Holloway left fuming as Soldado seals the points
Crystal Palace’s Marouane Chamakh (R) challenges Tottenham Hotspur’s Etienne Capoue. Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters
Andre Villas-Boas wanted to shout it from the rooftops but instead he made do with mumbled understatement.
“Today, we celebrate our first official penalty,” the Tottenham manager said. It was a quirk of his debut season at White Hart Lane that the team were not awarded a single spot kick but the one that they got here was decisive, Roberto Soldado gilding an encouraging first appearance with the nerveless conversion.
Tottenham’s season is up and running but the only thing to ignite inside Ian Holloway, the Crystal Palace manger, was rage. He said he had waited for 38 minutes to speak to the referee, Mark Clattenburg, after the game to complain about the penalty award, along with other issues and, by the time that he eventually reported for his press conference, he was in the mood to vent his spleen.
What had got him started, he explained, was the non-award of what he felt should have been a free-kick for a barge on Stephen Dobbie near the Tottenham box. How could the assistant referee have not seen it?
“We have professional referees but we haven’t got professional linesmen,” Holloway said, which felt like a comment that brings a letter about responsibilities from the FA.
Tottenham then went up the other end and felt they should have had a penalty when Mile Jedinak challenged Paulinho, another of Tottenham’s four debutants. Holloway was unimpressed at how the Brazilian went down. He would become rather more so.
Aaron Lennon got to the byline and watched his cross hit the first defender. Happily for him, though, the ball struck Dean Moxey’s trailing hand, triggering the penalty decision and leaving Holloway almost choked with indignation.
“It was a completely and unbelievably dubious handball,” he said, before insisting that there was no deliberate intent and questioning how Moxey might have got out of the way.
Holloway felt decisions went against his Blackpool team in 2011 when they were relegated from the Premier League and he vented his conspiracy theory against the smaller clubs.
“It’s going to be a long, hard season for me with these people,” he said. “I had this with Blackpool. Certain clubs get fouls and others don’t. I’ve got a horrible taste in my mouth after that.”
Holloway was asked how his players felt after Palace’s first game in the top division since 2005 got away from them. “I don’t know,” he replied. “I didn’t see them. I was talking to the ref. I spent 38 minutes waiting for him. It should be 30.”
He had choice words for them at half-time and he felt that the second half had started better. The penalty was awarded in the 49th minute.
But for most neutrals, Tottenham had deserved the victory. One thing was clear: it promises to be an exhausting season for Holloway.
Palace were fuelled by spirit and adrenaline but they lacked the guile to stretch more seasoned opponents, at least until a frantic late effort made for the quickening of pulses.
Villas-Boas could be pleased with his debutants – Soldado, Paulinho, Nacer Chadli and the substitute Etienne Capoue – and the breakthrough goal did not come as a surprise.
Julian Speroni, the Palace goalkeeper, saved smartly from Gylfi Sigurdsson in the 35th minute, while the visitors also went close in the first half through Mousa Dembele and Chadli. Palace offered little.
It changed after Holloway made a triple substitution on 66 minutes, introducing Jonny Williams, Kevin Phillips and new signing Marouane Chamakh. Finally, they flickered. Hugo Lloris saved from Phillips, while Damien Delaney and Kagisho Dikgacoi drilled shots at the Tottenham goalkeeper.
Yet Sigurdsson ought to have made the game safe but dragged a shot wide and then substitute Jermain Defoe was uncharacteristically off target.
Tottenham hope to find their stride more smoothly in the coming weeks. Holloway, it seems, is already into his.