Milivojevic penalty seals all three points which sends Palace to the brink of Premier League safety
By Alessandro Schiavone at Selhurst Park
Crystal Palace have moved a step closer towards Premier League safety thanks to Luka Milivojevic’s first-half penalty.
The SerbIan nonchalantly dispatched his penalty following a VAR check as Wilfried Zaha’s cross had hit Darnell Furlong’s arm.
But Sam Allardyce’s beleaguered Baggies, who lost only once in their last five league outings, were not deterred by Palace’s opener and produced a spirited response, pushing for an equaliser for the large majority of the second half.
In the end Palace held on to their 1-0 lead and collected the spoils but it’s fair to say that it was Allardyce’s adventurous and brave side that asked the most questions, forcing Palace onto the back foot.
Palace were pretty happy to contain West Brom and hurt them on the break, and if that was their game plan it certainly worked out but that had more to do with the visitors’ profligacy in the final third than anything else.
Conor Gallagher, who has attracted admiring glances from Palace manager Hodgson and could play Premier League football at Selhurst Park next campaign, came close to breaking the deadlock when Matheus Pereira brilliantly teed him up in the box, but the 21-year old loanee from Chelsea made a hash of controlling the ball.
Ten minutes later he pulled the trigger from long range but sent his long-range shot wide.
West Brom, who were excellent in transition and dominated most of the possession did not make their dominance count and like so often in football if you don’t score you most likely concede at some point.
And that was the case, as just after the hour-mark penalty specialist Milivojevic gave Palace the lead from the spot, just moments after he saw his volley parried away by the outstanding Sam Johnstone in the visitors’ goal. The goal came against the bounce of play and settled Palace’s nervew.
The second half had barely started when Christian Benteke saw his effort tipped over the bar by Johnstone but that was to be their last clear-cut chance of the game as West Brom began to make inroads into Palace’s box with some intricate play, but just like in the first half their chances went begging.
The enterprising Gallagher got himself into a really good position again but again could not finish as Palace fortuitously escaped being pegged back just seconds after Benteke spurned a gilt-edged chance to put the game to bed.
In the 53rd minute Matt Phillips connected with Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ inch-perfect delivery but couldn’t steer his volley goalwards as Palace got away with some static defending.
Veteran centre-back Gary Cahill barely put a foot wrong during the encounter and was superb at clearing the lines, not least when he denied Mbaye Diagne the equaliser from point-blank range in the 70th minute.
West Brom committed bodies forward in an attempt to nick a later equaliser but it wasn’t to be and they only have themselves to blame as Allardyce edges closer than ever to his first relegation from the Premier League.
Palace had some pride to restore after succumbing to a 4-1 defeat at Spurs last weekend and the win sees the Eagles open up an 11-point gap on Fulham, who occupy the last relegation spot and face Premier League champions-elect Manchester City at Craven Cottage tonight.