Middlesbrough 1-2 Crystal Palace: Christian Benteke strikes in Eagles win
By Nick Wright
Last Updated: 10/09/16 7:03pm
Christian Benteke opened his Crystal Palace account as they clinched their first win of the season with a 2-1 victory over Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium.
The Belgium international, a £32m club-record signing from Liverpool last month, headed home Wilfried Zaha's cross to put Palace in front in the 16th minute.
Daniel Ayala equalised with another towering header from Stewart Downing's corner shortly before half-time, but Palace re-established their advantage just after the break when Zaha capitalised on an error from George Friend to finish past Victor Valdes.
Palace held on to celebrate their first Premier League away win since January, while Middlesbrough were left to rue their first defeat since their promotion last season.
The home side will not enjoy replays of the opening goal, when the menacing Zaha was given time and space to cross from the right-hand side. It was bread and butter for Benteke, who met the delivery with a thumping header to spark jubilant celebrations from the travelling fans.
Middlesbrough struggled to create openings in response, and Palace almost doubled their lead in the 24th minute. Zaha was the architect once again, bursting past Friend and cutting the ball back to Benteke, who teed up Andros Townsend for a powerful shot which was saved by Valdes.
It was an important stop from the Spaniard, and Middlesbrough went on to equalise with their first shot on target as Ayala, on his 100th appearance for the club, leapt above Damien Delaney to head home.
Middlesbrough were lifted by the equaliser and almost took a half-time lead when Viktor Fischer released Alvaro Negredo on the counter-attack. The striker had a clear sight of goal, but his diagonal effort was diverted wide by Steve Mandanda.
It was a lucky escape for Palace, who responded in style after the break. James McArthur's pass appeared to be too short for the onrushing Zaha, but Friend miscontrolled the ball and the former Manchester United winger made no mistake with his finish.
Downing and Ben Gibson went close from long range, but Middlesbrough found it difficult to break Palace down and they were denied a penalty when Scott Dann appeared to kick the ball onto his own arm in the 73rd minute.
The hosts kept coming forward, with Ayala heading narrowly over from corner and Negredo failing to turn home a loose ball from close range, but Palace were equal to everything that was thrown at them.
The visitors did have a late scare when Zaha brought down Friend just outside of their penalty box in the sixth minute of stoppage time, but they cleared the resulting free kick from Gaston Ramirez to claim a valuable victory.
Middlesbrough: Valdes (6), Barragan (6), Ayala (7), Gibson (6), Friend (5), Clayton (6), Forshaw (6), Stuani (6), Downing (7), Fischer (6), Negredo (6)
Subs: Ramirez (6), De Roon (6), Traore (6)
Crystal Palace: Mandanda (7), Ward (7), Dann (7), Delaney (6), Kelly (7), Ledley (7), McArthur (7), Townsend (7), Puncheon (7), Zaha (8), Benteke (8)
Subs: Lee (6), J Benteke (6), Flamini (6)
Man of the match: Wilfried Zaha