Roy Hodgson celebrated his first win as Eagles manager as Bakary Sako’s goal was enough to beat Huddersfield Town and allow Palace to advance to the fourth round of the Carabao Cup.
The Malian was deployed as a makeshift striker by Hodgson and repaid his manager’s faith by netting from an Andros Townsend corner on 12 minutes as a much-changed Eagles side put aside their poor start to the league campaign to claim a morale-boosting victory in front of their own fans.
The game also saw Mamadou Sakho complete 70 minutes on his return to the line-up following his deadline day arrival, as well as Pape Souare complete his recovery from his car accident over 12 months ago as a half-time introduction.
A night of encouraging signs for the home side began after just three minutes when Townsend scuffed a low grasscutter straight at Joel Coleman, but 10 minutes later the long wait for a goal stretching back to the second round tie against Ipswich Town ended in simple fashion.
After Chung-yong Lee saw a shot deflected wide for a corner, Townsend delivered an inswinger into the box, and an unchallenged Sako had the simple task of redirecting it into the net with his head to net his first Eagles goal in over two years.
The Terriers quickly tried to restore parity and their first threatening attack saw Scott Malone edge past Patrick van Aanholt on the right and slide the ball across the face of goal for Elias Kachunga, but the striker should have done better as he fired over his first-time effort from six yards out.
Van Aanholt then found himself in the opposition’s final third as he slalomed past two defenders before pinging one goalwards with his right foot but it was straight down the throat of Coleman, a feat that was repeated by Townsend on the other flank a couple of minutes later as a rejuvenated Palace pressed for a second before half-time.
A couple of scares came their way from ex-Eagle Tom Ince who curled a free-kick over the bar before being picked out on the edge of the area, but his attempt aimed for the bottom corner couldn’t beat captain for the night Julian Speroni, but Hodgson’s team’s confidence continued to grow and on the stroke of half-time a free-flowing move involving Lee, Townsend and Sako carved out a chance for the onrushing Jeffrey Schlupp who hit straight at Coleman, before the opening 45 ended with a Townsend piledriver flashing just wide.
The good news kept coming for Palace as at half-time Souare made his long-awaited comeback, but with a one-goal lead their name in the hat for the next round wasn’t secure and Philip Billing blasted wide, substitute Abdelhamid Sabiri forced a fine block by Speroni and Scott Malone fizzed a 30-yarder off target within 10 minutes of the restart as David Wagner’s team started the half much better.
They then forced Speroni into another stop when Rajiv Van la Parra couldn’t get enough contact onto his effort after cutting back inside the box, but Palace managed to hold firm and nearly grabbed the second goal that would ensure their progression when Townsend saw a shot from 25 yards take a wicked deflection but spin wide of the mark, and from the corner Sako saw another header from close range cleared away from danger by Aaron Mooy.
Huddersfield threw everything at the hosts in the final stages and Coleman even joined the attack for a while in stoppage-time, but they didn’t come close to breaching the Eagles defence and Hodgson could celebrate his first win in the SE25 dugout.
Palace: Speroni, Kelly, Tomkins, Sakho (Delaney 69), Van Aanholt, Townsend, Riedewald (Cabaye 80), Milivojevic, Schlupp (Souare 46), Lee, Sako. Subs not used: Hennessey, Ward, Mutch, Benteke.
Huddersfield: Coleman, Hadergjonaj, Hefele, Hogg (Whitehead 69), Malone, Cranie, Billing, Lolley (Sabiri 46), Ince (Mooy 69), Van la Parra, Kachunga. Subs not used: Lossl, Smith, Lowe, Jorgensen.