English-born Ghanaian teen striker Jesurun Rak-Sakyi scored hat-trick for Crystal Palace U23s as they thrashed Derby County U23s to finish fifth-place finish in the Premier League 2 Division 1.
A week on from the nine-man 3-2 triumph over Leicester City, Paddy McCarthy’s Eagles welcomed Derby County to Selhurst Park for their final game of the Premier League 2 Division 1 season.
No changes were made to the side which beat Leicester. Tayo Adaramola served his one match ban as he was ineligible for the Under-18s’ 2-1 victory over Brighton, meanwhile Fionn Mooney was on the bench for the first time at this level.
Louie Watson, brother of Palace’s centre-back Noah Watson, forced Joe Whitworth into a strong save early on as Derby crafted the first real chance of the game six minutes in.
That proved to be the only effort of note as the sides effectively cancelled each other out in the opening half hour.
Palace opened the scoring through none other than leading goalscorer Jesurun Rak-Sakyi. The winger popped up at the far post to get on the end of an excellently weighted Scott Banks cross, which beat Harry Evans in the Derby goal, to put the Eagles ahead.
The game sprung into life and Palace quickly doubled their lead moments later. Noah Watson’s long diagonal ball, intended for Rak-Sakyi, was initially cut out, however the Palace No. 11 reacted quickest in the second phase of play to capitalise and fire home his second on the half-volley.
The Eagles were well on top as the half was drawn to a close, and they came racing out the blocks in the second. An incisive attacking move saw Rak-Sakyi, John-Kymani Gordon and Killian Phillips all link together well inside the box, culminating in a Banks shot that stung the palms of Evans.
Centre-back Dan Quick got on the end of a Phillips cross 55 minutes in, though his goalbound header was also well saved by Evans.
Derby managed to pull one back just after the hour mark. Shonibare managed to fire an effort inside the box across the face of goal and into the back of the net to give the Rams a sense of hope as they looked to draw level.
After Shonibare’s goal, momentum briefly swung in Derby’s favour. Kaden Rodney did well to deny an incisive Derby attack almost straight after the restart, and Joe Whitworth did well to claw away a looping rebounded effort.
Second-half substitute Victor Akinwale made an instant impact after coming off the bench. The Crystal Palace Under-18s leading goalscorer raced through on goal and was brought down inside the penalty area, allowing Rak-Sakyi to step up from 12-yards to seal his hat-trick.
Even though Evans guessed right, Rak-Sakyi’s low driven effort was enough to creep past his hand and seal the hat-trick and his 18th league goal of the season – making him the joint-top scorer in the league, level with Manchester City Under-23s’ James McAtee.
The south Lononders eventually saw out the remaining 15 minutes of normal time, and a protracted eight minutes of stoppage time, to confirm their fifth place finish in their first ever Premier League 2 Division 1.
They finish the season a point behind Liverpool, two behind Arsenal, whilst being ahead of the likes of Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Brighton & Hove Albion.