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Norwich manager Dean Smith says player welfare is not being considered after his Covid-hit squad lost to Crystal Palace.

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Three first-half goals from Odsonne Edouard, Jean-Philippe Mateta and Jeffrey Schlupp helped Palace climb to ninth in the Premier League at Selhurst Park, condemning the Canaries to the foot of the table at the end of 2021.

Smith admits his side “need to be better”, but believes teams should not have to play two games in three days in such disruptive conditions, with some games being postponed because of rising cases.
“I didn’t have a lot of choice with the team and the subs today,” he told BBC Sport. “If that’s what the Premier League want, so be it. We should never be asked in the current climate to put players through that. Players will keep topping up the injury list.
“We had three who dropped out yesterday. Max Aarons, Teemu Pukki and Todd Cantwell all pulled out. It’s a really hard time, not just for ourselves but for everyone at the moment.
“I just told the players the half-term report: it’s not good enough and it needs to be better. If they want to maintain any kind of semblance of a Premier League team, we have to turn it around very quickly. It doesn’t help we only have 10 senior players.

The visitors started brightly but found themselves a goal down after eight minutes when Kenny McLean fouled Will Hughes in the area and Edouard converted from the spot for his first goal since October.
Palace took charge from there with Hughes their driving force. He sprung forward and slipped in Mateta, who could only find the side-netting.
Mateta made it 2-0 with his first goal of the season seven minutes before half-time. Edouard pulled out to the left and played in a low cross that Mateta placed past Angus Gunn with superb precision.
Just seconds earlier, Jacob Sorensen squandered a superb chance for Norwich at the other end, and four minutes later, Schlupp added a third with a powerful finish from a tight angle.
Sam Byram clipped the top of the crossbar with a header in stoppage time, but Norwich’s defensive issues had already given them a mountain to climb.
Gunn did his best to keep the score down with an excellent double save to deny Schlupp and then Mateta in the second half, while Vicente Guaita was forced into rare action by a Przemyslaw Placheta strike.

Canaries struggling badly at both ends

Smith knew how difficult the job would be when he arrived at Carrow Road in November, but his side appear devoid of any inspiration at the moment.
There were good spells of possession, particularly early on, and a couple of half chances, but Palace were not really troubled at any point.
With no Pukki or Cantwell in the side, their task was made even tougher, but they have now lost five games in succession without scoring a goal and conceding 14.
The Norwich fans even resorting to singing: “Lets’ pretend we scored a goal!” and it neatly summed up another tough afternoon in what is becoming a nightmarish season.

Eagles fly high without Zaha

Although Covid-19 meant he could not be at the game, manager Patrick Vieira’s influence on Palace was clearly on show again. They are much more energetic in attack this season, playing on the front foot rather than the counter-attack, particularly at home.
It is now nine successive games at Selhurst Park in which they’ve scored, and although they were helped by calamitous Norwich defending, there was a real purpose in their play.
And while they were without the suspended Wilfried Zaha, on whom they have relied so heavily in recent years, and the always-impressive Conor Gallagher, the likes of Hughes, Edouard and Mateta picked up the baton seamlessly to deliver an accomplished performance.

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