Well, we all enjoyed that win so much more after what was a full on battling performance by the Eagles to secure back to back Premier League wins. Here’s what we learnt from the brilliant victory.
1. Oh how that felt like a proper Palace performance. There’s something that brings out the best in this club, in this team, when its back is against the wall with a sense of injustice flowing through every vessel of its being. Having said that, it is difficult to remember a time when Palace channelled that frustration as well as they did against Bournemouth; in similar situations in recent times the Eagles might have defended valiantly only to concede a winner late on. But not on Tuesday. On Tuesday they rewrote the script. The sheer chaos that ensued after Jeffrey Schlupp unexpectedly fired Palace into the lead was a picture of anxiety transformed into ecstasy; the tension of the previous 75 minutes exorcised from every extended limb in the Holmesdale. Arguably not since Watford at home during the 2017/18 season – when Palace turned the game on its head late on – has Selhurst Park seen celebrations like that. It is nights like this that make you remember why you chose Palace in the first place.
2. The man, the myth, the enigma. The Jeff Schlupp conundrum has always polarised opinion among the Palace fanbase, but the Ghanaian was perhaps the most appropriate goal scorer in a game where the Eagles were trying to defy the odds. Part of the problem Palace fans have with Schlupp is that he is seen as an obstacle to a more creative alternative, a reason for the likes of Max Meyer and Victor Camarasa not getting into the side. What Schlupp lacks in creativity, though, he more than makes up for in endeavour. Filling in at left back might not be the most appealing proposition for a player who has come to be used in midfield, but Schlupp moulded the position in his own image, not only defending with discipline when required, but also posing one of Palace’s biggest attacking threats in the second half. There wasn’t actually anything overly sensational about his goal – he ran into the space created by the two in front of him and took advantage of Bournemouth standing off before hitting the ball as hard as he could – but it was perfect for the occasion. For all the stick he sometimes gets, Schlupp deserved his moment to be the hero.
3. It almost feels wrong to single out players from a performance that was so much about the collective, but it would be remiss of me not to mention Jordan Ayew. As stoic as Palace’s display was, it was only that because of Ayew’s effort to defend from the front. Even as the game wore on and his energy reserves emptied, Ayew chased lost causes and did his best to hurry Bournemouth’s players into making mistakes. It was quite something in the second half to watch Ayew and Wilfried Zaha take it in turns, like sprinters in a never-ending relay, to unselfishly carry the ball deep into Bournemouth territory while the other slowed to catch his breath. It was from one of those Ayew bursts – which often felt like they were more in blind hope than anything else – that the ball eventually found its way to Schlupp for the winner. There have been calls in recent weeks for Christian Benteke to be given a start, but as long as Ayew continues to put in performances like that, the Belgian might just have to continue to wait his turn.
4. Palace played over an hour of that game with a back four made up of two midfielders and a centre back at right back, making the clean sheet all the more scarcely believable. What it does say, though, is a lot about the attitude of those players who were asked to fill in, of Schlupp, of Martin Kelly and of Cheikhou Kouyate. James Tomkins was also mature and authoritative in all that he did, but Kouyate and Kelly were particularly impressive in roles so unfamiliar to them. What was perhaps best about the back four that ended the game, however, was that each of them at some point or other have been cast away from a so-called bigger or more successful club, either deemed not good enough or surplus to requirements. At the end of Tuesday night they sat fifth in the Premier League.
5. Every player who contributed to Tuesday’s win is worthy of praise, but some credit must also go to Roy Hodgson. The 72-year-old is sometimes criticised for his attritional style of football – especially at home – but Palace would not have won that game without the organisational skills that he has drilled into them. It is testament to him that even after Palace went down to ten men they never looked in any real danger of being broken down by Bournemouth. The away side might have had more possession and spent more time in their hosts’ half, but it was still the Eagles who looked more likely to score on their rare forays into Bournemouth territory. Injuries and Mamadou Sakho’s suspension will no doubt now present Hodgson with some headaches, but the last two performances – packed with skill, desire and tenacity – have set a precedent, and need to be replicated against Watford and Brighton.