Huddersfield became only the second Premier League team relegated before the end of March after Luka Milivojevic and Patrick van Aanholt gave Crystal Palace a 2-0 win
In the end there was a strange sense of symmetry about it all. A penalty from Luka Milivojevic and Patrick van Aanholts late goal sealed Huddersfields relegation at the ground where their adventure at this level began a little more than 18 months ago with a brilliant 3-0 victory under David Wagner.
Yet the end of a story that has already seen the departure of the man who achieved the impossible last season by surviving the clubs first top-flight campaign in more than 40 years was a harsh lesson in the realities of the modern game as Jan Siewerts side were eventually overwhelmed by superior opponents.
In truth it could have been even more embarrassing had Palace taken more of their plethora of chances in the second half but Huddersfield, having now lost 17 of their past 19 matches, can have no real complaints at becoming only the second team in Premier League history to be relegated before the end of March.
At least Derbys all-time points low of 11 was surpassed a few weeks ago, although Siewert has also become the first permanent manager to lose his first five Premier League away matches since a certain Ole Gunnar Solskjr did so with Cardiff in 2014. The 36-year-old German has struggled to make an impact since replacing Wagner in January, even if his team had looked intent on putting up a fight in the early stages against opponents who have failed to sparkle in front of their own supporters for most of the season. Palaces record of only 11 Premier League goals at Selhurst Park before this game was an awful return for a team that has managed 25 on the road by comparison. As if weighed down by that statistic, Roy Hodgsons side looked ponderous until the 13th minute, when fans paid tribute to the former youth team player Damary Dawkins who, aged 13, died from leukaemia this month and was also honoured by Raheem Sterling in Englands win over Czech Republic last week.
A quick break created by the deftest of touches from Wilfried Zaha finally sparked Palace into life but neither Michy Batshuayi nor Jeffrey Schlupp could test Ben Hamer thanks to some last-ditch defending. The goalkeeper had been preferred to Jonas Lssl, one of last seasons heroes who was left out of the matchday squad entirely after he conceded three goals in the last 15 minutes against West Ham before the international break.
But it was Hamers opposite number, Vicente Guaita, who had to be alert to save from Chris Lwes powerful header in the 26th minute after the industrious Alex Pritchard had dispossessed Schlupp on the edge of his own box. The Spaniard then did well to divert Lwes shot wide of his post after another Palace error with the ball.
After the defeats by Brighton and Watford in their previous two matches the home supporters would have been disappointed to see a lack of endeavour from their side in the first half, especially given that they were still looking nervously over their shoulders in the relegation battle before kick-off. Those fears have been eased, although with Burnley and Southampton both winning to confirm Huddersfields fate, Hodgson is aware they are still not quite safe.
The second-half performance tells me that we dont have to worry too much about out season flat-lining, he said. The Palace manager had withdrawn the ineffective Max Meyer at half-time and replaced him with James McArthur, with the change having the desired effect. Van Aanholt tested Hamer from the edge of the box following good work from Zaha before James Tomkins was next to try his luck just as news of Southamptons goal against Brighton filtered through.
Huddersfields Juninho Bacuna could count himself lucky not to be booked after two incidents in the space of a minute in which the Dutchman hauled down Aaron Wan-Bissaka and then take out Batshuayi as the frustration around Selhurst Park grew. But that was nothing compared with the groans when Townsend and Zaha both managed to pass up one-on-one chances within the space of a few minutes, the former somehow missing the target with the goal gaping.
Were going down, sang the Huddersfield fans, acknowledging their likely fate. A few minutes later their prediction was realised when Bacuna clumsily brought down Zaha and Milivojevic made no mistake from the spot, his ninth conversion this season. By the time Van Aanholt made it 2-0 in the dying minutes, their battle was already over.
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