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Eagle Benteke fluffs his lines

HIT AND MISS: Christian Benteke (centre) failed to hit the target for Crystal Palace

CRYSTAL PALACE were on a high after announcing the expansion of their stadium during the week, however, they crashed back down to earth due to a costly penalty miss, which saw them drop two crucial points at home in a relegation six-pointer against Bournemouth on December 12.

Within the opening minutes Palace made a statement of intent as Jeffrey Schlupp’s shot went just inches over the bar. Moments later Wilfried Zaha weaved some magic down the left wing, got into the Bournemouth area and his cross was headed into the ground and over the bar by Christian Benteke. The striker's day was to get considerably worse.

Despite Palace’s bright start, Bournemouth scored from their first chance of the game. The goal was straight out of the training ground manual from a corner, which was rolled to Jermain Defoe, who found himself in acres of space in the Palace area and calmly slotted it past Julian Speroni. That was Defoe’s 200th league goal.

Palace responded as Andros Townsend drove into the Bournemouth area but his shot was blocked by the alert Nathan Ake. There was a further setback for Palace who had to replace Mamadou Sakho with Scott Dann due to an injury he picked up. Palace kept pouring forward looking to bring the game level.

With five minutes of the half left, the Palace keeper launched the ball, which was headed on to Zaha, who was upended by Asmir Begovic and the referee awarded the Eagles a penalty. Luka Milivojevic slotted the spot kick home to bring Palace level.

Within a couple of minutes Palace took the lead as the ball came to substitute Dann who fired home unmarked at the back post.

You simply could not take your eyes off this compelling game as Bournemouth responded. A long ball fell to Defoe who outwitted Dann and then volleyed it Marco Van Basten style over Speroni to bring the visitors from the coast level.

Cherries boss Eddie Howe said: “ I was really pleased with both goals. The second one was a trademark run. From that angle he has got no right to score but you need the talent of Defoe to score that.”

Although the second half was entertaining, it did not live up to the highly explosive first half. Palace had a chance to win it towards the end of normal time when Benteke knocked the ball down to Dann but he missed from close range as his shot sailed over.

There was still time for even more drama in added time as Palace were awarded a penalty when Zaha was brought down in the area. To everyone’s surprise Benteke insisted on taking the penalty rather than let the Milivojevic take it.

Benteke’s penalty was saved by Begovic and that could prove costly at the end of the season. “We expected Luka to take it. He is our penalty taker. Christian managed to convince him that he would take it and then he missed it. I don’t know why Benteke took it.

"He is stunned and he is disappointed. I must say I thought he played well. That is the best I have seen him since I came here,” said Palace boss Roy Hodgson.

Palace now find themselves back at the foot of the table due to results elsewhere.

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