Chris Wilder hailed Sheffield United’s home return to Premier League as a “day for the supporters” after a closely fought 1-0 win over Crystal Palace.
The match itself was not a particularly memorable affair but the three points, which were The Blades’ first in the top flight for 12 years, were much more significant.
Despite making a late impact from the bench against Bournemouth last week, Billy Sharp did not make his way into the starting line-up in an unchanged United side.
Following the never-ending speculation of his future over the summer, Wilfried Zaha returned to Roy Hodgson’s starting XI, replacing new-boy Jordan Ayew.
The nerves seemed to get the better of the Blades in the opening few minutes as Crystal Palace looked comfortable in possession.
An injury scare to Jack O’Connell gave the Blades time to settle their nerves. O’Connell remained on the pitch, but United continued to look sloppy as Lundstram received an early booking for bringing down Zaha.
Approaching the ten-minute mark, United began to look comfortable as they threatened The Eagles’ goal for the first time.
Captain Ollie Norwood controlled things in the middle of the park as he looked the most comfortable on the ball in Chris Wilder’s chosen 5-3-2 formation. The unusual set-up looked to trouble Hodgson’s side as overlapping centre-back Chris Basham was given the freedom to progress into the final third on more than one occasion.
Tempers flared among the fans after a VAR check went against them for a potential handball in the Palace penalty area.
John Fleck’s afternoon ended after just half an hour and was replaced by new signing Luke Freeman.
Freeman then played in Callum Robinson giving him a good chance of scoring his first Premier League goal, but it was blazed over Vincente Guaita’s crossbar.
Things didn’t get much better for the Blades as they continued to lack quality in the final third as a big chance arose for McGoldrick who had his effort collected by Guaita from within the six-yard box.
The majority of Palace’s attacking play came down the left-hand-side through the likes of Patrick Van Aanholt and Wilfried Zaha, but much like Sheffield United, they struggled to create a clear chance on goal.
Zaha looked to be the pantomime villain as he squared up to Wilder and smiled in the face of thousands of booing United fans, who continued to be booed as he left the field for mid-way break after a largely uneventful first-half.
The Blades started the second half with a bang. Enda Stevens played in substitute Luke Freeman who’s deflected shot landed perfectly at the feet of John Lundstram to send Bramall Lane into delirium.
Andros Townsend tried his luck from long-range, but it did nothing to trouble Dean Henderson who adorned a cap for the second-half.
Sheffield United were extremely unlucky with injuries with Callum Robinson coming off before the hour mark for Oli McBurnie.
The Blades were playing with the ease of a side who had been a Premier League established team for many years. Norwood and Lundstram were finding the space to stretch the Palace full-backs out wide.
A header from Jack O’Connell at the near post kept up the Blades continued dominance.
As the match drew to a tense final fifteen minutes, tempers flared with Baldock and McCarthy getting into an altercation seeing both parties booked.
Chris Wilder looked to sure up his defence in the final few minutes, bringing on Phil Jagielka to make his Blades homecoming to rapturous applause.
With just minutes left on the clock, Crystal Palace had a lucky reprieve when Joel Ward raised his leg to take the ball away from McBurnie inside the penalty area.
As the fourth official raised his board to indicate the amount of added time, a loud gasp of “seven!” ricocheted around Bramall Lane. It was kitchen-sink defending time for the Blades.
It was an agonising final few minutes, but Chris Wilder’s side held on for their first win of the season. A win that will perhaps be a significant sign to their table rivals.
Speaking after the match, Chris Wilder said: “We had to manage the game. There’s a lot of talk about this first game back. We had to give a disciplined performance and I think we did that. Palace are an outstanding side away from home.
“We want to go forward and create problems for the opposition. Even late on in the game, we had to stand tough and I thought we did that really well. It’s a good day from my POV on how we played today.
“For us to get into the division we’ve had to win a lot of games. For me now the key is can we take it on? We need to show a consistency about our play but over the last two games we really have.
“I know more than anybody what these supporters have had to go through. But they kept coming back with 22,000 in League One. Its their football club. I think this is a day for our supporters.
“I wanted us to use the power of the enthusiasm of the supporters to play in the right way and I think we did that.”
Meanwhile, Roy Hodgson was in a much more sombre mood. He said: “We didn’t get going in the second half. After the goal, we seemed to lose composure and some of our passing quality.
“I can’t be happy with our performance. We didn’t do nearly enough to get ourselves back in the game or cause them enough problems.
“I felt we dealt with Sheffield Utd’s tactics well. I didn’t see much of their overlapping centre-backs. They’re determined in their challenges and not to give people space. They were making certain that weren’t going to get past them.
“We’re going to keep working on our game. There is no magic wand that changes these things. We have played two matches and not scored a goal. You can’t win matches like that. I believe there are players who are capable of scoring goals.”
Sheffield United: Henderson, Baldock, Stevens, Fleck (Freeman 29’), O’Connell, Basham, Lundstram, Robinson (McBurnie 56’), Egan, Norwood, McGoldrick (Jagielka 89’)
Crystal Palace: Guaita, Ward, van Aanholt, Milivojevic, Dann, Meyer (Schlupp 65’), Townsend (McCarthy 70’), Zaha, Benteke, McArthur (Wickham 82’), Kelly
MOTM: John Lundstram
Referee: David Coote