Cape Town - In an important match for two relegation strugglers, it was Crystal Palace who earned a vital three points in their 1-0 win over Middlesbrough at Selhurst Park on Saturday.
Palace made a feisty start to the match, with Wilfried Zaha looking particularly lively, and the winger should have had a penalty on seven minutes for a shove from centre-back Daniel Ayala, but the referee waved play on.
Zaha had another penalty shout waved away in the 18th minute after a skirmish with Adam Forshaw, while Christian Benteke managed the first effort of the game with a header from a Van Aanholt’s cross, but his effort was down the throat of Victor Valdes.
Boro had their first real chance of the match after 25 minutes when Gaston Ramirez was released by Stewart Downing and picked out Alvaro Negredo at the far post. The Spaniard headed back across goal towards Christian Stuani, but Mamadou Sakho was able to poke it clear before the Uruguayan could finish off the move.
But it was Palace who continued to press forward, and they got their reward after 34 minutes when Van Aanholt fired through a crowd of players to finally break the deadlock on the rebound after Zaha and Yohan Cabaye had been denied by a block from Bernardo Espinosa.
The second half saw Palace pick up where they left off, with Zaha blasting over the crossbar and generally causing stress to the Boro backline.
At the other end Wayne Hennessey was also getting involved when he was called on to deny Stuani from equalising with a volley after he was picked out by Forshaw’s header.
Stuani thought he had earned a penalty after a similar trick saw his effort seemingly strike defender James Tomkins on the arm, but referee Bobby Madley waved it away.
Even in the final minutes of the match Zaha was pestering the Boro defence and had another penalty shout in the 82nd minute after making minimal contact with Downing before going down. Yet again, the appeal was waved away. Boro did scrap for a late equaliser, but the Eagles were able to take a step away from relegation.