Roy Hodgson was pleased with his players' resilience to cling on to their 3-2 victory against Brighton and Hove Albion, having seen so many similar positions slip through their grasp during the past couple of months.
The Eagles boss saw his team take an early 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Wilfried Zaha and James Tomkins, only to be pulled back by a Glenn Murray strike. Zaha would again put his team two ahead, but Jose Izquierdo’s goal made for a nervy second half.
However, despite enduing late heartache against Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United, Liverpool and Bournemouth recently, this time Hodgson’s team got over the line to record a huge win, moving them six points away from the bottom three.
Speaking in his post-match press conference, the Palace manager talked about a number of issues from the game, including:
Clinging on: “We died a few deaths there in the last 15 minutes in particular, especially after doing so well in the first half. I thought the team played ever so well and we were obviously disappointed that we didn’t have a better margin to build our second half upon because of the two goals they got back on us, but it’s good to know that the team can hold on.
“Brighton were very good in the second half; they took much more initiative and got more balls into the penalty area, crossed it much earlier and asked questions of our goalkeeper and the back four. That’s going to happen – with four games to go we’re trying to scramble ourselves over the line and I can guess there will be plenty of those matches.”
Not conceding late on: “It’s nice to go into the dressing room after the game knowing that it could have gone pear shaped for us if we’d conceded that equaliser, but we didn’t. There have been so many occasions that I’ve sat here and listened to people sympathising with our plight saying that we deserved better. On this occasion the late goal didn’t kill us and we got the three points that we so badly needed, and gave our fans a wonderful game of football to watch and hopefully go home happy.”
Wayne Hennessey: “He was excellent. He was good in the first half too even though he didn’t have much to do, but in the second half when the pressure was being applied and balls were coming into the box a lot more, he had to really step up to the plate and he did a wonderful job.”
Wilfried Zaha slipping through England’s fingers: “I’m partly responsible for that because I gave him his debut when he was at Crystal Palace and he got a big move to Manchester United and we didn’t follow up enough on it. I bear some responsibility but I’m pretty sure there are many managers who will follow me saying it is a pity that he chose the Ivory Coast over England because he would have been more than happy to play for England, he just was seduced by the Ivory Coast because he wasn’t playing a lot of games for England.
“It’s moments in time for football players – this season Wilf has been in superb form and last season towards the end too, but there were years, especially when he was at Man Utd, where perhaps he wasn’t the Wilf Zaha you see today. Unfortunately national team selectors don’t have crystal balls and we can’t be certain.”
Ruben Loftus-Cheek: “He is another player I hope will be an England candidate and he must have strengthened his chances of being watched and assessed today. I had to take him off for the final 10 minutes or so because he started to cramp up, but his performance was fantastic and that’s after we lost him for three months from the middle of December and he was at Chelsea recovering from an injury.”
Zaha’s importance: “He’s very important, as he was last season when he stepped up to the plate and helped the team to survive. He’s doing his level best to help us now and we can’t ask any more of him, but his biggest question is that he has a lot of years ahead of him, so what is he going to do to get better? His dribbling ability and ability on the ball has been good for a long period of time, so what step can he take to get himself up there to be recognised the same as Alexis Sanchez or Eden Hazard?
“I believe that with his qualities there’s no reason he can’t take that step and be even better, but of course this season he’s going to be involved in a dogfight. You’ve probably only seen the best of him when the team are playing for their lives every Saturday.”