Roy Hodgson believes that Bakary Sako’s recent form warranted his first Premier League start since September, and was repaid as the winger’s fourth goal in his last seven outings clinched a huge win for Crystal Palace over Burnley.
The Malian’s 21st minute strike moved him to the top of the Eagles’ goalscoring charts this season and his side towards the top end of the bottom half, and Hodgson admitted that even with his current selection issues due to a crippling injury list, Sako deserved his spot in the starting XI.
Speaking in his post-match press conference, the Palace boss spoke about a number of issues from the game, including:
Bakary Sako: “Before this season he spent a lot of time on the bench and I don’t quite know how many chances he’s had, but he’s obviously not done well enough in them to force himself into the team, but he has done very well recently for us. He would have played at any rate today because of the rate of injuries we’ve had, but in fact he was certainly in the team merit due to his last performances.
“It is very good that he could chip in with another good goal and I thought his first half performance was very good. In the second he and Benteke worked very hard to disturb their centre halves and limit the number of long balls that were flying into our back four.”
Sako’s contract: “Contracts are being dealt with all the time but you have to be careful with them. It’s pretty obvious that Bakary can sit back and see what he can do over the next month or so, knowing full well that if he continues playing as he is at the moment he’s going to get a new contract without a shadow of a doubt.”
No substitutions: “We had Yohan Cabaye on the bench but he wasn’t there yesterday. This morning he went in and we had the results of the MRI scan that showed that nothing was damaged and it was just muscle fatigue, and we persuaded him to be on the bench in case we needed him.
“In honesty, I would have only put him on the field if it was absolutely necessary because of the fatigue that kept him out of training for a few days. The players that were previously substitutes breathing down players necks were starting the game.”
Up to 11th in table: “I have no desire in January to celebrate being in 11th place. The only thing that interests me is where we are on the final day, and being one place above the relegation zone. Anything else would be a huge bonus, especially having seven games, seven defeats and no goals. It’s nice now that things are no longer looking so bleak, and we should enjoy that, but there will be lots more games like today where you do enough to merit the three points, and then suffer in the second half because a one-goal lead can always be cancelled out.”
“We know that Fosu-Mensah and Patrick van Aanholt are quality players – Tim is still young and is getting some experience but Patrick hasn’t played so many games. He has come in and feels under pressure because he’s not had the opportunity to play all the games beforehand, but both will go home tonight more confident about themselves and their performance, knowing that the coaching staff appreciate what they have done.”