HALF-TIME: Crystal Palace 1, Bristol City 0
Palace were in buoyant mood following Saturday’s 4-1 drubbing of play-off rivals Middlesbrough and began their second home game in three days on the front foot.
Blessed with searing pace, Eagles wingers Yannick Bolasie and Wilfried Zaha tested City full-backs Brendan Moloney and Greg Cunningham from the outset, while 27-goal striker Glenn Murray conjured the first on-target effort, shooting straight at Robins keeper Tom Heaton from the edge of the penalty area.
But City had a match-winner of their own and Albert Adomah, back in the starting line-up for the first time since New Year’s Day, sent a free kick inches over from 25 yards out.
Although the visitors held their own during the opening exchanges, it was Palace who carried the more potent threat on the counter-attack and City were utterly undone by Murray’s perfectly-weighted through ball for overlapping right-back Jazz Richards, whose angled shot beat Heaton and crept inside the far post. But south London cheers quickly turned to jeers as a linesman’s raised flag wiped the goal out.
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Encouraged by that near miss, the Eagles came within a hairs’ breadth of breaking the deadlock moments later, Bolasie beating Heaton all ends up with an audacious overhead kick that came back off the underside of the cross bar and was hacked to safety.
Palace continued to press and Zaha’s shot on the turn was brilliantly blocked by Moloney as the Robins once again held on by the seat of their pants.
But City’s luck finally ran out 10 minutes before half time when the home side profited from a piece of quick-thinking on the part of Mile Jedinak.
Referee Simon Hooper awarded a free kick on halfway and the Australian midfielder took it quickly, directing the ball over a desperately back-tracking Liam Fontaine for Murray to head his 28th goal of the season from the edge of the six yard box.
As goals go, it was a real sucker punch, leaving the visitors to rue a momentary lapse in concentration.