A penalty by Yohan Cabaye was enough for Palace to see off Watford as they kept their first clean sheet of the season to clinch victory at Vicarage Road.
In a repeat of the 2013 Championship Play-Off Final, Wilfried Zaha won a penalty once again against the Hornets but this time it was the French midfielder, rather than Kevin Phillips, who dispatched the kick with aplomb to get Palace back to winning ways in the league and move them into the top six of the table.
In a tepid opening 45 minutes, Palace had the half’s only real opportunity of note on 13 minutes when Bakary Sako won a free-kick on the left, which was swung into the box by Yohan Cabaye. Brede Hangeland managed to escape his marker’s clutches to get his head onto the ball but at point-blank range Heurelho Gomes managed to push the ball away.
The visitors enjoyed the majority of the territory during the opening half and looked the more likely to grab the game’s opening goal but some poor passing from both sides in the final third meant that neither goalkeeper was threatened. Lots of fouls from both sides also didn’t help proceedings, and it was therefore unsurprising that the two sides went in at the break goalless.
But the second half started with a bang as the Hornets nearly broke the deadlock after 60 seconds when Jose Manuel Jurado curled a free-kick over the Palace wall and struck the crossbar, with Troy Deeney heading the rebound well over.
Wayne Hennessey then had to get down low to stop an Almen Abdi strike which skidded along the turf from 25 yards out, but Sako went close with a free-kick of his own that left Gomes scrambling across his line to defect it wide.
Just before the hour mark it was the Eagles who were rueing their luck when Sako managed to bully his way past Allan Nyom and sent in a teasing cross towards Dwight Gayle, and the striker managed to make contact with the ball but saw his effort deflect off Craig Cathcart, clip the crossbar and fall kindly into Gomes’ grasp.
However on 70 minutes the deadlock was finally broken. In shades of the 2013 Play-Off Final, substitute Zaha spend down the left and was felled in the box by Nyom for a clear penalty. Cabaye stepped up and despite Gomes guessing the right way, the Frenchman’s kick was out of the Brazilian stopper’s reach as he registered his second of the season.
It could have been 2-0 on 78 minutes when Zaha again caused problems down the left and picked at Yannick Bolasie at the far post, and he nodded the ball into the path of Gayle who stabbed the ball the wrong side of the post from close range, and soon after Jason Puncheon saw a free-kick from the edge of the area easily saved by Gomes.
Gayle nearly wrapped up it when he was released by a good pass from Puncheon and he raced through on goal, and after being held up by a couple of Hornets defenders, his shot on the turn whistled just past Gomes’ far post, and Bolasie saw a blast ripple the top of the net in stoppage time as Alan Pardew’s side picked up another win on the road.
Watford: Gomes, Nyom (Ake 75), Prodl, Cathcart, Anya, Jurado, Watson (Ibarbo 82), Capoue, Abdi (Berghuis 64), Deeney, Ighalo. Subs: Arlauskis, Paredes, Guedioura, Diamante.
Palace: Hennessey, Kelly, Dann, Hangeland, Souare, Cabaye (McArthur 77), Ledley, Puncheon, Sako (Zaha 62), Bolasie, Gayle (Campbell 84). Subs: McCarthy, Mariappa, Croll, Gray.