Palace got their Premier League campaign off to the perfect start as goals from Jeffrey Schlupp and Wilfried Zaha saw off newly-promoted Fulham at Craven Cottage.
It was a happy return to his old stomping ground for Roy Hodgson, who saw his team weather an early storm as the hosts’ adrenalin at being back in the top-flight saw them put Palace under plenty of early pressure, but that was eased when Schlupp hammered home his first Eagles goal on 41 minutes.
That laid the platform for Palace to boss the second half, and they got the all-important second goal 11 minutes from time when Zaha coolly capped off a fine team goal that swept from one end to another to ensure there was no repeat of last season’s lengthy wait for a league victory.
Having waited four years for Premier League football at Craven Cottage the excitable home crowd were loud and proud early doors, and within minutes they had twice let out audible ‘oooos’. Only an excellent challenge by James Tomkins denied Aleksandar Mitrovic a wide path to goal, and then Wayne Hennessey had to sprawl across his line to keep out a low Cyrus Christie effort.
He was kept busy again after 13 minutes when a defence-splitting pass by Tom Cairney sent Andre Schurrle scampering down the right to find Mitrovic, but Hennessey’s 6’7” frame came in handy as he flung himself at the attempt to only concede a corner, which Fulham’s £22 million man headed a whisker wide.
Like most of their pre-season games, Palace grew into the contest and on the half-hour mark they nearly snatched the lead. A couple of step-overs from Andros Townsend gave him room to cross for Christian Benteke who towered about the defence to nudge the ball goalwards, but Fabri just about managed to prevent the ball finding the top corner.
However the theme of the first half was Mitrovic v Hennessey and with eight minutes of the opening 45 remaining the Serbian striker turned away from the Eagles defence and once again sent the ball towards the target, but Hennessey got down low and pushed it away which would prove crucial three minutes later when Hodgson’s team took the lead.
Pushing down the left flank, Patrick van Aanholt and Townsend waited patiently to play the killer pass, which came when Schlupp made a dangerous run that was spotted by Van Aanholt. The Ghanaian took a touch to get past Calum Chambers before unleashing a thunderbolt which flashed between Fabri and his near post to score his first competitive goal for the Eagles.
The travelling contingent congregated at that end of the ground were still celebrating wildly when they saw the ball belted into the back of the net again 90 seconds later when Van Aanholt was found by Zaha before finishing with aplomb, but he was correctly flagged for offside as Palace ended a half that began with them under serious pressure, in the lead.
The momentum shift continued after the restart and a fierce drive by Van Aanholt’s from the edge of the box smacked a fortunate Fabri in the chest, and on 63 minutes Palace had a huge opportunity to double their lead. Hennessey smacked a free-kick into the area which Benteke nodded into an undetected Zaha’s path, and only the outstretched boot of Fabri prevented the winger from adding his name on the scoresheet.
Hennessey would be involved in more conventional fashion when he claimed a Mitrovic header a minute later, which showed that Palace needed the second goal their second half superiority merited, and on 80 minutes they got it with a superb team goal.
It began with good composure from Van Aanholt and Mamadou Sakho to clear up after a Fulham attack, and after Townsend found Benteke, the striker played an inch-perfect cross-field pass to Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Despite being under pressure from Mitrovic, the youngster edged over the halfway line before slipping in Zaha, who created an angle to slip the ball under Fabri and seal the victory.
As good as Hodgson’s team had been in attack, they were also indebted to Hennessey for keeping them in the game during a tricky opening half-hour, and he managed to keep his clean sheet intact by tipping away a Ryan Sessegnon header and blocking an Aboubakar Kamara effort from a tight angle.
Indeed, debutant Cheikhou Kouyate almost put the icing on a very sweet red and blue cake in injury-time but another stinging blast was pushed away by Fabri, but Palace’s first opening day victory since 2015 had already long-been secured.
Fulham: Fabri, Christie, Chambers, Le Marchand, Bryan (Vietto 71), Cairney, McDonald, Seri (Johansen 82), Schurrle (Kamara 61), Sessegnon, Mitrovic. Subs: Rico, Fosu-Mensah, Cisse, Kebano.
Palace: Hennessey, Wan-Bissaka, Sakho, Tomkins, Van Aanholt (Souare 90), Townsend (Kouyate 88), McArthur, Milivojevic, Schlupp, Zaha, Benteke (Sørloth 83). Subs: Guaita, Ward, Kelly, Riedewald.