Patrick van Aanholt’s first goal for the Eagles proved the difference between Palace and Middlesbrough as Sam Allardyce tasted his first win at Selhurst Park as Eagles boss.
The left-back’s precise shot on 34 minutes found the net and clinched a big three points for Allardyce’s men in this basement battle, which proved vital as it moved Palace level on points with their opponents in the Premier League table, and crucially out of the bottom three.
Having come into the game on the back of five successive home league defeats, a good start was imperative for the Eagles and they produced just that as they dominated the opening half. A lively opening saw them create a good chance just 12 minutes in when van Aanholt clipped a cross into the area for Christian Benteke, however the striker couldn’t find any direction to his header and nodded straight into Victor Valdes’ hands.
Benteke was the biggest menace to the Boro defence in the early stages and he fired goalwards after a shot on the turn that sent Valdes sprawling in vain as he had been unfairly adjudged to have handled the ball, however while chances for Aitor Karanka’s side were few and far between in the first 45 minutes, Palace were indebted to debutant Mamadou Sakho who made a fine last-ditch tackle to prevent Cristhian Stuani turning in an Alvaro Negredo flick-on during a goalmouth scramble.
A goal would have been just reward for Palace’s pressure and positivity, and on 34 minutes van Aanholt’s first Palace strike sent Selhurst into raptures. The Dutchman started the move when he found Yohan Cabaye on the edge of the box whose shot was deflected up into the air and headed clear by Daniel Ayala, but it fell to the left-back who hit a pin-point effort with his weaker foot that crept into the bottom corner to give the Eagles a crucial lead.
Three minutes later it could have been 2-0 when captain for the day Jason Puncheon jinked into the area from the right and got off a snapshot that Valdes managed to beat away, and after their fine display in the first half, the players were roared off at half-time by a buzzing home crowd.
The second half saw Wayne Hennessey busier than before the break but he failed to be troubled too much after a Gaston Ramirez free-kick and a drive from half-time sub Rudy Gestede, but Palace showed their cutting edge when Wilfried Zaha went for goal 30 yards out and saw the ball whistle just over the bar.
However the hosts got a let-off minutes later when Stuani was left unmarked in the box and was found by Adam Forshaw’s nod down but despite being well-placed he could only hook a volley straight at Hennessey, and that warning proved that the hosts needed the cushion of a second goal and they had a great chance to get that on 75 minutes when James McArthur went down in the area after he pounced on a mis-control by Stewart Downing, but referee Bobby Madley controversially booked the Scotsman for simulation rather than point to the spot.
But as time ticked away Palace remained resolute at the back and they could even had killed the game off in stoppage-time when Andros Townsend blazed over after Benteke had counter-attacked another wave of Middlesbrough pressure, but the final whistle saw a tidalwave of relief wash over SE25 as finally another home league success was claimed.
Palace: Hennessey, Ward, Tomkins, Sakho, van Aanholt (Schlupp 86), Cabaye (McArthur 61), Milivojevic, Puncheon, Townsend, Zaha (Dann 86), C. Benteke. Subs not used: Speroni, Delaney, Kaikai, Campbell.
Middlesbrough: Valdes, Ayala, Bernardo, Gibson, Fabio, de Roon, Clayton, Forshaw (Guedioura 59), Ramirez, Stuani (Traore 78), Negredo (Gestede 46). Subs not used: Guzan, Fry, Leadbitter, Clayton.