Ten-man Eagles grab late point
By Mark Kendall. Last Updated: 01/02/05 10:45pm
Ten-man Crystal Palace grabbed an last-gasp point against West Brom after an extraordinary 2-2 draw at The Hawthorns.
Iain Dowie's side were a man down for 78 minutes of the contest after Gonzalo Sorondo was harshly dismissed, but took a deserved point with a scrappy injury-time strike from Aki Rihilaahti.
Andy Johnson had edged Palace ahead very much against the run of play just after half-time, but the visitors seemed set to head back to London empty-handed after late strikes from Kevin Campbell and Robert Earnshaw.
However, Rihilaahti popped up to earn The Eagles a much-deserved point after a brave rearguard display.
Albion had the first effort in anger; Ronnie Wallwork caught Palace cold with a quick free-kick to Zoltan Gera, and the Hungarian tricked his way past Gary Borrowdale and flashed in a shot that grazed the top of the bar as it flew over.
Arguably the game's major talking point then arrived after 12 minutes; Gera released Geoff Horsfield who nicked the ball ahead of Sorondo 30 yards from goal and then stumbled over the Uruguayan's clumsy challenge.
It seemed a debatable foul let alone booking, but to the disbelief of Palace's players, referee Dermot Gallagher opted to show the defender a red card.
Eagles boss Iain Dowie could not disguise his disgust on the touchline, and soon sent on Darren Powell to replace Dougie Freedman as Palace were forced into a defensive reshuffle.
It was the substitute who had the visitors' best chance of the first half on 23 minutes when he put a unchallenged header from Wayne Routledge's left-wing corner over.
West Brom centre back Darren Purse then spurned an equally good headed opportunity, failing to get sufficient direction on an inviting Jonathan Greening centre.
Four minutes before the break Powell made a crucial last-ditch sliding tackle to deny Horsfield as the striker prepared to pull the trigger, and the hosts missed the best chance of the first period just a minute later.
After a Greening free-kick was only partially cleared, Purse collected the ball on the left and swung over a cross which found Campbell unmarked, but the experienced striker contrived to nod over from no more than six yards out.
Referee Gallagher managed to incur the wrath of the home fans on the stroke of half-time when he chose not to penalise Powell after he appeared to trip Greening as he burst through on goal - there seemed little doubt that his earlier decision to send off Sorondo played a part in his leniency.
But after weathering something of a first-half storm it was Palace who hit the front on 48 minutes, although the goal owed a lot to some dreadful defending from Purse.
The defender chose to duck under a huge clearance from Kiraly that allowed the hitherto anonymous Johnson to nip in and display his predatory instincts by nodding past the advancing Russell Hoult.
The goal stirred West Brom into renewed action, and Kiraly had to be alert to tip over a stinging Paul Robinson effort.
The hosts went even closer just before the hour mark, Emmerson Boyce's uncertain header was latched on to by Campbell who watched the ball drop and then directed a bobbling effort past Kiraly and on to the post.
Palace struck the woodwork themselves shortly afterwards when Fitz Hall pulled away at a corner and sent a far-post header against the upright with Hoult scrambling across.
However, it was a rare foray out of their own half as Palace sat back happy to try and cling on to their narrow lead and soak up the ever-increasing pressure from the hosts.
The defending became more and more and more desperate from Palace with Borrowdale and Powell making vital interceptions deep in their own box, and Kiraly fisting away with substitute Robert Earnshaw waiting to pounce.
The pressure finally told seven minutes from time when Gera whipped in yet another ball from the right - Powell got his intended clearance horribly wrong and only managed to send it spiralling towards the top corner and, although Kiraly kept it out with a superb save, Campbell was on hand to bundle home.
The sense of relief at The Hawthorns turned to unbridled joy just a minute from time when Earnshaw seemed to have grabbed a dramatic match-winner. Campbell turned a clever ball into the path of the Welsh hit-man who beat the offside flag and dinked a delightful effort past Kiraly and into the corner.
Incredibly, though, there was still a twist to come, and Palace snatched the most unlikely of points when substitute Rihilaahti got on the end of a loose ball in the West Brom box to nudge past Hoult, and the ball had enough pace to trickle over the line with both Hall and Gera trying to gain a decisive touch.
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|West Bromwich Albion||Team Statistics||Crystal Palace|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|5||Shots on Target||4|
|6||Shots off Target||0|
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