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Wilfried Zaha penalty gives Patrick Vieira's Crystal Palace narrow victory over Ipswich Town as fans return to Portman Road




It took a second-half penalty for Paul Cook's new-look Ipswich Town side to be breached by Premier League Crystal Palace as home supporters saw the Blues go down to a 1-0 defeat on their return to Portman Road.

After a goalless first half which saw The Eagles on top, both sides hit the woodwork before England-capped Wilfried Zaha converted a 60th minute penalty which proved to be the difference between the sides on the scoreboard.

It was the first time any supporters had been able to watch a match at Portman Road since 2,000 were drawn out of a ballot to watch Town take on Portsmouth in a Covid-limited capacity League One fixture in December. That in itself had seen fans return after nine enforced months away.

Ipswich Town fans returned to Portman Road followoing a long Covid-19 enforced absence for the pre-season friendly with Premier League Crystal Palace Picture: Barry Goodwin
Ipswich Town fans returned to Portman Road followoing a long Covid-19 enforced absence for the pre-season friendly with Premier League Crystal Palace Picture: Barry Goodwin

A new series of murals across the Cobbold Stand – depicting the Suffolk club's rich history – and the removed Marcus Evans group logos were among the changes to the stadium being taken in since US-led ownership group Gamechanger 20 completed a takeover in April.

With the proposed fixture against Stevenage at Needham Market having been cancelled at the Hertfordshire club's request, it was only the second pre-season friendly for Paul Cook's first-team squad, following a 1-0 win at non-league Dartford 14 days ago.

Both striker Joe Pigott and midfielder Scott Fraser were named on an Ipswich Town teamsheet for the first time, starting among six summer signings.

New Ipswich Town signing Joe Pigott goes on a run during the pre-season friendly with Crystal Palace Picture: Barry Goodwin
New Ipswich Town signing Joe Pigott goes on a run during the pre-season friendly with Crystal Palace Picture: Barry Goodwin

But Lee Evans, who captained the side in the previous friendly at National League South side Dartford, was not involved in the squad. The free transfer recruit, signed following his contract expiring at divisional rivals Wigan Athletic, was later confirmed as carrying a slight injury.

There was a start for youngster Cameron Humphreys, with the left-sided specialist, who recently signed his first professional deal at the club, having shone in the under-18s' FA Youth Cup run tot he semi-finals.

Rumoured Crystal Palace target Flynn Downes was not involved while fellow exiled under-23s' pre-season training group members Kayden Jackson was among 12 named substitutes.

Former Wold Cup winner Vieira named a strong Palace line-up including Premier League winners Zaha and Jeffrey Schlupp.

New Ipswich Town signing Maculey Bonne in action in the pre-season friendly against Crystal Palace Picture: Barry Goodwin
New Ipswich Town signing Maculey Bonne in action in the pre-season friendly against Crystal Palace Picture: Barry Goodwin

But despite the two-league gap, the Blues were able to hold their own in a goalless first half with Kane Vincent-Young and Toto Nsiala providing important challenges as England-capped Zaha provided the expected threat.

Several shots were fired in on new Town 'keeper Vaclav Hladky's goal but off target.

A Wes Burns half-volley, forcing Vicente Guaita into a straightforward save just past the half-hour mark, was the closest the home side came to a goal in a first period where they were largely forced to contain their south London opponents.

Wes Burns also got his first taste of the action at Portman Road as Ipswich Town took on Premier League Crystal Palace Picture: Barry Goodwin
Wes Burns also got his first taste of the action at Portman Road as Ipswich Town took on Premier League Crystal Palace Picture: Barry Goodwin

Jean-Phillipe Mateta headed against the crossbar for Palace early in the second half before Hladky was forced to make an arching save to keep the Eagles at bay.

Town also came within a lick of paint of breaking the deadlock in the 52nd minute with Pigott combining with James Norwood before hitting firing against the post.

Five minutes later Mateta also stuck the foot of the post before Hladky was soon forced into another save.

But the new signing was picking the ball out of his net on the hour mark as Zaha dispatched a penalty after he had been illegally halted by Vincent-Young.

Both sides rang the changes thereafter with little in the way of goalmouth action following.

After suffering their first defeat of pre-season, travel to Colchester United on Tuesday for two back-to-back matches to get more minutes in legs. Their pre-season campaign then wraps up with the visit of Championship side Millwall on Saturday.

Ipswich Town: Hladky, Vincent-Young (Nwabueze 71), Penney (Clements 80), Nsiala (c) (Ndaba 86), Woolfenden (Armin 86), Humphreys (Alexander 75), Burns (Bonne 71), Harper (Healy 75), Pigott (Ward 80), Norwood (Bonne 61), Fraser (Dobra 61). Unused: Holy, Donacien, Jackson.

Crystal Palace: Guaita (Butland 61), Clyne (Ward 61), Kouyate (Guéhi 61), Tomkins (c) (Kelly 61), Mitchell (Hannam 61), Riedewald (Milivojevic 61), McArthur (Wells-Morrison 71), Schlupp (M Boateng 71), Zaha (Banks 71), Mateta (Rak-Sakyi 71), Ayew (Street 71)

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