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Crystal Palace vs Manchester United match report: Zlatan Ibrahimovic hits late winner at Selhurst Park

The Independent logo The Independent 15-12-2016 Glenn Moore
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Class eventually told at Selhurst Park as Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic created goals for each other to see off a dogged Crystal Palace side. Pogba’s first-half goal was scrappy, probably illegal, and then cancelled out by James McArthur, but Ibrahimovic’s 88th-minute winner was sublime.

Steve Parish, the Palace chairman and co-owner, promised surprises in the pre-match build-up the club having installed a new sound system and floodlights. It was certainly bright and noisy but the biggest eye-opener came from his manager who handed Mathieu Flamini a first start since joining Palace in the summer.

Alan Pardew also brought Yohan Cabaye and Chung-yong Lee back into the team held 3-3 on Humberside at the weekend, and included a pair of 19-year-old academy players on the bench including Afghanistan-born Noor Husin. A message, perhaps, that the club needs to invest in players as well as electrics?

Jose Mourinho made a quartet of alterations from the team that defeated Tottenham at Old Trafford. Eric Bailly made his first Premier League start since October while Daley Blind, Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney also returned. With Rooney playing left of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Mata to his right, United had plenty of creative talent but lacked attacking pace and width. Bailly and Blind did their best to provide this from full-back but despite dominating the first half-hour United were limited to speculative shots by Pogba and Ander Herrera and a Rooney header, all of which went over.

Then in the the 37th minute, just after Wilfried Zaha had failed to take advantage of a fine long pass by Scott Dann, Mata found Pogba who picked out Rooney’s clever angled run. As Rooney swivelled to volley his 249th United goal beckoned, equalling the watching Sir Bobby Charlton’s club record. Wayne Hennessey, though, reacted smartly to turn the England captain’s shot away.

The ‘keeper then denied Pogba with his shins but was helpless when, in first-half injury-time, Pogba stabbed in from point-blank range after Ibrahimovic had steered a deep free-kick into his path. Pogba looked offisde and there was a suspicion of handball by the Swede, but Craig Pawson waved away Palace protests.

Flamini was withdrawn at the break. Joe Ledley replaced him and immediately fizzed a shot wide. Bailly, who seemed to injure his knee landing badly in the first half, soon left too. But the pattern of the match remained unchanged; United bossing the midfield but struggling to penetrate, Palace unable to retain possession let alone threaten. It was dull fare.

Then, just after the hour, the game woke up. James McArthur broke the slumber, bringing a flying save by De Gea from range. Four minutes later an unexpectedly sharp piece of skill by Damien Delaney released McArthur close in to score.

With Marcos Rojo, who could have been dismissed for a lunge on Zaha in the first half, flirting with a second yellow United looked vulnerable. But they stepped up a gear impressively. Rooney forced Hennessey to match his counterpart’s athleticism. Ledley was very lucky not to concede a penalty as he elbowed clear the subsequent corner. Then an erroneous offside call ruled out a Mata goal. If Palace felt the decisions had gone against then in the first period the mistakes had evened out.

Mourinho withdrew Rooney, who was clearly unhappy at the decision, but the right striker had been removed. Minutes later Pogba brushed off Cabaye;s challenge, strode forward, then fed Ibrahimovic’s angled run. The Swede, as he has done all his career, made a difficult finish look ridiculously easy.

Crystal Palace (4-3-3): Hennessey; Kelly, Dann, Delaney, Ward; McArthur (Campbell 87), Cabaye, Flamini (Ledley 45); Zaha, Benteke, Lee (Fryers 80).

Manchester United (4-1-2-3): De Gea; Bailly (Darmian 52), Jones, Rojo, Blind; Carrick; Pogba, Herrera; Mata (Lingard 70), Ibrahimovic, Rooney (Rashford 80).

Referee: C Pawson

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