Dogged display earns Bluebirds a point on the road
Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson says his team’s wastefulness in front of goal has cost them a “lot more points” after a frustrating draw against Cardiff.
Palace peppered the Cardiff goal with 31 shots, their highest number since 2003-04, with Andros Townsend flicking a shot against the crossbar and Luka Milivojevic hitting the post for the hosts.
But their failure to build upon their clinical victory at Manchester City four days ago left Hodgson to rue the quality of their finishing.
“I’m pleased about the number of chances we created but I’m not pleased we didn’t convert one of them,” he said.
“It’s something we’ve had to deal with for a large part of the season. If we had more fortune in front of goal then we would be nowhere near where we are, we’d have assembled a lot more points.
“Football is about scoring goals and taking those semi opportunities, which good goal scorers find a way of scoring.”
Cardiff’s ability to survive – particularly in the second period, when 23 shots rained in on Neil Etheridge’s goal – ensured they collected their second point of the season on their travels to edge clear of the Premier League relegation zone.
Still smarting from their 5-1 defeat to Manchester United, the visitors delivered the sort of performance that Neil Warnock sides are renowned for – doggedly defending and attempting to counter when possible.
While the Bluebirds had limited goal-scoring opportunities, they were denied the ultimate smash-and-grab victory by Palace keeper Vicente Guaita, who superbly saved from Kadeem Harris at point blank range.
The result leaves Palace in 14th place on 19 points while Cardiff remain 17th on 15 points.
Wilf Zaha and Luka Milivojevic again played the role of main protagonists for Palace who controlled proceedings without delivering the precise finishing that upset Pep Guardiola’s side.
The 27-year-old Serbian international has played more passes than any Palace player in seven of their last 10 outings but is also adept at altering his game to suit the circumstances.
And when Townsend was fouled by Cardiff midfielder Victor Camarasa he almost added to his tally of three goals in his last five outings. But he was unfortunate to see a perfectly executed free-kick from 20-yards cannon back off the left post.
Zaha was another to impress for Palace, conjuring chances and moments of excitement with deft flicks, like the one that set-up Townsend early on, and his close control bamboozled the visiting defenders throughout.
The Ivory Coast forward was also superbly denied by Cardiff goalkeeper Neil Etheridge late on, who tipped his fizzing drive away for a corner.
And while he could not deliver a knock-out blow for Palace, the inventiveness he displayed to provide Max Meyer and Connor Wickham with gilt-edged chances warranted more than the errant finishing that followed.
Cardiff arrived at Selhurst Park after averaging just 27% possession and three shots on target in their previous two defeats.
And put simply, in those 5-1 and 3-2 reverses they were guilty of turning over possession far too easily and too close to their own goal to gain positive results.
That trend continued into the first 25 minutes of this encounter before they found their feet with Junior Hoilett registering the Bluebirds’ first shot on target after a move down the right.
Hoilett’s touch then deserted him at the start of the second period as a promising opening concluded with a tame finish from a tight angle.
Neil Warnock pleased to extend unbeaten run at Selhurst Park
While Harris could have won the game for Cardiff the result was largely constructed on their collective effort at the other end of the pitch.
“It would be the biggest achievement of my career by an absolute mile [to keep Cardiff up],” Warnock said.
“We’re looking at bringing players in [in January] but it’s not simple. We’re not going to spend stupid money. One or two have done that in the past and it’s not been the right thing for the club.”
Aside from reinforcements, Warnock will also be reliant on his squad’s ability to bounce back from damaging moments – a quality exemplified by defenders Sean Morrison and Sol Bamba.
The duo made just seven clearances in a shambolic display against United, but here they combined to make 24 as Cardiff players routinely obstructed the path towards their goal.
Fourteen Palace shots were blocked and when the Cardiff defence was breached, a combination of exerting enough pressure on the attackers and Etheridge’s competency prevented Palace from breaking the deadlock.
Gunnarsson ( 91 mins for Camarasa)
Arter (92 mins for Hoilett)