BY SAM SMITH
Crystal Palace topped their highest points total in a 20-team Premier League season thanks to an incredible 5-3 victory against AFC Bournemouth.
The win takes the Eagles on to 49 points and they finished the 2018-19 campaign in 12th.
Palace started dominantly as Luka Milivojevic drove an effort against the post from 25 yards after great interplay on the edge of the Cherries’ penalty area.
And Palace eventually led on 22 minutes through Michy Batshuayi. Young Bournemouth goalkeeper Mark Travers hesitated when a deflected Wilfried Zaha cross dropped in the six-yard box, allowing the Belgian striker to acrobatically swivel and volleyed home.
Batshuayi had a second 10 minutes later. Aaron Wan-Bissaka was allowed loads of time and space on the right-hand side of the box, and the full-back’s shot-cum-cross was turned in by the Chelsea loanee.
Palace were cruising against an admittedly weakened Bournemouth side – and they had a third on 37 minutes.
Zaha raced through on goal but saw his tame effort saved, only for Cherries defender Jack Simpson to turn the rebound into his own net.
The near-perfect opening 45 minutes could not pass by without a reminiscence of the Eagles’ struggles in SE25 this season, though. A stunning Jefferson Lerma strike from 30 yards found Vicente Guaita’s top corner via the post.
Palace should have added to their advantage early in the second half. Max Meyer twice tried to overplay instead of shooting himself – perhaps evidence that he lacks confidence after a disappointing first season in south London. Zaha then fired wide as Palace continued to attack at every given opportunity.
Roy Hodgson’s side were soon made to pay for their missed chances when Joel Ward deflected Jordon Ibe’s shot into the bottom corner – wrongfooting Guaita in the Palace goal.
The two-goal advantage was restored on 65 minutes when Patrick van Aanholt exchanged passes with Zaha and slid the ball under Travers, but Bournemouth immediately pulled a goal back when Josh King tapped home from a corner.
And there was still time for more. A sensational run from Zaha ended with the forward breaking into the box and teeing up Townsend for a fifth Palace goal – three had been set up by the mesmeric Ivorian, who was soon substituted to a standing ovation.