve their victory, which makes them mathematically safe in the Premier League.

Sheffield United have been just the wrong mix of defensively muddled and toothless in attack this season. They can point to two unlucky deflections here but, ultimately, they didn't do anywhere near enough to get a draw let alone win.

03:50 PM

GOAL! Sheffield United 0 Crystal Palace 2

That is an absolutely lovely goal from Eze, albeit via a heavy deflection.

Rounding a clumsy challenge from Lundstram out wide, he gallops forwards and bewilders Sheffield United's defenders with his movement. His finish finds the far corner, ricocheting in.

03:43 PM

85 mins

Milivojevic lofts a corner delivery to Cahill, who blasts a header straight at Ramsdale.

03:41 PM

82 mins

Eze gives away a free kick with a foul on Jebbison, which allows Norwood to send a shot whistling just wide of Guaita's goalframe.

03:40 PM

81 mins

Ramsdale makes another excellent save to keep it at 1-0, denying Ayew.

03:39 PM

A third change for Sheffield United

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

03:38 PM

79 mins

Benteke wins the ball on the flank and frees Zaha, who slaloms into the box only to be dispossessed by Bryan.

03:36 PM

76 mins

Palace could so easily be 2-0 up.

Mitchell wins the ball in the box and moves it on to Zaha, who nips past Basham and sets up Jordan Ayew. He looks almost certain to score, but his shot is blocked by Stevens.

03:33 PM

Ayew on, Townsend off

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

03:32 PM

73 mins

Townsend and Benteke combine nicely before the former curls an effort inches wide.

03:30 PM

Hodgson makes his first substitution

... with Schlupp making way for Jairo Riedewald.

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

03:28 PM

69 mins

Baldock gets behind Mitchell and cuts back for Ben Osborn, who whips a cross to teenage substitute Daniel Jebbison.

The delivery is a little high and Jebbison can only direct his header over the crossbar.

03:24 PM

65 mins

Sheffield United get a corner which falls for Basham, who lashes a shot into the side netting.

03:23 PM

Heckingbottom makes another change

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

03:22 PM

63 mins

Townsend turns McGoldrick inside out on the flank and finds Eze, but after a long dribble he runs out of time and space.

03:20 PM

60 mins

Eze finds an ocean of space between the lines, glides towards goal and plays in Benteke.

Bryan does well to get back and make a last-gasp block just as he gets his shot away.

03:18 PM

Berge off, Osborn on

Given that Berge is still working his way back from injury, it's a sensible substitution.

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

03:16 PM

57 mins

Benteke hits the post!

Having caught Fleck dawdling on the ball, he bursts past Bryan and works himself an opening in the box. His shot has Ramsdale beaten, but not the woodwork.

03:15 PM

56 mins

Sheffield United get forwards through Baldock and menace Vicente Guaita's goal, but the attack fizzles out when Basham accidentally stands on Eze's foot.

03:13 PM

54 mins

Ramsdale drops a catch at a corner and Cahill has a swing at the ball, but in the ensuing chaos Palace give away a free kick.

03:12 PM

53 mins

It's Berge's turn to get lucky after he flicks Eze in the chest with a raised boot as the Palace youngster gets away from him, but avoids a booking.

03:10 PM

50 mins

Sheffield United have a good chance to equalise when the ball falls to Egan in the area, but he fluffs his attempted finish.

03:09 PM

47 mins

Tyrick Mitchell gets a bit lucky with a challenge on Berge in the box.

Mitchell catches him as he bears down on goal, but the Norwegian midfielder stays on his feet and referee Simon Hooper overlooks it.

03:04 PM

Teams are back out

... and we're about to get back underway.

Can Palace extend their lead? Or will Sheffield United turn things around? Let's find out.

02:52 PM

Half time, Sheffield United 0 Crystal Palace 1

Palace were well on top for most of the first half, but only have one goal to show for their dominance.

Sheffield United are still in this, just about, but they will need to chase the game in the second half. That could leave them vulnerable to the pace of Eze and Zaha on the counter.

Could Wilfried Zaha be the difference in the second half? - AP
Could Wilfried Zaha be the difference in the second half? - AP

02:47 PM

45 mins

Eze plays in Zaha who twists and turns in the box, but John Egan gets a block in before he can test Ramsdale.

02:47 PM

44 mins

So close!

Eze dispossesses Chris Basham, shimmies into the box and drills a shot just wide of the far post. Palace are looking to land a knockout blow here.

02:45 PM

40 mins

Wilfried Zaha sets alarm bells ringing as he sprints forwards and combines with Eze, but a misplaced pass kills their momentum.

Moments later, Schlupp marauds forwards in much the same way and picks out Benteke with a fantastic cross. Ramsdale pulls off an even better save to keep out the Belgian striker's low header.

02:40 PM

37 mins

Eze has been the standout player for Palace so far, with Sheffield United struggling to contain him.

He bursts into space in midfield once more, with Oliver Norwood earning himself a caution after trying to scythe him down.

