Crystal Palace 0 Aston Villa 1: Benteke scores on return

Christian Benteke returned from a three-match ban to score the winning goal in Aston Villa's 1-0 Premier League victory at Crystal Palace.

The Belgium international was immediately restored to Villa's starting XI for Tuesday's clash at Selhurst Park after serving a suspension for a red card in a 2-1 loss against Tottenham last month.

And he broke the deadlock with a composed finish in the first half to help Paul Lambert's men end a nine-match winless run in the top flight.

Palace appeared the more likely to move ahead in a strong start to the contest with wingers Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie particularly impressing.

But the hosts' profligacy was punished by Benteke's first goal since March just after the half-hour mark - with the striker's dry patch largely due to an Achilles injury sustained in April.

The home side again enjoyed the better of the play in the second half, yet an equaliser failed to materialise as Villa held on to climb to 12th in the table, leapfrogging Palace in the process.

Palace made a bright start and Ciaran Clark had to be alert to clear off the line in the fifth minute when Brad Guzan spilled Bolasie's long-range shot. Scott Dann hammered the loose ball in the goal but the whistle had already gone for an offside against Dwight Gayle.

Zaha, one of two Palace changes from Saturday's 1-1 draw at Swansea City, was proving a threat down the right and he saw tentative claims for a penalty waved away when he went to ground in the area from a challenge from Tom Cleverley.

Villa were forced into a change when Joe Cole went down injured, but the visitors slowly started to get a foothold in the match and Benteke forced Julian Speroni into action with a smart turn and shot form the edge of the area.

Benteke was celebrating in the 32nd minute, though, after he dispossessed Dann on the left and drove towards goal before bending his effort low in the bottom right-hand corner.

Undeterred, Palace finished the half strongly, with Zaha and Bolasie both stinging the palms of Guzan.

The hosts continued to press after the restart, Fraizer Campbell - on at half-time for Gayle, who sustained a back problem against Swansea - drew several defenders on the left and the space allowed Bolasie to cross for Chamakh, whose diving header went wide.

Campbell was in the thick of the action again on the hour, the striker protesting for a penalty after being nudged to ground by Clark but referee Michael Oliver was uninterested.

After withstanding a spell of Palace pressure, Andreas Weimann could have wrapped up the points for Villa when the ball fell kindly for him in the box and his half-volley was well saved by the legs of Speroni.

As the clock wound down, Palace caused plenty of problems for the Villa defence by bombarding the area with crosses and Zaha's last-minute centre narrowly evaded Campbell and Bolasie, but the visitors survived for their first Premier League win in nearly three months.