Sheffield United 0-2 Crystal Palace: Eagles confirm their Premier League future
(Photo by Jan Kruger/ Getty Images)

Crystal Palace finally achieved mathematical safety in the Premier League, securing a sleepy win over already-relegated Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.

An early goal from Christian Benteke inside the first minute catalysed glimpses of hope that the game would become set alight with goals.

However, this was not to be the case, and although it was straightforward for the Eagles, it took a second-half dazzler from Eberechi Eze to ensure all three points would be secured in Sheffield. 

  • The match

For an already-relegated Sheffield United, pride was the aim of the game for Paul Heckingbottom, who named three changes from his side's 4-0 defeat against Tottenham Hotspur. Sitting at the foot of the table, Kean Bryan, Sander Berge and Oli Burke found a starting spot to try to build momentum for next season. 

Meanwhile, in the avocation of mathematical safety in the Premier League, Roy Hodgson made two changes from his side that clashed with Manchester City, with Jeffrey Schlupp and Gary Cahill replacing Jairo Riedewald and Scott Dann, respectively.  

Palace had suffered three straight losses before kick-off at Bramall Lane, so it came as an immense pleasure that their next game would be against a pride ridden Blades side.

Eberechi Eze found some space on the turn inside the first minute of play, and while the opposition defence backed away, accepting the Englishman had already beaten them, he fed a ball into Christian Beneteke. The Belgian scored the opener after his shot deflected into Aaron Ramsdale's net off of a depleted looking George Baldock

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The encouragement, "Leave it all on the pitch, leave nothing left in the tank", emanated the country ahead of the final Championship game week, but it was clearly a plea that didn't befall to Bramall Lane.

Heckingbottom had quickly regressed to a four at the back structure in the first half, but Hodgson showed no signs in slowing his team down; they longingly itched for more.

Eze continued to glide elegantly across the pitch and had it not been for Benteke performing juggling acts in the box, they could have got another.

Though perhaps not having much to show for it in response to the passiveness of the opposition they faced, Palace's visit to the Lane played out much like a pre-season fixture. 

With 30 minutes gone, the game continued to unfold in Palace's favour. While the Blades have been scrutinized for their evident void in a focal point, the Eagles didn't seem to need one in Sheffield, with all their attacking assets finding space.

But, as so often the case with this Hodgson team, they lack experience in conjuring the majority of possession, showing a lack of cutting edge necessary to double their deficit in the first half. 

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Five minutes remained before the break when Schlupp found some room to engineer a floated cross into the path of Benteke. A combination that was resulted in ecstasy so often for the Eagles, the Belgian target man was in his element. That was until Ramsdale athletically saved the shot and kept the scoreline at 1-0. 

Another shot flashed wide a couple of minutes later after Eze used Wilfried Zaha as a decoy, allowing him to drill a shot just wide off the mark. His Ivorian teammate would find space on the same patch of turf moments later, but nothing came to either attack.

  • Second half

Vicente Guaita had hardly been called into action before the break, so it came as a surprise that he came under some form of attack at the start of the second 45 minutes. That being said, it was only a slide John Egan shot from a Blades corner that threatened Palace's slender lead.

Nevertheless, a succession of corners presented the first signs of danger to the Eagles, and Heckingbottom would have been incentivized by his team's start.

But, for all their efforts in turning the game on its head, it was Benteke who came closest in the first 15 minutes of the second segment.

The Belgian pickpocketed a Blades defender after his side had surrendered possession. Benteke then proceeded to look up and slash a shot on to the outside of the goalpost. 

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Although Heckingbottom's doomed side had shown signs of wanting more from the game, it was still Ebere Eze who showed the highest standards in the game, putting on a show with every passage he was involved in.

Hodgson's summer acquisition showcased his boundless potential and enthusiasm to become a household name in Croydon, highlighting his ascendant creativity upon every touch.

However, there was still no sign of a second goal, and as each minute went dwindling by, there was a growing creed that maybe, just maybe, Palace would be made to rue their missed chances.

Jordan Ayew almost made an impact from the bench with 15 minutes to go.

The striker was presented an opportunity eight yards from goal, but failed to direct his shot out of reach of the Blade defenders, settling for a corner instead.  

He had another chance on the 81st minute, finessing a shot into the middle right of Ramsdale but just like he has done on many occasions, the former Bournemouth goalkeeper made an emphatic save.

In fact, it was Ramsdale who kept Palace at bay for the majority of the game, leading to a second-half that refused to catch the engagement of spectators and the unlucky journalists who were assigned to the game. 

Both sides had their chances to stamp their authority at Bramall Lane, but the void in chance conversion was evident. After all, who expected goals in a game between an already-relegated Blades team and a Palace team guided by Roy Hodgson?

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That was until Eze finally got his name on the scoresheet.

The creative livewire ran the length of the pitch, stringing the ball along with him upon every stride, and ghosted past the defence to tuck away yet another deflected shot.

It was a goal that served as a reward for his Man of the Match display, crowning a day where he proved once again why Hodgson brought him to Selhurst Park in the summer transfer window, alleviating the pressure for Zaha to carry the Eagles. 

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