Crystal Palace fell to a late Miguel Almiron winner in a tight game against Newcastle United where, with better finishing, they might feel they should have come away with all three points.
Palace had the majority of the second-half chances but failed to make them count. Christian Benteke, Wilfried Zaha and James McArthur all had opportunities to put the visitors ahead but each did little more than force saves from goalkeeper Martin Dubravka when better composure would have seen them score.
Each was put clear on goal thanks to intricate midfield play. Each took shots that were aimed directly at the Newcastle goalkeeper.
And in the 83rd minute, Palace’s profligacy came back to haunt them.
Almiron capitalised on a headed lay-off from Andy Carroll following a cross from Fabian Schar, volleying a crisp shot past Vicente Guaita to score his first goal for Newcastle since signing the previous season.
Roy Hodgson’s side had the balance of the play in the first half, although both sides failed to make the most of the limited chances
The home side would have expected more from an opportunity presented to Isaac Hayden early in the game, but the midfielder lost his footing when clear on goal and his cross failed to connect with either Carroll or Joelinto. Almiron, arguably Newcastle’s most exciting player, had another opportunity minutes later only for his curled effort to be easily saved by Guaita.
For Palace, the best opportunity of the half fell to Zaha, whose shot was aimed directly at Dubravka. The Palace striker will regret not doing better with the chance, having been set free on goal by Benteke.
A foul on Zaha presented Palace with their other significant chance of the game, with Milivojevic putting the resulting free-kick just wide of the goal.
While the return of Patrick Van Aanholt to the first team provided a big boost to Hodgson plans, Palace still fielded a side greatly affected by injury. With Scott Dann out, midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate was called upon to play alongside James Tomkins. The two had played together at West Ham, and briefly in the win over Bournemouth, but it was still an indicator of just how difficult the festive calendar had been on the club.
James McCarthy, signed from Everton in the summer, took Kouyate’s spot in midfield alongside Luka Milivojevic and James McArthur. Another summer signing, Victor Camarasa, missed the game due to illness, the Spaniard had not trained in the lead-up to the fixtures.
The Eagles will travel back to London hugely disappointed with their failure to make so many of those opportunities count. They face West Ham on Boxing Day.
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