BY SAM SMITH
An individual piece of brilliance by Jordan Ayew settled an otherwise cagey game as Crystal Palace beat Watford by a solitary goal.
The striker netted his eight goal of the season midway through the first half – finding space on the edge of the area before powerfully finishing into the corner.
Watford started the better side. Abdoulaye Doucoure beat Gary Cahill in the penalty area but Vicente Guaita saved the midfielder’s effort from a tight angle. Doucoure then saw his rebound deflect wide.
But it was Ayew who gave Palace the lead with their first genuine attack on 28 minutes. Some patient build-up play on the edge of the penalty area finally reached the Ghanaian, who waited to create some space before cracking a shot beyond Ben Foster from the edge of the box.
The goal invigorated the Eagles and they began to string together a few better attacks. Patrick van Aanholt almost slid in Wilfried Zaha who would have been clear on goal. The Ivorian was also booked late in the second half and then escaped a second yellow when it appeared he had very easily gone over following a Will Hughes challenge.
Referee Anthony Taylor had been lenient with his cards, much to the frustration of both teams.
The visitors’ best chances came when Van Aanholt had gone forward and Gary Cahill was isolated against the speedy Ismaila Sarr on the counter-attack. That’s how Doucoure’s early chance happened – but Palace soon nullified that threat.
James McArthur did well to intercept a dangerous Doucoure cross early in the second half. Zaha then chopped past Craig Cathcart but fired tamely at Foster. There had already been a VAR check for a possible red card following a tussle between Zaha and Etienne Capoue in a feisty second half.
Guaita made an impressive to deny Troy Deeney from range as Watford began to push further for an equaliser. The Spaniard also stopped a looping header from the influential Doucoure.
An acrobatic Christian Benteke effort almost put Palace two ahead. Zaha then attempted to play in Van Aanholt but the pass was too wide and the Dutchman’s eventual effort was blocked.
Ayew tried to round Foster on the counter in added-time but the goalkeeper did well to thwart the Palace goalscorer. The victory takes Roy Hodgson’s side into the top half of the Premier League table on 39 points.
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