Palace secured their second pre-season win in a week as they ran out 3-1 victors at Oxford United thanks to goals from Wilfried Zaha, Jeffrey Schlupp and Sullay Kaikai.
In their first fixture of the summer on English soil, Roy Hodgson’s team found themselves trailing at the break when former Eagles loanee Jonathan Obika opened the scoring against the run of play, but after the break Palace were much sharper in front of goal and netted twice in quick succession to remain unbeaten run in pre-season after three games.
Having netted twice against Halmstads on Monday, the red-hot Patrick van Aanholt picked up where he’d left off and before a minute had been played he fired narrowly over from a tight angle, but after Oxford forced the first corner in the ninth minute, Rob Dickie’s header was comfortably collected by Wayne Hennessey.
10 minutes later Palace sprang into life and had two great chances to seize the lead. James McArthur found Zaha in space who played a neat one-two with Alexander Sørloth to find himself one-on-one with Simon Eastwood, but the U’s stopper managed to beat away the attacker’s firm strike, and seconds later Andros Townsend stood the ball up to the back post for Sørloth who looked destined to score but instead headed wide.
Those missed opportunities came back to haunt Hodgson’s team as on 33 minutes the hosts suddenly and unexpectedly took the lead with their only meaningful attack of the half. A long ball from the edge of his own box by Cameron Brannagan allowed Obika to beat the offside trap, coolly dribble around the advancing Hennessey and, despite James Tomkins’ best efforts on the line, the former Eagle found the net.
Obika’s former Tottenham teammate Townsend nearly found the perfect response when he whipped a curler goalwards which rippled the top of the net, and just before the half-time whistle sounded he fed Zaha with acres of space to charge into, but under pressure from Dickie the Ivorian also missed the target.
The second half continued in the same vain with Palace dominating possession and territory but this time displaying with more quality in front of goal. They were only denied an equaliser five minutes after the restart by an excellent piece of goalkeeping when Zaha seemed primed to score a rare header thanks to a superb byline delivery by Van Aanholt, but Eastwood showed superb reactions to scoop it away for a corner.
But Zaha kept plugging away and on 55 minutes he finally got his reward. Giving the U’s a taste of their own medicine, a swift counter-attack saw Sørloth, Townsend and Zaha link up, and the latter sped past Dickie before crashing an unstoppable shot high past Eastwood to register his first goal of pre-season.
Zaha was at it again three minutes later when he danced his way inside the area before shooting at the goalkeeper, but on the hour mark Palace edged ahead when Townsend played a searching cross into the area and Zaha’s run caused confusion amongst the home defence, allowing Schlupp to sneak in and tuck home for his first ever goal for the Eagles.
With his team in firm control, fresh legs were gradually added to the fray by Hodgson, and one of those was Jason Puncheon who forced Eastwood into another top stop with seven minutes remaining when the keeper spread himself to keep put the Palace skipper.
However, the win was wrapped up three minutes from the end when man-of-the-match Zaha released Townsend who cut the ball back towards the penalty spot, and waiting there was Kaikai who casually passed it into the corner to score his second of the summer and cap off another good afternoon’s work for the ever-improving Eagles.
Oxford: Eastwood, McMahon (Norman 73), Nelson (Mousinho 73), Dickie (Raglan 73), Garbutt, Brannagan, Ruffels (Hall 73), Henry (Baptiste 60), Whyte (Napa 60), Carruthers, Obika (Lopes 73). Sub not used: Stevens.
Palace: Hennessey (Guaita 46), Wan-Bissaka (Ward 64), Tomkins, Sakho, Van Aanholt, Townsend, McArthur (Puncheon 82), Riedewald, Schlupp (Williams 82), Zaha, Sørloth (Kaikai 64). Subs not used: Souare, Woods, Kelly, Lokilo.