Sheffield United have picked up their first win back in the Premier League, beating Crystal Palace 1-0 at Bramall Lane.
It was a tight contest in the opening half, with the Blades having a bit more of the ball early on. They created some chances as well, but couldn’t get any of their efforts on target.
United were forced into an early change, as John Fleck picked up a knee injury, and had to be replaced by Luke Freeman.
Not much happened in the first half, but the Blades burst into life at the start of the second.
It would be the substitute who created the opening goal of the contest, as Freeman made a clever run into the penalty area. He hit a low cross into the box that was parried away by the Palace keeper, but it fell right to John Lundstram. He made no mistake with the finish, slamming the ball into the back of the net.
Palace pushed to grab an equalizer, but couldn’t find a way through. Something was just off this afternoon for the away side, who failed to piece together consecutive passes on several occasions. They were also let down by star man Wilfred Zaha, as the Ivorian was ineffective, and is clearly still frustrated by the fact that he wasn’t sold this past summer.
That won’t matter much to United, who now sit on four points from their opening two contests, which is a quality start in their fight to stay up this season.
Keeping the clean sheet
Everyone knows that the Blades strength is at the back, and that was proven once again on Sunday afternoon. United didn’t have to deal with much against Palace but did everything they had to do to clinch the three points.
Chris Basham was especially excellent, winning a number of headers as Palace relied on simply lumping the ball into the area. The likes of Jack O'Connell and John Egan played their part as well, of course, and it was great to see the central midfielders dropping back to support them when need be as well.
Dean Henderson was not called upon often, but United’s number one stepped up when Palace did manage to create an opportunity. Andros Townsend found space on the edge of the area and tried to curl his shot into the bottom corner, but the English keeper was quick to react, spreading wide to get a handout and make the save.
However, Sheffield United will be worried about the two injuries that were picked up on Sunday afternoon.
It started with John Fleck, who went down holding his knee at the half-hour mark. He tried to walk it off soon after, but realized he couldn’t carry on, and eventually had to hobble off the field with the medical staff.
The Blades were forced into a second substitution only ten minutes after the halftime break, as summer signing Callum Robinson went down with an apparent hamstring issue. It was clear he pulled one of them, if not both, and the striker was quickly pulled off the field. The odd thing was it seemed too early in the contest for a pulled hamstring, so it will be interesting to see what the diagnosis is in a few days.
United are not a team blessed with plenty of squad depth, so fans will have to hope that the injuries do not continue to pile up.
Making Bramall Lane a fortress
If the Blades have any chance of staying up this season, they will have to continue to pick up points at home.
It was a promising showing on their return to Bramall Lane, as the home crowd did well to push United forward while frustrating Palace in the process.
The scenes of celebration when United managed to take the lead was wonderful to see, and it clearly boosted the team who used the momentum to create a number of chances.
They’ll be able to steal points on the road on occasions, but if Sunday was any indication, then United will be able to make the most of their games Bramall Lane this season.