Crystal Palace 2-0 Blackpool: Match Report
Crystal Palace get season up and running with win over Blackpool in EFL Cup
Crystal Palace earned their first victory of the season and gave Christian Benteke his debut in a 2-0 defeat of Blackpool at Selhurst Park in the second round of the EFL Cup.
A much-changed team responded to 1-0 defeats at home to West Brom and away to Tottenham that had left them 19th in the Premier League by easing into the competition's third round.
The attacking potential that has been missing for much of 2016 showed signs of returning. Alan Pardew, however, will know League Two Blackpool provided limited opposition in losing to an own goal and a further effort from Connor Wickham.
The manager made seven changes to the team that lost at Spurs on Saturday, but it retained a strong look.
Only Scott Dann, Pape Souare, Andros Townsend and Jason Puncheon kept their places but there was little question Pardew was aware of the need to win after two defeats.
In addition to B#27million club-record signing Benteke, France international goalkeeper Steve Mandanda was given his debut. There was also a first start for the B#10million James Tomkins in central defence and places in midfield for Yohan Cabaye and James McArthur, whose importance Pardew had recently discussed.
Blackpool manager Gary Bowyer also oversaw four changes, suggesting that like Pardew his priority remains the league.
In the build-up to recruiting Benteke, Pardew had spoken of his belief the 25-year-old striker could again thrive amid the crosses he expects Palace's wingers to deliver.
Puncheon's early right-wing cross towards him therefore came as little surprise, but he struggled to maintain his balance and connect with the ball.
He followed that by shooting wide of the left post when the ball fell awkwardly to him on his weaker left foot, but showed greater promise when teeing himself up for a later effort that went wide of the right.
Palace's opening goal came in the 26th minute, at a point when Blackpool appeared under little more than a routine threat.
The lively Townsend crossed towards Dann, and when the captain shot towards goal he watched his effort unconvincingly deflect off Blackpool's Clark Robertson and beyond goalkeeper Sam Slocombe's reach.
Wickham replaced Benteke at half-time, when it appeared it was decided the latter requires easing back into regular first-team football.
If he feels threatened by the Belgian's arrival it almost instantly showed. He is yet to justify Pardew's faith in him, but was presented with a fine chance from Puncheon's 47th-minute cross from which he powerfully shot first time from close range high into the net.
Like their visitors, Palace thereafter demonstrated little desire to pursue a third goal and only came close when Townsend's optimistic shot from midfield struck the bar.
It regardless felt an important victory, one needed to restore both belief and the match fitness of several influential figures who had been missing.