BY SAM SMITH
Crystal Palace ended Cardiff City’s year-long Premier League stay with a counter-attacking masterclass in south Wales.
Cardiff required at least a point to put their relegation battle into Brighton’s hands, with the Seagulls travelling to Arsenal tomorrow.
And the hosts almost went ahead inside two minutes when Josh Murphy’s side struck the post.
Cardiff’s need for a goal meant they left vast space open for Palace to exploit. The Bluebirds’ former loanee Wilfried Zaha used it to his advantage as he opened the scoring on 27 minutes, drilling low into Neil Etheridge’s bottom corner from 18 yards.
However, Neil Warnock’s side were level within three minutes when a mix-up between Vicente Guaita and Martin Kelly led to the latter turning the ball beyond his own goalkeeper.
Christian Benteke’s injury provided an opportunity for Michy Batshuayi to make his first appearance since April 6, and the on-loan Chelsea man restored Palace’s advantage in the 39th minute. Luka Milvojevic found the Belgian after good wingplay by Zaha, and Batshuayi exchanged passes with Jordan Ayew before lashing home.
Batshuayi was denied an immediate brace by a wonderful Etheridge save as Palace continued to pile on the pressure.
The second half began with a slow tempo but nice interplay from Ayew and Batshuayi led to the former Swansea City striker seeing an effort deflect wide.
And Townsend secured Palace’s three points with a wonderful goal with 20 minutes remaining. The winger picked up the ball in the Eagles’ half, drove down the right wing before cutting inside and powering a 25-yard effort in via the post.
Cardiff tried their best to grab a goal back. James McArthur was forced to clear a Nathaniel Mendez-Laing effort off the line and Bobby Reid struck the post before eventually reducing Palace’s lead, curling beyond Guaita from the edge of the area.
But it was too little, too late. Palace’s victory means Hodgson’s side move on to 46 points – two ahead of last season’s tally.