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22:08 16th August 2011

Palace 2 Coventry 1

Palace made their best start to a season in five years after coming from behind to see off Coventry 2-1 with two goals in the last five minutes at Selhurst.

Dougie Freedman made one change to the side that recorded victory over Burnley as KG returned to the starting line-up in place of the injured Darren Ambrose.

After an even start to the game, Owen Garvan was the first to try his luck with an effort from distance after some good link-up play from Jermaine Easter and Sean Scannell. Coventry's first attack was well-crowded out, but at the expense of a free-kick in a dangerous position. Martin Cranie rose highest to meet Gael Bigirimana's resulting set-piece but could only head over under pressure.

Gary McSheffrey then limped off as the visitors' injury problems went from bad to worse in perhaps the most significant development of the first twenty minutes, before a good run and shot from Scannell stung the palms of Joe Murphy, who tipped wide. Garvan's corner then caused panic, drifting all the way to the back post where KG had been left unmarked, but the South African's header although goalwards was easily cleared.

Palace continued to look the more likely to score, and got most joy down the right hand side where both Peter Ramage and KG put dangerous crosses into the Coventry area which the Sky Blues' centre-back pairing dealt with well.

Another injury meant an early change for Palace, as the lively KG was replaced by Wilfried Zaha in the 40th minute. Zaha immediately won a free-kick and from it the Eagles had the ball in the net. Garvan's inswinging free-kick was seemingly missed by Murphy and the ball ricocheted into the net off a Coventry defender. The celebrations were shortlived though, the referee disallowing the effort after he spotted a push by Easter on the Coventry keeper.

In the minutes before half-time the traffic continued to be one way but nothing clear cut came and the teams went into the break deadlocked.

Minutes into the second half though the visitors were ahead, a deflected cross from Cyrus Christie ending up in the net via a Julian Speroni punch that seemed to go straight into the ground and spin backwards, possibly via the heel of Lukas Jutkiewicz or McCarthy's shoulder.

Conceding seemed to sting Palace into action and Zaha won consecutive corners, but the Sky Blues' defence continued to deal with them well for the most part. Again and again Palace poured forward and finally from a corner a chance game as both Easter and McCarthy went close before Zaha fired into the side-netting from a tight angle.

Scannell continued to look the most likely for the home side, his two strikes from distance within ten minutes troubling Murphy, but one effort flew over and another wide. Zaha's impact off the bench had been excellent, time and time beating his man, but the final ball just wouldn't drop to a Palace player in the box.

Palace 2 Coventry 1

Speroni made amends for any doubts over his part in the goal with two top drawer saves in quick succession. First the Argentine did well to cling on to Sammy Clingan's free-kick and then he saved brilliantly with his legs as Jutkiewicz went clean through. Down the other end Zaha's trickery continued to cause mayhem, this time on the right, the youngster beating his man before hitting a curling shot just over as time began to run out.

Then, just as the game entered injury time, Palace struck. Substitute Jon Williams running across the box, and beating two men before finding Zaha. His shot was saved but the rebound flew up in the air and fell to Scannell on the volley and the young striker struck the ball hard and true into the back of the net for the equaliser.

Palace 2 Coventry 1

Suddenly with the home side's tails up the fightback went from good to great, as Zaha's trickery out wide saw him beat his man and closed in on Murphy. The Coventry keeper did well to parry his strike but Jermaine Easter pounced with the last kick of the game to give Palace all three points and a place in the top six.


Crystal Palace: 1. Julian Speroni, 3. David Wright, 4. Jonathan Parr, 5. Patrick McCarthy (c), 8. Kagisho Dikgacoi, 10. Owen Garvan, 11. Sean Scannell, 19. Jermaine Easter, 36. Ryan McGivern, 27. Aleksandar Tunchev, 38. Peter Ramage

Subs: 34. Lewis Price, 15. Mile Jedinak, 16. Wilfried Zaha, 20. Jonathan Williams, 31. Calvin Andrew

Booked: Jedinak, Scannell

Coventry: 1. Joe Murphy, 31. Cyrus Christie, 3. Chris Hussey, 15. Martin Cranie, 2. Richard Keogh, 32. Connor Thomas, 4. Sammy Clingan (c), 34. Gael Bigirmana, 11. Gary McSheffrey, 19. Roy O'Donovan, 9. Lucas Jutkiewicz

Subs: 13. Chris Dunn, 6. James McPake, 27. Shaun Jeffers, 30. Nathan Cameron, 35. Josh Ruffles

Booked: Bigirmana, Murphy

Att: 12,330 (460)

    Data provided by Press Association