The best players in the Premier League can kill a game with one touch. Eberechi Eze is making a sustained case for his place in that top tier. Modern Manchester City are rarely made to look foolish, but they may regret not following through on their rumoured interest in Palace’s forward, who made another decisive intervention against Wolves.
After a goal for each team, Palace sub Jean Philippe-Mateta helped on a Joel Ward hoof with his back. It landed with Eze, who managed to control it and simultaneously beat his man with a sublime flick of the heel. He then flashed it past Jose Sa. It was a moment of genius in what had been an uneven game for the England international.
His set-pieces had been especially ropey but he always carried a threat when given any hint of space. In his programme notes Palace chairman Steve Parish made a slightly sheepish argument that transfer window success for his club constitutes hanging onto their best players. That will not placate the growing constituency for whom player trading is more interesting than the actual sport, but his words were vindicated by Eze’s goal.
By contrast Wolves, so recently the most glamorous thing to happen to the Black Country since Slade, have had to sell most of their flashier assets. Now they are a team of grafters with the odd sprinkling of flair. They and Palace have been stalwarts of mid-table for the past seven Premier League seasons and much of this match fit that billing, two average sides butting against one another like particularly dopey goats.
Roy Hodgson was not impressed by Palace’s first half, despite congratulations after the game on how his side played. “I think you’re very kind to say it was an excellent performance, it certainly was an excellent result,” said Hodgson. “We’re becoming a bit more critical about ourselves.
“I wasn’t pleased with the performance [at half-time] and neither were the players. They weren’t playing like the people they are. Doucoure wasn’t Doucure, Lerma wasn’t Lerma, Eze wasn’t Eze. In the second half they became those players again.
“Sometimes you can play very well and come away with no points and everyone tells you you were unlucky today and played very well. If I’ve got to choose between that scenario I’d much rather have today’s performance and victory.”
Wolves were on top in the opening exchanges with Gary O’Neil smelling blood, waving with urgency in his technical area and shouting louder than any of his players. His team looked eager in the middle, Mario Lemina winning his battles, and Joao Gomes shrugging off opponents to race forward before his snatched finish let him down. Yet Palace played with a vague sense of superiority which bordered on complacency.