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MATCH REPORT

PUBLISHED
16:56 10th September 2016


Palace claimed their first win of the 2016/17 season as a first Eagles goal for Christian Benteke and a second half strike by Wilfried Zaha saw them beat Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium.

The Belgian hotshot got off the mark for the club early in the game as he nodded in a Zaha cross, but Alan Pardew’s side were pegged back when Daniel Ayala headed in from a corner on 37 minutes.

However in just the second minute of the second half, Zaha sneaked in to fire past Victor Valdes and Palace defended resolutely for the rest of the encounter to claim the three points.

The game began quietly with the visitors shading the better of the possession, but their only opportunity in the opening fracas came when Scott Dann screwed a header well wide, which was followed by wild blasts by Alvaro Negredo and Adam Clayton, both never in danger of troubling Steve Mandanda.

But on 13 minutes the Eagles’ record signing found the breakthrough. A sloppy pass handed Palace a throw-in on the right and Joel Ward gave it to Zaha, who had all the time in the world to clip the ball into the box where Benteke outjumped Ayala to guide it past Valdes and score his first for the Eagles.

10 minutes later a flowing Eagles attack nearly saw them go two goals ahead. Zaha picked the ball up on the halfway line and drove towards the area, and after skipping past George Friend he once again found Benteke, who this time held the ball up and laid it off for Andros Townsend to have a crack but Valdes managed to push it past his post.

However with seven minutes of the half to go, despite looking unlikely to do so, the Premier League new boys found a way to get level. After winning a corner on the left, Stewart Downing whipped it towards the back post where Ayala was well-placed to get his head onto the cross, and despite Mandanda getting a hand to it he couldn’t prevent the ball nestling inside the side-netting and restoring parity.

And in first half stoppage-time the hosts should have taken the lead when a counter-attack saw Cristhian Stuani slip in Negredo who raced towards goal, but made the angle tougher for himself as he drove forward and tried to thrash the ball past Mandanda, but the Eagles keeper stayed big and deflected it away to ensure his side weren’t trailing at the break.

But 90 seconds after the restart Pardew’s side were back in front. A clever pass by James McArthur towards Zaha caused Friend all sorts of problems with the winger buzzing around behind him, and his poor touch allowed Zaha to nip in and sweep the ball past Valdes from 10 yards out.

Back came Boro though and Downing saw an absolute piledriver miss the target by fractions as he whacked the ball goalwards from 25 yards out, and then Ben Gibson copied the former England winger but from 10 yards further back, and this time Mandanda had to leap to his top corner and get his fingertips to a rasping effort.

Looking for the third goal that would seal victory, Palace nearly got it when a Jason Puncheon corner found Dann whose header came to Damien Delaney but he could only steer it wide from the byline, but with 14 minutes to go Ayala nearly scored again from a corner kick but this time his attempt flashed over.

With six minutes to go Pardew handed debuts to Mathieu Flamini and Jonathan Benteke, who replaced his brother, but there was late drama as Downing played a perfect pass into Gaston Ramirez who saw his drilled shot brilliantly saved by Mandanda, with Martin Kelly managing to pip Negredo to the loose ball in front of an empty net and ensure Palace seized their first league win on the road since last December.

Middlesbrough: Valdes, Friend, Ayala, Gibson, Barragan, Forshaw, Clayton (De Roon 57), Stuani (Traore 81), Fischer (Ramirez 57), Downing, Negredo. Subs not used: Guzan, Nsue, Chambers, Rhodes.

Palace: Mandanda, Ward, Dann, Delaney, Kelly, McArthur, Ledley (Flamini 84), Townsend (Lee 77), Puncheon, Zaha, C. Benteke (J. Benteke 84). Subs not used: Hennessey, Tomkins, Fryers, Dreher.