Crystal Palace produced a convincing display as they beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-2 at Molineux
Goals from Jordan Ayew and Luka Milivojevic sealed the victory for the away side, a win which solidifies them in 14th place. Meanwhile for Wolves, they drop a place to ninth.
Visitors dominate opening proceedings
Wolves boss Nuno Espírito Santo made three changes from their emphatic 1-3 success away at Tottenham Hotspur last time out, with the most eye-catching decision being to drop talismanic central midfielder Ruben Neves in favour of Romain Saïss. Leander Dendoncker and Adama Traoré were the other unlucky two to miss out, replaced by João Moutinho and Hélder Costa respectively as they stuck with their tried-and-tested 5-4-1 formation.
As for their opponents, Roy Hodgson made only the one alteration from their 0-1 home reverse to Chelsea, Ayew taking the place of Jeffrey Schlupp as he lead the line in their 4-2-3-1.
It was a very passive start in the Black Country with neither side getting their grip on the game; the opening ten minutes yielded no attacks of any threat whatsoever.
The first action of any note came in the eleventh minute, when Raúl Jiménez latched upon a miscued Patrick van Aanholt header thirty yards from goal but could only send his half volley two yards over the bar.
Palace then had the first threatening spell of any note as they looked to use their pace on the wings to hurt their hosts.
Andros Townsend robbed Willy Boly on the halfway line and charged towards goal before setting up Luka Milivojevic 25 yards from goal. The midfielder had time to set himself, his chipped effort easily tipped over however by Rui Patricio.
Former Spurs winger Townsend then drew the first card of the evening - if somewhat harsh - as he was felled by Boly when advancing with the ball.
Despite having plenty of territory around the Wolves box the visitors could not make it count, and Nuno’s men stood firm to repel any possible threats: the closest the Eagles came was a shot well over the bar from Townsend after he had shown quick feet 25 yards out. The attacker was proving to be a nuisance for the home defence, citing fouls aplenty thanks to his will to be direct and drive at the back line.
The men in old gold were guilty of failing to keep hold of the ball well enough in attack, unable to produce any of the incisive, free-flowing football they have become known for.
They were however presented with the two best chances of the opening half - and both came within seconds of one another.
An inswinging Ivan Cavaleiro corner fell straight onto the unmarked head of Boly eight yards out. His poor glanced header unforgivably failed to hit the target, but fell to the onrushing Matt Doherty at the back post; from only three yards out the Irishman somehow headed over the crossbar.
The away team could not capitalise on some lax defending from Wolves, James McArthur seeing a shot block when played in by Cheikou Koyate, whilst a number of corners and close free-kicks came to nothing.
Their most guilt-edged chance from these set pieces came to Mamadou Sakho with the last kick of the half, the central defender heading wide when unmarked at the back post from a Wilfried Zaha free-kick.
Hosts come out with purpose
Wolves looked more dangerous in the opening five minutes after the break than the whole of the first, with Jimenez at the centre of their resurgence.
First, the big striker used his pace and power to bear down on goal. He unselfishly opted to square the ball to the onrushing Hélder Costa, and only a fine piece of defending from van Aanholt prevented a certain tap-in.
Wing-back Jonny then did extremely well to keep in a long ball and feed Cavaleiro. The tricky winger delivered a ball into the box that, with Jiménez and Doherty scrapping for, somehow dropped into the gleeful grasp of goalkeeper Vicente Guaita.
Despite their renewed vigour they were unable to seriously test the ‘keeper, Jonny blazing over from the edge of the box after Doherty had done well to drive to the byline and cut the ball back.
Palace were looking for an outball in Ayew after the break, the Ghanaian striker looking to utilise his pace and break away down Wolves’ left hand side.
Two of three times he was able to isolate Conor Coady one-on-one - firing over in one occasion and winning corners on the others - and it was a clear game plan from ten visitors that they wished to attack in such a method.
Nuno looked to bolster his attack as he went for the win, bringing on fresh legs in the shape of Neves and Morgan Gibbs-White - yet they had the opposite effect.
Late goals clinch Palace success
Their increased urge to dictate play left them exposed in the centre of the park as they relinquished territory to their visitors.
A series of balls and crosses into the home team’s box were never dealt with convincingly, and eventually produced the first goal of the night.
Zaha fired in a shot from the corner of the box which fell straight to Ayew.
The attacker took a neat touch to compose himself before calmly slotting past Patrício from eight yards to put his side in the lead - much to the delight of the pocket of travelling Eagles fans.
Salt was rubbed into the wounds late into injury time as Milivojevic dispatched a penalty following Ryan Bennett’s foul on Zaha, to ensure that the three points would be returning to London.