Crystal Palace left it late to seal a dramatic 2-1 win over Aston Villa on Saturday as Bakary Sako scored an 87th-minute winner on his Premier League debut.
Villa new-boy Adama Traore looked to have snatched a share of the spoils on his bow in English football but Sako collected a pass from Scott Dann and finished superbly to seal maximum points for Alan Pardew’s side.
In a clash that burst into life after the break, Pardew’s men were initially frustrated when Dwight Gayle saw an effort ruled out for a deflection via the offside James McArthur.
There were no doubts when Dann opened the scoring, however, with a powerful header from a corner, only for former Barcelona starlet Traore to benefit from a Pape Soaure deflection after a tricky run down the right.
But it was Mali international Sako – signed in the close-season after an impressive spell with Championship side Wolves – who stole the show.
Villa’s Jordan Amavi coughed up possession before Sako produced a stunning finish to beat Brad Guzan as Palace claimed their second win of the Premier League season.
Jack Grealish and Rudy Gestede were two of three changes to Tim Sherwood’s side and the pair combined down the right early on before the striker failed to connect with an acrobatic effort inside the Palace area.
Palace saw half-hearted penalty appeals turned down when Idrissa Gueye tangled with Wilfried Zaha before Jason Puncheon put the hosts’ first sight on goal over the crossbar.
Chances continued to flow but Gabriel Agbonlahor could only to prod a tame effort at Alex McCarthy while Ashley Westwood’s last-ditch lunge denied Zaha after strong running from Glenn Murray.
Villa’s momentum was quelled somewhat by a water break in stifling south London heat, although Grealish’s fierce drive needed tipping over by McCarthy after play resumed.
Both sides were thwarted by a lack of cutting edge prior to the interval and Pardew introduced Gayle and Jordon Mutch for Zaha and Murray to try and break the deadlock.
The former Peterborough United striker made his first contribution with a cross for Sako – Micah Richards and Guzan combining to deny the Mali international – before Gayle collected Yohan Cabaye’s delivery and found the back of the net via McArthur.
The goal appeared to be allowed initially but, amid vociferous Villa appeals, the referee’s assistant determined that McArthur to be in an offside position and subsequently ruled it out.
However, the home fans were soon back on their feet as Dann rose highest to thump Puncheon’s left-wing corner beyond McCarthy.
Described by Sherwood as a combination of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo after arriving from Barcelona, Traore made good on that billing with a searing run through Palace’s defence before his cut-back squirmed in off Souare.
But it was another debutant, Sako, who had the final say, curling home after Dann robbed Amavi deep in Villa territory.
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