Crystal Palace 0-1 Tottenham: Soldado settles it

ROBERTO Soldado scored on his debut as Andre Villas-Boas’s new-look Tottenham side edged past Crystal Palace.

Tottenhams Roberto Soldado celebrates with team-mate Gylfi Sigurdsson after scoring his sides match-winning penalty. Picture: Reuters
Tottenhams Roberto Soldado celebrates with team-mate Gylfi Sigurdsson after scoring his sides match-winning penalty. Picture: Reuters

Scorer: Tottenham Hotspur - Soldado (49 pen)

Without Real Madrid target Gareth Bale, ruled out because of a foot injury, Villas-Boas gave starts to three new signings and Soldado was the most impressive. The Spain striker, signed from Valencia for a club record £26million, troubled the Palace back four throughout with his movement and he dispatched a second-half penalty to win the match.

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Paulinho’s bustling presence in midfield helped the visitors out in a scrappy encounter, but Tottenham at times lacked the bit of magic that Bale would bring.

To be fair to Villas-Boas’s squad, three of the four new faces on display have barely trained with their team-mates and they could well have won this game by three or four had Julian Speroni not performed superbly in goal. Gylfi Sigurdsson and substitute Jermain Defoe were also guilty of missing easy chances to kill off the game in the second half.

Palace, for their part, will take encouragement from this game. Their back four looked solid and if Speroni plays as he did today then they may not be the relegation certainties the bookmakers seem to think they are.

With a booming atmosphere created by the Palace fans excited by their first top-flight game for eight years, the home side started nervously. Dean Moxey’s wayward back pass handed Soldado an early chance, but Speroni came to the rescue. But Palace held their own for the first 15 minutes and the visitors had to resort to long-range efforts.

Aaron Lennon found Mousa Dembele who let fly a 20-yard shot which beat Speroni but clipped the top of the bar.

Palace managed the first attempt on target when Aaron Wilbraham headed straight at Hugo Lloris. Speroni had to be at his best to claw away a curling shot by Sigurdsson and Soldado then spooned an effort over the bar after some good work by Chadli. Kyle Walker and Lennon combined well to slip in Soldado, but the angle was too tight for the Spaniard to beat Speroni, who covered his near post well.

Chadli had a glorious chance to nod Spurs ahead in first-half injury time but he headed over while unmarked at the back post. There was an air of disappointment as the Tottenham players trudged off at half-time, but they broke the deadlock just four minutes after the restart.

Lennon’s low cross struck Moxey’s outstretched arm and referee Mark Clattenburg awarded a penalty. Soldado scored from the spot in last week’s friendly against Espanyol and he sent the ball to the same bottom right-hand corner before running to jubilant fans.

Palace put Spurs under pressure, but they left themselves open at the back and Soldado took full advantage, breaking free before finding Sigurdsson, but he screwed his shot wide.

Palace fans were on their feet as sub Kevin Phillips broke the offside trap. Lloris rushed out to dispossess the veteran striker, but the ball fell loose to Williams. Lennon tracked back to nick the ball off the midfielder just as he was about to pull the trigger.

Chadli spurned two chances to put the game to bed and Phillips pulled a shot wide as the game became a real end-to-end encounter. Lloris made a rare mistake, spilling a corner, but the Spurs keeper made amends by stopping Damien Delaney’s volley a second later.