Matchweek 13 brought with it a second straight round of dramatic finishes and sensational strikes from around the league. I only expect this trend to continue as these teams round into form approaching the mid point of the season.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Manchester United) nods on the equalizer from a perfectly placed long ball (21′) vs. West Ham (1-1)
Christian Eriksen (Tottenham) breaks his long goalless streak to go one up (11′) vs. Chelsea (1-0)
Pedro (Chelsea) spoils Spurs excellent first half with a ridiculous curler (45′) vs. Tottenham (1-1)
Origi (Liverpool) finally breaks the deadlock with a bouncer that somehow slithers through (75′) vs. Sunderland (1-0)
Dean Marney (Burnley) puts the Clarets ahead with the outside of his foot (14′) vs. Manchester City (1-0)
Alvaro Negredo (Middlesbrough) wakes up from his season-long slumber to score twice (12′, 71′) vs. Leicester City
So there you have it. Those are some pretty awesome goals from over the weekend. Now sometimes there are great goals that eventually become great stories to tell. And then there other times when the goals themselves tell a great story. This is absolutely the case with Swansea versus Crystal Palace.
Let’s set the stage first. Before the weekend, Crystal Palace sat at 11 points – good for 17th place. Swansea sat at 6 points – dead last in the league. On paper, this game looks like a searing hot tire fire that should be avoided at all costs. I was of that mind, as were many other viewers that morning to be sure. But damn were we wrong. All of us. It had NINE total goals, three lead changes, two 2 goal leads blown, an average of a goal every 10 minutes, two stoppage time goals, an own goal, and two braces from Swansea players. That’s not even getting into the fact that it was 1. The highest scoring match of the season, 2. Bob Bradley’s first win as a Premier League manager (2a. And by default the first win by an American manager in the EPL!), 3. A potential catalyst for a Swansea City side that has woefully underperformed their expectations coming off of last season’s respectable finish in 12th, and 4. A sign that things are going terribly wrong for Crystal Palace who should be much, much better given the names in their starting 11.
That said, here is a story told in gifs of the magnificent 97 minutes of football played by Swansea City and Crystal Palace on Saturday.
The Tale of Gylfi and the Nine Goal Miracle
19′ – Enter our first hero, Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace (who will play a role later on). He starts off the first 20 minutes of play with an excellent turn and finish to put Crystal Palace in the driver seat early. Nothing to see here, just your normal run of the mill 1-0 EPL game. [Sorry for potato quality]
Crystal Palace 1 – 0 Swansea City
36′ – Gylfi Sigurdsson our titular character, a former Spur and currently Swansea City’s best player has a developed a propensity for scoring on murderous free kicks. He builds upon that legend with ruthless alacrity to draw the Swans level in the first half [Sorry for the Twitter video quality]
Crystal Palace 1 – 1 Swansea City
66′ – After an eventless last 10 minutes of the first half and a listless initial 20 minutes of the second half, it appeared this game will be destined for a mostly anonymous 1-1 draw. Leroy Fer (Swansea City) has different ideas though as he corrales a Sigurdsson cross that pings off of several defenders and neatly slots it into the back of the net for Swansea’s first lead and the first goal in nearly half an hour of play. The excitment has only just begun.
Crystal Palace 1 – 2 Swansea City
68′ – Barely 90 seconds after Fer puts Swansea ahead, the Swans are given yet another free kick and Sigurdsson (a trend is developing here) sends another phenomenal delivery into the box that finds Fer’s left foot once again. It’s bedlam in Wales. In the span of 86 seconds Swansea’s season could be saved. For those keeping track at home, Sigurdsson has been directly responsible for Swansea’s 3 goals. The Icelander’s legend grows. I miss you Gylfi.
Crystal Palace 1 – 3 Swansea City
75′ – Just as it looks as though Crystal Palace will take their 6th straight loss and wander quietly into the night, James Tomkins’ shin helps ignite a furious late comeback just before the 75 minute mark. Usually you just put your foot out to stop a door from closing, but a shin works as well. Swansea’s lead is halved. Crystal Palace have a slim chance.
Crystal Palace 2 – 3 Swansea City
82′ – Poor, poor Jack Cork. A mere 7 minutes after James Tomkins’ shin cuts Swansea’s lead to one, Jack Cork’s forehead evens things up. Our initial hero Zaha’s cross nails Cork in the head, the ball ricochets skyward, and boops neatly into the corner of Swansea’s goal. No chance for Fabianski, own goal for Cork. Tie game with 8 minutes and change to go. So much for that ho-hum 1-1 draw. More goals are coming obviously.
