Eagles hang on to beat Rams
Shefki Kuqi was the hero as 10-man Crystal Palace hung on to secure a 1-0 home win over Derby.
Last Updated: 18/04/09 5:47pm
Shefki Kuqi was the hero as 10-man Crystal Palace hung on to secure a 1-0 home win over Derby County.
Finnish striker Kuqi grabbed the only goal at Selhurst Park on 63 minutes, just three minutes after Palace youngster Victor Moses had been sent off.
Derby thought they had snatched a point on 84 minutes, but substitute Emanuel Villa's header was ruled out for offside.
With neither side having yet mathematically secured their Championship status for next season, the tone for a tenacious encounter was set after just 15 seconds when Australian midfielder Nick Carle was booked for a clattering challenge on Robbie Savage.
By the midway point in the opening period, Savage had just about made a full recovery and was beginning to exert a greater influence on the game although the visitors still lacked a cutting edge.
But as the half-time whistle approached, the Rams should have snatched the lead on the counter-attack as Stephen Pearson fed Rob Hulse but the 14-goal striker could not find a way past Julian Speroni who managed to deflect the ball wide for a corner.
Derby came racing out of the blocks after the interval and immediately looked to take advantage of their new-found confidence but Speroni was not fooled by dangerman Kris Commons' deft chip as the Palace keeper again saved his side.
The Argentinian goalkeeper again proved to be Commons' nemesis 10 minutes into the second half as the Derby midfielder's ferocious 25-yard drive was brilliantly tipped round the post at full stretch by Speroni.
Moments later, the Rams came even closer when Hulse rose above the static Palace defence but his header left the crossbar rattling as the ball came back off the woodwork and away to safety.
And just as the home side appeared at their most vulnerable, their cause was made even harder when young winger Moses was dismissed for a second bookable offence following a seemingly innocuous challenge on Mile Sterjovski.
The referee's decision incensed the crowd and roused the home side and they found themselves ahead three minutes later.
The goal came against the run of play when Clint Hill's header forward from the centre of the park caught the visiting defenders unawares and the ball broke to Kuqi who kept his composure to chip home from 12 yards.
Derby once again resumed their dominance in possession but lacked any inspiration as they piled forward without any attacking impetus.
Substitute striker Villa thought he had equalised late in the game when he headed home Lewin Nyatanga's whipped cross but the goal was chalked off for offside as the visitors left London empty handed.