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MATCH REPORT

PUBLISHED
16:52 22nd August 2015


Debutant Bakary Sako enjoyed the dream Crystal Palace debut as he netted a late winner to win all three points for his side against Aston Villa.

The Malian winger showed great composure to score a fine winner and instantly become a favourite with the Eagles fans, clinching the win after a frantic final half hour.

After James McArthur had seen a goal controversially ruled out, Scott Dann bulleted in a header but a second own goal in as many weeks was conceded as Pape Souare deflected one into his own net, but Sako’s late strike ensured the Palace fans went home happy.

The game’s opening opportunity fell to Jason Puncheon when Wilfried Zaha scrapped away past Idrissa Gueye to clip the ball back to him but it bounced just before landing in the winger’s path and caused him to screw the chance over.

On 14 minutes Villa had a fantastic opportunity to go ahead when a loose pass by Dann was instantly played into Gabriel Agbonlahor’s path by Kieran Westwood and the pacey attacker raced onto it but saw his one-on-one chance well saved by the legs of Alex McCarthy.

It looked destined that the Eagles would take the lead just after the 20 minute mark when Glenn Murray found a pocket of space inside the area and found Zaha but just as he pulled the trigger a Villa defender managed to get in and deflect it away from goal.

Gueye was next to try his luck with an attempt from 30 yards but saw a grasscutter skid wide before the teams had a short water break as they toiled away in the heat engulfing south London.

The weather was making things difficult for both sides and a lack of cohesion in the first-half was evident but with five minutes remaining of the half Jordan Amavi slid the ball down the left to Jack Grealish and the teenager took on Joel Ward before firing an angled shot towards goal on that McCarthy did well to tip over.

Wanting more from his side, Alan Pardew made two changes at the break as he brought on Jordon Mutch and Dwight Gayle for Zaha and Murray and the two replacements nearly made an instant impact. They completed a one-two that allowed Mutch the chance to send a low centre across goal which Sako got on the end of but Brad Guzan managed to block it with his body.

But on the hour mark there was real controversy when Palace had a goal ruled out. Gayle collected the ball inside the area and teased his way to find a yard of space to have a shot, which flicked off James McArthur and went into the net. 

After the goal seemed to be initially awarded, a host of Villa player surrounded the assistant referee and after consultation with referee Keith Stroud they eventually ruled the goal out for offside.

However they weren’t to be denied as on 71 minutes they grabbed the lead. With a head of steam, McArthur charged towards goal and eventually would win a corner, with Puncheon floated over and Dann dominated Ciaran Clark in the air and powered an unstoppable header into the net.

That filled the hosts with confidence and a couple of minutes later Sako forced Guzan into a save with a fierce blast and Puncheon went close with a free-kick, but they were soon to be caught with a sucker punch on 77 minutes.

Substitute Adama Traore beat Puncheon and sped down the right and aimed to put in a cross but saw it ricochet off the heel of Souare and flick past the helpless McCarthy to draw level.

But with four minutes remaining Palace got themselves ahead for a second time. Dann dispossessed Amavi on the right and cut the ball back to Sako who caressed the ball around Guzan’s reach and seal the victory for his new side.

Palace: McCarthy, Ward, Dann, Delaney, Souare, McArthur, Cabaye (Jedinak 82), Zaha (Mutch 46), Puncheon, Sako, Murray (Gayle 46). Substitutes: Hennessey, Kelly, Lee, Bamford.

Aston Villa: Guzan, Bacuna, Richards, Clark, Amavi, Gueye, Westwood, Sanchez (Traore 69), Grealish, Agbonlahor, Gestede. Subs: Bunn, Baker, Hutton, Veretout, Sinclair, Ayew.