Match report – Zaha bags late point for Palace, pile pressure on West Ham

Slaven Bilic’s do-or-die week ended in disappointment as Wilfried Zaha’s 97th-minute equaliser earned Crystal Palace a 2-2 draw at home to West Ham.

Bilic had admitted this was another crunch few days for his future as manager and the visitors looked on course for a morale-boosting win when Javier Hernandez and Andre Ayew put them two up at Selhurst Park.

But Palace came roaring back in the second half as Luka Milivojevic’s penalty and a stoppage-time strike from Zaha earned Roy Hodgson’s men a dramatic point.

Crystal Palace v West Ham
Crystal Palace v West Ham (PA graphic)

West Ham remain 16th in the Premier League table and Palace stay bottom but while Bilic trundled off at the end shaking his head, Hodgson departed to raucous applause.

It remains to be seen whether this result is enough for Bilic to save his job but overall this has been a positive week for his side, who had staged their own fightback to beat Tottenham in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday.

They could hardly argue a draw was not fair result, either, particularly as Joe Hart was forced to make a string of excellent stops, the best a stunning fingertip save to push James Tomkins’ header onto the bar late on.

Slaven Bilic
Slaven Bilic is under pressure at West Ham (John Walton/PA)

Ayew and Angelo Ogbonna were both rewarded with starts after their goalscoring contributions against Spurs and Mark Noble also came into midfield.

Mamadou Sakho was a surprise absentee for Palace, the defender not even included in the squad, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek replaced James McArthur.

The first 29 minutes were entirely forgettable but, just before the half-hour mark, the contest came alive as Palace were denied a penalty at one end before West Ham scored at the other.

Zaha went down easily but Jose Fonte did clip the forward’s leg with a clumsy challenge and he was lucky to see referee Robert Madley wave away the appeals.

Boos from the Palace supporters grew louder when two minutes later Hernandez was peeling away in celebration. Ayew played the ball wide to Aaron Cresswell, whose cutback was perfectly placed for the striker to poke home.

Palace should have equalised soon after as Hart made a smart double save, first palming away Tomkins’ header and then stopping Jeffrey Schlupp’s close-range volley after Fonte had made a mess of the clearance.

Instead, a frantic 15 minutes ended with West Ham extending their lead and it was Ayew who was involved again. Milivojevic over-ran the ball in midfield and while Ayew had three against three he went alone, smashing the ball past Julian Speroni and into the top corner.

It was a superb finish but the scoreline flattered the visitors and it was little surprise when Palace pulled one back five minutes after the restart. Ogbonna knocked Andros Townsend over in the box and this time Madley did award the spot-kick, which Milivojevic duly converted.

Palace now had their tails up and they almost pulled level moments later when Yohan Cabaye’s bending effort from distance cannoned back off the post.

West Ham, however, looked to have weathered the storm and it was not until the last 10 minutes that Palace threatened again, with Cabaye extending Hart with another curling shot, this time from a free-kick.

Hart saved his best for the end, keeping out another Tomkins header with a brilliant tip onto the crossbar. It seemed that would be enough to earn West Ham the points but Zaha had other ideas.

He turned Cheikhou Kouyate one way and then the other, weaving back into the box before rifling a shot inside the far post. Bilic could hardly wait to get down the tunnel.

Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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