Alan Pardew enjoyed a fairytale return to Selhurst Park, overseeing a spirited comeback against Tottenham as Crystal Palace secured a first Premier League win since November.
A lot has changed since the Eagles last stepped out in south London, with a miserable run of results leading to Neil Warnock’s sacking and the club’s former midfielder heading south after four turbulent years at Newcastle.
Little looked to have altered on the field, though, when Harry Kane put Tottenham ahead, yet Pardew’s men rallied impressively and triumphed 2-1 thanks to Dwight Gayle’s penalty and a low Jason Puncheon strike.
It was a timely end to the Eagles’ eight-match wait for a top-flight victory, stretching back to November 23, and propelled the south London side out of the bottom three.
The match did not come alight until after half-time, with many of the first-half talking points stemming from referee Anthony Taylor’s decisions – a trend which continued after the restart.
Kane’s 18th goal in all competitions this season saw Spurs take the lead shortly half-time, only for Gayle to level after Benjamin Stambouli was adjudged to have brought down Joe Ledley in the box.
The visitors were infuriated by the decision – disappointment compounded with 10 minutes remaining as Puncheon returned to haunt his former Southampton manager, Mauricio Pochettino, by ending Spurs’ recent impressive run.
It was an enthralling end to a special day for Pardew, who was greeted by rapturous applause at Selhurst Park.
‘Welcome home to Alan Pardew’ bellowed the stadium announcer, although the Palace players failed to match that excitement early on.
Spurs, showing two changes from the New Year’s Day annihilation of Chelsea, started the brighter, with Mousa Dembele sending a bobbling effort from distance wide as they dominated possession.
Nacer Chadli was fortunate not to be booked for simulation after taking a tumble under pressure – a decision that irked Pardew, who will have been frustrated further by the ease in which Spurs were able to unlock his defence.
Julian Speroni easily dealt with a Kane strike from the edge of the box, although the Palace goalkeeper could only watch on helplessly as Christian Eriksen wasted a fine opportunity to open the scoring.
Marauding right-back Kyle Walker’s low cross found its way through to Spurs’ Danish playmaker, only for him to turn the ball wide from close range.
It was a let-off Palace attempted to capitalise on, with Glenn Murray, making his first Premier League start of the campaign, sending a header wide before going closer still.
Put through by a lovely flick from James McArthur, the fans’ favourite looked set to score – only for his poor finish to be compounded by Hugo Lloris saving with his legs.
Frustration inside Selhurst Park ratcheted up a notch when last man Federico Fazio nudged Gayle and Taylor waved play on – a decision which infuriated Palace fans, who heckled the referee as he made his way off at half-time.
Adlene Guedioura replaced Barry Bannan when the hosts re-emerged for a second half which was just four minutes old when Spurs pulled ahead.
Chadli squeezed the ball into the path of Kane, who, from what appeared to be a marginally offside position, shifted to his right and sent a low drive through Martin Kelly’s legs into the far corner.
The 21-year-old’s latest goal changed the complexion of the proceedings, with the Eagles now attacking with renewed vigour.
Gayle was proving particularly dangerous and called Lloris into action from close range, before seeing an acrobatic attempt blocked by Jan Vertonghen.
Guedioura fired wide as Spurs pushed for a leveller which arrived when Stambouli was adjudged to have brought down Ledley in the box. The French midfielder was perplexed by Taylor’s decision to award a penalty, which Gayle duly fired low to Lloris’ right.
Palace fans were soon claimed another after the ball clipped Walker’s arm, before Selhurst Park erupted.
Substitute Wilfried Zaha showed wonderful skill to jink into space and send in a cross which, thanks to a deflection, fell kindly for Puncheon, who rifled home a left-footed strike.
Eriksen saw a strike deflect wide before Kane had strong penalty appeals waved away after a challenge by Ledley.
Etienne Capoue had an effort from distance in between Zaha efforts at the other end, before the final whistle brought with it an outpouring of relief among the home fans.
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