BY MATT WOOSNAM
A late Luka Milivojevic penalty secured a narrow victory for Crystal Palace as they overcame Newcastle to all but secure their Premier League status for another season.
The penalty, as so often is the case, came after Wilfried Zaha had burst into the box only to be brought down by a defender. In this case, it was DeAndre Yedlin who tripped the makeshift striker after an excellent Aaron Wan-Bissaka challenge brought Palace up the pitch and Zaha ran at the Newcastle backline.
It took only two minutes for the opening chance of the game. Zaha and Michy Batshuayi interlinked well and laid off to Jeffrey Schlupp on the edge of the box, but the midfielder could only shoot wide of the goal.
Isaac Hayden took aim at goal after a smooth Newcastle move, but his effort was comfortably saved by Vicente Guaita.
The Spanish goalkeeper was reprieved after flailing at a lofted ball into the area, as Matt Ritchie failed to find a black and white shirt with the ball back in. It went behind for a corner and eventually fell to Florian Lejeune who blazed over.
The hosts burst into life with 16 minutes on the clock. James McArthur lost the ball and failed to stop a rapid counter-attack, somehow evading a yellow card for a foul from behind after which referee Stuart Attwell played advantage, then Ayoze Perez, Ritchie and Salomon Rondon exchanged passes inside the Palace area. Rondon overhit the return to Perez but it came to Ritchie whose powerful left-footed drive was turned behind by Guaita.
Rondon should have put Newcastle ahead when he headed over from inside the area, as his side continued to look the more likely to break the deadlock in an uninspiring first-half.
The striker had an even better opportunity with 34 minutes played when James Tomkins slipped in the area and presented him with the chance to unload with his left foot, but he could only hit it straight at Guaita and the chance went begging.
Out of nowhere Palace appeared to have the lead when James Tomkins turned home Milivojevic’s corner, but it was ruled out for offside with McArthur blocking Martin Dubravka’s line of sight.
Just shy of the hour mark DeAndre Yedlin thundered an effort with the outside of his boot on the edge of the area, only to see it fizz past the angle of post and crossbar as Newcastle looked to assert their dominance on proceedings.
Roy Hodgson elected to change things after an hour when he introduced Christian Benteke for a worryingly ineffectual Batshuayi, before their defensive injury woes were increased when James Tomkins pulled up with a groin injury, immediately signalling to the bench he required replacing. No Mamadou Sakho for the remainder of the season and now an anxious wait to see how long their other main man in the centre of defence will be missing.
It rather summed up Palace’s afternoon when Townsend broke down the left, sent in an excellent cross to Benteke only for the Belgian striker to get the ball stuck underneath him as he sought to connect whilst well-placed.
Yet, only a minute later, with 10 to play, they took the lead against the run of play. Zaha, who was the only threat for the visitors throughout, received the ball down the left. The Ivorian tricked Paul Dummett into almost bringing him down, only to be felled inside the area by Yedlin.
Milivojevic stepped up and made no mistake from the penalty spot as the skipper netted his 10th penalty of the season to earn an unlikely win with their only shot on target of the entire game.
PICTURES BY SEAN GOSLING