Premier League side take narrow win at ME7.
An Olly Lee brace was not enough as Gills fought back from two goals down to eventually lose 3-2 to Crystal Palace at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium on Tuesday night in an entertaining game.
Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke scored in the first half to give the visitors a 2-0 advantage.
However, Lee scored twice in 17 second half minutes to bring Gillingham back level. The first was from a cheeky back heel as he managed to score from eight yards out. His second was from the penalty spot as he sent Owen Goodman the wrong way following a foul on the lively Jordan Green.
However, Gillingham were not level for long as Zaha scored his second, and the winner, just five minutes later as his spot-kick sent Jake Turner the wrong way.
Max Ehmer returned to the starting line-up after missing the previous two friendlies with a slight back problem. Mikael Mandron led the line for the first time since re-signing with the club last week, while Ryan Law came straight into the starting XI after joining on loan from Plymouth on Monday.
Crystal Palace brought a strong team to ME7 as Zaha, Christian Benteke, Marc Guehi, Eberechi Eze and Cheick Doucoure all started for The Eagles.
In the 13th minute, Zaha put the visitors in front. The forward was able to move the ball onto his left foot before moving into the box and firing his shot across Jake Turner, which struck the inside of the post before finding the back of the net.
Ten minutes later, Benteke made it two for the visitors. Zaha was at the heart of the action again as his low pass found Benteke inside the box. The Belgian’s effort took a deflection, which did enough to take it out of the reach of Turner.
Dom Jefferies had Gillingham’s first opportunity of note just three minutes later. He received the ball in his own half and drove forward, attacking space on the left flank. Jefferies opted to shoot from a tight angle on the edge of the box and his effort went just wide of the post.
Elkan Baggott came close a few minutes before the break. Olly Lee’s corner reached the defender at the back post, but he could only find the side netting with his powerful right footed shot.
HALF-TIME: Gillingham 0-2 Crystal Palace
Lee pulled a goal back for the Gills in the 50th minute. Jordan Green did brilliantly to work his way into the box as he avoided a couple of tackles before finding Joe Gbode, who had replaced Mandron at half-time. The teenage forward found Lee inside the area, and he audaciously backheeled it past the goalkeeper from eight yards out.
In the 67th minute, Lee had his second after converting a penalty. Green continued to cause the Palace defenders issues as he was brought down inside the area. Lee stepped up and sent Owen Goodman the wrong way as he got Gills back onto level terms.
Gills were only level for five minutes as Zaha scored with a penalty at the other end. The visitors worked their way inside the box, Green was unable to win the ball and the referee had no hesitation in awarding the spot kick. The Ivory Coast international made no mistake.
Will Wright came close to putting Gills back on level terms with under ten minutes remaining. A cross into the box was flicked on to the full-back who tried to find the top corner from a tricky angle. However, he narrowly missed the target.
FULL-TIME: Gillingham 2-3 Crystal Palace
Gillingham: Turner, Alexander, Ehmer, Baggott (Wright 63’), Law (Tutonda 63’), Jefferies, Williams (Macarthur 73’), Kashket (MacDonald 63’), Lee, Green (Akehurst 73’), Mandron (Gbode 46’)
Unused Substitutes: Holtam, Carter, Moore
Crystal Palace: Goodman, Boateng (Wells-Morrison 68’), Sheridan, Guehi (Gordon 68’), Riedewald (Addae 68’), Doucoure (Bartley 68’), Eze (McArthur 68’), Schlupp (Hughes 68’), Plange (Cardogan 79’), Benteke (Watson 68’), Zaha (Mooney 79’)
Unused Substitutes: Whitworth, Vigor
Referee: Chris Pollard
Attendance: 3033 (1045)