Crystal Palace 2-1 Aston Villa: Bakary Sako's debut strike sinks Villa
Last Updated: 23/08/15 2:07pm
Bakary Sako's last-gasp goal gave Crystal Palace a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa at Selhurst Park on Saturday.
The Mali international hit a winner three minutes from time on his Palace debut after the match had appeared to be heading for a draw.
Palace defender Scott Dann had headed his side in front after 71 minutes, only for the visitors to draw level when Pape Souare turned in debutant Adama Traore's cross six minutes later.
Eagles boss Alan Pardew made two changes from the side that lost to Arsenal last weekend, with the injured Conor Wickham being replaced in attack by Glenn Murray, while Sako came in for Yannick Bolasie.
Villa, meanwhile, made three alterations from the team that went down 1-0 at home to Manchester United last Friday night, with boss Tim Sherwood opting to bench Scott Sinclair, Jordan Veretout and Jordan Ayew, with Jack Grealish, Rudy Gestede and Carlos Sanchez taking their places in the starting lineup.
And it was Grealish who stamped his authority on proceedings in the first half, with the 19-year-old not looking like a player taking part in his first game of the season after a recent ankle injury.
In fact, the visitors really should have been ahead on the quarter-hour mark after an inch-perfect through-ball from Ashley Westwood found Gabriel Agbonlahor breaking clear of a flat-looking Palace back line.
However, with just Alex McCarthy to beat, the Villa forward shot wastefully straight at the stand-in Eagles goalkeeper when it seemed easier to score, a miss that seemed to breathe new life into the home side.
Thereafter in the opening period it was Palace who dominated possession and territory, without ever truly testing Brad Guzan in the visitors' goal, with the closest they came to breaking the deadlock being a speculative long-range effort from Sako that the United States international gathered with ease.
Villa were content to play on the counter-attack, and in Grealish they had just the man for that type of game. The 19-year-old was a constant threat with his accurate passing and constant probings, and was only denied a goal on his comeback by McCarthy's excellent near-post block.
However, Pardew reacted to his side's lacklustre opening period by making a double change at the break, introducing both Dwight Gayle and Gordon Mutch in place of Wilfried Zaha and Murray, with the changes appearing to have an immediate effect on the hosts' attacking endeavours.
And but for an excellent point-blank save at his near post by Guzan, Sako would have put Palace in front just a minute into the second half, after good work by Mutch down the Eagles' right flank.
Palace thought they had taken the lead on the hour-mark, only for James McArthur's effort to be correctly ruled out for offside after the midfielder had diverted Gayle's shot past Guzan from six yards out.
Referee Keith Stroud had initially given the goal, only to then disallow it following consultation with his fourth official after thinking that McArthur had not got a touch to Gayle's effort.
The home team's disappointment was short lived, though, as Dann rose powerfully at the back post to power Jason Puncheon's left-wing corner into the back of the net to hand Palace a deserved lead.
Villa boss Sherwood reacted to falling behind by introducing winger Traore, recently signed from Barcelona, for the final 20 minutes and the youngster made an immediate impact by helping to create his side's equaliser.
Showing great pace and skill, Traore broke clear down Villa's right flank, before seeing his centre diverted past McCarthy at his near post by Palace left-back Souare.
However, if Villa thought they had secured themselves a draw, they were mistaken as Palace took full advantage of Jordan Amavi losing possession of the ball to Dann in the left-back position, and the centre back then fed Sako on the edge of the area, before Palace's new boy made no mistake with a thumping effort that screamed past Guzan.
Crystal Palace: McCarthy (7), Ward (6), Dann (9), Souare (6), Delaney (6), Cabaye (6), Zaha (6), McArthur (6), Sako (7), Puncheon (7), Murray (6)
Subs: Jedinak (6), Gayle (6), Mutch (7)
Aston Villa: Guzan (7), Richards (7), Clark (7), Bacuna (5), Amavi (5), Gueye (5), Westwood (7), Sanchez (6), Agbonlahor (6), Gestede (7), Grealish (8)
Subs: Traore (7)
Man of the match: Scott Dann