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PREMIER LEAGUE DECEMBER 9, 2017: CRYSTAL PALACE 2 BOURNEMOUTH 2

Palace extended their unbeaten run to five matches against Bournemouth, but a stoppage-time penalty miss by Christian Benteke saw two points slip from their grasp.

A crazy first half saw Jermain Defoe open the scoring after just 10 minutes before two goals in quick succession from Luka Milivojevic and substitute Scott Dann turned things back in Roy Hodgson’s side’s favour, but in stoppage-time a fantastic strike by Defoe restored parity.

The second half couldn’t live up to the quality of the first, but in the 90th minute the Eagles won a second penalty which Benteke took, but Asmir Begovic saved it to see the Cherries escape with a point.

Four minutes of a crazy opening 45 had elapsed when Wilfried Zaha tricked his way past Steve Cook and saw his cross deflected to Jeffrey Schlupp whose sweetly-struck shot zipped just over the Whitehorse Lane crossbar, and then soon after Zaha found himself on the opposite flank and picked out Christian Benteke but his downward header met the same fate.

But by the 10th minute, the hosts found themselves behind thanks to a familiar nemesis. After winning a corner, a textbook training ground move saw Andrew Surman play a short one to Junior Stanislas who quickly returned it to the midfielder, and he played the ball low back into the box for an unmarked Defoe to accurately stroke past Julian Speroni to score against Palace for the ninth time in 11 appearances.

Replays showed that Defoe had been left unattended due to Schlupp being held in the box by Joshua King, and that fired up the Eagles who quickly began probing for an equaliser. Firstly, Benteke saw a shot stopped by the legs of Begovic, and then Andros Townsend’s powerful blast was blocked by the chest of Nathan Ake. From the resulting corner, a spot of goalline pinball ensued and the ball struck Mamadou Sakho, but somehow bounced wide of the mark.

The bad luck continued for the Frenchman as 24 minutes in he was left prone on the turf with a calf injury, but play was allowed to continue and only a fine covering tackle by James Tomkins prevented an opportunistic Defoe from doubling the lead.

Dann came on for Sakho and he was quickly on the backfoot as dangerman Defoe wriggled free again in the box but Speroni managed to smother the chance, but soon the nets were rippling at both ends as a flurry of goals arrived in the final five minutes of the half.

Firstly, a superb flick-on by Benteke allowed Zaha to brush past Nathan Ake and speed into the area, and as he tried to round Begovic he was brought down by the Bosnian stopper for a spot-kick, and as usual Milivojevic stepped up and hammered it into the top corner.

Better came for the Eagles a minute before the break when they earned a corner on the right, and a neat Yohan Cabaye delivery caused further mayhem in the box before Benteke finally got it under control. He returned possession to the Frenchman who drilled an inviting centre across the face of goal, and Dann was waiting at the back post to become the first defender in Premier League history to score against the same opponents in four consecutive games.

But once again, a late goal at the end of the half would cost Palace dear. A long ball over the top by Lewis Cook allowed Defoe to race on it as it landed just inside the hosts’ box, and after he let it bounce to a nice height, he looped a sensational half-volley over Speroni to complete a third brace in three matches against the Eagles, and draw applause from home fans adjacent in the Main Stand.

The break gave players and supporters alike a chance to have a deserved breather, but once the action resumed a pulsating affair continued as Cabaye and Stanislas scuffed efforts goalwards before Defoe screwed wide when well-placed to complete his hat-trick around the hour mark.

Then on 78 minutes a golden opportunity came Palace’s way when once again Benteke used his aerial presence to win another flick-on and find Dann at the back post, but the centre-back couldn’t net his own double as he fired the bouncing ball into the Holmesdale Road Stand.

Having grabbed late winners against West Ham United and Stoke City in recent months to claim huge wins, Hodgson’s team pressed late on to replicate those huge victories and Ruben Loftus-Cheek forced Begovic into a good stop at his near post before Milivojevic scooped wide with five minutes remaining.

However, in the final minute Zaha was again brought down in the box by Charlie Daniels and Kevin Friend pointed to the spot. Despite Milivojevic still being on the pitch, Benteke was the man who stepped up to take the crucial kick, but it was comfortable for Begovic who saved to prevent a third last-gasp home victory of the campaign.

Palace: Speroni, Fosu-Mensah, Tomkins, Sakho (Dann 24), Schlupp, Townsend (Sako 78), Cabaye (McArthur 65), Milivojevic, Loftus-Cheek, Zaha, Benteke. Subs not used: Hennessey, Van Aanholt, Kelly, Puncheon.

Bournemouth: Begovic, S. Cook, Francis, Ake, Daniels, Stanislas (Ibe 65), L. Cook, Surman, Fraser, King (Afobe 87), Defoe (Wilson 80). Subs not used: Boruc, Simpson, Gosling, Arter, Afobe.

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