02:38 PM

35 mins

Berge gets a low cross into the box which is deflected off Gary Cahill and briefly looks like it might tumble into the back of the net.

Luckily for Palace, it goes out for a corner which comes to nothing.

02:34 PM

29 mins

Joel Ward gets the first booking of the game after flying in on John Fleck.

VAR has a quick check, but sees no reason to hand down a more severe punishment.

02:31 PM

25 mins

Milivojevic has a bang from distance, with a lucky deflection steering the ball into Ramsdale's outstretched gloves.

Sheffield United counter attack, but the move ends with Oliver Burke sending a header off target.

02:30 PM

23 mins

Kean Bryan is pinged for a robust tackle on Eze about 25 yards from goal.

From the resulting free kick, Milivojevic plays it short to Eze who sees his shot blocked. Palace win another free kick, Townsend steps up and sends a shot just wide via a deflection off the wall.

Kean Bryan catches Eberechi Eze - PA
Kean Bryan catches Eberechi Eze - PA

02:20 PM

18 mins

Sheffield United have their first half chance of the match, David McGoldrick glancing a header well wide.

02:18 PM

15 mins

Luka Milivojevic whips a ball into the box and Benteke takes five touches before lashing a shot on target.

Ramsdale makes the save, but Sheffield United need to be much, much quicker to react to the danger.

02:16 PM

10 mins

Sheffield United have settled things down a bit, but Palace look much sharper.

Townsend presses Enda Stevens into a mistake on the flank, with the visitors looking to unsettle their hosts and win the ball high up the pitch.

02:06 PM

3 mins

Townsend has an effort from distance, but slips as he shoots. Ramsdale sweeps it up easily.

02:04 PM

GOAL! Sheffield United 0 Crystal Palace 1

Well, that was quick.

Eberechi Eze dances through Sheffield United's midfield and tees up Benteke in the area. Despite a half-hearted block from George Baldock, his shot loops up over Aaron Ramsdale and in.

02:03 PM

Berge making his first start since December

... which is good to see after his struggles with injury.

Widely linked with a summer transfer, this may be one of the last times he pulls on a Sheffield United shirt.

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

01:59 PM

It's a wet, grey afternoon in Sheffield

... and kick off is imminent. Let's hope the football is better than the weather.

01:51 PM

Heckingbottom urges Sheffield United to play for pride

Asked what he wants to see from Sheffield United between now and the end of the season, interim boss Paul Heckingbottom says: "Four games to go, our last four games in the Premier League, that's all there is to say about it.

"We worked so hard to get here, we've got to make the most of it."

01:09 PM

Crystal Palace team news

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

01:08 PM

Sheffield United team news

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

01:03 PM

Hodgson calls on Palace to be 'much bolder'

After a miserable outing against Tottenham last weekend, Sheffield United have four games left to start laying the foundations for next season.

Downed by a Gareth Bale hat-trick in north London and a late goal for Son Heung-min, the South Yorkshire side will have to hope that they can give a better showing on home soil this afternoon. With only five wins to their name in the Premier League, they could do with some morale-boosting results ahead of their return to the Championship.

Crystal Palace, meanwhile, are also in need of a confidence-building victory. They may be in a relatively privileged position compared to their rock-bottom opponents, but with one win in eight they are in alarming form.

With his contract coming to an end this summer, Roy Hodgson's future is up in the air and the team seems to be drifting towards the end of the season. Almost half of the squad are coming to the end of their current deals including long-serving players like Andros Townsend, Christian Benteke, Jeffrey Schlupp and Patrick van Aanholt, meaning Palace face a potentially difficult transition period.

Palace should at least have Wilfried Zaha available to face Sheffield United, after he suffered what Hodgson called a "minor" strain ahead of Palace's 2-0 defeat to Manchester City last Saturday. He still managed to play the full match and doesn't appear to have felt any adverse effects.

Asked about Palace's form ahead of the trip to Bramall Lane, Hodgson pointed out that they have faced some tough opponents recently including City, Chelsea and Leicester. "We have had a spell of very, very difficult fixtures where certainly our defending has been put to the test and we've had to work very hard to defend as a team.

"It's impacted on our attacking ability and this will – now in particular, starting with this game but even the others – be a time for our midfielders, forwards and even our full-backs to show how good they are in an attacking sense.

"We will have to be bold, much bolder than we have been in an attacking sense because we have asked so much of all our outfield players to try and keep our compact shape.

"We have to accept now that maybe that compact shape won't be quite as good as it has been, because we will take a few more risks going forward and encourage players to take a few more risks.

"I think we have the luxury of doing that. We don't want to concede goals, we want clean sheets like every other team but we are aware that is a delicate balance and I am hoping we will take the game to Sheffield United."

Roy Hodgson has suggested Crystal Palace will take a more expansive approach against Sheffield United - REUTERS
Roy Hodgson has suggested Crystal Palace will take a more expansive approach against Sheffield United - REUTERS
Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting