Friday 15 December 2017

Crystal Palace move out of bottom three with win against relegation rivals Middlesbrough

Crystal Palace 1 Middlesbrough 0

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 25: Jason Puncheon of Crystal Palace (L) and Luka Milivojevic of Crystal Palace (R) embrace after the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough at Selhurst Park on February 25, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 25: Jason Puncheon of Crystal Palace (L) and Luka Milivojevic of Crystal Palace (R) embrace after the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough at Selhurst Park on February 25, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images)

Declan Warrington

Crystal Palace revived their hopes of securing Premier League survival with a 1-0 home defeat of Middlesbrough.

Victory, secured by a first-half goal from Patrick van Aanholt, also took them out of the bottom three and level with their visitors, who could yet struggle to avoid relegation.

Palace remain 17th but, having secured their first home league victory since Sam Allardyce's appointment in December, may yet have enough time to preserve their top-flight status.

Allardyce had had a fortnight uninterrupted by fixtures to work with his team, ending the demanding run that began with his arriva and finally giving him time to exert his influence during training.

He also handed loan signing Mamadou Sakho his debut in central defence, and the £13million capture Luka Milivojevic his first start at Selhurst Park.

Earlier this month, Palace's positive start against Sunderland was undermined when their confidence drained after they conceded the opening goal. They found themselves 4-0 down by half-time, but here Boro posed minimal attacking threat and gave the hosts time to settle.

Unlike on so many occasions this season, Palace did not lose belief when Wilfried Zaha's first attacks came to little, or when Christian Benteke tamely headed Van Aanholt's 13th-minute cross into Victor Valdes' hands.

Their organised visitors were content to sit deep and deprive them of clear-cut opportunities, but gradually Palace's pace and intent created the half-chance Van Aanholt needed.

Middlesbrough's Daniel Ayala had headed a high ball towards the edge of the area when the left-back controlled possession with his left foot before, with his right, shooting across goal and into the bottom right corner.

It said much about the visitors' predictability in the final third that at half-time their manager Aitor Karanka substituted striker Alvaro Negredo and replaced him with Rudy Gestede.

They have scored only 19 times in 26 league games this season, and given Gestede's ineffectiveness for Aston Villa throughout 2015-16 he is unlikely to inspire much improvement.

Their first real sight of goal came in the 57th minute, to Cristhian Stuani. Despite having little space, Adam Forshaw's header teed Stuani up for a half-volley in front of goal, from where his well-struck shot was routinely saved by Wayne Hennessey.

Stuani had seen another shot deflect behind for a corner when Palace again began to threaten. Substitute James McArthur went down in the area after a challenge from Stewart Downing and appeared unfortunate not to be given a penalty when Robert Madley booked him for diving.

In the 77th minute, and with chances coming through the direct Andros Townsend, Benteke struck wide from the former's delivery.

Townsend also struck narrowly over when Benteke played him through on goal after a counter-attack in stoppage time, but by then 16th-placed Middlesbrough seemed to have given up on scoring as Palace secured three vital points.

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