Bakary Sako's winner proves Crystal Palace's improved depth this season

Bakary Sako probably couldn't have asked for a better debut for Crystal Palace; not many have scored winners for the Eagles on their first game but the big man netted a brilliant goal to secure victory against Aston Villa.

It was by far a vintage performance, though, from Palace or Sako but with games against Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City coming up, it was imperative that the Eagles got a win over Tim Sherwood's men and they did thanks to the former Wolves winger's late curled effort.

For the third time this season Alan Pardew picked an attacking team for Palace and again, it didn't quite work. Just as against Norwich and Arsenal, things just didn't click for the Eagles in the opening period and they found themselves more on the back foot than the front. The best chances of the first half went to the away side with Gabriel Agbonlahor wasting two opportunities and Palace keeper Alex McCarthy saving well from Jack Grealish.

For some reason, Palace just didn't get going and that's the third game in a row that's happened. In all of those matches, the Eagles have had James McArthur and Yohan Cabaye starting in the two defensive midfield positions. Pardew seems determined to make them work together but maybe it just isn't meant to be; the game against Villa was crying out for Cabaye to play a bit further forward and use his ability to hold onto the ball higher up the pitch.

Jason Puncheon, playing in that No. 10 role, had a poor first half and although Palace fans have enjoyed seeing him in a central role, it was when he was moved out wide later on in the game that he started to excel.

And when Pardew did change things at half time and introduce Jordon Mutch in that No. 10 role, things started to click for Palace. Mutch hasn't won many fans at Selhurst since moving from QPR in January but has put in some solid performances when called upon. Against Villa, he was key to Palace turning things around. He made countless intelligent runs into space and held the Eagles hold onto possession in the final third as well as finding overlapping runs from left-back Pape Souare well.

It's another example of the excellent options Palace have on the bench and beyond, with some seriously talented players in every position in the squad. It means that if things aren't working, then Pardew has lots of chances to change things. Of course, it also means that when players get their chance, they know they'll have to take them and that's what Sako did.

Given a chance because of a family bereavement for Yannick Bolasie, Sako was chucked into the starting lineup and certainly looked keen to impress. He managed six shots all game, five on target and one goal. He was strong and quick to use the ball, always looking to attack, much like Bolasie when he plays.

But at times Sako's touch was a bit heavy or his crosses failed to beat the first man and there was a bit of rustiness to his performance that nodded more toward needing more games than a lack of talent. He certainly showed potential and hints at what he can offer when Bolasie or Wilfried Zaha aren't available or delivering the goods themselves.

Sako's winner was beautifully taken but owed much to centre-back Scott Dann's persistence to win the ball high up the pitch and he made an intelligent pass to his teammate. It was Dann who got Palace's first goal and yet again, he was one of the Eagles' best performers, proving that securing him on a five-year deal during the summer was as important as any new arrivals. His header to give his club the lead was a towering effort and came a few minutes after Palace had a goal controversially ruled out for offside.

The offside call wasn't the controversial part about it. McArthur did look beyond the last defender as Dwight Gayle's shot hit him, but the linesman failed to flag until the Villa players surrounded him and the referee, appearing to force them into changing their minds. While the right call was made, it's a dangerous precedent if officials are prepared to be bullied into changing decisions by players.

But Palace did eventually manage to get the three points and with six points from their first three games, they'll be pleased with their start to the season. But there is still some work to be done by Pardew and Co. and that could start with a tinkering in the middle of the park.