Feeble Sheffield United gone in 200 seconds at Crystal Palace

CHALLENGE: Chris Basham competes for the ball with Crystal Palace's Luka MilivojevicCHALLENGE: Chris Basham competes for the ball with Crystal Palace's Luka Milivojevic
CHALLENGE: Chris Basham competes for the ball with Crystal Palace's Luka Milivojevic
Normally you can at least guarantee Sheffield United will put up a fight. Not at Selhurst Park on Saturday.

Their feeble surrender to Crystal Palace was a second in a matter of weeks having folded 3-0 at Southampton. Whether they are good enough to stay up – and with such a mountain to climb now that seems highly unlikely – they are better than this.

They can count themselves extremely lucky to have only lost 2-0.

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The Blades have now gone 20 games stretching into last season without a win or even a clean sheet. They became the first team since Bolton Wanderers in 1902-03 to go 17 top-flight matches without winning any of them.

Even though it is more than enough with only three allowed onto the field, a team-sheet with only six substitutes was an ominous start. With nine players missing through injury, illness and suspension, Sheffield-born 16-year-old striker Antwoine Hackford – just a month older than the Blades's youngest player, Louis Reed, was when he made his debut – was ominous.

George Baldock was one of three defenders on the bench, the first time he had been left out of the league XI in 59 matches.

Palace took less than 200 seconds to go in front, their fastest Premier League goal in 2017, and from that point onwards it felt the result was in no doubt.

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Wilfried Zaha got the ball on the left and when he tried to play it to Christian Benteke, it deflected to Oliver Norwood, who touched it to Jeffrey Schlupp. Even his shot took a deflection on the way past Aaron Ramsdale, a miserable goal to concede by a team that looked sorry for itself.

However much Palace assistant manager Ray Lewington tried to make up for it, the game being played behind closed just added to the flat feel about the Blades.

Simple passes went astray and a moment in the 27th minute summed them up. David McGoldrick and Lys Moussett both stood offside as Ramsdale lined up a goalkick, too far back for the defenders to have drawn level when boot met leather. McGoldrick went for the header, and Palace were awarded a gift of a free-kick.

Three minutes later Chris Basham, surprisingly selected in midfield with Ethan Ampadu in “his” central defensive position, chested a McGoldrick ball begging to be headed across out for a goalkick.

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After 43 minutes, the Blades had their first shot at goal, Vindente Guaita parrying Jayden Bogle's effort after the wing-back was played in by Ampadu.

Basham had a shot strangled at birth after Bogle headed back to him in first-half stoppage time.

Palace had always looked likely to add a second without battering the door down and it came in the fifth added minute of the half, Schlupp's replacement Eberechi Eze meeting negligible resistance as he ran from his own half before slotting the ball in. It was certainly an easy goal.

The hosts were able to play the second half in a low gear, though stull looked the more likely scorers.

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Zaha raised his hands to Bogle and Eze clattered into Ampadu, but even a red card would not have changed the balance of this non-contest.

Oliver Norwood sloppily gave possession away early in the second half, leaving John Fleck to hack clear when Zaha tried to play the ball across the area. Enda Stevens turned possession over just as poorly but Palace's attack broke down.

Norwood had a shot deflected for a corner and thumped at Guaita from a very tight angle after a short corner.

Andros Townsend looked the most likely scorer late on but dragged a shot wide and saw John Egan throw himself in front of another.

It was a depressingly rare moment of fight from the Blades.

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Hackford came on for the final 10 minutes so at least there was something positive to take from the afternoon. Really, though, that was it.

Crystal Palace: Guaita; Ward, Tomkins, Kouyate, Mitchell; Townsend, Milivojevic (Riedewald 90), McArthur, Schlupp (Eze 40), Zaha; Benteke (J Ayew 48).

Unused substitutes: Butland, van Aanholt, Dann, Sakho, McCarthy, Batshuayi.

Sheffield United: Ramsdale; Ampadu, Egan, Stevens; Bogle, Basham, Norwood, Fleck, Osborn (Hackford 80); McGoldrick; Mousset (Brewster 61).

Unused substitutes: Baldock, Lowe, Verrips, Bryan.

Referee: S Attwell (West Midlands).

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