BY SAM SMITH
A Luka Milivojevic penalty and a late Andros Townsend goal handed Crystal Palace their first victory in three games as the Eagles defeated Norwich City at Selhurst Park.
James McArthur started the game well and was twice involved in Palace attacks inside the first two minutes. First, his tackle on Todd Cantwell allowed Wilfried Zaha to pick up the loose ball and fire over the crossbar. The Scot then advanced into space on the edge of the area but passed instead of shot and the attack petered out.
A Jordan Ayew drive forced Ralf Farhmann into a good save on 14 minutes as the Eagles began the game on the front foot.
And their good start was rewarded when a Milivojevic penalty put them ahead on 20 minutes. Former Palace transfer target Ibrahim Amadou brought down James McArthur and the Serbian’s spot-kick found the top-right corner, despite Farhmann diving the correct way.
There was still the sense that a defensive mistake would undo all the attack’s good work. This game could have been so different had Norwich showed a more ruthless edge.
Twice simple lofted balls over the top allowed Teemu Pukki a run on goal. On the second occasion the Finnish striker’s lack of speed allowed others to catch up and Vicente Guaita made a simple save.
Martin Kelly – in for the injured Mamadou Sakho – made an excellent block to prevent a goal-bound Cantwell strike. Guaita then made a save from Emiliano Buendia as Norwich grew into the game towards the end of the first half.
Roy Hodgson’s side improved in the second half and a McArthur strike from distance whistled just over the crossbar. A patient move led to Patrick van Aanholt then curling an effort over after being set up by Zaha but the Dutchman perhaps had time to take a touch before striking towards goal.
The game opened up and more space became available in the final 20 minutes. Schlupp and Ayew both had shots blocked as Palace sought a second goal, and Guaita made a good save low to his left at the other end.
Despite their early frailties, Palace’s defence was much improved on previous performances and there was to be no repeat of the error-laden, stoppage-time equaliser conceded against Wolves last weekend.
Instead, the late goal would be scored by Palace. Zaha held up the ball superbly, swatting away challenges on the left before drifting inside. The Ivorian passed to Townsend who took his time before steering into the corner to ensure a second home victory of the season.
PICTURES BY KEITH GILLARD