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Palace 2 Watford 3

18 August 2012

Dougie Freedman handed home debuts to Joel Ward, Aaron Martin and Aaron Wilbraham as Palace looked to kick-off the 2012/13 npower Championship campaign with a win over Gianfranco Zola's new-look Watford.

Zola's side pressed early, with Sean Murray in particular impressing in midfield and it was from the youngster's run and cross that the best chance of the first ten minutes came. Joe Garner rising highest to meet Murray's ball-in but unable to direct his header at goal.

At the other end Wibraham and Wilfried Zaha were showing early signs of a potentially promising partnership, Zaha latching on to the 6ft front-man's flick-on and firing a snap-shot narrowly wide. That was a sign of things to come though as Zaha danced his way through three challenges only to be felled by the fourth as he closed in on goal.

Andy D'Urso had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and Owen Garvan stepped up and dispatched his penalty with aplomb to give Palace the early lead.

Watford reacted well to going behind, Garner almost immediately heading Mark Yeates swinging ball-in onto the bar as Speroni watched on helpless. The Palace defence seemed to be coping with the Hornets pressure with relative ease but a mistake from the Eagles number 1 soon saw the visitors level.

Murray again was the creator although this time through a soft effort that Speroni should have dealt with. The Argentina fumbled though, allowing Martin Taylor to pounce and tap home the equaliser for the visitors.

They were level less than ten minutes though as Garvan latched onto a loose ball and burst through the heart of the Watford defence to fire into the bottom corner. It was nearly three minutes later as Dikgacoi met Garvan's corner well, only to see his goal-bound header cleared off the line.

Freedman's side comfortably saw out the end of the first half and the start of the second period passed without incidence before Zola through caution to the wind, sending on striker Matej Vydra for captain John Eustace – who had wasted the best chance of the second half, firing over from just inside the box as the game approached the hour mark.

Palace began to allow Watford to control the game but were able to keep the Hornets at arm's length as the game entered the last 15 minutes with their one goal lead in tact. There was still time for Zaha to show his class, the Palace forward spinning away from two challenges and winning a corner, which Ramage rose highest to head narrowly over.

As so often with Palace there was still time for twist, and this time it was a sickening one. Almen Abdi found himself in space from Vydra's square pass and firing his shot squirm into the bottom corner with Speroni only able to get a hand to it as the visitors nicked an equaliser in the final five.

There was still time for the Hornets to inflict more pain on the home fans though as Vydra showed his class, turning in the box and curling a fantastic effort into the top corner to take all three points.

Attendance: 17,109 (1,690 away)

Crystal Palace: Julian Speroni, Joel Ward, Jonathan Parr,(David Wright 72) Aaron Martin, Kagisho Dikgacoi, Owen Garvan, Mile Jedinak (c), Wilfried Zaha, Aaron Wilbraham, Dean Moxey, Peter Ramage

Subs Not Used: Stuart O'Keefe, Kwesi Appiah, Kyle De Silva, Matthew Parsons, Ibra Sekajja, Lewis Price

Watford: Manuel Almunia, Carl Dickinson, John Eustace © (Matej Vydra 59), Martin Taylor, Mark Yeates, Jonathan Hogg, Lloyd Doyley, Sean Murray (Connor Smith 79), Almen Adbi, Joe Garner (Chris Iwelumo 79), Nyron Nosworthy

Subs Not Used: Lee Hodson, Craig Forsyth,Adam Thompson, Jonathan Bond

Bookings: Dickinson

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