A brilliant Jason Puncheon brace inspired Crystal Palace to a comfortable 3-0 win over Cardiff City in south Wales on Saturday.
The winger bagged a goal in each half, with a Joe Ledley strike sandwiched in between as Tony Pulis' men cruised to victory.
With only five points separating the two sides heading into the game, Pulis had insisted his side would do Cardiff no favours, despite the Welshman having watched the club during his youth.
|By Kevin Blundell
Crystal Palace have taken a giant step towards securing their Premier League status for next season by beating a hapless Cardiff City side here today. Pulis' men sat deep and allowed the home side to have the ball, but were ruthless on the counter and their wingers were right at the heart of it.
Jason Puncheon bagged two goals, including one stunning long range effort late in the game and it was himself and Yannick Bolasie who caused Cardiff's defence the most problems today.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have to perform miracles if he is to keep the side from Wales in the Premier League now and he won' have been pleased to see his players' heads drop after the second Palace goal went in. It leaves his side six points from safety with just five games to go and time is running out for them now.
The hosts pushed for a leveller in the second half, but they were caught out when Marouane Chamakh – returning from a month-long hamstring lay-off – saw a header parried into the path of Ledley who duly netted the follow-up on his first return to Cardiff since leaving for Celtic in 2010.
Puncheon added further gloss in the closing stages with a superb curling effort from 20 yards, as Palace moved seven points clear of the relegation zone to 14th, while Cardiff face an uphill task to avoid the drop with a six-point gap to 17th-placed Norwich.
The visitors settled the better of the two sides and Kagisho Dikgacoi firing the first sight of goal in the fourth minute high and wide.
After a lacklustre opening, Cardiff began to gain a foothold in the game, with ex-Palace winger Wilfried Zaha giving his former employers a timely reminder of his potential with a series of promising runs that failed to yield opportunities.
Cardiff's improvement resulted in their first effort on target after 24 minutes, Fraizer Campbell ghosting between Palace's centre-backs to head Jordon Mutch's cross from deep and force a smart low save from Julian Speroni.
However, the home side's failings in defence were once more evident in the 31st minute as Puncheon opened the scoring, shortly after wasting a similar opportunity.
Good work from Ledley led to Puncheon working room on the right side of the penalty area before he drilled a fierce left-foot strike into the near corner.
The second half started in a similar fashion to the first with Palace asking the questions, and Ledley bent a shot wide from 18 yards in the 51st minute.
From the next attack Cardiff had tentative claims for a penalty waved away by Phil Dowd when Mats Daehli went to ground when challenged by Dikgacoi.
|TOP OPTA STAT
|Jason Puncheon’s opener was the first that Palace have scored from open play away from home since Boxing Day; ending a run of 571 mins without one on the road.
Chamakh leapt highest to meet a free-kick that was expertly saved by David Marshall, yet he could do nothing to prevent Ledley tapping home the rebound.
Puncheon found the top corner with two minutes of normal time to go, adding a dominant air to the result which could ultimately seal Palace's survival and Cardiff's fate.
- Sports & Recreation
- Joe Ledley
- Jason Puncheon
- Tony Pulis