ilfried Zaha’s future will once again be the subject of much speculation in the final 48 hours of this transfer window, and while Patrick Vieira insisted ahead of kick-off here that this would be no last hurrah, it seemed sensible that, just in case, the forward played the hits.
For the opening 45 minutes, the Ivorian – returning to the starting lineup after missing the defeat at Manchester City – was enduring one of his trademark evenings of frustration, riled by his perceived lack of protection and general unwavering certainty that the world and his wife are against him.
Presumably not much of a poker player, Zaha threw his arms around and was fortunate to escape a booking for a petulant late foul on Shandon Baptiste. But just as he never has much luck suppressing his emotions, few opponents get far in containing his genius for too long.
And so it proved, as the 29-year-old produced a moment of genuine magic to seemingly settle this London derby, sending a quite sensational effort arcing beyond David Raya’s dive just shy of the hour-mark. It looked set to earn the Eagles a 1-0 victory until substitute Yoane Wissa’s late equaliser, though in the end the visitors went within inches of stealing the spoils as Ben Mee struck the bar in stoppage time.
Vieira claimed before kick-off that Zaha has never spoken of quitting Selhurst Park to him, sure in his belief that the “nice relationship between this football team and Wilfried Zaha is not going to stop now”.
Into the final year of his contract and with Chelsea interested in a late window deal, Palace fans are once again considering the possibility of life without their talisman. It is no longer the looming disaster it once might’ve been, thanks to the emergence of talents like Michael Olise, who struck the post with a similar effort to Zaha’s winner from the opposite side of the box only moments earlier.
But still, Zaha has started this season in something approaching the form of his life, with four goals in his four League appearances to date and with the transfer deadline only two nights away he remains, for now, irreplaceable.
Brentford full-backs flying in tandem
Brentford went through their first Premier League season with winger Sergi Canos and youngster Mads Roerslev as their options at right-wing-back and while neither let the Bees down, the arrival of a top-class specialist in Aaron Hickey is already making a huge difference.
Hickey was linked with several more established top-flight clubs, including Arsenal, but it is easy to see why Brentford broke their club transfer record (since surpassed by the arrival of Keane Lewis-Potter, who made little impression on his first League start here) to win the race for the Bologna defender.
The Scotland international made two goal-saving blocks on Zaha and his defensive alertness is bringing real balance to Thomas Frank’s side, allowing the superb Rico Henry more attacking licence on the opposite flank.
Henry is just about Brentford’s most reliable performer and almost capped another fine display with a late winner, only to be denied by Vicente Guiata’s block.
There has been much talk of a potential England call-up for Ivan Toney, but with Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell each struggling through difficult starts to the season, and Tyrick Mitchell caught out for Brentford’s leveller here, it may be that an opening for Henry at left-back is more likely when Gareth Southgate names his Nations League squad next month.
Doucoure dominates midfield as Brentford miss Norgaard
It has been a relatively quiet summer in terms of incomings at Selhurst Park and Vieira has at times expressed concern that his squad is still a touch short on numbers.
The Frenchman’s marquee signing, however, looks the real deal.
Check Doucoure arrived in a £22million switch from Ligue 1 side Lens back in July and is looking more at home in the Eagles’ midfield with each passing week.
Here, he snuffed out danger and won the ball back with real aggression, forcing Jeffrey Schlupp’s second-half opening with good pressure, but was also progressive in possession, particularly when creating an early chance for Eberechi Eze with a clever, disguised pass through the lines.
Against a Brentford side feeling the absence of their own rock in Christian Norgaard, the 22-year-old stood out a mile in the midfield battle. (edited)