Facing the ten players of Tottenham, following the sending off of Japhet Tanganga, Crystal Palace had the numerical advantage as they looked to take the three points at Selhurst Park. The deadlock, eventually broken with a spot-kick, was a tidy finish from Wilfried Zaha, but how did they get there? Here is Route to Goal #3, Wilfried Zaha.
As Patrick Vieira continues to install his preferred 4-3-3 formation as the season progress, the inclusion of Conor Gallagher has taken it to another level. Having been ineligible for the Chelsea game due to loan rules, it took the woodwork to deny him a debut goal against Brentford. Improving on that start, as we looked at in Route to Goal #1 and #2, his brace against West Ham showed his ability to get into the area with late runs.
Examining the base formations Crystal Palace and Tottenham deployed, Christian Benteke tends to drift left towards Wilfried Zaha throughout matches. Benteke gets most of his touches in that area to link up with Zaha, the space is then created for Conor Gallagher to get towards the box, often becoming a secondary forward.
Putting his defensive work rate opposite James McArthur aside, his drive and stamina to get forward gives Palace an additional weapon as they advance. Presumably given the freedom to do so, Conor Gallagher repeatedly attacks the "channel" in-between the full-back and the central defender when facing a back four, often now referred to as the "half-space."
Zaha & Gallagher Combine
Wilfried Zaha and Conor Gallagher are averaging a "goal-creating action" every 90 minutes, registered when a player is involved in the final two actions leading to scoring. Such has been their influence in the last two matches.
Following a Tottenham clearance from a corner, Tyrick Mitchell shows excellent recovery speed to start another attacking phase for Palace as he eludes Dele Alli. A quick exchange of passes allows Wilfried Zaha to get free on the right-wing before going inside to Gallagher and continuing his run.
Gallagher is now in possession and smartly returns the ball out wide to Zaha. Here is where he can show off his ability to run in the channel. Finding the gap between Kane and Davies, his surging run leaves him wide open for a return pass from Zaha. The resulting cross, handled by Ben Davies, wins Palace the penalty and their best chance to break the deadlock.
Zaha Keeps His Cool
Luka Milivojević has been a very successful penalty taker for Crystal Palace, putting away 22 of his 25 attempts in the Premier League. That 88% conversion rate is above average and on par with Frank Lampard's 86%. However, despite immediately taking over other set-piece duties after he subbed in, Patrick Vieira's taker was Wilfried Zaha.
With less footage of Zaha as a penalty taker compared to Milivojević, Lloris guesses the wrong way as Zaha calmly passes it home to open the scoring.