Palace claimed third place in the Premier League Asia Trophy after goals from Luka Milivojevic and Bakary Sako saw them beat West Bromwich Albion 2-0 in Hong Kong.
The Eagles raced into an early lead when the Serbian curled home a fine free-kick before Sako fired home a second just before half-time to put Frank de Boer’s men in pole position, and despite a few nervy moments after the restart they managed to keep the Baggies at bay and claim the bronze medal with a good, solid victory.
An early chance for Albion saw Salomon Rondon head wide after Jake Livermore’s clipped delivery, but within 11 minutes the Hong Kong Stadium was filled with roars of appreciation when Palace took the lead in fine style.
After Wilfried Zaha was unceremoniously floored by Craig Dawson after wonderfully nutmegging Allan Nyom, Milivojevic took responsibility for the free-kick just outside the area and the Serbian whipped a sensational shot over the wall past Ben Foster’s near post to loud gasps from the natives.
That settled Palace who began to play some slick football punctuated by little flicks and tricks that gained further acclaim from those in attendance, and they carved out another good opportunity when Ruben Loftus-Cheek danced around a defender and allowed Andros Townsend play a one-two with Christian Benteke but the man playing at wing-back fired over.
However with 10 minutes of the half to go Wayne Hennessey was called into action for the first time of note when Rondon was slipped in behind the Eagles defence but the shot-stopper managed to smother the ball as the Venezuelan tried to round him, and then Chris Brunt tried his luck from 30 yards but his effort sailed into the crowd.
But just as the Baggies were building up a head of steam, De Boer’s team grabbed their second goal with two minutes of the half to play. Milivojevic – featuring in an unfamiliar centre-back role - played a pass into Sako who spun away from his man on the halfway line and raced goalwards. Once he got 30 yards out, he switched the ball onto his thunderous left foot and took aim, and deflections off Claudio Yacob and Dawson completely deceived Foster as the ball squirmed into the net.
Firmly in control of proceedings, the Eagles made a trio of changes at the interval but if they thought the result was in the bag, the first three minutes of the second half proved it wasn’t. Firstly, Matt Phillips sent a teasing free-kick towards the back post where the well-positioned Ahmed Hegazy blazed over, and then a minute later Phillips bent a shot towards the top corner but Julian Speroni made a tremendous one-handed stop to divert it off course.
All the action was around the Palace penalty area during this period and Speroni had to get down to stop a Rondon drive, but possibly to be expected in the warm, humid conditions, things got a bit heated in the middle of the park with some strong tackles going in and niggly play become more prevalent.
Players tiring and a raft of substitutions added to the staccato nature of the second 45, but Albion kept plugging away and James McClean was fractions away from pulling one back when whistled a shot over the crossbar with 20 minutes remaining.
However, the Eagles defence couldn’t be breached and they clung onto their victory and third spot in the tournament in what proved to be a useful exercise for De Boer in the Far East.
West Brom: Foster, Dawson, Evans (Yacob 22), Hegazy, Nyom, Livermore (Field 68), Chadli (Roberts 75), Phillips (McClean 61), Rodriguez (Leko 61), Brunt (Wilson 62), Rondon (Robson-Kanu 61). Subs not used: Myhill, Harper, O'Shea, Melbourne.
Palace: Hennessey (Speroni 46), Milivojevic (Cabaye 60), Delaney Tomkins 60), Kelly, Townsend (Wan-Bissaka 75), Puncheon (Williams 75), Loftus-Cheek (Ward 46), Schlupp (van Aanholt 46), Zaha (Kirby 69), Benteke (Ladapo 75), Sako (Phillips 60). Sub not used: Anderson.