Crystal Palace 1 Middlesbrough 0: Van Aanholt proves difference in nervy basement battle

By Ben Spratt 25 February 2017
Crystal Palace 1 Middlesbrough 0: Van Aanholt proves difference in nervy basement battle

Crystal Palace boosted their Premier League survival hopes with a 1-0 win against Middlesbrough at Selhurst Park on Saturday to complete a double over their fellow strugglers.

Patrick van Aanholt's first goal for the club, 11 minutes before half-time, proved the difference in a nervy match that was typical of the relegation battle.

Both sides had endured miserable league runs heading into this clash, with Boro winless in eight, but it was Palace who secured a rare victory - just their third since September.

Van Aanholt's effort ensured Sam Allardyce's side headed into the break in front, and it had appeared at that stage as though the home side would cruise to a crucial three points.

But Boro rallied, with Cristhian Stuani missing a huge chance to equalise, and Palace had to battle hard to see out a spell of sustained pressure and move out of the bottom three, level on points with the visitors.

Allardyce had, on Friday, called for his team to play an "uglier" brand of football in order to beat the drop, and Palace repeatedly sought a direct route to goal in a scrappy opening period.

Christian Benteke, the hosts' most obvious aerial threat, nodded a first chance straight at Victor Valdes and then headed over the crossbar.

But it was a failed Boro header that presented Palace with the opener after 34 minutes.

Yohan Cabaye's shot was blocked inside the area but, following Daniel Ayala's weak clearance, the Frenchman was able to tee up Van Aanholt for a bobbling right-footed effort that crept beyond Valdes into the bottom-right corner.

The home side, encouraged by this somewhat fortunate breakthrough, next attacked through Jason Puncheon as he cut inside from the right to sting Valdes' palms.

Boro, though, were much improved after the break, with Gaston Ramirez's free-kick belatedly forcing a comfortable first save from Wayne Hennessey.

Wilfried Zaha flashed over at the other end, but Hennessey had to be alert to parry Stuani's close-range effort, before Ben Gibson's low strike skipped up into the goalkeeper's arms.

Although Benteke volleyed harmlessly wide, Palace were able to renew their earlier attacking intent and see out the win.

Palace's victory also consigned champions Leicester City to a place in the bottom three for the first time this season, ahead of Monday's clash with Liverpool.

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