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Benteke, Zaha steer Palace to win at Boro


Middlesbrough (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Recalled Wilfried Zaha delivered Crystal Palace their first victory of the new Premier League season with an assist and the winning goal in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat of Middlesbrough.

Christian Benteke opened his Palace account in the 16th minute at the Riverside Stadium from a Zaha cross, but the Eagles’ lead didn’t last long as Dani Ayala headed Boro level shortly before the break.

However, former Manchester United winger Zaha struck within two minutes of the restart to secure a welcome three points for Alan Pardew’s stuttering side.

Victor Valdes returned in the Boro goal after injury, while Danish striker Viktor Fischer made his first league start following his arrival from Ajax in the first top-flight meeting between the two teams since 2004-05.

Pardew recalled Zaha — subject of interest from Spurs in the transfer window — to the Palace line-up, but the visitors were without France internationals Yohan Cabaye and Loic Remy, the latter returning to parent club Chelsea for treatment on an ankle problem. 

Record signing Benteke, who joined the south London club from Liverpool in August, nodded Palace ahead on the quarter hour when he rose to meet Zaha’s cross at the far post and power a header beyond Valdes.

The pair linked up again soon after to engineer a chance for Andros Townsend, but this time the winger’s shot was turned away well by the ex-Barcelona star. 

Boro hit back seven minutes before half-time as centre-back Ayala atoned for slack defending for Palace’s opening goal by planting a Stewart Downing corner beyond Steve Mandanda.

Alvaro Negredo went close to giving the hosts the lead just prior to the break, his shot deflected over by the legs of Mandanda after Fischer had pinched the ball off Jason Puncheon.

Zaha then struck immediately following the interval to restore Palace’s advantage, the twice-capped England international outmuscling Middlesbrough left-back George Friend to steer past Valdes. 

‘Boro academy product Ben Gibson forced Mandanda into a sprawling save with a fierce drive in response, before a combination of the France goalkeeper and Martin Kelly kept out Gaston Ramirez and Negredo late on to preserve Palace’s first league win at the Riverside. 

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