New Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson was able to toast to his first win in charge of the Eagles on Tuesday night, as Bakary Sako’s 13th minute header proved enough to see off a Huddersfield side that had dismantled the Eagles at Selhurst Park 3-0 on the opening day, to progress to the Fourth Round (Round of 16) of the Carabao Cup.
Hodgson re-deployed Sako, who is a winger by trade, as a makeshift striker on his recall to the side, and it was he he brought the goods for a Palace team, whose first win of the season in all competitions will no doubt provide further hope of improvement under Hodgson’s reign, as well as provide a much needed morale booster amongst the club’s supporters.
It didn’t take long for Sako to get off the mark either. Palace hadn’t registered a goal in any game since their Carabao Cup Second Round win over Ipswich, but it came soon enough here when Lee Chung-Yong’s shot was deflected wide for a corner, before Andros Townsend’s inswinging ball met the head of the unmarked Sako, who directed the ball across the goalkeeper and into the top left corner of the Town goal. Finally, a goal for Eagles fans to celebrate, and Sako could enjoy his first domestic goal in just over two years.
Buoyed by the early goal, Palace set about putting on a show for the 6,607 supporters in attendance, Sako involved in a slick three-man passing move with Lee Chung-Yong and Andros Townsend, which saw Jeffrey Schlupp direct an effort straight at Huddersfield goalkeeper Joel Coleman. The half ended with Townsend firing an ambitious effort from the edge of the box wide of the left post.
That was almost as good as it got for Palace as Huddersfield came out after the break rejuvenated from their talk with boss David Wagner, and threatening to get back into the contest. Their profligacy in front of goal ultimately proved costly, however, added also to an impressive performance from Palace’s recalled goalkeeper and captain for the night Julian Speroni, and Sako was on hand to make what threatened to be a disappointing night even worse for the Terriers.
Andros Townsend was amongst the providers for his Malian teammate once more, his 25 yard shot taking an almighty ricochet to go wide of the goal, before his resulting corner was headed back across goal toward Sako, whose pinpoint header looked destined for the bottom left corner before being blocked off the line by Aaron Mooy.
In all, the Mali international proved more than a handful for Palace’s West Yorkshire opponents, and the Eagles can now celebrate their second win of the season in all competitions, their first victory under Roy Hodgson, as well as another poignant milestone: the game marked the return of defender Papy Souaré, introduced at half-time by Hodgson as a substitute, making his first appearance for the club since being involved in a car accident 12 months ago.