London – Deflected goals from Christian Benteke and Eberechi Eze gave Crystal Palace a 2-0 win at relegated Sheffield United yesterday, snapping a run of three league defeats for the London club and guaranteeing their top-flight status next season.
The visitors took the lead in the second minute when Eze carved the Blades open with a mazy run and slid the ball to Benteke, whose effort bounced off George Baldock and dribbled over the line.
Wilfried Zaha had an effort from close range blocked before Benteke was denied a second when his powerful header was only just kept out by United goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.
A half-time team talk from interim manager Paul Heckingbottom momentarily sparked the Blades into life, but John Egan squandered an opportunity to draw his side level when his effort from the edge of the penalty area sailed over the bar.
Benteke came within inches of doubling Palace’s lead after robbing John Fleck of possession, but his powerful strike cannoned off the post before Andros Townsend saw his effort curl wide.
Palace continued to pepper the United goal and were finally rewarded in the 88th when Eze, a thorn in the hosts’ side, slid past several challenges and fired a goal-bound effort that took a massive deflection off Fleck and wrongfooted Ramsdale.
The Blades, who have netted a league-low 18 goals all season, lacked fluency going forward and failed to record a single shot on target as they slumped to their 28th defeat of the season.
The result lifted Hodgson’s side to 13th on 41 points, 14 points clear of the relegation zone with four games to play. The Blades remain in last place on 17 points. — Reuters