BY MATT WOOSNAM
Jordan Ayew’s late goal and a Luka Milivojevic penalty earned Crystal Palace a first top-flight victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers in a tightly-contested game lacking in quality.
The striker scored his first goal for Palace since arriving on loan from Swansea in the summer, when he took one touch to trap the ball dead from Patrick van Aanholt’s hopeful lashed ball into the area, before calmly slotting past Rui Patricio from the edge of the six-yard box with seven minutes remaining.
It was a rare moment of true quality in a relatively drab match, but this was a moment which deserved to earn his side all three points.
Boss Roy Hodgson opted to change formation and replace Jeffrey Schlupp with Jordan Ayew as he moved from a rigid 4-4-2 set-up to a 4-3-3 which saw Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend drop back into a 4-5-1 when Palace were not in possession.
The first-half had few chances, but it was surprisingly the Eagles who showed more attacking endeavour as Wolves were pinned back into their own half for the majority of the opening 20 minutes.
But despite their early pressure, they failed to capitalise, only creating a handful of half-chances in which they took aim from distance.
It was 20 minutes before the first meaningful effort of note. Andros Townsend pounced on an error from Willy Boly and raced away down the right wing. He eventually found Luka Milivojevic who struck an effort from the edge of the area but Rui Patricio was equal to it and tipped the effort over the bar from which James Tomkins headed over when well placed.
Townsend was at the heart of the Eagles opening forays forward, and he powered through the middle past several defenders having won the ball himself, only to waste his hard work by blazing over with his right foot with 29 minutes on the clock.
But it was the hosts who should have taken the lead with 10 minutes remaining before half-time as Boly found himself totally unmarked from a corner only to completely miscue his header before Matt Doherty failed to steer the ball in at the back post.
The opening stages of the second half saw Wolves begin to unleash their shackles and come at Palace, but they failed to test Vicente Guaita in the Palace goal.
Raul Jimenez was almost played in early on when Helder Costa’s bursting run down the left was picked out, but Patrick van Aanholt was able to cut the ball out just in time.
Shortly afterwards Jonny did well to exploit Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s lackadaisical effort to shepherd the ball out for a goal kick before cutting the ball back to Ivan Cavaleiro who crossed for Doherty, but the ball deflected into the arms of Guaita.
There was little for Wolves until the 77th minute when again they wasted a good chance as Jimenez fired over the bar after striking the ball well from Cavaleiro’s knock-down.
But then Palace took things up a level with plenty of pressure which culminated in Ayew’s fine finish, before Wilfried Zaha drew Ryan Bennett into felling him in the area and Milivojevic thumped home the resulting penalty with the last kick of the game.
IMAGES BY SEAN GOSLING