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Report: Eagles suffer late defeat as Eze returns to action

Kirby 74'
Saadi 49'
Butterworth 86'

Eberechi Eze took to the field for the first time in more than five months against Blackburn Rovers Under-23s, as Palace fell to a late defeat in an action-packed game at the Academy.

  • Kirby goal disallowed after Rak-Sakyi turned defender inside out

  • Clyne pulls back for Eze on the edge of the box, but the shot is pulled wide

  • Butterworth’s goalbound effort is tipped onto the bar by Whitworth

  • The referee awards Blackburn a penalty for handball, but Whitworth saves

  • HT: Palace 0-0 Blackburn Rovers

  • Blackburn open the scoring, Saadi tapping in at the far-post after a corner was flicked on.

  • Kirby is twice denied, first by the inside of the post and moments later by a goal-line clearance.

  • O’Brien climbs highest but his header is cleared off the line after beating the ‘keeper.

  • Kirby brings Palace level with a neat finish from the angle.

  • Butterworth restores Blackburn's lead late on with a confident volley.

  • FT: Palace 1-2 Blackburn Rovers

There was plenty of attention on the show-pitch at the brand new Academy facility, as Eberechi Eze took to the field in a Crystal Palace shirt for the first time in five months, the next step in his lengthy rehabilitation from injury.

Alongside him in the starting lineup were fellow first-teamers Martin Kelly and Nathaniel Clyne, watched over by manager Patrick Vieira and teammates Wilfried Zaha and Michael Olise.

Palace started with great intent, building quickly from the back. Whitworth displayed his confidence on the ball on numerous occasions, setting Jesurun Rak-Sakyi in on the right to find David Omilabu, but his shot was blocked.

Eze began to be more influential. Passing two defenders on a familiarly mazy run, he fed Rak-Sakyi, who turned his defender inside out before feeding Nya Kirby to finish. Long before the ball was in the back of the net, however, the whistle had gone, Rak-Sakyi adjudged to have fouled the defender to the bemusement of the Palace bench.

Still pouring forwards, this time Kirby found Clyne with space to advance on the right. The experienced full-back looked up and picked out Eze, but the shot was pulled wide.

Blackburn grew into the game, and were only denied the lead by a spectacular piece of goalkeeping. Breaking forwards, Daniel Butterworth lined up a fierce drive towards the top corner, only to see Whitworth spring acrobatically across and tip onto the crossbar.

Moments later, Whitworth saved Palace once again. Spotting a handball on the edge of the area, the referee pointed to the spot, giving Butterworth the chance to convert from 12-yards; the Palace goalkeeper was equal to it however, and the scores remained level going into half-time.

Blackburn came out for the restart with real energy, and soon they had their reward. Winning a corner on the far side, the delivery was flicked on at the near post by Joe Nolan, with Jalil Saadi free at the far to tap home.

Buoyed by taking the lead, they could have added to their advantage immediately after. Twice Jared Harlock broke through in quick succession, but both shots failed to find the target.

As the second-half wore on, Palace began to regain the momentum in their push for an equaliser. In one of his final actions of a successful hour back in action, Eze combined well with Rak-Sakyi to set up Kirby, but the midfielder saw his shot cannon off the inside of the post and back out.The subsequent attack saw Kirby denied once again, this time his shot cleared off the line.

Palace were knocking on the door, and despite Blackburn’s danger on the counter-attack there was a sense they were clinging on to their lead.

Jordan Eastham was called into action to palm Malachi Boateng’s around the post after it looked destined for the back of the net; from the resultant corner he was beaten by Jake O’Brien’s header, but Lenni Cirino rose to nod off the line.

Eventually, the pressure told. As so often this season, it was Rak-Sakyi the provider, slipping in Kirby who showed great composure to finish from the tight angle. With 15-minutes to go, both sides turned their attentions to a winner.

Freed from the shackles of protecting their slender lead, Blackburn poured forwards again, and with five minutes to go Butterworth finally got his goal, volleyed home from a floated cross – it was an excellent finish, and one which Whitworth could hope to do nothing about.

Palace went searching once again, and in added time they should have been level. After an inventive dummy to allow the ball through to Rak-Sakyi, O'Brien found space on the edge of the box to shoot, but his effort was always rising.

Blackburn were able to see the game out, sealing a disappointing defeat for Palace after victory at Pride Park last time out.

Palace: Whitworth (GGK), Clyne, O’Brien, Kelly, Adaramola, M. Boateng, Kirby, Eze (Wells-Morrison, 62), Rak-Sakyi, Omilabu (Banks, 68), Street (Gordon, 87).

Subs not used: Webber (GK), Baghuelou.