Crystal Palace playing well away and winning is a story not told too often. Defeat looked their most likely outcome in the 82nd minute when Marc Guéhi clambered across a galloping Michail Antonio and Paul Tierney, the referee, pointed to the spot. Then came a VAR overrule before, in the last embers of four minutes added on, came Michael Olise’s winner. There was fortune in it looping off the shin of Aaron Cresswell and beyond a hapless Lukasz Fabianski but victory was just – if unlikely so late on – reward for Palace’s excellent football.
“It was gutting but we didn’t deserve to win, there was always a chance to lose it,” admitted David Moyes. Only 16 seconds before the Palace fans exploded in raptures, the ball had been in the hands of Vicente Guaita, the goalkeeper, after Antonio’s weak cross. Via Eberechi Eze’s run and pass, and then Wilfried Zaha, the scorer of Palace’s opportunist equaliser, the ball arrived at Olise’s feet.
Eze had pulled the strings since the early stages, missing two first-half chances while, in the rain, a visibly displeased Moyes took on the role of baseball-capped agitator from his technical area. West Ham were under heavy pressure when they took the lead. When Lucas Paquetá’s stabbed pass found Saïd Benrahma, he still had Palace defenders for company but a taste for the spectacular meant he was only going to take one option. A right-footed lash gave Guaita no chance.
“We dominated the game,” said Patrick Vieira. His team’s first away win since April had been long in coming. “This is the part of the game we really need to improve; to score those goals when we are on top.”
His team drew level via a gift. Thilo Kehrer dallied in trying to play out, sold short by Craig Dawson’s pass. Eze stole in, passed to Zaha, who finished powerfully and celebrated with vim. “A terrible goal,” lamented Moyes. His public half-time response was to send on Antonio for Gianluca Scamacca, hitherto a passenger.
The direction of travel remained similar. Palace continued to dominate. Moyes received boos when he chose to sub off Benrahma, yet was cheered when Soucek was withdrawn from his 100th Premier League appearance. Benrahma milked the applause. Delivering brilliance on an irregular basis makes him very much a West Ham archetype. And would probably qualify him for membership of Vieira’s merry band of entertainers. “I thought he scored a good goal, I’m not sure he did much after that,” said Moyes, not impressed by that reaction. “There are a lot of experts out there.”
His captain disagreed. “Fans can voice their opinions,” said Declan Rice. More boos had followed at full time: “They pay their hard-earned money.” The arrival of Manuel Lanzini and Flynn Downes gave West Ham a greater foothold and when Antonio fell as Guéhi came across him, it seemed victory might be theirs. Then came the ruling that the striker’s fall had been too theatrical. “My staff said it was very soft,” said Moyes. “And they’d be surprised if it was given.”
Vieira said: “The VAR is there to do a job. It went in our favour and the referee was brave enough to change his mind.” Such bravery laid the foundation for a winning goal Moyes could not hide his displeasure at. “Our bad play got them the first goal and our bad play got them the second,” he groaned.