Crystal Palace came out on top of a well-fought first-half to defeat West Bromwich Albion through Luka Milivojevic's penalty at Selhurst Park.
Having earned the lead in a tight opening 45, the Eagles then showcased their structure from front to back to secure three points before a lengthy break from league football.
- Roy Hodgson makes just one change to his Palace lineup, starting Wilfried Zaha
- The game’s opening 25 minutes are bright and even – with both sides enjoying the ball near one another’s goalmouth
- Palace earn a penalty after Darnell Furlong handles Zaha’s effort
- Luka Milivojevic strikes home with an expert shot from the spot
- Half-time: Crystal Palace 1-0 West Bromwich Albion
- Benteke opens the second-half with a fizzing effort that Johnstone saves well
- The game settles after 60 minutes as Palace guard their lead
- Eberechi Eze hits hard into Johnstone’s midriff as Palace begin to sit deeper
- Full-time: Crystal Palace 1-0 West Bromwich Albion
Crystal Palace’s 5-1 victory against West Bromwich Albion earlier this season will remain a memorable part of club history regardless of the return clash’s calibre four months later. But the afternoon still started in contrasting fashion to how it ended in December – with Sam Allardyce having drilled the Baggies to his trademark solidity.
So onlookers perhaps expected less of a goal-fest than they enjoyed in the Midlands, despite each side creating tame chances within the first few minutes.
Ultimately, they were proved correct - but that is not to say the afternoon was uneventful.
Instead, Palace’s attacking quartet looked bright, with Christian Benteke shooting into Sam Johnstone’s gloves and Jordan Ayew just failing to connect with Wilfried Zaha’s edge of the box ball.
The game concentrated around both penalty areas in the first-half – with West Brom enjoying marginally more regular pushes forward. Palace consistently absorbed their probing over the first 25 minutes however and moved upfield themselves with at times slick intent.
Pundits and journalists alike stressed the significance of this clash for the Baggies as they seek to secure late Premier League safety and Roy Hodgson repeatedly commented on his side’s hunger pre-match, too – a determination from both teams that showed throughout the first-half with the ball moved swiftly and chances pursued with urgency.
The game’s pendulum-like rhythm showcased the outcome of two counter-attacking teams facing one another’s typically resolute defences. Chances arose, ended, and just as quickly began at the other end of the pitch.
Perhaps the clearest indicator of this came when Luka Milivojevic launched a remarkable volley goal-bound just moments after a Vicente Guaita goal-kick.
Johnstone tipped the fizzing shot behind impressively, but his heroics were to prove fruitless as Simon Hooper later watched Darnell Furlong’s handball on the pitchside monitor.
Stepping up to test Johnstone for the second time in two minutes, Milivojevic displayed the steely composure he possesses so well from 12 yards and buried the ball into the bottom-right corner.
At the break, the half's seemingly inevitable goal was Palace's, and ensured they had a lead to protect over the following 45 minutes.
The second-half opened in the fashion that epitomised the first and Palace took just two minutes to force Johnstone back into action. This time, Benteke worked the ball across the edge of the box, pushed it into space and unleashed a thunderous strike which the Baggies’ No.1 instinctively stopped.
At the other end of the pitch just moments later, Conor Gallagher saw his close-range effort blocked and Matt Phillips spun the ball high on the volley.
Chances remained fairly regular but the game had settled by its hour-mark; the tempo cooling with the heavens opening. Eberechi Eze worked Palace’s next-best effort as he drifted forward before releasing a fierce shot into Johnston’s midriff – the midfielder’s mazy style belying the venom in his boots.
Eze pulling the trigger aside, Palace largely sat deeper in the final 20 minutes, utilising their structure and discipline to guard a close lead.
This approach saw Palace's back four - near-faultless all afternoon - called into more obvious action, Joel Ward in particular making astute challenges to suffocate West Brom's closing attempts.
The south Londoners were not forced to weather a storm, however, with West Brom pinned nearer the halfway line when perhaps a more apparent onslaught was required.
Palace's ability to make their hungry guests appear unfazed highlighted the discipline they'd shown all afternoon to ensure a single goal secured three well-earned points.
Palace: Guaita, Van Aanholt, Kouyate, Cahill, Ward, Milivojevic, Riedewald, Eze (Schlupp 74), Ayew (Townsend 84), Zaha, Benteke.
Subs not used: Butland, Dann, Kelly, Hannam, Wickham, Mateta, Batshuayi.
West Brom: Johnstone, Furlong, Bartley, O'Shea, Townsend, Yokuslu, Phillips (Snodgrass 70), Pereira (Robson-Kanu 64), Gallagher, Maitland-Niles, Diagne.
Subs not used: Button, Ajayi, Robinson, Livermore, Diangana, Peltier, Grant.
You can watch full highlights and post-match reaction from Palace v West Brom on Palace TV. Keep an eye out by clicking here or 'Palace TV' within the app!