Palace’s miserable record at Ashton Gate continued as Bristol City cruised into the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup with a convincing victory over the Eagles.
Having not beaten City on their own patch in 11 previous attempts stretching back to 1980, things looked to be going smoothly when Bakary Sako opened the scoring after 21 minutes, but strikes from Matty Taylor and Milan Djuric put the hosts ahead before half-time, before a wondergoal by Joe Bryan was quickly followed by a long-range effort by Callum O’Dowda in the second half to end the Eagles’ interest in the competition.
Despite having made 10 changes, the opening half-hour belonged to Roy Hodgson’s team, and just six minutes in they had the hosts’ goalframe shaking. A flowing move began when Ruben Loftus-Cheek pushed forward from inside his own half and fed Sako, whose powerful cross fell perfectly for Chung-yong Lee but his vicious volley thudded against the crossbar.
Sako then tested Luke Steele with a scuffed shot from range, and the positive start continued when Sullay Kaikai went close when he was picked out inside the area but saw his shot beaten away by the goalkeeper.
The Robins delivered a warning shot of their own 20 minutes in when Aden Flint poked goalwards after the ball fell fortuitously for him but it came straight to Wayne Hennessey, and seconds after that little scare Palace found the opening goal that their early dominance deserved.
Once again, Loftus-Cheek was instrumental in the move, gaining possession and starting an attack before releasing Sako, and after taking a touch the Malian drove the ball under Steele to spark celebrations in front of the travelling 2,000 Eagles fans.
The virtual one-way traffic continued when Kaikai forced Steele to make another awkward-looking save, but having beaten Premier League opposition in both Watford and Stoke City in the previous rounds, City were no pushovers and they proved it again on 34 minutes by pulling level.
A long ball came towards Patrick van Aanholt who air-shotted a clearance before trying to tidy up by heading back to Hennessey, however his attempted backpass was too tame and Taylor managed to nip in, control with his chest and fire the falling ball beyond Hennessey to equalise.
And then five minutes later the game was turned on its head when Lee Johnson’s side got in front. After Hordur Magnusson delivered a long throw into the area, the ball dropped amongst a crowd of players and failed to be cleared, allowing Djuric, who had only come on for injury-victim Famara Diedhiou eight minutes earlier, to blast past Hennessey.
A fine stop by Steele prevented Sako from doubling his tally and sending the sides in level at the break, and after recovering from a shaky start the City custodian showed his quality once again after the restart when he displayed brilliant reactions to stop Loftus-Cheek from netting his first Palace goal via a cute flick from a Sako cross.
Those saves proved pivotal as it laid the foundations for his team to quickly move out of sight, as on the hour mark Palace’s cup hopes were left hanging by a thread. There looked to be little on when Bryan received the ball on the corner of the area, but he unleashed a bullet of a shot that flashed over Hennessey and clipped the top of the crossbar before flying into the net.
And those hopes were ended just six minutes later when a free-kick was pumped into the box from the halfway line which Palace could only clear to O’Dowda who flicked the ball up before rifling it into the bottom corner of the net to add to the Eagles’ misery.
That goal ended the game as a contest and the remainder passed by without virtually any incident, although Jason Puncheon went close to ending his goal drought with a few minutes remaining but again Steele was equal to it, and the stopper also got down low to deny Freddie Ladapo a first goal in Palace colours as a disappointing evening for Hodgson’s team came to its conclusion.
Bristol City: Steele, Pisano (Paterson 65), Wright, Flint, Magnusson, Bryan, O'Dowda, Brownhill, Pack, Taylor, Diédhiou (Djuric 31, Bakinson 80). Subs not used: Fielding, Vyner, Kelly, Eliasson.
Palace: Hennessey, Fosu-Mensah, Kelly, Tomkins, Van Aanholt (Lumeka 82), Puncheon, Riedewald, Lee (Ladapo 57), Loftus-Cheek, Kaikai (Souare 64), Sako. Subs not used: Henry, Delaney, Phillips, Mutch.