BY SAM SMITH
Two first-half goals from Luka Milivojevic and Jordan Ayew ensured Crystal Palace began Project Restart with a 2-0 win at Bournemouth.
Wilfried Zaha had already gone close before Palace took a 2-0 lead inside 23 minutes. Milivojevic curled a sensational free-kick into the top corner, giving former AFC Wimbledon loanee Aaron Ramsdale very little chance of saving the strike.
The 27-year-old Zaha was influential throughout. He had won that free-kick that led to the opening goal and his clever pass to the over-lapping Patrick van Aanholt allowed the Dutchman to cross for Ayew to side-foot home the Eagles’ second.
Roy Hodgson’s side seemed slightly fitter and quicker than Bournemouth in the first half. Milivojevic should have tested Ramsdale again soon after Ayew’s goal but fired well over when the ball broke free on the edge of the penalty area.
A chance almost fell to the goal-shy Christian Benteke following a corner but the Belgian took too long to work some space and was crowded out.
The hosts improved in the latter stages of the first half. A succession of corners were well dealt with by Palace, and Eddie Howe’s side started the second period as the better side.
Gary Cahill was perhaps fortunate not to be sent off for a challenge on Josh King on 47 minutes. The Palace defender won the ball but his follow through caught the Norwegian forward high on the ankle – VAR decided against a red card.
Palace withstood plenty of pressure from Bournemouth, who, apart from a Nathan Ake header, still struggled to test Vicente Guaita. Cahill blazed over a good opportunity to score Palace’s third.
There was a second VAR check for a red card in added-time when Lewis Cook appeared to elbow Cheikhou Kouyate in the neck, but once again there were no further repercussions.
Zaha then had a shot deflect wide.
The victory is the first time Palace have recorded four-straight victories under Hodgson.
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