Crystal Palace moved into the top 10 of the Premier League after they beat Wolves 2-0 on Saturday.
Jean-Philippe Mateta’s opener and Wilfried Zaha’s penalty secured the Eagles all three points in the first half.
Here are Edmund Brack’s four takeaways from the match:
BEST FIRST HALF OF THE SEASON
Relentless, clinical, forward-thinking and dangerous on the counter – Crystal Palace produced their best half of the Premier League season under Patrick Vieira.
With Mateta and Jeffrey Schlupp going close in the early stages, Palace’s breathless start paid dividends in the 19th minute.
Mateta nodded the ball down to Conor Gallagher just inside the Wolves half, and the Chelsea loanee played a defence-splitting pass through to Zaha.
The Ivorian squeezed the ball past Conor Coady and found Mateta close to Jose Sa’s goal.
The Frenchman scored the opener and his third Premier League goal of the season by tapping home his rebounded effort.
The unyielding Palace pressure only continued to build, and their second goal came from penning Wolves deep into their own half and forcing them into needless errors.
Cheikhou Kouyate intercepted a clearance to fall at the feet of Schlupp. He drove forward, skipped past two players and enticed Max Kilman into a clumsy challenge that handed Zaha the chance from 12 yards, which he duly buried.
Gallagher and Michael Olise had chances before half time, but Sa pulled off two brilliant saves to deny Palace a third.
It was the best first half that Palace had produced under Vieira – everything clicked.
WILFRIED ZAHA AND MICHAEL OLISE ARE CONJURING UP CLINICAL MAGIC
With Zaha at the peak of his game – changing his style of play from a tricky winger to a direct and powerful finisher – and Olise setting the Premier League stage alight, the duo has the potential to be Palace’s most potent wingers since the turn of the century.
Granted, watching Yannick Bolasie and Zaha torment defenders in the Championship was a joy to behold. However, the duo of Olise and Zaha showed against Wolves that, when in tandem, they can take the club to the next level.
Zaha has been reliably brilliant since returning from the Africa Cup of Nations, scoring four goals in six games.
With nine goals this season, Zaha is showing that, despite not having that burst of pace which terrified defenders in past seasons, his composed range of finishing is now his main threat and asset to Crystal Palace.
Olise caused chaos for Wolves – completing three successful take-ons, drawing three fouls and having a 95 per cent pass accuracy during his 82 minutes on the pitch.
His best chance came when he plucked the ball out of the sky, jinked his way through attempts to stop him and rendered Wolves’ defence motionless when he forced an outstanding save from Sa in the 45th minute.
With Zaha spearheading the side and Olise’s flourishing potential rapidly rising to a ready-made top-flight talent, the Eagles finally have two players who can produce consistent goal contributions from the wide positions.
GUEHI AND MITCHELL MUST BE IN ENGLAND DISCUSSIONS
With many suspecting that Gareth Southgate was at Molineux to cast an eye over Wolves defenders Max Kilman and Conor Coady, it was the Palace duo of Marc Guehi and Tyrick Mitchell that produced prominent performances and gave the England manager food for thought ahead of the March friendlies.
The 21-year-old Guehi and 22-year-old Mitchell have been consistently brilliant throughout the season and have shown why the calls for them to both earn international recognition on a senior level are amplifying.
Guehi stepped into the Palace side following his summer arrival, displaying maturity, confidence on the ball and has been entrusted with the captaincy only six months into his move.
Given his age and the fact he is closing in on 100 professional games, Guehi’s potential is nothing short of frightening. With Guehi being the current England U21 captain, the senior side is the next and obvious step in his career.
It has been a steady rise to possible international recognition for Mitchell since his debut at Leicester in the summer of 2020.
He has become Vieira’s undisputed first-choice left-back and been a vital part of the defensive unit this season. On Saturday against Wolves, Mitchell made a match-high seven clearances and won two tackles.
With his game improving going forward too – making intelligent runs to support Wilfried Zaha down the left-hand side – Mitchell has a strong case to be in consideration for a call up to the senior side.
For someone who has never featured at any level for England before, a call up for Mitchell would be a deserved reward for the improving consistency.
TIME TO FOCUS ON THE CUP
Having come through their three previous Premier League games unbeaten – picking up seven points from a possible nine against Watford, Burnley and Wolves – Palace have the luxury of being able to turn their full attention to the FA Cup.
The quarter-final tie against an Everton side who will still have the threat of the chasing bottom three looming over their shoulders should work to Palace’s advantage.
With Palace caught in the comfort of mid-table obscurity, the potential glory of lifting the FA Cup for the first time in the club’s history and qualifying for Europe is an exciting thought. The Eagles are only one win away from a semi-final clash at Wembley.