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Roberto Soldado hits Tottenham winner against Crystal Palace

Spain striker ruins Crystal Palace’s Premier League homecoming

Gulf News

London: Roberto Soldado marked his Tottenham Hotspur league debut with the only goal of the game at promoted Crystal Palace on Sunday.

With Gareth Bale absent through injury and his proposed world-record transfer to Real Madrid still hanging over the club, Tottenham were hoping the Spain forward could make an instant impact. And the $40.4 million (€30.4 million, Dh148.4 million) signing from Valencia did not disappoint, slotting home a second-half penalty to ruin the Premier League homecoming for the home side.

The Tottenham starting line-up also included Nacer Chadli as part of a three-man attacking midfield behind Soldado. Brazil international Paulinho was also picked as one of two defensive midfielders, while a fourth newcomer, Etienne Capoue, was named as a substitute.

Palace opted to leave former Arsenal forward Marouane Chamakh on the bench and played Dwight Gayle — who was playing non-league football for Stansted a little over a year ago — instead.

The home side made an energetic start, but Palace goalkeeper Julian Speroni had to come off his line quickly to get to a back-pass ahead of Soldado, who headed harmlessly over shortly afterwards.

Most of the possession belonged to Tottenham and Mousa Dembele fired in a long-rang effort that skimmed the top of the Palace bar before Soldado was off-target again, this time from a near-post flick.

It took Palace a while to register a reply, but when Aaron Wilbraham rose highest to meet a free-kick, his header went straight to Hugo Lloris in the Tottenham goal.

The home side were guilty of surrendering possession too cheaply in their own half and Gylfi Sigurdsson almost made them pay with a well-struck effort that Speroni was able to tip over at full stretch.

Aaron Lennon was making inroads down the right wing but his attempt to find Soldado when Chadli was better placed failed and Palace breathed a sigh of relief, with Chadli then heading over at the back post.

Palace survived a penalty scare early in the second half when Paulinho went down under Mile Jedinak’s challenge, but the reprieve was short-lived.

Within a minute, Lennon’s cross hit the raised arm of Dean Moxey and Soldado made no mistake from the spot. Oddly, it was Tottenham’s first penalty since the 2011-12 season.

Capoue came on for Dembele for his debut in the 57th minute and the Frenchman immediately blasted a long-ranger almost out of the ground.

Gayle fired over at the other end before Palace manager Ian Holloway made a triple substitution, introducing Chamakh, veteran 40-year-old striker Kevin Phillips and young fans’ favourite Jonathan Williams.

Sigurdsson was guilty of a poor miss when he curled wide after Soldado had set him up, but Palace were looking more potent now Phillips was on the pitch, with Lloris coming out of his area to tackle him at one point.

Lloris failed to catch a corner as Palace pressed but made amends with a smart save to deny Damien Delaney, but the home side again lived dangerously when Jermain Defoe, on for Soldado, emulated Sigurdsson with a poor finish after darting into the box.

Palace carried on pressing for an equaliser and again Tottenham had Lloris to thank for a double save to deny Kagisho Dikgacoi shortly before the final whistle.