Savage blows leave wobbling Palace facing the drop

Blackburn Rovers 1 Crystal Palace 0
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The Independent Football

The Premiership's exit door is starting to open even wider for Crystal Palace. A dismal run which has produced only one point from their last five games rarely looked like ending last night at Ewood Park.

The Premiership's exit door is starting to open even wider for Crystal Palace. A dismal run which has produced only one point from their last five games rarely looked like ending last night at Ewood Park.

Victory for Blackbrun all but guaranteed their Premiership future and provided some consolation for the disappointment of last weekend's FA Cup semi-final defeat by Arsenal.

Palace's defence has become the leakiest in the Premiership away from Selhurst Park and Blackburn came desperately close to puncturing it after only five minutes. Jonathan Stead, met Morten Gamst Pedersen's cross from the right with a smart header at the near post which Gabor Kiraly only just managed to keep out.

Scoring goals has been Blackburn's greatest problem this season and on the evidence of the first half it was easy to see why. Mark Hughes' team created plenty of openings, but their finishing generally lacked purpose and confidence.

Their uncertainty in front of goal was typified when a sweeping move the length of the pitch involving Robbie Savage, Steven Reid and Pedersen ended with the tamest of shots by Stead.

More chances went begging but on the stroke of half-time Rovers finally broke through when Savage, perhaps fortunate not to have been sent off for two bookable offences, was the provider with a free-kick that was turned home from close range by Pedersen.

Andy Todd, at the centre of controversy over his clash with Robin van Persie during the semi-final, was generally on his best behaviour, while Savagewas replaced at the interval by Tugay. Without his drive from midfield, Blackburn struggled to rediscover the momentum from the first half but goalkeeper Brad Friedel was still rarely tested.

Only after 55 minutes was Friedel forced to make a save of any note, diving to his right to keep out Andy Johnson's shot from the edge of the penalty area.

Blackburn (4-2-3-1): Friedel; Neill, Todd, Nelsen, Matteo; Mokoena, Emerton; Savage (Tugay, h-t), Reid, Pedersen (Thompson, 75); Stead. Substitutes not used: Enckelman (gk), Flitcroft, Gallagher.

Crystal Palace (4-4-2): Kiraly; Butterfield (Popovic 76), Hall, Sorondo, Borrowdale; Routledge, Leigertwood, Hughes, Kolkka (Soares, h-t); Johnson, Freedman (Torghelle 61). Substitues not used: Speroni, Shipperley.

Referee: P Walton (Northamptonshire)

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