Crystal Palace’s under-18 side secured a close-run victory over Watford in Beckenham to lay their hands on three well-earned points, with Brandon Aveiro helping himself to a hat-trick.
Paddy McCarthy’s team took no time to find the measure of their opponents and were celebrating twice in the opening 15 minutes when Aveiro scored his first at the 10-minute mark following pressure in the Hornet’s box resulting from a testing Palace corner.
He was then fouled on the left edge of Watford’s box to set himself up for a stinging free-kick which the visiting ‘keeper did well to get strong hands to the ball, but could do nothing about the ensuing effort from Jude Russell who netted from close-range.
Watford eventually managed to settle and grasp back some control but despite their bout of pressure, their shot-stopper was called most spectacularly into action as he produced a stunning reflex save to deny Joshua Ajayi, who saw several more efforts frustratingly denied but ensured that Watford were once again on the back foot.
Towards the end of the opening 45, Russell, from defence, took ahold of the Eagles' attacking baton with a remarkable burst across the pitch to gift Aveiro with a chance that he headed just wide of goal as the score remained 2-0 going into halftime.
McCarthy’s unchanged side returned to the field facing newly energised opposition and were caught off-guard by the speed at which Watford started the second half. A goal from the six-yard box gave the visitors a sniff, and they almost doubled their tally but were foiled by an exceptional save from Jacob Russell, who tipped an effort over the bar with a lightning-quick reaction.
Despite Russell’s best efforts, Watford did bring themselves level in the game with a similar, close-range goal much like their first to make it 2-2, but Palace responded resolutely with Aveiro netting his second of the morning after breaking through Watford’s backline to slot an unsaveable effort into the net.
From here, the game fell into a deadlocked lull. Watford had lost their initial momentum and Palace guarded a frail lead, but it was ultimately the home side who went on to break the stalemate as a series of efforts yielded the two-goal cushion they’d been hunting for.
Aveiro completed his hat-trick after a well-threaded ball from Will Donkin allowed him the time to calmly net to the ‘keeper’s left from the edge of the box. This ensured that Palace finished the day with all three points and can now reflect on a very successful performance.
Palace: Jacob Russell, Onoabhagbe, Hanson, Jude Russell, Robertson, Gurung, Boateng, Malcolm (Donkin 85), Aveiro, Pierrick, Ajayi. Subs not used: Luthra, Parris, Matthews, Trehy.