Crystal Palace recorded their first win of the season as they beat Middlesbrough 2-1 following a Wilfried Zaha winner
Wilfried Zaha created the opener and scored the winner to inspire Crystal Palace to a 2-1 Premier League victory over Middlesbrough at Riverside Stadium.
Alan Pardew's men were winless heading into Saturday's away game, while Middlesbrough had been unbeaten after three matches.
Palace were calling the shots right from the start, though, and did more than enough to bag their first win of the 2016-17 campaign.
Zaha was key for the visitors, setting up Christian Benteke's first-half opener with a sublime cross, before pouncing on a mistake from George Friend after the break to deliver the win.
Daniel Ayala had restored parity in between both Palace goals, finding the net with a superb header after a corner, but Middlesbrough failed to bounce back from going a goal down a second time as they were beaten for the first time this season.
Palace opened the scoring after just 16 minutes when Benteke found the net following a fine cross from Zaha. The winger sent in a diagonal cross after Middlesbrough had needlessly given away possession and Benteke beat Ayala to the ball as he headed past goalkeeper Victor Valdes.
The away side continued to be the more dangerous of the two and Andros Townsend was unfortunate not to double the lead mid-way through the first half. Zaha danced past two opponents down the right before reaching Benteke with a low cross, who in turn laid it off for Townsend. The winger did not hesitate and fired a shot toward the top corner, only for Valdes to deny him with a sublime save.
Middlesbrough struggled to create much before the break, but managed to level the scoring against the run of play in the 38th minute via Ayala. The centre-back was at fault for Palace's opener as he was outjumped by Benteke, but he made amends with a goal of his own as he headed home the equaliser after a corner from Stewart Downing.
The home side could even have gone 2-1 up in the dying seconds of the first half after Viktor Fischer sent Alvaro Negredo clean through on goal, but Palace shot stopper Steve Mandanda proved to be too much of an obstacle, pushing his shot wide for a corner.
Palace made a strong start to the second half and needed just two minutes to restore their lead via Zaha. Friend failed to adequately deal with James McArthur's throughball and Zaha showed no mercy to pounce on the defender's mistake with a clinical finish from inside the area.
Aitor Karanka's men threatened via long-range strikes from Downing and Ben Gibson, while they had a penalty shout turned down when Scott Dann seemingly handled the ball inside his own area.
Middlesbrough were also fortunate not to concede a third, however, when Dann nearly found the net after a corner from Jason Puncheon as it ended 2-1 for the visitors, with late Palace debuts for Mathieu Flamini and Jonathan Benteke - who replaced his brother Christian.
Key Opta stats:
- Middlesbrough suffered their first defeat in their last 14 league games (W7 D6).
- Crystal Palace finally secured an away league win in 2016 at the 12th attempt.
- Christian Benteke is the first Belgian to score for three different Premier League clubs (Aston Villa, Liverpool and Crystal Palace).
- Benteke has netted three goals in his last five Premier League away games.
- Wilfried Zaha scored for the first time in his last 24 Premier League appearances, last scoring in November 2015 v Newcastle.
- Zaha both scored and assisted in a Premier League game for only the second time (also v QPR in March 2015).
- Daniel Ayala netted his first Premier League goal in his 15th appearance in the top-flight (five games for Liverpool, seven for Norwich and three for Middlesbrough).
- All four of Boro's goals this season have come in the first half.