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Allardyce hails Van Aanholt and Sakho

Match-winner Patrick van Aanholt and debutant Mamadou Sakho came in for special praise from Sam Allardyce as Crystal Palace earned a vital 1-0 win over fellow Premier League strugglers Middlesbrough on Saturday.

Van Aanholt and Sakho, who both joined the Eagles in the January window - the former from Sunderland and the latter on a loan deal from Liverpool - were instrumental in the victory which moved Allardyce's men out of the bottom three.

The Netherlands international netted the only goal in the first half and Sakho played a starring role to repel the Teessiders' late attacking onslaught.

Allardyce said: "The performance in the first half warranted our victory today with an excellent goal from Patrick who has a very good habit of scoring goals as a full-back.

"I was really pleased with the quality of the finish – it was a half-chance at best from where he was, but when you get that sort of quality in the game it can turn it and it did today.

"It was a nice performance [from Sakho]. It was his first Premier League game this season, so we spent a good bit of time on his fitness and he's accepted that he had to put that extra work in.

"His experience and composure made him look very commanding. I wasn't sure if he'd last the whole game but he did and we needed him because he set so many attacks up for us, particularly in the first half when instead of clearing it he gave it to the midfield lads."

The one-time England boss was pleased Palace's efforts had seen them escape the relegation zone.

He added: "I've said to the lads that it's a seven-team league for us, and we need to try and get as near to the top of those seven clubs as possible.

"We have got a lot closer because Bournemouth and Swansea got beat and Hull drew so we've gained some points. When you've won a game and all the others have too it kills the mood a little bit."

Middlesbrough are level on points with Palace and in serious danger of making an immediate return to the Championship. 

Boss Aitor Karanka said: "We are disappointed because we lost against a direct opponent. In the past, when we have played against teams around us in the table we have been much better than them.

"But the way we approached the game wasn't the best. I thought the team knew how important this game was, but the first half told me we didn't realise that."

The visitors improved after the break but that was scant consolation for the Spaniard.

"The attitude in the second half was completely different, but I don't understand sometimes why we need to have a reaction," he said.

"The team knows how good we are when we do the right things and the things we have to do. We can't make these mistakes, and we have to realise that every single week, the games become more important. 

"We have lost, but we have more games and we have to keep going."