Wide men dominate as Palace cruise past hosts Fulham on opening day

Fulham 0 Crystal Palace 2

By Matt Woosnam

 

There was no repeat of the opening day disaster last season where the Eagles went down 3-0 at home to new boys Huddersfield and Frank de Boer’s reign began in terrible fashion.

Goals either in either half from Jeffrey Schlupp and Wilfried Zaha earned Roy Hodgson the bragging rights over his former club, as Palace grew into the game and produced a strong performance.

Wayne Hennessey was forced into an early save low down from Cyrus Christie as Fulham started brightly, with the crowd firmly behind them.

Patrick van Aanholt attacked down the left for Palace, but his cross was narrowly missed by Zaha who was unable to head it beyond Fabri in the Fulham goal.

However Fulham remained the better side and Aleksander Mitrovic forced Hennessey into an excellent save on 13 minutes with a smart shot from just inside the area.

With half an hour played Andros Townsend broke down the right and chipped a cross for Christian Benteke who looped a header towards goal, only to see Fabri claw the ball away from his net and onto the crossbar.

But it was the hosts who were the better side throughout the opening period, with Palace struggling to create any clear-cut chances, and Zaha becoming frustrated at a lack of service and niggling fouls.

Once again Hennessey was forced into a low save as Mitrovic worked some space by turning Mamadou Sakho and fired another low shot which forced the Welsh goalkeeper to stretch for the save.

Out of nowhere Jeffrey Schlupp fired the Eagles into the lead with just four first-half minutes remaining.

A patient build-up saw Patrick van Aanholt play a neat one-two with Andros Townsend, before he played the wide-man in and he rolled Calum Chambers then lashed an effort into the roof of the net.

Palace almost doubled their lead a few minutes later when the impressive Van Aanholt curled a superb effort into the top corner, but it was correctly ruled out for offside as the visitors began to assert some dominance on proceedings.

The game ebbed and flowed in the early stages of the second half and the visitors could feel aggrieved to have not been awarded a penalty when Sakho appeared to foul Andre Schurrle in the area, but Mike Dean was unmoved.

Zaha had a golden chance to double his side’s lead when Benteke won a header from Hennessey’s free-kick, but he could only shoot straight at Fabri on the half-volley.

Benteke also tested the hosts with a powerful drive from the edge of the area on 73 minutes, but still the Eagles were unable to add to their lead.

Finally, with just 10 minutes to go, they had their second breakthrough. Aaron Wan-Bissaka ghosted past Ryan Sessegnon then slotted a perfectly-weighted through ball to Zaha who slid the ball under the body of Fabri and into the back of the net.

It was typical that the visitors’ talisman, who had been relatively quiet for the most part, was the one to secure the three points in what was a hard-fought victory, lacking in the spectacular, but full of determination and simplicity.

There was still time for a late scare when Kouassi Sessegnon rose highest to head towards goal from the back post, but Hennessey, who was impeccable throughout, was able to react well to get down and push it away and ensure Palace ran out 2-0 victors.

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