FA Women’s Premier League: Crystal Palace 7-0 Portsmouth
Palace Ladies secured a resounding victory against Portsmouth on Sunday, netting seven and keeping a clean sheet. However, the game at Beckenham Town was marred by a serious injury to Palace midfielder, Francesca Ali.
With the game very much won by half time, Palace were pushing on in the second when Ali was abruptly halted on a surging run that typifies her style, harshly fouled from behind. In an impact that was immediately obvious as serious, Ali was down and treated for some time before being stretchered off with a serious ankle injury.
The match itself had started more brightly for the visitors who put together some effective passing phases. Palace appeared to be slower out of the traps than usual, despite the rallying call that had been issued beforehand, one that challenged the players to push to the very end of the season and ensure that their hard work to date is not undermined.
The Eagles did eventually start to find their usual tempo, albeit in spells. One of these spells saw Palace win a series of corners, that caused regular trouble for the Pompey goalkeeper and defence. It was from one of these, in the ninth minute that the ball ran loose to Rosie Paye who hammered home from six yards. The lead was doubled seven minutes later, when after a flowing move, Roschelle Shakes slid the ball home.
Palace were controlling much of the game but not as they would have liked. The Palace third was added by leading goal scorer, Gemma Bryan. Another good move was latched onto by the striker, who was initially thwarted by the Pompey keeper who rushed out to challenge Bryan. Paines was unable to retain the ball and Bryan coolly settled, positioned herself and fired home in the second minute of injury time at the end of the first half. Palace were not quite done for the first period and sought to maximise the stunned Portsmouth team. It was from another corner, this time a short one, followed by cross to the back post that led to Paye heading home her second and a Palace fourth.
HALF TIME: PALACE 4-0 POMPEY
The second half started as the first had ended, with Palace seeking to pressure the visitors. This generated results when Bryan was set free by a pinpoint pass, with a somewhat inevitable outcome. With the ball calmly slotted under the approaching keeper, Bryan added her second and a Palace fifth.
It was ten minutes after the break that the injury to Ali occurred, as she dribbled and moved down the inside left channel. Replaced by Jade Davenport, Ali was warmly applauded by the Palace faithful who were all well aware of the huge contribution made by the diminutive midfield maestro.
Following a long delay, the game restarted and took a while to find any kind of the rhythm which was not helped by the addition of a number of substitutions by both teams.
To the credit of Portsmouth, they battled on and looked to damage the Palace clean sheet but were repelled by Yardley in the Palace goal. Despite their endeavour, it was Palace who added more goals. The sixth resulted from a good run and pass by Davenport and saw Eliie Bailes control and score from close range. The seventh and final goal was a bright moment on an afternoon affected by the Ali injury. Collecting a loose ball inside the box, young substitute Darcey Charlesworth steered the ball into the far corner to score her first goal for the senior team. The reaction to this goal perhaps typifies the team spirit in this Palace squad who, to a player, reacted with sheer joy and pride for the teenager. It is this spirit that is sure to make the recovery of Ali that much easier.
FULL TIME: Palace 7-0 Pompey
Speaking after the seven goal win, Palace manager Dean Davenport commented;
‘Firstly, we all wish Franny well. Seeing one of our own leaving in an ambulance is hard and the injury looks serious. Having said that, she is the sort of character that will bounce back stronger and we will do what we can to help with that.
As to the performance, we are happy. A bag full of goals, a clean sheet and three points is all we could ask for. I thought that in spells today we looked good. The first twenty minutes were not our best and Portsmouth looked good but football is strange. Last week we played superbly well for ninety minutes and came away with nothing and this week we flattered to deceive for that opening spell and came through it with two goals. However, we did kick on and settle into some good phases of play, using the ball well and being clinical when given the chance.
We asked the girls to play to the very end of the season, and they are delivering. With just the one game left which is at home to Cardiff on 14th May, we have one more task to complete and once that we will all be very much up for.”
Following the game, it was confirmed that Franny Ali had suffered a fractured tibia and dislocated ankle. Everyone connected with Palace Ladies would like to wish Fran the very best for a speedy recovery.
The final game of the season takes place on Sunday 14th May against Cardiff City Ladies. Kick off at Beckenham Town Football Club is 2pm. Follow the official Palace Ladies Twitter feed for news ahead of the game throughout the week.