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Jordan Ayew’s qualities shine through as Crystal Palace near survival

01:30 GMT+3 27/02/2019
Jordan Ayew of Crystal Palace
The Ghana international is finding form at just the right time, and the Eagles could take a massive step towards survival against Manchester United
While Jeffrey Schlupp has been Crystal Palace’s star man in recent weeks, could Jordan Ayew be the Eagles’ match-winner when they host Manchester United on Wednesday?

Roy Hodgson’s side dispatched Leicester City 4-1 away in their last outing, and could be quietly confident of picking up a result against the Red Devils.

Jordan may not be the obvious pick as the game’s potential star man, but he has the quality to emerge as an unlikely hero.

The Ghana attacker has had a disappointing campaign overall with just two goals and two assists from 1250 minutes across all competitions.

In his first 12 Premier League appearances this season, he played 669 minutes without scoring a goal. He only managed 10 shots in total during that run, and hit the target with just one of them.

In fact, it took him until the 10th of November to have his first shot on target.

Ayew was an unused substitute for the two games after that, and with senior strikers Christan Benteke and Connor Wickham on their way back to full fitness after long-term injuries, competition was about to get more intense.

The Eagles were also targeting big-money forwards in the January window at that point, with Hodgson appearing unconvinced that Jordan could be the man to drag them clear of the bottom three.

Literally in the nick of time, Ayew found some form.

Jordan Ayew | 2018-19 Premier League stats

He was a surprise starter for the 2-0 away win at Wolverhampton Wanderers, and repaid the manager’s faith by scoring the crucial opening goal after 83 minutes.

He made three successful dribbles and created three chances in that game too, causing issues for the opposition’s back three with his runs into the channels.

He followed that up by scoring off the bench against Grimsby Town in the FA Cup third round.

With Zaha suspended for Palace’s pivotal relegation encounter against Fulham, Ayew was selected as his replacement. Benteke would lead the line, and with Schlupp used as shuttler on the left of midfield, tucking him to block the middle, Ayew was used as a wide forward.

His performance was full of the endeavour he is often accused of lacking.

He won four fouls and four aerial duels to give his side a constant out-ball.

After the game, Hodgson was effusive in praising Ayew’s display in both that game and the previous clash against Southampton:

“For Ayew on all-round performance, it was his best. His work rate and efforts in the game at Southampton in midweek was fantastic,” told journalists, as per Football London.

“The man has superhuman powers in terms of the effort he puts in. Today I thought he succeeded with the ball as well. 

“It was an incredible impact from him.”

Against Leicester this past weekend, Jordan only received four minutes plus additional time on the pitch, but teed up his side’s fourth goal for Zaha.

He’s very likely to have to make do with an impact substitute role against Manchester United as well.

The Red Devils can still field a very strong XI despite their much-publicized injury crisis, but their bench will contain several academy players.

If Palace can keep it tight for 70 minutes, then unleash the movement and pace of Ayew in place of Michy Batshuayi, the Ghanaian could prove to be a game-changer.

This turnaround in fortunes could not have come at a better time; Batshuayi has joined on loan, whilst Benteke and Wickham are back after long-term injuries.

The pressure is firmly on Jordan to perform, and had he not found some form, he could have spent the next few months of his season-long loan from Swansea City in the stands.

At international level, the younger Ayew brother was not in the picture for Ghana for 14 months between September 2017 and November 2018.

He netted a brace against Ethiopia upon his return to the team, his first goals for the Black Stars in 22 months, and, with the Africa Cup of Nations on the horizon, could be returning to his old self just in time.

Jordan has three times battled against the drop before, and plunged into the Championship on two occasions.

A positive result against United on Wednesday would help the Londoners take a giant step towards Premier League survival.