Stuart O’Keefe, Crystal Palace – 92nd Minute
It’s not often a promoted team shows that their scoring ability is one of their best qualities. This year, Crystal Palace is proving just that. After a great goal from Maruoane Chamakh last week, and a solid three goal win against Sunderland this week, the Eagles are putting balls in the net at a solid rate. This week, it was substitute Stuart O’Keefe that scored one of the best of the week, capping a solid passing move with a sublime finish.
Here’s the buildup. We see Dean Moxey put an over-the-top ball to Jason Puncheon down the left hand side, that results in a throw in. Moxey, here has the options to throw the ball into the middle, or play the corner. With just a few minutes in the match remaining, the obvious choice is to play the ball down into the corner to Aaron Wilbraham. An easy, smart, move for Crystal Palace who wouldn’t want to risk dropping points at home in extra time.
Instead, the header is won by Sunderland and moved out to 19-year old Jonathan Williams. As Sunderland need the ball back, they are pressuring, and a result Williams gets the ball back out to Moxey quickly. Moxey, here, reads the play perfectly. It’s obvious Sunderland need to pressure the ball, but they have dropped too far into a space to win it. Five defenders, half of their team (as they are on ten men at this point) are stuck in the triangle drawn for only two attackers. They’re too condensed to produce a solid counter attack, as well. Moxey sees his best option is the wide open Puncheon who he found earlier on in the play. Puncheon can easily turn and take a shot here, or continue to develop an attack.
Here are three screenshots, in succession, of Puncheon’s play. He receives the pass from Moxey and is immediately closed down. So, he fakes a left-footed shot, and dribbles right. Typically, one would shoot or pass the ball off. But, Puncheon Sunderland’s defense and killing more of the game clock. Let’s not forget about his positioning this entire play, either – coming to meet the ball on multiple occasions. This is a fantastic example of intelligent attacking.
:et’s look at how this goal gets scored, now. Puncheon eventually gets run down by David Vaughn and is forced to give the ball up. Stuart O’Keefe, the goalscorer, finally comes into the picture here. He has made his run down the right, expecting a through ball. Instead, the tackle forces him to change direction. Luckily, his run has forced his defender on his back foot, allowing for space and time to make a change.
We see that O’Keefe makes the change here after a botched challenge by Vaughn. What does that leave? Plenty of space, time, and opportunity for a top-corner finish from the Palace winger. And he does just that, capping a great goal and great win for the Premier League newcomers.
I didn’t expect to be writing many breakdowns of Crystal Palace when I started this blog. Unlike other top teams, they simply don’t possess the talent that often make great goals. Instead, we are seeing just that. Their attackers are reading defenses well, and positioning themselves correctly. Add in a few fantastic finishes like this one by O’Keefe and last week’s from Chamakh, and we have a team not ready to go back home any time soon.