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Crystal Palace ease relegation fears with convincing win over struggling Watford

Wilfried Zaha scored twice for the Eagles as they downed the Hornets 4-1 at Vicarage Road.

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Crystal Palace further distanced themselves from the relegation zone with a convincing 4-1 win over struggling Watford (John Walton/PA)

Crystal Palace further distanced themselves from the relegation zone with a convincing 4-1 win over struggling Watford (John Walton/PA)

Crystal Palace further distanced themselves from the relegation zone with a convincing 4-1 win over struggling Watford (John Walton/PA)

Crystal Palace further distanced themselves from the relegation zone with a convincing  4-1 win over struggling Watford at Vicarage Road.

The Eagles had gone into the game on the back of a long winless run, but took an early lead when Jean-Philippe Mateta’s shot took a fortunate deflection off a defender and into the back of the net.

Watford struck back almost immediately through Moussa Sissoko’s header, but Conor Gallagher’s clever strike just before the half-time whistle retook the lead for Palace.

Wilfried Zaha then wrapped up all three points for the visitors with a low drive past Ben Foster in the Watford goal, before capping it off with a curled 85th-minute strike.

Palace had been without a victory in their last six league games before the trip to Vicarage Road, a run extending back until December 28 which, coupled with Newcastle’s resurgence, saw the bottom four close the gap to the others in the lower half of the table.

However, Patrick Vieira’s side looked composed and clinical in the final third as the Eagles boss got the better of his immediate predecessor Roy Hodgson, and Palace climbed above Leicester into 11th place, nine points above 18th-placed Burnley.

The result leaves Watford four points from safety, and with just one win since the former England boss took the mantle following Claudio Ranieri’s departure.

Crystal Palace had a penalty shout inside the first 10 minutes when Gallagher was brought down by Foster, but the goalkeeper got there just ahead of the Palace midfielder.

The visitors took the lead in the 15th minute, when the ball came in from Gallagher on the left and with Watford unable to clear, it fell to Mateta in the box.

Mateta turned and shot and his shot deflected off Kiko Femenia and past Foster into the back of the net.

Moments later Femenia made up for the error, sending in an inswinging corner which was headed home by Sissoko for his first goal for the Hornets since joining in the summer.

Emmanuel Dennis had a chance to take his tally for the season into double figures in the 21st minute, jumping high to beat the defenders, but his header looped over the bar.

Foster was called into action in the 37th minute, to make a sprawling save with his legs to deny Michael Olise, after he was played in by Zaha.

Palace retook the lead just before half-time, when Tyrick Mitchell’s cross expertly picked out an unmarked Gallagher in the area, and the Chelsea loanee took a touch before firing the ball into the back of the net.

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The visitors started the second half the more promising side, and could have added to their tally when Mateta’s cross was just ahead of Olise at the far post.

The home side had a chance to level the score in the 66th minute when Imran Louza’s free-kick was flicked on by Craig Cathcart, but it was just ahead of Dennis, and Jack Butland was able to gather.

Palace then all but secured the three points when Zaha controlled a cross, made some space before hitting the ball into the back of the net at the near post in the 85th minute.

Minutes later, Zaha struck again, this time a curled strike from the edge of the box, with the Watford defenders nowhere near the forward.

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