Goalscorers: Wilfried Zaha 19, Gylfi Sigurdsson 36, Leroy Fer 66, 68, James Tomkins 75, Jack Cork 82 OG, Christian Benteke 84, Fernando Llorente 90+1, 90+3
Swansea City: Lukasz Fabianski, Neil Taylor, Jordi Amat, Federico Fernandez, Kyle Naughton (Jefferson Montero 86), Jay Fulton, Jack Cork, Leroy Fer, Wayne Routledge (Fernando Llorente 66), Gylfi Sigurdsson, Modou Barrow (Angel Rangel 80)
Crystal Palace: Wayne Hennessey, Martin Kelly (Zeki Fryers 73), Scott Dann, James Tomkins, Joel Ward, James McArthur (Bakary Sako 82), Yohan Cabaye, Jason Puncheon, Wilfried Zaha, Christian Benteke, Connor Wickham (Andros Townsend 52)
Referee: Kevin Friend, Attendance: 20,276
From an entertainment perspective, the match between Swansea City and Crystal Palace in November 2016 will go down as one of the most exciting ever played in the Premier League. If you are looking for a defending masterclass, my advice would be to stay well clear of this match.
Going into the game, neither side was in any kind of form. Swansea were yet to win under American manager Bob Bradley since he took charge in early October. Crystal Palace were on a ghastly run of five successive defeats and Alan Pardew was the bookies’ favourite to be sacked next in the top-flight. This would turn out to be the 21st Premier League game to see nine or more goals scored. However, the first half never threatened to preview what would happen in a crazy final 25 minutes.
It was 1-1 at the interval. Wilfried Zaha put the visitors’ infront in the 19th minute. Zaha, who was about to confirm he would represent the Ivory Coast at international level, easily beat two defenders before slicing a low shot past Lukasz Fabianski. The Eagles’ lead lasted 15 minutes before a trademark Gylfi Sigurdsson free-kick levelled the scores.
There was a worrying start to the second half when Crystal Palace forward Connor Wickham needed extensive treatment on the pitch. His foot got trapped in the turf whilst he was attempting to tackle Sigurdsson. The game was delayed for seven minutes. Wickham went off on a stretcher with a serious knee injury. His match and season were over. The match first turned Swansea’s way when Bradley brought Fernando Llorente off the bench on the hour mark. With his very first touch of the game, the Spaniard caused panic in the Palace backline and Leroy Fer cashed in to hand the hosts the lead. Two minutes later, Dutchman Fer slid in from close range from a Sigurdsson free-kick.
Pardew’s side looked down and out in the 74th minute. Yet 10 minutes later, they had turned a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 lead. Now, it was Swansea’s defenders to feel the jitters. James Tomkins scored a scrambled effort, before Jack Cork flicked in Zaha’s free-kick over Fabianski and into his own net. Then, more atrocious defending allowed Christian Benteke to hit a shot off the post and rebound in. However, there was another twist in this enthralling encounter.
Llorente had a point to prove. He had been dropped from the squad for the previous weekend’s match with Everton. He answered the doubts of his manager in fabulous fashion. In the first minute of time added on, Sigurdsson had an effort saved and Llorente was quickest to flash the ball past Hennessey. He wasn’t finished. More kamikaze Palace defending in the third minute of stoppage time allowed Llorente to stab the ball past Hennessey and seal Swansea’s amazing 5-4 victory.
Neither manager survived 2016 in their post. Pardew was sacked four matches later, whilst Bradley went after a Boxing Day battering by West Ham United. Both clubs would ultimately win their fights against relegation. There were some great games in the 2016-2017 campaign but none could topple this see-saw afternoon in south Wales.