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Crystal Palace 0-1 Aston Villa: Eagles downed by Benteke


CRYSTAL Palace fell to a very narrow 1-0 defeat at home to Aston Villa tonight and were left to rue a killing instinct in the final third.

For large spells, the Eagles dominated especially in the second half in response to what turned out to be Christian Benteke's 32nd-minute winner.

It was also a frustrating evening in terms of decisions going against them from referee Michael Oliver.

To their credit, Palace kept knocking on the Villa door for most of the second period, with Yannick Bolasie in particular their main threat. But it wasn't enough in the end.

Palace were the better side in the opening stages, pinning Villa back inside their own half with relative ease.

And they had the ball in the back of the net too only to denied by an offside flag.

Bolasie had a go from range which Brad Guzan spilled, before Dwight Gayle looked to capitalise. The ball was cleared off the line before Scott Dann rifled home, only to see the assistant referee with his arm raised.

Bolasie then whipped in a dangerous free-kick to Jedinak at the back post, and the Australian headed across goal only for the visitors to clear.

But then the game went rather quiet, with Palace's rhythm cut short as Villa began to ease their way into the game but without testing Julian Speroni in the Eagles' goal.

Benteke, back in the Villa side following a three-game suspension, gave Speroni his first to save to make, and it was a flying one too, palming away the Belgian's effort from outside the box.

But then the big striker did find the back of the net on 32 minutes with an excellent finish to give the visitors the lead.

After capitalising on a mistake by Dann out on the right touchline, Benteke ran towards goal, looked up and curled beyond Speroni into the bottom corner.

Palace responded well, however, with Wilfried Zaha denied by Brad Guzan, and then Bolasie's goal-bound follow-up with blocked.

Bolasie was stopped again 90 seconds later when the ball found its way to him on the right side of the box but a Villa player threw themselves at the shot before clearing.

Palace boss Neil Warnock decided to replace Gayle with Fraizer Campbell at the break.

Bolasie it was, however, who looked Palace's best source of creativity and he delivered twice superbly in the space of two minutes.

The first was low across the danger area which Villa cleared and then his second found Marouane Chamakh, who headed wide from several yards out under pressure.

Bolasie was then the architect once again as he sent a decent ball in for Zaha, but the winger's soft header went over.

Campbell went into the book for catching Guzan as he looked to beat the custodian to the ball following a thread pass, and then minutes later the striker looked to have been fouled in the box as he stretched for another Bolasie cross.

Referee Oliver wasn't having the best of games either, frustrating Palace with a number of decisions.

And that continued when he gave a free-kick against McArthur for challenging Guzan for the ball inside the box, coming off worse as the goalkeeper landed on him.

Warnock's side were by far the better side at this point with just under 20 minutes remaining but just couldn't find a cutting edge.

And they were running out of ideas and time, with Villa battling for their lives to keep their narrow lead intact.

Palace were desperately unlucky in the 90th-minute when Zaha beat three Villa players on the right side of the box and delivered superbly but the ball missed everyone, with Bolasie swinging a leg out in the process.

Four minutes were added on but Palace just couldn't find a dramatic equaliser.

They travel to Tottenham on Saturday.

Palace: Speroni, Ward, Kelly (Puncheon 88), Hangeland, Dann, Jedinak ©, McArthur, Bolasie, Zaha, Chamakh, Gayle (Campbell 46).

Subs Not Used: Hennessesy, Fryers, Boateng, Thomas, Bannan.

Referee: Michael Oliver

By Mark Ritson at Selhurst Park

Crystal Palace 0-1 Aston Villa: Eagles downed by Benteke

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