Crystal Palace earned their first victory in eight games thanks to a 2-0 victory at Huddersfield Town.
James Tomkins’ first-half goal and a penalty from captain Luka Milivojevic in the second half ensured a vital three points for the Eagles as they climbed out of the relegation zone.
It was the reverse fixture on the opening day of the season that set the precedent for Frank de Boer’s ill-fated tenure as Palace boss. The South Londoners were dismantled in the Terriers’ first-ever Premier League game, losing 3-0 at Selhurst Park and producing a performance so poor it seemed they had scarcely had a pre-season.
But the catalyst for an incredible revival from those far darker times could well be this game against the same opposition. The role reversal from the opening day was evident; Palace were far more energetic than their hosts and pressed high up the pitch, almost exceeding Huddersfield at their own game. David Wagner’s side were poor, managed just two shots on target and failed to produce anything that even resembled a fightback once Palace had eased their way into a two-goal lead.
Roy Hodgson was pleased to have Wilfried Zaha return from injury in the 2-1 defeat at Chelsea last weekend, and the Ivorian made his first start since the 4 February at John Smith’s Stadium having come off the bench at half-time against the Blues. Zaha was joined in the line-up by the returning Mamadou Sakho while Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Yohan Cabaye were used substitutes as they also completed their own comebacks from injury.
Sakho almost gifted Steve Mounie a goal when his poor pass freed the Benin striker but the Palace defender was able to recover to make a last-ditched tackle as the forward burst through on goal.
The Eagles then led on 24 minutes through Tomkins’ second goal of the season. Huddersfield failed to clear Milivojevic’s corner and the ball fell to the Palace centre-back, who saw his initial effort excellently saved by Jonas Lossl before he prodded home the rebound.
Andros Townsend should have given Palace a two-goal advantage slightly prior to half-time but fired over the bar after Patrick van Aanholt had led a counter-attack.
The first half was perhaps the victim of the icy conditions at Huddersfield and never truly lived up to the expectations of a fiercely competitive fixture between two sides still trying to steer themselves to safety.
But the second period began far better and Tomkins almost had an unlikely brace when he diverted the ball towards goal from another corner, only to see his effort cleared from the goal-line. Mounie then went close with a strike of his own.
Palace then clinched the three points on 68 minutes when Milivojevic converted his sixth penalty of the season, diverting the ball to into the left-hand corner after Mathias Jorgenson had fouled Townsend in the penalty area.
Substitute Cabaye, who had replaced the injured Jeffrey Schlupp midway through the second half, twice went close to scoring a third. His first effort was well saved by Lossl after James McArthur had put the Frenchman through, before he then had a long-range effort dip just over the bar as the game edged towards its conclusion.
The victory lifts Palace into 16th on 30 points, a place and a point behind Huddersfield.