Crystal Palace 1-0 Middlesbrough: Patrick Van Aanholt strike seals vital victory for Eagles
By Charlotte Marsh
Last Updated: 25/02/17 5:53pm
Patrick van Aanholt scored his first goal for Crystal Palace as they sealed a vital 1-0 victory over relegation rivals Middlesbrough on Saturday afternoon.
The defender volleyed home in the 34th minute to give Sam Allardyce just his second Premier League victory since becoming Eagles manager, moving them up to 17th place.
Boro's lack of cutting edge in the league continued at Selhurst Park as they rarely threatened the Palace goal, and remain one point and two places above the bottom three - level with their hosts on 22 points.
Allardyce made three changes from the 1-0 defeat to Stoke two weeks ago, handing a debut to Liverpool loanee Mamadou Sakho, while Aitor Karanka opted to started with three centre-backs after a number of his full-backs were absent due to injury.
Crystal Palace could have been awarded a penalty inside seven minutes when Wilfried Zaha powered down the left wing and went to ground after a tackle from Daniel Ayala. He instantly appealed for a spot-kick but referee Bobby Madley waved away the claims, although replays showed he was pushed off the ball.
The hosts continued to press forward, with Christian Benteke testing Victor Valdes for the first time just before the quarter-hour mark. The striker got a strong head onto a cross from Van Aaholt, but could only nestle it into the hands of the Boro goalkeeper.
Middlesbrough's best chance of the half came in the 25th minute after a fine passing move. Stewart Downing threaded the ball to Gaston Ramirez on the left-hand side of the box, with his cross in turn finding the head of Alvaro Negredo at the back post.
It then fell to the feet of Christian Stuani with the goal at his mercy, but a touch from Sakho just took the ball out of his path and away to safety.
Palace found the breakthrough with 11 minutes of the half to play as Van Aanholt netted his fourth goal of the season. Yohan Cabaye's initial shot was blocked by Bernardo, with the rebounded ball headed away by Ayala but the Frenchman nicked it back into the path of Van Aanholt who took aim from the top of the box, sending the ball bobbling past Valdes.
Middlesbrough put in a better second-half performance, and tested Wayne Hennessey early on in what was their best spell of the game. He pushed away a free-kick from Ramirez before saving a powerful effort from Stuani.
Four minutes later, Palace could have added their second as Zaha burst forward once again after the referee played an advantage. He played a fine give and go with Puncheon, but the return ball was too strong and Valdes collected.
Another penalty appeal came in the 77th minute as James McArthur went to ground after what appeared to be a clip from Stewart Downing. However, Bobby Madley signalled for a Middlesbrough goal kick and showed the Palace midfielder a yellow card for simulation, much to the dismay of the home fans.
But the Eagles saw out the game with relative ease as the visitors were unable to find the equaliser, leaving both level on points just above the relegation zone.
Crystal Palace: Hennessey (6), Ward (7), Tomkins (6), Sakho (6), Van Aanholt (7), Milivojevic (6), Townsend (6), Cabaye (6), Puncheon (7), Zaha (8), Benteke (7).
Subs used: McArthur (6), Dann (n/a), Schlupp (n/a).
Middlesbrough: Valdes (7), Bernardo (5), Ayala (6), Gibson (5), Fabio (6), Forshaw (6), de Roon (5), Stuani (5), Ramirez (5), Downing (5), Negredo (5).
Subs used: Guedioura (5), Gestede (4), Traore (4).
Man of the match: Wilfried Zaha