London (AFP) – Former England boss Sam Allardyce oversaw just his second Premier League win in nine games as Crystal Palace edged relegation rivals Middlesbrough 1-0 at Selhurst Park on Saturday.
Injury ravaged Palace started the day level bottom with Sunderland on 19 points, but climbed clear of the drop zone by leapfrogging Hull, Leicester and Boro as they snapped a five home-game losing streak.
Anyone expecting a grim slug-fest would have been surprised to see the home side pepper the visiting goal with ten shots in the first half alone.
The goal itself came from an unlikely source as Dutch left-back Patrick van Aanholt, part of a a shaky Palace defence, grabbed the winner on 34 minutes.
His lovely curling effort flew home from the edge of the box and came after Boro only half-cleared a shot from French midfielder Yohan Cabaye.
Palace didn’t play last week and looked the fresher outfit after Boro’s FA Cup exertions last weekend when they overcame Oxford to make the quarter-finals against either Huddersfield or Manchester City.
Palace won 2-1 when the sides met at the Riverside earlier this season and Allardyce, who has never suffered relegation from the top flight, described this as a massive match before kick-off.
The home side were missing Loic Remy and Mathieu Flamini to knocks and Scott Dann and Bakary Sako with hamstring injuries.
But Boro had scored just three goals in their previous five games, were winless in their last eight league games and still chasing their first league win of 2017.
Boro rode their luck early on when allowing Christian Benteke a free header, which he however tamely nodded into the arms of goalkeeper Victor Valdes.
And when Spanish striker Alvaro Negredo failed to reappear for the second half for the visitors they appeared further diminished.
Their Uruguayan international Cristian Stuani had a half chance on the hour but rushed his half-volley firing it straight at Wayne Hennessey in the home goal.
Palace’s six points from their two ties with Boro may prove the difference for the Eagles when the dust settles on what looks set to be a long run in for both sides.