Crystal Palace 1-0 West Brom: Milivojevic’s penalty the difference as Palace squeeze past the Baggies
(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Roy Hodgson made one change from the side that lost 4-1 to Spurs last time out, with talisman, Wilfried Zaha, making his first start for the Eagles in over a month. 

As for Sam Allardyce's side, the former Crystal Palace boss remained unchanged on his visit back to Selhurst Park, with Allardyce having found a defensive solidity that he has been longing for since taking over at The Hawthorns

The match 

The first chance of the match fell to Conor Gallagher, who could have opened the scoring within four minutes if the midfielder had connected with the ball with enough venom.  

Matt Phillips drove past Patrick van Aanholt and sent a teasing ball into the area.

After a clumsy miscommunication between Gary Cahill and Cheikhou Kouyate, the ball landed at the feet of the waiting Gallagher.

The on-loan Chelsea man, however, failed to connect with the ball and it fell into the hands of a grateful Vicente Guaita.  

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The cagey affair continued to rumble on at Selhurst Park, with the dark storm clouds starting to engulf the south London sky. 

With Matheus Pereira orchestrating the Baggies’ attacking tune, and Gallagher offering support when driving forward, Allardyce's side continued to produce the best chances.  

But as the sun began to peek through the ominous clouds, so did Palace’s attacking impetus.  

Patrick van Aanholt won a free kick on the edge of the West Brom area and played a quick ball to the overlapping Wilfried Zaha.

The Ivorian clipped a ball into the box, which was thwarted by Darnell Furlong, who was adjudged to have flung his arm towards the ball.  

After a lengthy period of stoppage, Simon Hooper consulted the VAR screen and pointed to the spot; handing Luka Milivojevic the chance to score his first of the season. Following protests from Sam Allardyce and Sammy Lee, the Serbian stepped up to take the spot-kick.  

The midfielder arrowed towards the ball and calmly rolled the spot-kick past Sam Johnstone, to give Palace the lead before half time.

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The second half 

Milivojevic’s goal gave Palace fresh impetus, confidence and verve as the Eagles flew into the second half.  

Jairo Riedewald picked up the ball in the middle of the pitch and immediately looked to spot Christian Benteke, who had muscled his way through the Baggies’ defence.

Benteke picked the ball up on the edge of the area and sent a curling shot destined for the top corner.  

However, Sam Johnstone had other ideas, throwing an outstretched hand, and getting his fingertips to the ball, denying Palace a second of the afternoon.  

As the heavens opened, so did Palace’s defensive wall. Matt Phillips and Mbaye Diagne had chances, however, both failed to breach the stubborn Palace defence.  

Eberechi Eze, who had a rather subdued first half, came into life during phases of the second 45. After the performance he produced at The Hawthorns in November, the Baggies should have learnt their lesson and denied the vibrant attacker any time or space on the ball.  

However, Eze is so elusive, that when the 22-year-old wins possession, the opposition defence is rendered motionless.

On the 65th minute, Eze picked up the ball on the halfway line, jinked past one and then two, before firing a shot from 25-yards out which stung the palms of Johnstone.  

West Brom’s urgency turned quickly into panic as the clock ran down, and Palace’s tactics of nullification and frustration, played into the Eagles’ hands.  

With Andros Townsend, Wilfried Zaha, Jeffrey Schlupp and Christian Benteke adhering to their arduous defensive work, West Brom were either halted on the halfway line when pushing forward or they snatched at their chances as they became desperate.  

The win moved Crystal Palace up to 11th in the table, whereas for West Brom, their doom appears sealed. 


Are West Brom now looking into the abyss?  

It was a bold decision to let Slaven Bilić, who was the architect of the promotion from the Championship, depart, following the 0-0 draw against Manchester City and bringing in Sam Allardyce. 

It is a role of the dice which now seems dead and buried. Allardyce, who rescued Palace from the dreaded drop in the 2016/17 season, said before the game, "We need a victory more than Palace. They are in a very comfortable position. All the pressure lies with us. We need to score the first goal. That is crucial."   

Therefore, when the first goal went in, Allardyce and West Brom, who are now 8 points off safety, must have been fearing the worst.

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Signing Mbaye Diagne, Robert SnodgrassOkay Yokuslu and Ainsley Maitland-Niles on loan, has brought verve, vigour, and vitality to the side, however, it looks too little, too late for the Baggies.

Wilfried Zaha, Palace’s paramount protagonist   

Without Zaha, Palace’s creativity was null and void. Whilst Eberechi Eze harried and hustled, and Jordan Ayew did his best to carry the ball away from dangerous situations, when the Eagles galivanted over the halfway line, they looked bereft of all ideas.  

Although the 45-minute cameo against Spurs failed to conjure up a winning formula, Zaha’s influence today can be placed into the heroic category of performances that he has an abundance of for the club.  

A sense of wizardry, an aura of sorcery and a performance that astonished, Zaha put West Brom to the sword this afternoon.  

The king of Selhurst Park had the Baggies’ defence on strings, and at times, he made them dance to his tune.  

In a team where creativity is stifled, he is the one shining light.