Yohan Cabaye scored from the penalty spot 19 minutes from time to earn Crystal Palace a 1-0 win over Watford at Vicarage Road on Sunday.
Substitute Wilfried Zaha was crucial in earning the decisive foul from Allan Nyom, allowing Cabaye to convert and settle a largely uneventful contest as Palace got back to winning ways in the Premier League following narrow defeats to Manchester City and Tottenham.
Having made a solid start to life in the Premier League, Watford were targeting a third straight top-flight win for first time since April 1987 against their Championship play-off final foes of two years ago.
Following a dour first half in which both teams appeared wary of being caught on the counter-attack, Jose Manuel Jurado and Dwight Gayle each saw efforts strike the crossbar in a more entertaining second period.
But the game turned on Nyom’s clumsy challenge 71 minutes in, the Watford full-back unable to deal with Zaha’s pace and trickery before Cabaye duly kept his cool to seal victory and send Alan Pardew’s team sixth in the table.
Buoyed by recent victories over Swansea City and Newcastle United, unchanged Watford started strongly against a Palace side showing a host of changes from their narrow defeat at Tottenham last weekend.
Wayne Hennessey, Joe Ledley and the fit-again Scott Dann all returned, while Gayle was handed a first league start of the season as Brede Hangeland had the first effort on target with a header kept out by Heurelho Gomes.
That proved to be a rare foray forward for Palace however, as Watford enjoyed the better of the play before the half-hour mark – Troy Deeney going close with a glancing header.
Palace almost capitalised on a series of Watford fouls around the edge of the area but Cabaye’s delivery just evaded Gayle, before the Frenchman lost possession and allowed Watford to break, with Hangeland required to clear and deny the in-form Odion Ighalo a sight of goal.
After both sides stuttered somewhat in front of goal prior to the break, Jurado struck the Palace crossbar inside three minutes of the restart with an impressive free-kick.
Both Flores and Pardew kept faith with their XIs at the interval but it was Watford who remained the more threatening, Almen Abdi testing Hennessey down to his right after smart play between Deeney and Ighalo.
Bakary Sako’s deflected free-kick caused problems for Gomes before the hour before the winger found Gayle inside the area, only for Palace this time to be thwarted by the crossbar.
While Yannick Bolasie’s new contract will have had the visiting fans in high spirits ahead of Sunday’s clash, it was the introduction of fellow winger Zaha that ultimately proved crucial for Pardew as the substitute bamboozled Nyom down the left-hand side of the area.
Referee Anthony Taylor deliberated briefly but, having pointed to the spot, Cabaye tucked home the penalty to claim the points with the visitors’ first league goal since their shock win at Chelsea last month.
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