Crystal Palace 3 – 3 Swansea City
84′ – Crystal Palace’s second hero, Christian Benteke’s, time has now come.. Sidenote: Benteke has had an interesting career. For a time he played at lowly Aston Villa and often pined for greener pastures. That wish finally came true when he was shipped to Liverpool, but for some reason things never quite settled in at the Merseyside club and was sent on to Crystal Palace after only one season. Benteke on paper is the best player at Crystal Palace – he should be their hero all the time not just right now. They bought him for 27 million pounds. That’s a lot of money. And a lot of expectations. Through 12 games, he’s scored 4 goals. Not bad by any means, but also not great. Certainly not 27 million pounds great. But, hey what better way to shut up your detractors than a situation like the one Mr. Benteke sees himself in at the present moment? Tie game, five or so minutes remaining in a game his team has no business being in. Yet here he stands unmarked in front of goal. A flick on from Scott Dann lands at Benteke’s toe. I was half hoping that the frame would freeze at that instant and a Ron Howard voiceover would say, “I bet you’re wondering how I got here.” Anyway, a quick little turn followed by a mini nuclear blast sends the ball rocketing off the near post and into the far corner to give Crystal Palace the lead. Benteke becomes a legend, his demons are vanquished. The ship is righted. Palace earns an unconscionable away vicory. Or does it?
Crystal Palace 4 – 3 Swansea City
90’+1′ – In soccer there is a little thing called stoppage time. It’s an important wrinkle in an otherwise unimpeachable sport. Rather than stop the clock (like they do in college soccer) for injuries , throw-ins, substitutions, etc. the referee instead lets the clock roll continuously over the course of the 90 minute game and then adds an additional handful of minutes at the end to ensure that 90 full minutes of soccer have been played. Now, you folks who are used to the strict confines of a timed football or basketball game may be horrified to know that stoppage time is arbitrary and determined by the referees in real time while the game is going on. Yes, it’s a real thing and yes it has changed many a game in history – including this one.
Anyway, right before the 90th minute, the referee signals for seven minues of stoppage time. SEVEN. That is an uncommonly high amount of stoppage time. Usually they settle between 1-4 minutes roughly. So to see 7 on the board signals that the game is far from over. If you’re thinking this is a bad thing for Crystal Palace you are correct.
Enter our final hero of the day, 31 year old striker, and Marc Gasol look-alike, Fernando Llorente. As the seconds ticked past 90 minutes a neat cross is lofted in from Jefferson Montero, directed on goal by Fer (remember him?) and saved perfectly by Crystal Palace’s keeper, Wayne Hennessey. Hennessey (despite allowed 3 goals up to this point had played admirably and this save was his magnum opus). But alas, Hennessey’s wonderful defense was all for not as his save deflected to Gylfi Sigurdsson (GYLFI!) who volleys the ball low towards goal and is redirected into the net by Llorente. TIE BALL GAME. AGAIN!
Crystal Palace 4 – 4 Swansea City
90′ +4′ – Now at this point. The game is tied for the 4th time. Both teams have blown leads. Improbable goals have been scored from all over the field. A draw at this point would feel like a win for both teams. It would be remembered as one of the hardest earned points of the season when it was all said and done. But remember, 7 minutes in soccer is an eternity. And Fernando Llorente, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Leroy Fer and the rest of the Welsh birds were not going to be satisfied with a draw.
Swansea receive a free kick, Gylfi Sigurdsson takes it (surprise!); Sigurdsson’s free kick is beautiful (surprise!) and perfectly curls into the left side of the box. Jordi Amat foots Gylfi’s gift neatly onto the boot of our man Fernando Llorente who calmly rips out Crystal Palace’s heart and places it neatly in a doggy bag to go. Ball game.
Final: Crystal Palace 4 – 5 Swansea City
And there you have it. The Tale of Gylfi and the Nine Goal Miracle they’ll call it. A oral tradition that will be passed on for millenia. 9 goals, 97 minutes, all during a game few people should have watched, but many will now remember in retrospect. Warner Bros will probably turn it into a 5 part movie franchise. Ryan Gosling will start as Gylfi Sigurdsson and Dan Bilzerian as Llorente. Coming soon to a theater near you.
Until next week!